BRUCE'S ROAD CAR VISION: M12GT AT GOODWOOD

While there were plenty of McLaren cars in action on the famous Goodwood Hill during the recent Festival of Speed, there was also a rare example of our first road car, sitting peacefully in the Cartier Style et Luxe concours d’elegance display.

 

The original McLaren M6GT was derived from the M6A CanAm car, with a closed-coupé body.  Bruce McLaren had planned to get the car homologated for Le Mans and the World Sportscar Championship, but the FIA required 50 cars to be built to satisfy the regulations, and this made the project too demanding for what was then a very small company. 

 

 

Bruce scrapped the Le Mans project, but decided to develop the road car anyway.  Working to deliver race winning technology to the road - an approach still applied to McLaren’s road cars today, Bruce had ambitious plans to launch the GT as the quickest sportscar in the world.  In 1969, the factory produced a blood-red prototype, which Bruce used as his road car until his untimely death while testing a CanAm car at Goodwood in 1970.

 

Meanwhile, in partnership with Trojan (who built McLaren’s customer racing cars), two further M6GTs were produced.  These were mid-engined road-legal prototype race cars, a coupé body on the original race-car monocoque with Chevrolet power, and not truly practical for everyday use.  McLaren designer Gordon Coppuck described the car as ‘a semi-civilised CanAm car and ridiculously fast road car that weighed the same as a Mini with ten times the power.' 

 

 

The bright orange example that appeared at the Festival was a derivative of these early prototypes, the M12 GT: based on the later M12 CanAm car, it too was built by the Trojan factory using the aluminium ‘big block’ Chevrolet engine, one of perhaps three or four ‘unofficial’ coupés built after Bruce’s original.  This example was raced twice by gentleman racer Pete Sherman in 1972, before being converted to a coupé in the mid-1970s.  It has been used as a road car ever since. 

 

Having been bought and sold by collectors over the decades, this rare McLaren now belongs to Austrian Heinz Swoboda;  ‘For me it’s very emotional, to have a small piece of McLaren history and bring it here to Goodwood,’ Heinz said, the day before the Festival. ‘The beginning of the [GT] story is Bruce McLaren’s car, and it begins here at Goodwood. I’m proud that I can show the car – it’s not a museum car, it’s very original, but the design, the styling, it’s incredible… I’m very proud to be invited to the concours at the Festival of Speed this year.’

 

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