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Country of origin:Great Britain
Produced in:1966
Numbers built:2
Designed by:Robin Herd for McLaren
Author:Wouter Melissen
Last updated:December 21, 2015
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Click here to download printer friendly versionWhile still the lead driver of the Cooper Formula 1 team, Bruce McLaren produced and raced the first sports cars under his own name. With an eye on fielding a single seater McLaren, the talented 'Kiwi' left his longtime employer at the start of the 1966 Formula 1 season. He did not miss a single race as the new Ford-engined McLaren M2B was ready in time for the season opening Monaco Grand Prix.

Designed by Robin Herd, the McLaren M2 was built around a Mallite monocoque. This revolutionary material was created by sandwiching balsa wood between two sheets of the hardened aluminium alloy duraluminium. Pound for pound, Mallite is considerably stronger than a straightforward sheet of aluminium. Herd had first learned of this aerospace material when he worked as one of the designers of the Concorde.

The rest of the chassis was altogether more conventional. At the front the suspension consisted of lower wishbones with a top rocker that actuated the in-board mounted coil spring over damper units. At the rear the reversed lower wishbones, top links and twin trailing arms were used. Although initially intended to be raced in a similar black and silver paint scheme as McLaren's sports cars, the M2B was liveried in white with green to receive backing from the makers of the movie Grand Prix, in which it starred as a car entered by the fictional Japanese Yamura team.

In its original M2A guise, the first single seater McLaren was intended as a test vehicle for tyre manufacturer Firestone. For this purpose, it was fitted with a 4.5 litre Oldsmobile V8 as also used for the first McLaren M1 sports racers. Following its testing duties, it was sold off to Dave McCloy. He replaced the Oldsmobile engine with a small block V8 and entered it in two F5000 races in 1969. It was destroyed in a crash during its second outing.

For the Formula 1 specification M2B, McLaren used his connections with Ford to obtain a three-litre version of the quad-cam V8 used to win the 1965 Indy 500. Both the bore and stroke were reduced to bring the big engine under the new displacement limit. Equipped with four overhead camshafts, four valves per cylinder and fuel injection, it produced just 300 bhp. It was mounted in the M2B chassis mated to a ZF gearbox with four or five forward gears.

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  Article Image gallery (23) Chassis (2) Specifications