Forgotten icon: McLaren M6GT
The first road-going McLaren
I don't like the McLaren F1. I know that many people would like to execute me for saying that, but I honestly don't like that damn thing. It's not really beautiful, it's not practical, and I just don't understand the 3-seat layout. But, I have to admit that it's an iconic car, and I respect it for being one of the fastest cars in the world. However, the F1 wasn't the first road-going McLaren. That title goes to the weird-looking M6GT.
McLaren M6A Can-An racecar. Credit: ConceptCarz
After the huge success of Bruce McLaren and his M6A in Group 7 Can-Am championship, the company announced their plans to compete in the Group 4 racing series in 1969. That meant that this British team would compete with names like Ferrari, Alfa Romeo, and Porsche. This competition was a bit different than the Can-Am, since the Group 4 was a Grand Tourer competition. And that meant only one thing-to compete in it, McLaren needed to make a road-going car.
Their plan was to build a whole new body on the existing M6 chassis. But there was a problem. As the new 1969 season was getting close, the FIA changed the rules about the homologation for entering the races. The teams now had to make at least 50 road-legal cars in order to compete. Sadly, McLaren didn't have enough time to do that, so the project was scrapped.
But, Bruce was a visionary and an innovator. So, instead of letting the project die, he decided to make a road-legal car. Well, not just any road-legal car; he wanted to make the fastest car in the world. So, he took the Can-Am M6A chassis and gave it a road-legal body. The prototype featured very unusual manually-operated pop-up headlights and even the famous McLaren butterfly-styled doors. But the pop-up headlights were replaced with standard ones on other units.
With a weight of just over 800kg, the car was a bit heavier than the old Mini. And due to its lightness, the performance numbers were quite good for the late 1960s. With its 5.7-litre 370hp V8, the car could accelerate 0-100 km/h in 4.2 seconds and reach the top speed of 266 km/h (165 mph). And since it was basically a racecar underneath, the M6GT wasn't really practical. But, Bruce had a vision to make 250 of these, and conquer the GT world of road-legal cars.
Bruce McLaren's very own M6GT. Credit: Top Car Rating
Sadly, Bruce died on 2nd June 1970 at Goodwood Circuit, taking his vision and dreams to the grave. The M6GT project was stopped, as the company wanted to focus on racing. Only 4 units of the M6GT were made: two red ones, a yellow one and an orange one.
The red one with a licence plate OBH 500H is the most significant one, not only for being a prototype, but for being Bruce's daily car. He used it to drive from home to work every day, and sometimes even to tracks when he had to race. Now, the red M6GT stands as a memory to Bruce McLaren's vision. But, his dreams to make the fastest car in the world did come true 25 years later, when Gordon Murray made the iconic F1.