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  McLaren M20 Chevrolet
 

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Country of origin:Great Britain
Produced in:1972
Numbers built:3
Designed by:Gordon Coppuck for McLaren
Predecessor:McLaren M8F Chevrolet
Author:Wouter Melissen
Last updated:July 16, 2012
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Click here to download printer friendly versionFor four full seasons (1968 - 1971) the McLaren M8 and its derivatives had dominated the Canadian-American Challenge Cup (Can-Am). In this period victories by other teams or manufacturers were few and far between. That was set to change with the imminent arrival of the turbocharged Porsche 917/10 in 1972. Extensive rule changes for the World Sportscar Championship had limited the German manufacturer's option after 1971, so for the first time Can-Am became a top priority. Considering Porsche's vast resources and track-record had the established Can-Am teams and manufacturers justifiably worried. Defending champions McLaren assessed the situation and decided to start with a clean sheet. Designed by Gordon Coppuck and dubbed the M20, the all new Can-Am racer was ready for extensive testing in the Summer of 1972 (Can-Am was traditionally a Fall series).

Following the latest Formula 1 design trend, Coppuck moved the radiators from the nose to the 'side-pods' alongside the cockpit. Widest around the cockpit area, the monocoque, with some imagination, resembled a Coke bottle when viewed from the top. The advantages of this repackaging were numerous; the mass of the radiators was much closer to the car's centre of gravity, there was no longer a need to run hot water-pipes to the nose of the car, which greatly improved driver comfort and finally the space traditionally reserved for the radiators could now be used for aerodynamic purposes. For Coppuck the main objective was to get as much of the weight as low and as close to the car's centre of gravity as possible. The resulting handling improvements were hoped to make up for the power deficit against the Porsches. For this purpose 2 inches were added to the bell-housing, increasing the wheelbase and also moving the big-block engine forward by the same amount.

Although turbocharged versions of Chevrolet's V8 engines were under development, McLaren decided to continue with the naturally aspirated 'big block' that had served them so well during the previous four seasons. Despite its massive displacement of well over 8-litre, the all aluminium V8 was very light and very reliable. Adding turbochargers would only complicate things and weigh the cars down. In 1972 trim, the V8 produced in excess of 750 bhp while the M20 tipped the scales at just 690 kg. The aerodynamics package was a further development of the existing design with the addition of the wing mounted between its front fenders. McLaren made no secret of its presence and even accentuated it by painting it blue. The additional downforce over the front wheels was balanced out by fitting a full-width rear wing that was even larger than that of its predecessors. The radiators were fed by intakes just behind the widest part of the 'Coke bottle.' Two circular intakes in the front fenders provided cooling for the brakes.

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  Article Image gallery (28) Chassis (2) Specifications User Comments (3)