13-14 August 2004
1968 McLaren M6B Can-Am Roadster
- Chassis no. 50-07
Sold for $90,200
427 cu. in. Chevrolet big block with aluminum heads and Holley four-barrel induction, Crane roller race camshaft, TRW 12:1 CR pistons and Weaver Bros. five-stage dry sump system, Hewland LG 600 gearbox with a Weisman locking differential, factory standard M6B front and rear suspension and four-wheel disc brakes on ventilated rotors.
The CanAm Series for unlimited sports racing cars began in 1966. John Surtees racing in a Lola T-70 squeezed out a narrow victory over Mark Donohue, also in a Lola T-70, and Bruce McLaren, racing in a car bearing his own name. In 1967, McLaren headed the championship with teammate Denny Hulme second and following that the factory McLaren cars dominated with either McLaren or Hulme at the top of the championship table from 1968 to 1971. Lola, Chaparral, Shadow and even Ferrari made valiant challenges to the
McLaren supremacy, but to no avail, causing the motorsports media to jokingly rename the CanAm Challenge as “The Bruce & Denny Show.”
Not only did Bruce McLaren’s team pocket the majority of the lucrative CanAm purses, but the series also provided McLaren a sales outlet as he sold a number of replicas each year to eager privateers hoping to duplicate the factory teams success. This of course never
quite happened for the privateers, as the customer cars were always based on last years model, while the factory team raced their latest new and improved cars against their own hapless customers! For instance, in 1968, the year of our McLaren’s manufacture, Bruce
and Denny ran their new M8As against the customer M6Bs of which they sold some 28.
In any case, the M6B was an excellent design, being the first Trojan-built monocoque chassis production McLaren – it was strong, simple and an aerodynamically efficient
package. The historical description of this McLaren M6B, as provided by the current owner, provides a poignant window into the life of the privateer CanAm Racer. The original owner Dick Brown of Detroit, Michigan took delivery in 1968 from McLaren-Trojan under the name
of his company, Greene Sales. The race results published show that Brown finished a fine fifth overall at the September 15, 1968 Bridgehampton CanAm and scored two ninth places at Riverside and Las Vegas in October and November of the same year.
In 1969 Dick entered all 11 CanAms placing top 10 in half of the races and finishing 14th in the seasons final championship. Over the 1969/1970 winter popular privateer Dick Brown
improved his McLaren, which included the installation of a new wedge-shaped aluminum body. However, disaster struck at Mosport on June 13 when his M6B skidded on oil and he succumbed to the injuries suffered in the resulting crash.
Brown’s McLaren was purchased by Gordon Barrett, also of Detroit, who then totally rebuilt it, including a new standard M6B body and campaigned it for the next two years with Tom Dutton as the driver and the well-known technician and fabricator Tom Frederick, now a resident of Esparto, California, as the crew chief. As Pete Lyons’ book CanAm shows 1970 was not a good year for the Barrett/Dutton/Frederick entry. Mid-Ohio, Road America and Road Atlanta resulted in DNFs – a road wheel and oil pump failure listed as the causes for
the first two, while Road Atlanta saw Dutton skating off the track when a burst radiator hose “lubricated” his rear tires. For 1971 the Barrett Team fitted a 427 big block motor (amazingly this is the same engine still found in the car) and scored much better results. All 10 CanAms were entered with eight top 12 finishes – a decent performance for a low-buck team competing against Revson, Hulme, Stewart, Siffert, Elford, Posey, Oliver and Ganley,
just to name only a few. Sadly, Bruce McLaren himself was no longer competing, as he had been killed at Goodwood in testing on June 2, 1970 when the rear body of his M8D lifted at 170mph, throwing the car off the track and into an embankment.
At the end of the 1971 season Dutton’s team switched to a newer M8C McLaren, selling this car and spares to Tom Phillips of Madison, Wisconsin who stored it in a barn for a few years until it was purchased around 1976, by Chuck Haines of CanAm Cars Ltd, Manchester, Missouri. The current owner bought number 50-07 from Haynes on June 16, 1987, putting it into storage for a further 12 years. The McLaren is now in perfect condition,
essentially a new and correct M6B as a result of a three year restoration instigated in 1999. Thanks to the generous help and period photos supplied by Gordon Barrett and Tom Frederick, the car now appears exactly as it did in 1971, even down to the correct race number 79 and forest green with yellow livery finish. Harold Drinkwater of MRE in Salinas, California, an ex-McLaren fabricator, rebuilt the tub (that was then mirror-polished) and
also the suspension and other parts. Body fitting, rear sub-frame fabrication and painting was contracted to Intrepid Motorcars of Sparks, Nevada. Other details of this total restoration, too numerous to herein list, including the engine specifications, are found in the car’s files and we urge anyone interested in this McLaren to speak with an RM Auctions site representative for more information.
An acquisition of this perfect “new” M6B has a time warp aspect associated with it – almost as if one had ordered it new from McLaren-Trojan in 1968! Number 50-07 can now begin a second career in historic racing, be used to gather Concours trophies or join a museum collection as an example of the best marque in America’s most memorable racing championship – the J-Wax CanAm Series.
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