The World's Fastest Sports Car

M8A at Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin

M8A at Elkhart Lake

Bruce McLaren has his sights set on the ‘69 Can-Am series and the accompanying American dollar. His quest for the ultimate sports car has resulted in the new M8A monocoque.

After winning the 1967 Can-Am series in his all-conquering M6A Chevy-powered sports car, Bruce McLaren went back to his factory at Colnbrook, near London Airport, and set about designing a car that was even quicker. Why? Because in the race at Riverside Jim Hall’s Chaparral had proved to be closely competitive, and McLaren knew he would have to have a better car for 1968. The M8A (the Formula 1 car was the M7A) weighs around 1440lb (645kg), which is 25lb (11kg) lighter than the ‘67 car, but the aluminium 7-litre dry-sump Chevy V8 engines, modified in McLaren’s own Californian engine division, give around 650bhp - nearly 100bhp more than he won races with last season!

Suspension and general styling are obviously similar to the previous car, although the body shape has been smoothed out a lot, and the general ‘negative lift’ lines of the new body means that the currently popular ‘wing’ isn’t really necessary. The smoother lines also mean that this year’s car can run with lower spoilers on the tail. Since tyre profiles are lower than previously the overall lines are lower with the wheel arches less pronounced.

Slots cut in the back of the front wings relieve the high-pressure area directly over the front guards. NASA-type triangular ducts with a lip at the top feed air into side-mounted engine oil-coolers. These ducts are actually built into the doors on either side, and the coolers are mounted level with the engine mounting plate. A separate oil cooler for the gearbox is mounted in the swept-up lip of the tail as it was on the 1967 car.

A larger air-intake slot in the nose feeds air to a wide radiator, and careful interior sculpting has been carried out inside the nose to make sure that the air rushing through the radiator has been put to maximum benefit by being channelled properly upward, thereby creating more down thrust on the front wheels.

The body comes in four pieces - the nose with fitted air ducts, tail section and two doors which also carry the side-screens. The screen has been specially designed to mould up around the driver - almost like a single-seater - and it is now impossible to carry a passenger, even though the passenger’s seat is regulation width. The second seat is now almost covered by this perspex ‘tonneau cover’. McLaren isn’t sure whether this is according to Hoyle, but he reckons to try it out anyway.....

The chassis is monocoque, but unlike the M7A with its four fabricated steel bulkheads, the M8A has only two bulkheads. The forward one is set behind the front suspension, with the steering box mounted on it, making for the shortest-ever steering column. The bulkhead is so far back that a special hole has been cut in it to take the full travel of the clutch and brake pedals.

The broad monocoque is aluminium sheet on the inside and magnesium on the outside, with rubber bag tanks carrying 30 gal of fuel on each side of the chassis. The ‘67 car carried only 45 gals, but this was ample for the thirst of the 6-litre cast iron Chevy V8.

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