9200 rpm and breathing very heavily thru it’s oversized for GP racing ports…
Bruce McLaren at rest and considering setup changes to his first GP car, Robin Herd’s Ford Indy V8 powered, ‘Mallite’ chassis, M2B at Watkins Glen in 1966.
These shots are from the Dave Friedman Archive; the tachometer snaps are at the US GP, the balance of photos from the following, final 1966 Championship round in Mexico City.
This article is another of my ‘nutso’ ones in terms of its order…
I found a swag of photos in Friedman’s archive a while back and planned a pictorial of Bruce and his first McLaren GP car at the 1966 US and Mexican Grands’ Prix, the events where Friedman snapped away prodigiously. I put it to one side and largely forgot about it. Subsequently I decided on something more substantive; so the first bit is the original pictorial, the second is about Bruce’ progress in his first two years as an F1 marque jumping from engine to engine until the DFV provided the definitive McLaren F1 moteur from 1968-1983.
And boy, wasn’t there a lot of water that passed under the bridge between 1968 when the design for the Cosworth powered McLaren M7 was laid down to John Barnard providing both the dimensions of the DFV and its means of attachment to the chassis amongst his ‘mandatories’ of design specifications to Hans Metzger at Porsche in 1983. The TAG/Porsche 1.5 litre twin-turbo V6 was the result, the McLaren MP4/1E TAG-Porsche first raced at the 28 August 1983 Dutch Grand Prix. Back to 1965/6 though!
Remember, the tachometer snaps are at the US GP, the balance of photos from the following round in Mexico City, there are no captions in the first part of the article.
As a GP engine the Ford Quad-Cam Indy V8 engine was a huge, beefy, heavy and notoriously raucous unit. Visually it was a ‘big busty blonde’ as well with its whopping Hilborn injection trumpets and huge ‘between the vee exhausts’, it looked ‘the goods’…
McLaren developed and tested the engine during the winter of 1965/6, notably at Riverside, California but missed the European non-championship F1 events with which the season commenced. In a portent of the season to come John Surtees won the 1 April Syracuse GP in his Ferrari 312 whilst ‘Black-Jack’ won the BRDC International Trophy in his Brabham BT19 Repco at Silverstone on May 14.
McLaren made its debut as an F1 marque in the May 22, 1966 Monaco Grand Prix, the first championship round that year. Bruce raced the car he concepted together with Robin Herd, the brilliant young designer specified ‘Mallite’ as the primary material for M2B’s monocoque chassis. (noting the M1 series of car are CanAm machines)
Mallite is a composite sheet aerospace sandwich material comprising end grain balsa material filling between thin sheets of aluminium. The resultant chassis was incredibly stiff for its day at around 11000 lb/ft per degree of deflection compared with a good conventional ‘ally tub which came in the range of 4000-5000 lb/ft per degree.
The Indy Ford 4-cam V8 was reduced from its USAC mandated 4.2 litres to the 3 litre F1 limit (95.3mmX52.4mm bore/stroke-2999cc) which prevailed from 1 January 1966. For F1 use the engine was first modified by Klaus von Rucker in England, then later Bruce involved Traco Engineering in Los Angeles.
Click on this article for a brief history of the Ford Indy V8 amongst the Lola T90 stuff which is the main substance of this piece; https://primotipo.com/2015/06/12/graham-hills-american-red-ball-spl-lola-t90-ford-indy-winner-1966-2/
At Monaco the new McLaren qualified 12th, Bruce withdrew with mechanical ailments on lap 9, the race was won by Jackie Stewart’s 2.1 litre ‘Tasman’ P56 V8 engined BRM P261. This car was his 1965 1.5 litre F1 mount with a bigger version of the P56 V8 with which he won the 1965 Tasman Series.
Bruce and his small Colnbrook team, (near Heathrow an area in the midst of the motor racing industry of subcontractors 3 miles from Slough and 18 miles West of London) crew quickly realised the engines massive ports and valves didn’t give the sort of gas flow speed needed to produce competitive power at 3 litres. Mind you, its 300 horsepower was the sort of output the World Championship winning ‘RB620’ Repco V8 developed in 1966. It was enough to win Jack’s ’66 title albeit the Repco engine was light, very torquey and reliable. By contrast, Bruce’s Ford was heavy and gave its punch over a narrow rev band, the deficiencies of which were exacerbated by the 4 speed ZF ‘box they used which ‘left lots of gaps’ in the power band.
The team had much work to do on the Ford, in the meantime Count Volpi’s new Serenissima V8, designed by Ing. Alberto Massimino, who was part of the Lancia-Ferrari and Maserati 250F 1950’s design teams provided another ‘ready made’ alternative engine to try.
This project is a story in itself but suffice to say Bruce tried the engine whilst simultaneously developing the Indy Ford V8 in an attempt to get it to where it needed to be. Most of you will be aware that Bruce’ Ford connections were immaculate at the time as both a development and race driver of the GT40 program, those cars developed by teams on both sides of the Atlantic. It was Bruce’ hope that he may have been able to get FoMoCo’s backing for his F1 variant of their Indy V8. In the end, via Ford UK’s Walter Hayes, Ford supported the Cosworth developed DFV of course.
The Serenissima engine was designed as a sports car unit and gave little power. The ‘M166’ engine was an aluminium, chain driven, quad cam, 2 valve V8 displacing 2996cc (91.5X57.0 mm bore/stroke) 350 bhp was claimed for it but most of the horses seemed to have jumped ship between Italy and the UK, the actual output was more like 260bhp.
M2B was modified to take the side exhaust Italian V8 in time for the Belgian GP, at Spa. The team had great trouble just getting the thing to start, then run and to add insult to injury it ran its bearings after its first exploratory laps having qualified 16th. With no spare engine Bruce was a non-starter.
Bruce and his young intended McLaren F1 team-mate Chris Amon (who raced M1B Chev CanAm cars for Bruce in 1966) then departed England for France and returned as Le Mans winners in a factory Ford GT Mk2. That contentious win or perhaps ‘first over the line’ is still the subject of discussion and debate amongst enthusiasts and historians alike even all these decades later.
Jack Brabham won both the French Grand Prix at Reims and the British at Brands Hatch in BT19 Repco. The M2B-Serenissima contested the Brands race with more success, the engine was reliable. Bruce started superbly on a damp track on wets running in the top six. As the road dried he dropped back but inherited 6th scoring McLaren’s first World Championship point. A significant day in Grand Prix history indeed.
At the Dutch GP the Serenissima engine again failed, the McLaren F1 program was set aside pending development of the Indy Ford V8. Amongst other changes the engine was fitted with Chrysler Hemi inspired induction tracts which lifted its output to around 312bhp at 9500rpm.
The beast re-appeared in the United States GP at Watkins Glen, Bruce finished 5th by surviving a race of mechanical mayhem but in the final race of ’66, won by John Surtees’ Cooper T81 Maserati, the Mexican GP, the engine blew after 70 laps having qualified 14th.
Bruce cast around for a better alternative engine for 1967 and was a happy customer of BRM’s prospective 4 cam, 2 valve V12 which was designed as both an F1 and sportscar unit. The prototype (Group 6) capacity limit at the time was 3 litres so it made good commercial sense for BRM to build customer engines to replace the P56 V8’s which raced in endurance events as well as Grands Prix. BRM’s complex H16 was their factory F1 unit at the time but it was problematic to say the least…not available to customers (post Lotus) and probably not wanted by Bruce in any event!
A new one-off M5A monocoque chassis was designed for this engine designated ‘P101’, but the BRM V12 was running late, the M5A didn’t appear until the Canadian GP at Mosport in August.
So a gorgeous little car was used in the interim; the McLaren M4B BRM V8 was based on Bruce’ M4A F2 car but instead of Ford’s little 1.6 litre FVA the engine bay carried a 2.1 litre version of BRM’s venerable, powerful, small and reliable P56 V8 which had won Graham Hill’s 1962 World Championship, countless GP’s and Tasman Series events. This Tasman BRM V8 engine gave circa 280bhp. ‘Belly’ fuel tanks gave the F2 derived F1 car sufficient fuel for 200 miles.
M4B BRM made its debut in Bruce’ hands in the Race of Champions at Brands Hatch on 13 March. It finished 4/6th in heats one/two but then its engine blew after 1 lap of the final after Bruce muffed a change in heat two. 5th places followed in the two heats and final of the Daily Express Spring Cup at Oulton Park and in the International Trophy at Silverstone on 15 April where Bruce was again, you guessed it, 5th!
So, the little car had plenty of race miles on it as the team transporter headed to Monaco, the little M4B was tailor-made for the tight street circuit, but Jim Clark and Graham Hill were in similar hybrids; 1.5 F1 Lotus 33’s with stretched Tasman V8 Coventry Climax and BRM engines respectively.
‘But Bruces’ battery was running flat – forcing a dramatic pit stop – Bruce could well have finished second behind fellow Kiwi Denny Hulme’s victorious Repco Brabham. Some of the spirit of Formula One in those days is typified by the pit stop as Bruce believed his misfire was fuel pressure and bawled as much at his crew. But Jack Brabham, friend and rival had come into the pits and was shouting ‘it’s your battery – it’s your battery!’ As Bruce wrote: Good old Jack. It was the battery and we quickly whipped another one on. He rejoined and finished fourth – three further championship points … thanks in part to a rival team chief!’ records the Bruce McLaren Trust.
The M4B was then badly damaged on lap two of the Dutch GP at Zandvoort as Bruce went off on spilled oil in the fast Huzaren Viak corner. After repair he was testing it at Goodwood when it caught fire out on the circuit, he then watched it burn to death! The ’67 Dutch is also remembered of course for the debut of the Lotus 49 and more importantly the Ford Cosworth DFV V8 which powered it.
Without a car, Bruce did a deal with Dan Gurney to drive the lanky Californian’s V12 Eagle T1G Weslake, Dan was in sparkling form in an All-American dream week having won two significant races in the Le Mans 24 Hour classic (Ford Mk4 with AJ Foyt co-driving) and at the Belgian GP in the Eagle thereby following the footsteps of Brabham as a GP winning driver of a car he built. It was a path Bruce would also traverse in the 1968 Belgian GP in his Cosworth powered M7A. Bruce was quick in Dan’s car, at the Circuit Bugatti Le Mans he qualified the big car 5th to Dans 3rd but they were both outed in the race, Bruce with ignition problems and Dan with a fuel line issue.
Two weeks later at Silverstone Jim Clark was in sparkling form and convincingly won the British GP. Bruce and Dan qualified 10th and 5th with Bruce this time outed with engine problems and Dan a failing clutch. Consistency in build and preparation of the Weslake V12 were amongst its issues, its fair to say the demands of two ‘Number Ones’ perhaps placed much more pressure on the resources of Gurney’s small team, than getting one machine ready to a high standard. I’ve never read anything about what Bruce, like Dan, one of the supreme engineer/tester/drivers thought of the T1G or its engine. I’m intrigued to know if any of you have something of that nature published ‘in period’ in your collections.
The supreme test of the Nurburgring followed on August 6 where again both drivers qualified well, 5th and 4th for Bruce and Dan respectively but again both failed to finish; Bruce with unspecified mechanical mayhem and Gurney’s superb bolide with driveshaft failure.
Later in 1967 was a busy time for McLaren. Whilst the F1 program was still formative its CanAm challenge was very mature. Bruce and Robins Chev V8 engined M6A was the result of learnings of the previous years, in both Bruce’ M1’s and other cars he raced. The ’67 Can Am commenced on September 3 at Road America and finished in Las Vegas two months later, the ‘papaya cars’ took 5 of the 6 rounds and Bruce the title, a remarkably well deserved one at that.
The Colnbrook build team had the Can Am cars well clear of the workshop by the time they mated the late arriving BRM V12 to the M5A chassis. Bruce was ‘razor sharp’, his driving buoyed by both the competitiveness of the team ‘Stateside and his individual performances in these oh-so-beautifully designed, engineered and executed sports-racers.
The M5A monocoque chassis abandoned Mallite which was considered too complex to shape and heavy in favour of aluminium sheet, the car having a fully stressed section enclosing the drivers legs, the area above his kness left open for maintenance access. The gearbox was the DG300 Hewland also used in the smaller BRM V8 engined car.
BRM’s 24 valve P101 V12 was originally designed for sports-prototype use by Geoff Johnson. The engines bore/stroke were 73.8X57.2mm for a capacity of 2998cc with a compression ratio of 12:1. The Lucas injected, chain driven 4 cam, 2 valve engine produced 369bhp at 9750rpm on 14 August, engine ‘P101-003’ put to good use by Bruce during the Canadian Grand Prix.
During the race the hot oil tank cooked the battery, Bruce gained on the leaders till spinning in the greasy conditions.
At Monza the combination showed just how competitive they were; Bruce popped the thing on the front row, with 20 laps to go he and Surtees were racing wheel to wheel for a dash to the flag when a BRM cylinder liner dropped, the car withdrew on lap 4 with Surtees and Braham running to the line, Jack was outfoxed by John on the last corner of the race.
The M5A retired in both the US and Mexico and was used by the reigning World Champion, Denny Hulme in the first race of 1968, the South African Grand Prix at Kyalami.
But the F1 world had changed late in 1967, by Walter Hayes decision to make the Ford DFV available to customers; he convinced Colin Chapaman to waive the exclusivity agreement Lotus had to use the engine which allowed Bruce and Robin Herd (and Ken Tyrrell in 1968 as well as Lotus) to design a bespoke chassis to suit the 408bhp DFV.
The bathtub aluminium monocoque M7A made a splendid debut winning the ’69 Race of Champions at Brands Hatch with the boss taking the win from pole and jagging the fastest lap to boot!
A new chapter in McLaren history was underway, DFV powered McLarens won World Titles for Emerson Fittipaldi in 1974 and James Hunt in 1976, stories for another time…
The Bruce McLaren Trust, ‘History of The GP Car’ Doug Nye, The GP Encyclopaedia
Dave Friedman Archive, Cahier Archive, Ron Laymon, Ed Lacey, Rainer Schlegelmilch, Ron Laymon, Getty Images, Brian Watson, GP Library, Nigel Smuckatelli, The Enthusiast Network
Tailpiece: ‘BRDC Intl Trophy’, Silverstone, 29 April 1967. From small acorns do big things grow. Bruce, Teddy and the boys, a few passers by. Perhaps it’s Friday, and M4B/1 BRM P56/60 V8…