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  Article Image gallery (7) M15/3 Specifications  
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Country of origin:Great Britain
Produced in:1970
Numbers built:3
Designed by:Gordon Coppuck for McLaren
Successor:McLaren M16 Offenhauser
Author:Wouter Melissen
Last updated:May 19, 2010
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Click here to download printer friendly versionFrom the mid-1960s, McLaren quickly emerged as a leading racing car manufacturer. The Colnbrook, England based company had increasing success in Formula 1 and absolutely dominated the lucrative Can-Am series in North America. A logical next step was to go for glory in the Indy 500. The final decision to build a McLaren Indy car came in 1969 after team driver Denny Hulme was forced to retire while running as high as 2nd in a works Eagle.

Although there were some similarities between the two types of racing, the task ahead was not quite as simple as converting the existing F1 design. Designer Gordon Coppuck, actually broadly based the new 'M15' on the successful Can-Am racers. He drew a relatively wide aluminium monocoque chassis, which provided ample space on both sides of the driver for the fuel tanks. Three sheet-steel bulkheads spread over the monocoque added much needed strength for the heavy loads experienced on the high-speed oval tracks.

Bolted directly onto the rear bulkhead was an Offenhauser four cylinder engine. The nearly forty-year old design had been given a new lease of life through the addition of a Garrett turbocharger. It had replaced the much more recent quad-cam Ford V8 as the engine of choice in the USAC championship, which included the Indy 500. Displacing 2.65 litre, the twin-cam unit produced a hefty 650 bhp at 9,000 rpm. The engine was not mounted fully stressed as two a-frames connected the tub to the bell-housing.

Most suspension components were sourced from the parts bin normally used for the McLaren M8 Can-Am cars. At the front the M15 was suspended by lower wishbones, top links and single radius arms. The rear end featured a four-speed version of the Hewland LG500 gearbox to which reversed lower wishbones and single top links were connected. Twin radius arms held the suspension in place. A square nose housed the radiator while the engine cover sported a small wing. The M15 was finished in McLaren's trademark papaya orange.

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  Article Image gallery (7) M15/3 Specifications