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  McLaren M8F Chevrolet

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Country of origin:Great Britain
Produced in:1971
Numbers built:2 Works cars
Predecessor:McLaren M8D Chevrolet
Successor:McLaren M20 Chevrolet
Author:Wouter Melissen
Last updated:August 27, 2007
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Click here to download printer friendly versionThe Can-Am Challenge was a huge hit and with racing for the World Championship limited to three litre cars, the series fielded the most powerful racers of its day. This attracted a host of (European) entrants and for 1969 both Ferrari and Lola developed new racers to take on the dominant McLarens. Inspired by the innovative Chaparrals, McLaren fitted a high wing on the M8. It was mounted on struts and worked directly on the rear suspension. The large wing was the most obvious difference between the M8A and the new M8B, which was also slightly more powerful and wider again to accommodate more rubber. The rival's best efforts proved to be completely in vain as Bruce and Denny won all eleven races that season. The Can-Am had become the Bruce and Denny show. Bruce won six races and clinched his second Can-Am title. Encouraged by the huge success, McLaren looked for new opportunities and started both a road car and an Indy program.

For 1970 the suspension mounted wings were banned as the constant movement made them susceptible to failure, resulting a sudden and very dangerous loss of downforce. For the M8C, the first M8 customer car, McLaren used the old body with a simple chassis mounted wing. The aluminium monocoque chassis was also slightly different and did not use the engine as a stressed member, giving the customers the choice to use a Chevrolet or Ford engine. The Works M8D had a completely new and wider body with a huge wing fitted between fins rising from the rear fenders. Thanks to its new body, the M8D quickly earned the nickname 'Batmobile'. The big block engine grew in size from 7 to 7.6 litre, giving a tire shredding 670 bhp. The season started off miserably as Bruce McLaren was fatally wounded during a test session with the M8D at Goodwood. McLaren Cars continued and Bruce's vacant seat was filled by Dan Gurney in the first races and Peter Gethin in the remainder of the season. Between them they won three races, but they were no match to Denny Hulme who scored six victories, despite being badly burned during an accident at Indy.

The 'Batmobile' design was further refined for 1971 with the fins now starting at the tip of the front fenders of the M8F. The all aluminium V8 was further increased in size, displacing well over 8 litres. This hiked the power to 740 bhp, which made the M8F the first Can-Am to break the 1000 bhp/ton. Customers could order the M8E from Trojan, which like its predecessor used the simpler and lighter strut mounted rear wing. Two of these M8Es were modified to mimic the M8D's design and were known as the M8E/D. Peter Revson was hired as Bruce's permanent replacement and the orange cars' domination continued. Hulme clinched three races, but was beaten to the title by Revson who scored four wins. He was the first American to win the Can-Am series. In 1972 the 'Batmobile' finally became available to customers. The Works team had moved on to the M20, which used side-mounted radiators and was designed to house a much more powerful turbocharged V8.

Having won 37 races in five seasons, McLaren's domination came to an abrupt end in 1972 courtesy of the turbocharged Porsche 917s. The German engines production in excess of 900 bhp that season, which eclipsed the 750 bhp derived from the good old V8. Both McLaren and Shadow experimented with turbos, but that proved disastrous for the big block's reliability. At the end of the 1972 season, McLaren withdrew from Can-Am to focus on single seater racing. Shadow was the only Works team left to challenge the 'Turbo Panzer' in 1973 and Penske Racing's Mark Donohue dominated in great McLaren fashion. The 1974 season was cut short due to the lack of serious competitors and sponsors; Can-Am was no more.

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