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Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance: McLaren M8F

Posted in Collector Cars, General, McLaren, Racing by Kurt Ernst | March 24th, 2010 | Leave a Reply |
1971 McLaren M8F

Peter Revson's 1971 CanAm championship M8F

If you grew up in the 1970s, chances are you raced HO scale slot cars from either Aurora or Tyco. If you ran Aurora cars and track, I can all but guarantee you had this car in your collection.

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, the SCCA’s CanAm Challenge was a hugely popular racing series, featuring some of the world’s best drivers in cars that were ungodly powerful and fast. CanAm cars were the muscle cars of the racing world; what they lacked in grace and handling, they made up for in brute power. There was good money to be made for drivers and teams alike, and privateers often ran alongside the better funded factory teams.

1971 McLaren M8F

One year later, 740 horsepower would no longer be good enough

No team dominated the CanAm series more than Bruce McLaren Motor Racing, who took the CanAm championship in five successive years, from 1967 to 1971. Their success wasn’t in innovation; it was in relentless testing, both pre-season and throughout the season. By the time a new chassis was introduced in a race by McLaren, the team had already spent hundreds of hours working out the bugs. Their drivers, Bruce McLaren and Denny Hulme, were so successful that the 1969 series was often referred to as the “Bruce and Denny show”.

1971 McLaren M8F

Peter Revson's office, circa 1971

Tragedy struck the team in 1970. While testing the team’s new M8D chassis, Bruce McLaren was killed in a testing accident at Goodwood, England, when the rear frame of his car separated at high speed. Dan Gurney and Peter Gethin were brought in as drivers for the 1970 series, but teammate Denny Hulme once again claimed the CanAm Championship.

1971 McLaren M8F

Velocity stacks large enough to swallow a gopher

McLaren’s final CanAm success occurred in 1971. The M8F, McLaren’s team car, ran a 495 cubic inch Chevy V8, good for 740 horsepower. Peter Revson took the championship, winning five of ten races to Denny Hulme’s three victories. By 1972, McLaren just could not compete with the new Porsche 917/10, which dominated the series previously owned by McLaren. Faced with rising costs, McLaren abandoned the CanAm series after the 1972 season to focus on Formula 1.

Reference: Vintage RPM

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