Sold for $2,000,000 at 2014 Mecum
In the heyday of the Canadian American Challenge (Can-Am), McLaren virtually owned the series. When the papaya orange colored McLaren team showed up, all the other teams were left fighting over the scraps. This McLaren M20-1 has had numerous podium finishes in the CanAm series, as well as in Vintage Racing events.
The M20 rides on a 100-inch wheelbase. It is powered by a 494 cubic-inch aluminum Chevrolet V8, producing 750 horsepower. The car weighs 1,575 pounds and just about 13-feet in length.
Gordon Coppuck designed the M20-1 and three examples were built. The body was made from fiberglass attached to an aluminum 'coke bottle' chassis with side-mounted radiators. Power was from a 510 cubic-inch Reynolds Aluminum Chevrolet V8 engine offering 750 horsepower.
This car raced in the CanAm series from 1972 to 1974 with McLaren driver Peter Revson at the wheel. Other drivers included David Hobbs, Derek Bell, Scott Patrick, and George Follmer. It won numerous races including the last official CanAm race in August, 1974. The current owner continues to expand its racing resume in historic competition.
This is a factory team car. It is chassis number 1, car number 4. It was raced in 1972 by Revlon Cosmetics heir, Peter Revson. Records show it was tested by his legendary teammate, Denny Hulme. Jackie Stewart tested this car and was to be Hulme's teammate in the 1972 season, but withdrew for medical reasons. In addition, the car has been driven by David Hobbs, Derek Bell, Scooter Patrick, Milt Minter and George Follmer.
A sports prototype, the McLaren M20 was developed by McLaren for the 1972 season of the Canadian-American Challenge Cup. The M20 Can-Am was constructed around the 'coke bottle' platform with a very low polar movement chassis while the vehicles mass was concentrated within the wheelbase. The body was constructed of McLaren fiberglass while the engine was an 8.1-liter Chevrolet V8 fuel injected semi-stressed, steadied on the rear of the tub. The 100 inch wheelbase extended 2 inches from the M8F specifications.
The McLaren M20 served as a replacement for the team's 1971 M8Fs thought it later became the last Can-Am design created by McLaren before the team left the series after failing to secure the 1972 championship title. One of the team's primary goals when designing the replacement for the M8F's was to improve the cooling structure of the vehicles in order to give their racers more comfort during the races.
Much like earlier McLaren sports vehicles, the M8F featured a larger radiator that was mounted in the front of the car where air was drawn from openings n the nose and exited upwards over the open cockpit. The designers, Tyler Alexander and Gordon Coppuck came up with a solution to this heat problem which utilized two radiators, one each mounted on either side of the cockpit and drew air from the side of the bodywork. Decreasing fatigue on the drivers, hot air that exited the radiator no longer passed over the cockpit.
McLaren designes were not free to redesign the nose for better aerodynamic efficiency with the radiator that was no longer found in the nose of the vehicle. Increasing the downforce on the front end of the vehicle was resulted in the addition of an adjustable airfoil between the front wheel fenders which led to increased grip while cornering. The fuel tanks were also redesigned inside the car to make room for the new radiator design. Designed to flow from the outward tanks into the central tank to that fuel burned off during the race and didn't affect the weight distribution of the vehicle, the new tanks for the M20 were compacted around the cockpit.
The McLaren designers once again used a Chevrolet V8 engine which increased in displacement to 509 cubic inches and produced approximately 750 hp. The engine was mated to a Hewland Mk II gearbox that was mounted behind the engine rater than between the engine and cockpit as competitors Alfa Romeo and Porsche used. Similar to the M8F, the bodywork was fiberglass and was joined to the aluminum chassis which maintained the 'Coke bottle' design but with the addition of ducting on the side to feed the radiators. The brakes of the M20 were developed in conjunction with Lockheed. Grooves were machined into the discs to prevent out-gassing and improved on the recently cross-drilled brakes from the earlier season. Goodyear continued on as the team's official tire supplier.
Until the Can-Am championship was canceled at the end of the 1974 season, M20's continued to be entered by private teams. During the 1972 season, McLaren driver Denny Hulme won two races while Scooter Patrick won a single event in 1974 with a privately entered M20. At Mosport Park the two new McLaren M20s' were debuted during the inaugural round of the 1972 season. Denny Hulme did achieve victory with the #5 entry following minor tire difficulties but it did beat Porsche's all new turbocharged 917/10. Unfortunately more problems appeared at Road Atlanta and aerodynamics led to Hulme's vehicle becoming airborne and flipping while following too closely behind one of the Porsches. Hulmes vehicle was completely destroyed and was replaced by the third M20. Denny was quickly able to recover from the wreck and earned his second victory of the season at Watkins Glen International, followed immediately by Revson in the other McLaren M20. Helped out by rain on the race day, Porsche earned their second victory in the following round.
Unfortunately McLaren didn't hold much hope of the 1972 championship as a variety of mechanical problems, due to the Chevy engine, they were incapable of finishing several events. Hulme earned two second place finishes as Edmonton and Riverside, but unfortunately it wasn't a match for Penske-Porsche driver George Follmer. Able to maintain second place over the trouble season, Hulme only earned half the points total that Follmer received, while Revson was classified sixth in the standings.
For the first time since 1966, the Can-Am Championship was not secured and the team owner Teddy Mayer chose instead to concentrate the company on Formula One and USAC IndyCars. Unfortunately this left the Can-Am Series behind.
A total of three M20's were produced in 1972 by McLaren. Unfortunately unlike earlier McLarens, no customer variants were ever developed for private teams prior to McLaren leaving the Can-Am series. All three M20's including Hulme's rebuilt vehicle, were sold to separate teams after McLaren had no more use for the M20's. One of these cars was purchased for driver David Hobbs by Roy Woods Racing to continue campaigning in Can-Am, meanwhile Fred Corbett purchased a vehicle originally for Mario Andretti who eventually was replaced by John Cannon. To better compete with Porsche's 917/30, Corbett's M20 was modified to add a turbocharger. The third McLaren M20 was sold to the German Felder Racing Team for driver Helmut Kelleners who utilized it in the European Interserie championship.By Jessica Donaldson
For the 1972 Can-Am season, the McLaren team announced the signing of Jackie Stewart to partner with Denny Hulme in the new M20 sports car. Stewart tested the new McLaren at Silverstone but became ill prior to the start of the season, forcing him to withdraw from the team on advice of his doctors. At the last minute, McLaren recalled 1971 Can-Am champion Peter Revson from the Formula One team to which he had been promoted. Together with Hulme, the two were on hand when the season opened at Mosport in June.
The McLaren domination of the previous five years would now be seriously challenged by the new turbocharged Porsche 917/10K entered by Penske Racing and driven by Mark Donohue and George Follmer. McLaren intended to launch the M20 with a turbocharged Chevrolet engine, but it couldn't be sorted out in time. Instead, the new car appeared with an 8.1 liter, aluminum Chevrolet engine. The new car's water radiators were now mounted on either side of the monocoque between the front fenders in order to improve the car's downthrust when combined with the strut-mounted wing on the rear body section of the car. This combination improved traction and cornering.
Unfortunately, the McLaren effort wasn't enough to offset the huge investment made by Porsche in its Can-Am program, and the orange car's domination of the series ended with just two wins in 1972. At the end of the season, McLaren realized that it couldn't compete with Porsche juggernaut and withdrew from the series. Scoring 43 victories, including 19 consecutive race wins between 1968 and 1970, the McLaren team set records that would never be approached by another team. Without McLaren, the Can-Am series could never be the same.