The first courageous foray of the McLaren in the world of “road” it took place thanks to Bruce, the founder of the company that bears his name, who, before disappearing, managed to shape a beautiful and particular GT. Anticipating the founding of McLaren Cars by Ron Dennis by a few years.
The car, called McLaren M6GT, was built only in two examples. Two prototypes, one of which ended up in a museum in New Zealand while the other found a home in the United States, which represent a true expression of pure power thanks to an aggressive line and a muscular Chevrolet V8 engine from almost 5 liters coupled to a five-speed Hewland transmission. However, Bruce McLaren’s initial idea was not to build a two-seater road properly, but to create a car capable of competing in the great endurance races of the time. The inspiration came to him between the mid and late 1960s, but its actual realization only materialized in 1969.
Unlike the other cars designed by McLaren for Can-Am races, which essentially were open boats, the new project was related to a coupe. Initially the intention was to convert the M6B competing in North America into a closed prototype that could be deployed in the Makes World Championship. Then, with the advent of the new Group 5, things got further complicated because the homologation of the 50 specimens required by the regulation, which later passed to 25 to be built in 12 months, forced Bruce McLaren to reconvert the production of his Sport car. in a road GT. All this despite the fact that Specialized Moldings had already made a sufficient number of fiberglass bodies to be coupled to M6B Can-Am frames. This latter operation should have been carried out by the Trojan.
The advent of a manufacturer like Porsche, which entered the newborn 917 in this category, definitively induced the eclectic Bruce’s stable to desist from the intent. The M6GT road project was followed directly by McLaren himself and by Gordon Coppuck, future father of the M23 world champion in the 70s with Fittipaldi and Hunt, who took care of all the technical aspects.
As mentioned, two prototypes were made, one built directly in the McLaren workshops, while the other was assembled by Trojan and delivered in the hands of David Prophet, which brought it to the track in various competitions during the 1969 season. The bodies previously manufactured by Specialized Moldings also came in handy, as in the following years they were reused to build replicas, many of which currently exist and are involved in events dedicated to cars. vintage.
The model owned by Bruce McLaren is instead the one that ended up in the Auckland Transport Museum. Thanks to a weight of only 800 kilograms, given in large part by a very light car body depending on elements such as the fiberglass body, the M6GT was very fast and snappy. The car was certainly not ideal for long journeys as there was no great ride comfort and the passenger compartment became a sauna after a few minutes during the summer season. In addition to this there was not the slightest space for luggage or even for the spare wheel. Basically it was a racing car adapted for road use. A real test of the M6GT was carried out by the British journalist John Rettie, who tested the specimen made by the Trojan for Motor magazine in November 1975.
The car, as the Woking team wrote on its official website, recalling the event forty years later, had passed into various hands before being brought back to its original condition by the new owner. Previously the M6GT was used for racing and initially the modified engine mounted previously was retained. It was a 6-liter engine used in the Can-Am series and capable of expressing over 530 horsepower. Unfortunately, this unit was short-lived and broke down during one of the test runs made, thus being replaced by a more “tame” 470 horsepower Chevrolet V8, which still had a displacement of 6.5 liters. Rettie explained how cramped the cockpit was and how close the spaces were. A small shift of the right foot caused the passenger to press the clutch pedal by mistake, but despite everything the performance was absolutely incredible and despite the large 18-inch tires, the stiffness typical of a racing car, the ride comfort proved to be anyway good even at low speeds. An unfinished business that could certainly have given more than it actually was, at least according to the plans of its creator who had sensed its potential.