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Country of origin:Great Britain
Produced from:1964 - 1965
Numbers built:Three works and 24 customer cars
Designed by:Tony Hilder / Bruce McLaren
Successor:McLaren M1B Chevrolet
Author:Wouter Melissen
Last updated:December 23, 2013
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Click here to download printer friendly versionOne of the key ingredients in the success of the Cooper Formula 1 team was its driver line-up of Jack Brabham and Bruce McLaren. In addition to being very talented drivers, they were also very gifted engineers, which greatly helped with the development of the revolutionary mid-engined racing cars. It came as no surprise that both men from Down Under set up shop for themselves. At the time double World Champion Brabham was the first to jump ship, while McLaren stayed loyal to the Cooper Formula 1 team for several more seasons. While still racing for others, he had formed Bruce McLaren Motor Racing in 1963. The team first modified and campaigned Cooper specials, until in the fall of 1964 the first proper 'McLaren' appeared.

One of the most successful cars in the Bruce McLaren Motor Racing stable was the 'Zerex Special.' Using a 1961 Cooper Formula 1 car as a basis, this sports racer had originally been created by American racing legend Roger Penske. It was originally powered by a Coventry Climax 2.7 litre 'four' and eventually by an Oldsmobile V8. In both guises and on both sides of the Atlantic the Zerex Special proved to be very competitive, scoring several major victories in Bruce's hands during the 1964 season. Besides racing his own cars, competing in Formula 1 with Cooper and heading the Ford challenge at Le Mans, McLaren miraculously also found time to design his first racing car. Needless to say he had help from others, most notably his BMMR partner Teddy Mayer.

The first plans for the 'McLaren Mark 1' dated back to late 1963. Intended as the replacement for the Zerex Special, it was originally intended to use the same Climax four cylinder engine. The team soon realized that the all-aluminium Oldsmobile would bring much better performance with little to no weight penalty. Amazingly this compact and light V8 was discarded by General Motors and yet would go on to power the Brabham team to two Formula 1 championships, be it in very modified form. In its original guise the Olds' V8 displaced 3.5 litre, which had been enlarged to 3.9 litre when McLaren used it in the Zerex Special. American engine specialists Traco Engineering stretched that even further to 4.5 litre before the engine was fitted to the first McLaren. Breathing through four Webers, it produced a decent 310 bhp.

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  Article Image gallery (94) Chassis (6) Specifications