In 1965, McLaren introduced the M1B, its latest sports racer for Group 7 (and later, Can-Am) competition, which regulated the number of seats (two) and very little else about a car’s construction. The M1B was an evolution of its earlier M1A, and during Can-Am’s 1966 debut season it would deliver valuable lessons for McLaren’s later dominance of the series. The biggest drivers of the day raced in Can-Am, and next month a 1966 McLaren M1B piloted in-period by Chris Amon, Peter Revson and Skip Barber will cross the auction stage in Florida, offered for sale for the first time since 2003.
Both the M1A and the M1B were built with a steel tube frame (using both round and square tubing), clad in aluminum alloy body panels that were bonded and riveted to the frame, using the undertray and wheel wells as stressed components. While the M1B wasn’t any lighter than the earlier car, revisions to the frame delivered an assembly that McLaren claimed was 20 percent stiffer. On the outside, the M1B’s bodywork (designed by Michael Turner, in conjunction with Tyler Alexander and Robin Herd) did away with the M1A’s pointed nose and rounded rear fenders, but it was clear that the two cars came from the same point of origin.
Originally, the M1B was intended to carry a 5-liter Traco-Oldsmobile V-8, but the first Can-Am races showed the lightweight aluminum engine lacked the power to go head-to-head with the cast iron 5.4-liter Chevrolets. As a result, later M1Bs could be equipped with Ford or Chevrolet V-8s as well, and sensing the popularity of the chassis in the new Can-Am series, McLaren turned to Trojan to manufacture cars for the United States market. Sold as McLaren Elva Mark 2s here, a total of 28 cars were delivered to U.S. buyers.
Chassis M1B 30-12 was sold new, with a 4.7-liter Ford V-8, to Bill Kay, who envisioned a two-car team effort with himself and Peter Revson as teammates. It was not to be, as Kay died before the car’s first Group 7 outing, planned for the 1966 British Eagles Trophy race at Brands Hatch in July; there, chassis 30-12 was driven by Chris Amon to a third-place finish.
Following Kay’s death, the car was acquired by George Drummond and Drummond Racing, who also enlisted the services of Revson to drive the car. Though registered for Can-Am events at St. Jovite, Bridgehampton, and Mosport (all in September of 1966), the car was a no-show at all three. Its first Can-Am race with Revson behind the wheel came at Riverside in October, where he started in 31st position but climbed his way to sixth by race-end. The following month, Revson delivered a fourth-place finish at the Can-Am event in Las Vegas, then scored a third-place finish in the Nassau Trophy Race during Bahamas Speed Weeks in December.
For 1967, the car was purchased by Skip Barber, who swapped the Ford V-8 for a 5.4-liter Chevrolet / Traco V-8 before the season began. His first three races in 30-12 were U.S. Road Racing Championship (USRRC) events, and Barber managed a ninth-place finish at Riverside, followed by a fifth-place at Laguna Seca and a did not finish (DNF) at Bridgehampton, retiring with a differential failure. The Watkins Glen Grand Prix was next, and Barber drove the McLaren to a third-place finish, followed by a fourth-place in the USRRC race at Mid-Ohio.
Barber’s final three races in the McLaren were all Can-Am events, and he managed a seventh overall finish at Road America, a ninth-place finish at Bridgehampton and a 15th-place finish at Mosport. While all were significant improvements from Barber’s qualifying positions in the M1B, it became apparent that a privateer running a two-year-old chassis against the likes of McLaren and Penske (running the McLaren M6A and the Lola T70 Mk.3, respectively) had little chance of victory in the series. Chassis 30-12 was retired following the Mosport race, and surfaced again in 2000, when purchased by Denver McLaren collector Harry Matthews.
The car was said to be in “remarkably original condition,” but was mechanically sorted for its return to vintage racing. In 2003, the car was sold to the consignor, who routinely competed in the McLaren, once racking up a string of 13 consecutive class victories at California’s Sonoma Raceway. Fresh from a recent service that included a transaxle rebuild, chassis 30-12 will be sold with a collectio0n of spare parts that include the car’s original wheels (for display purposes only). Gooding & Company predicts a selling price between $275,000 and $325,000 when the McLaren M1B crosses the block in Florida.
For more on the Amelia Island sale, visit GoodingCo.com.