In no time at all, McLaren will be taking the knife to a big birthday cake adorned with sparklers and a big 5-0 plastered in icing on the face of it. But this isn’t just anyone’s birthday, it is the 50th anniversary of the company’s presence and victory in the Can-Am race series that first took place in 1966. Sadly, we can’t confirm the existence of the birthday cake with the scrumptious icing, but we can confirm that the company will be decking out its 650S Spyder model in the original livery. Only 50 units will see the light of day.
Now before we go on with figures like power, torque, price and all that lot, perhaps it be a good idea to revisit that momentous win back in 1966. The Canadian-American Challenge Cup known simply as Can-Am was a race series born in the mid-sixties and was a spectacle to behold. The race series had such minimal regulations that the only ones abounded were the cars’ dimensions, minimal safety equipment, and the requirement for enclosed wheels and two seats. Everything else was a free-for-all and was an engineer’s wet dream.
Based on the FIA’s Group 7, these cars threw caution and regulations to the wind. Bruce McLaren’s car in the ’66 season was powered by a small-block Chevy V8 motor that reportedly produced in excess of 900 hp and weighed an astonishing 800 kg. These cars were rockets to say the least. It was circa this period in time that the company’s trademark orange shade of paint came into existence. Spurred on by the win in ’66, these heroic chaps continued on with their march to victory. Fast forward to June 1970, the company had been hard at work building and designing their own aluminium monocoque chassis and powertrains for the upcoming season.
On the morning of June the second 1970 in Goodwood, Bruce McLaren was out testing their latest forerunner when the rear bodywork of his prototype M8D detached during testing resulting in a fatal high-speed crash. McLaren continued to succeed in Can-Am after Bruce’s death with a number of other drivers, but with Porsche’s turbocharged flat-12 engines and a soaring development budget meant that they guys weren’t able keep up with the mighty Porch 917. Although private McLarens continued to race, the factory concentrated its efforts into Formula One.
Back to the 650S Can-Am Spyder. In honouring the momentous victory 50 years ago, McLaren has decided to paint the 650S in that same shade of red shared on Bruce’s car. Three colours will be offered – Mars Red, Papaya Spark and Onyx Black. Performance figures remain largely unchanged over the standard 650S Spyder with 641 hp and 678 Nm of torque from the company’s award-winning 3.8-litre V8 that’s capable of catapulting the spyder from standstill to 100 km/h in a mere three seconds. Keep your foot mashed up to the pedal and you’ll see the speedo tick past 330 km/h.
Having said that, only 50 prime examples built by McLaren’s Spec Ops (MSO) division will ever see the light of day with a sticker price of £255,850 (RM1,629,347).