The ex-Rosso Bianco Collection,1968 McLaren-Chevrolet M6B CanAm Sports Spider 50.30
Lot 522Ω
The ex-Rosso Bianco Collection,1968 McLaren-Chevrolet M6B CanAm Sports-Racing Spider 50.30
US$ 240,000 - 280,000
£140,000 - 160,000
amended
Lot Details
The ex-Rosso Bianco Collection
1968 McLaren-Chevrolet M6B CanAm Sports-Racing Spider
Chassis no. 50.30
This immaculate and virtually concours CanAm McLaren is finished in a livery similar to that of the Penske Racing Team as it contested the legendary CanAm Championship serious of Group 7 sports car races in 1968. This dark blue livery highlighted by intricate gold pin-striping graced the relevant Penske McLaren of that 1968 season which was driven by Mark Donohue – the leading American driver in the series after Dan Gurney. The 1967 CanAm Champion cars had been the McLaren Works Team’s M6As, of which only three were built. For 1968 this design was then put into production as the customer-sale McLaren M6B.

While Penske had campaigned an ex-works Gulf-McLaren team M6A model car from 1967 in early-season ’68 United States Road Racing Championship events, contemporary reports state that the M6A was sold to Jerry Hansen pre-CanAm. A new M6B – which was exquisitely prepared to Penske’s towering standards – was then made ready for Penske for the new season.

We understand that the example offered here - fresh from long-term preservation and display within the Rosso Bianco Collection - is based upon a 1968-style customer car wearing this lookalike color scheme. Regardless of this car’s detail provenance - research is ongoing as we close for press - this Rosso Bianco car is certainly breathtakingly beautiful!.

The unlimited-capacity sports-racing car design which founded the McLaren dynasty of definitive CanAm cars emerged early in time for the second series of Canadian-American Challenge Cup races, in 1967.

Bruce McLaren and his men had appreciated how they had come up short in their campaign to win CanAm’s inaugural title the previous year. Their Oldsmobile V8-engined cars – though light in weight – had been light on horsepower too, and so the change was quickly made to Chevrolet engines of larger capacity. The little British-based team found themselves in a catch-up situation, particularly against the big 6-litre Lola-Chevrolet T70s, and they were beaten to the title by Lola’s number one star – John Surtees.

For 1967 the McLaren team’s youthful chief designer Robin Herd then progressed the monocoque-chassised M6A prototype from blank paper to running prototype in a mere 11 weeks. It was ready on June 19, 1967 – ten weeks before the opening CanAm race – and Bruce McLaren and his new CanAm team-mate Denny Hulme simply tested it to perfection in that period. The M6A design’s twin-pontoon aluminum monocoque chassis was light, simple yet immensely strong and the rear chassis ‘forks’ were stiffened in torsion by the Chevrolet V8 engine block. Suspension was similar to that of the preceding M1-series spaceframe McLaren sports cars.

Bruce elected to test the chassis initially without the bodywork, getting the basic platform to handle as he wanted before adding any aerodynamic loads. He would admit that the basic body shape of the M6A owed much to that of the stillborn Ford ‘J-car’ on which he had been working. CanAm authority and contemporary race reporter Pete Lyons wrote in his wonderful book ‘CanAm’ (Motorbooks International 1995): “To show the Yanks the Kiwis were in synch with the Psychedelic Sixties, some of (the team’s) engines appeared with little plaques affixed to the valve covers proclaiming they were full of ‘Flower Power’…Late in the season Bruce was pleased to note that the M6A chassis had been so nicely set up at Goodwood that he reached the last race in the States before he felt any need to change anti-roll bars. Both he and Hulme reveled in the handling that was at once stable and responsive. Envious outsiders spoke of the M6As behaving like F1 cars – or ‘sophisticated go-karts’ as one driver put it…”. Sophisticated indeed; so sophisticated in fact that Bruce McLaren and Denny Hulme utterly dominated that 1967 CanAm series with Bruce emerging as Champion with 30 points to Denny’s 27 in second place – the Gulf-sponsored McLarens having won five of the six qualifying races.

For 1968, not only would the Gulf-McLaren works team return to CanAm combat with updated new M8A-model cars, but their customer production partners – the Trojan Group in England – would also offer a productionised version of the fabulous works M6As to fulfill the clamor for orders from US customers. Lothar Motschenbacher was one leading private owner who notably turned to McLaren with a new M6B, Swedish Formula 1 veteran Joakim Bonnier brought out another and Shelby American fielded a pair for their driver Peter Revson to choose between. But in the opening race of the new CanAm season at Elkhart Lake on September 1, 1968, the new Gulf-McLaren M8As finished 1-2, with Mark Donohue third in the gorgeous Penske McLaren M6B.

At Bridgehampton on Long Island, Dan Gurney weighed-in with his lightened M6B – the famous ‘McLeagle’ – and Donohue won in Penske’s pin-striped blue car after the works McLarens both suffered engine failures. In Edmonton, Canada, Donohue was third to Bruce & Denny, Laguna in the rain 8th, at Riverside 2nd and at Stardust Raceway, Las Vegas, the Penske McLaren failed to start on the line.

This is a glorious tribute to Penske Racing finish and preparation, and to Mark Donohue as ‘Captain Nice’ – America’s hero. It is a beautifully presented car – and in running condition - recalling all that is best about CanAm car quality and American power and preparation… and what a lovely, eye-catching Vintage racer this would be...

Saleroom notices

  • We can confirm that this beautifully-presented Historic CanAm sports-racing car is the machine campaigned in European SuperSports Championship events during the early 1990s by prominent owner/driver Wolfgang Momberger. As such it has an established Historic racing pedigree and we believe it therefore to be entirely eligible for FIA Historic racing ‘Technical Passport’ documentation which would enable a new owner to expect acceptance in any Historic/Vintage race meetings run to current FIA International regulations.
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