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  McLaren M16C/D Offenhauser      

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Country of origin:United States
Produced from:1973 - 1974
Numbers built:6 (All converted to M16C/D specification)
Designed by:Gordon Coppuck for McLaren
Predecessor:McLaren M16B Offenhauser
Successor:McLaren M16E Offenhauser
Author:Wouter Melissen
Last updated:March 18, 2011
Download: All images
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Click here to download printer friendly versionBritish manufacturer McLaren made their debut at Indy in 1970 with the Offenhauser engined M15. Designed by Gordon Coppuck, this was a relatively conventional car, borrowing heavily on the dominant M8 series of Can-Am racers. Although not an instant winner, the M15 proved competitive enough for McLaren to have another go the following year.

Using the lessons learned and drawing inspiration from Lotus' revolutionary wedge-shaped 72, Coppuck created the all new M16. He was not yet convinced of the use of the wedge shape for the team's Formula 1 cars but felt this low-drag design would perfectly suit high-speed oval racing. As a consequence of the sharp nose, the radiators had to be moved from the front of the car to 'side-pods' on either side of the cockpit.

The chassis itself was a straightforward aluminium monocoque, which used the familiar, turbocharged Offenhauser as a semi-stressed member. Two A-frames mounted on either side of the engine bore the rest of the load. At the front the springs and dampers were mounted in-board, out of the airflow to the radiators. The rear suspension was fitted to the Hewland gearbox and consisted of top links, reversed lower wishbones and twin-trailing arms.

The real ace up Coppuck's sleeve was the engine cover with integrated wing. Being part of the bodywork, this was a very clever way around the USAC's (the sports' governing body) ban on wings. The rear wing was deemed necessary to balance out the downforce generated by the flat nose. The nose itself also featured two smaller wings on either side for trimming purposes.

During a 'social' visit to the McLaren factory late in 1970, Roger Penske and his driver Mark Donohue were shown the new Indy racer. They had come to England with the idea of doing a deal with Lola but they were immediately taken by the spectacular wedge-shaped machine. Penske bought two cars and both parties agreed to share their resources and knowledge during the development.

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  Article Image gallery (35) Chassis (2) Specifications