The true Can-Am period was the years from 1967 to 1974. This was a time when legendary drivers from all over the world competed on road circuits of North America in beautifully designed, monster sports cars. The Canadian American Challenge Cup known as the Can-Am Challenge Cup permitted almost any innovation and so the cars included such imaginative design and features as, supercharged 7 or 8 litre engines in a chassis with ultra-wide wheels and high wings.
This was a period of beautifully designed cars driven by legendary drivers from all over the world. They all came for fun, glory and the largest purse in prize money in the world.
Canadian American Challenge Cup
The Bruce and Denny Show as it became know in the Can-Am Series was due to the dominance of McLaren and Hulme. Bruce McLarens involvement with Group 7 sports car racing started with the “Jolly Green Giant”, or “Cooper-Oldsmobile”, a much-rebuilt version of the ex-Roger Penske “Zerex Special”, which started life as a Cooper F1 chassis.
The first “true” McLaren was the M1, (also known as the McLaren-Elva-Oldsmobile Mark 1 when it became the Trojan production car), this was the first in a long line of dominant McLaren Can-Am cars, though wasn’t initially too successful due to excessive lift from its bodywork.
The M1 was the start of the most successful Can-Am team in history and following the beautiful M8A came a stable of wonderful all conquering cars such as the M8B, M8D, M8E see McLaren cars by Model # The M8 series were the most successful in the McLaren lineage of Can-AM cars with Denny Hulme winning the 68 series with the final race at Stardust Circuit, Las Vegas
The 1969 series was billed as being the million dollar sports car race series with 11 races starting at Mosport in June and finishing in Texas over three months later. Generally speaking ( apart from when the script went wrong ) the opposition seemed unable to mount any sustained serious challenge to the McLaren package of technically superior cars with stronger more reliable engines. Bruce and Denny really enjoyed driving these cars and the overall Can-Am environment was a welcome escape from their Formula 1 races in Europe. The series was both very rewarding yet physically very demanding, due in part to the enormous amount of travelling involved to and from races with all the equipment, personnel and transport necessary to support the 3 car team, which was additional to the normal race car preparation. Much has been written statistically about the runaway success and total domination of the McLaren Can-Am series cars and in particular the “Bruce and Denny Show” during the 1969 series. At the end of the eleven race series, the championship win was Bruce’s with six wins and Denny second over-all with five wins – therefore another clean sweep for McLaren cars winning eleven out of eleven races.
When the McLaren team started building its own engines is established a separate division, McLaren Engines in Detroit. Colin Beanland was named General Manager . When the engines arrived from Chevrolet, they were the absolutely bare 430 cubic inch aluminium blocks as sold over the counter. (see the picture of the first aluminium engine block in auto racing history made without iron cylinder liners (top). Below is the 465 cubic inch eight cylinder Chevrolet engine with the customary iron cylinder sleeves)
McLaren designed the fuel injection manifolds (see picture of the ram stacks for the fuel infection on the McLaren built Can-Am Chevrolet engine)
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