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1970 McLaren M8D

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During the mid-1960s two great racing drivers followed the lead of their friend and mentor – the great Sir Jack Brabham – by developing their own racing teams and manufacturing facilities to build cars of their own. One was Dan Gurney whose All-American and Anglo-American Racing teams produced Formula 1 and Indianapolis single-seaters, and the other was Bruce McLaren – whose ‘Bruce McLaren Motor Racing Team’ found its feet by creating new Tasman Formula and sports-racing cars. 

The latter were aimed squarely at the contemporary Group 7 unlimited-capacity class of 1964-65 which developed into the CanAm Challenge series machines of 1966-74. This multi-tubular spaceframe chassised McLaren-Chevrolet is an example of the second design to issue from the McLaren team’s drawing office in Colnbrook, adjacent to Heathrow, west of the British capital city, and its rounded body was originally styled by none other than celebrated motor racing and aviation artist Michael Turner.

The McLaren sports-racing car line had been founded in 1964 by purchase of what had been Roger Penske’s highly modified Cooper-Climax ‘ZereX Special’ into which was installed a lightweight medium-capacity Oldsmobile V8 engine. An in-house replacement chassis was then developed, which emerged as the McLaren-Oldsmobile M1A design and for 1965 McLaren signed a manufacturing agreement with industrialist Peter Agg’s Trojan company which had just acquired Elva Cars Ltd. While the McLaren works team would develop original new models and campaign its own works cars, Trojan would put each design into series-production for customer sale under the McLaren-Elva name. 


The M8D gave his team one of its best years in Can-Am. Rallying superbly after the tragedy, McLaren took nine wins from 10 rounds, and Denny Hulme took his second title despite driving with his hands still bandaged after the fire in the M15 at Indianapolis.

The M8D differed visually from the M8B. With new rules banning the strut-mounted wings that had proliferated in 1969, the solution at McLaren comprised a pair of tail fins which acted as fences to channel airflow over a wide, low-mounted wing located eight inches above the rear bodywork. The distinctive appearance earned the car the nickname 'the Batmobile'. It was less efficient aerodynamically without the M8B's high wing, so to maintain performance the team sought even greater horsepower. A new deal with Reynolds Aluminium gave it access to that company’s new silicon-aluminium Chevrolet blocks, 8-litre versions of which were said to be capable of producing 700bhp. In the interest of reliability a slightly smaller 7.6-litre was chosen, giving 670bhp.

In 1970, on that tragic day in Goodwood, Bruce McLaren pulled in and out of the pits for adjustments to the rear wing in a bid to avoid overseer. At 12.19 he left the pits for the last time. In a fast left-hand kink leading on to the main straight part of the tail section lifted at 170mph, causing the car to spin. It struck a marshals’ protective embankment on the right-hand side of the track with enormous impact. Bruce was thrown from the wreckage, and killed instantly.

On June 2, 1970, on the goodwood circuit, during a test with the new M8D, the founder, Bruce Mclaren, lost control of the car, and out of high-speed runway collided against an oak losing his life.

Following the death of Mclaren, in addition to hulme in the official can-am team, he was originally named Dan Gurney and later Peter Gethin. The 1970 season was about 10 races. The first race in mosport park saw gurney's victory and the third place of hulme. In Canada, Mont-Tremblant was again gurney to win the victory, while the M8D οf Hulme was forced to retreat. At the third test, at Watkins Glen, he was Hulme, while Gurney could not go beyond the ninth position. From the next race in Edmonton, Gurney was replaced by Gethin. On this occasion, the Hulme-Gethin couple scored twice, winning the first and second place respectively. In Mid-Ohio it was again hulme to win victory, on road America Hulme was disqualified, and victory went to teammate Gethin. To interrupt the triumphal strip of 19 consecutive wins, which began in 1968 in Riverside, was the Porsche 908 of Tony Dean, who imposed on road Atlanta. On that occasion, the M8D Of Hulme was forced to retreat, while gethin could not go beyond the seventh position. At Donnybrooke M8D returned to victory, conquering the first two places, respectively with hulme and gethin. At Laguna Seca it was again Hulme, while Gethin was forced to retreat. At the last test, running to riverside, I present the same situation, Hulme's victory and gethin's retreat. At the end of the season, Hulme won the pilot title with 122 points, gethin was third with 56 and gurney seventh with 42.

  • MODEL McLaren M8D



  • DESIGNER Jo Marquart


  • ENGINE Chevrolet V8

  • CUBIC CAPACITY 7100-7600cc

  • CARBURATION Lucas fuel injection

  • POWER OUTPUT 680bhp

  • TRANSMISSION Hewland LG500 4-speed

  • CHASSIS Aluminium sheet monocoque with steel bulkheads

  • BODY Monocoque sides, GRP body sections, integral wing

  • FRONT SUSPENSION Single top link & radius arm, lower wishbone, outboard coil spring/damper, anti-roll bar

  • REAR SUSPENSION Reverse lower wishbone, single top link, twin radius rods, coil spring/damper, anti-roll bar

  • BRAKES F/R Outboard 12in ventilated discs

  • WHEELS DIAMETER x WIDTH F/R 15x11/15x16in

  • TYRES F/R Goodyear

  • LENGTH 164in - 4166mm

  • WIDTH 76in - 1930mm

  • HEIGHT AT TAIL 45in - 1143mm

  • WHEEL BASE 94in - 2387mm

  • TRACK F/R 62/58.5in - 1575/1486mm

  • WEIGHT 1398lb - 634kg

  • PRINCIPAL DRIVERS Hulme, Gurney, Gethin


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