Throwback Thursday: The McLaren M6GT was the 570GT’s Great-Grandfather
Bruce McLaren’s dream car.
Start comparing McLaren cars and you'll quickly be drowning in alphabet soup. In recent years we've seen the MP4-12C, P1, P1 GTR, 675LT, 650S, 540C, 570S, 570GT and, of course, F1. So how about M6GT? That's where it all started.
It was 1969 and Bruce McLaren had plans to create a Group 4 racing coupe to take on the likes of Ferrari and Porsche. The basis for the closed car would be the McLaren M6A that won five of the six races in the 1967 Can-Am season and brought McLaren the driver's title.
It was a good starting point, if a bit divorced from road-going reality. Think of the cramped interior and the broad sill you'd need to navigate just to enter the GT. Then again, consider how cool it would be to drive an only slightly tamed Can-Am car on the street. Early plans called for as many as 250 cars to be built per year.
While those dreams died with McLaren, the original M6GT still exists. It is known by its number plate: OBH 500H. It could be 2-3 others were assembled by Trojan, which built the McLaren customer race cars. And there have been several replicas created.
Little was done to the M6 chassis used for the GT, with the nose similar to the race cars. A coupe top was grafted to the lower body and the back beautifully smoothed rearward, eliminating the aft air scoops and the spoiler. Of course the road car needed headlights and they are manual pop-ups. Look closely at the bottom of the headlamp covers and you'll see the finger holes for raising the lights.
To get a sense of the McLaren M6GT's size, it was 162.0 inches long on a 96.5-inch wheelbase, 73.0 inches wide, and the roof topped at a low 40.0 inches. By comparison a modern-day McLaren 650S -- if there's one nearby for you to check -- is 177.5 inches long riding on a 105.1-inch wheelbase with a width of 75.1 inches and height of 47.2 inches. Curb weights were 1764 lb with the M6GT and 3148 lbfor a 650S, due in part to the fact the latter carries all sorts of emissions and safety equipment not dreamed of in 1969.
Being fundamentally a race car, the M6GT had the expected upper and lower A-arm/coil-over suspension arrangements front and rear. The brakes were Girling discs, the steering rack and pinion.
As with the Can-Am cars, the M6GT has a Chevrolet V-8, but with mufflers and matched to a ZF five-speed transaxle. Bruce McLaren's plan was to offer cars without an engine, leaving that to the customer. One possibility was a 7.0-liter Ford V-8. (Don't forget, these were the days of minimal emissions rules.) With the Chevy, the GT's 0-60-mph time was estimated as just over 4 seconds with a top speed of around 180 mph, not bad even by today's standards.
McLaren M6GT OBH 500H was finished in late 1969, the prototype driven by McLaren on a regular basis until his death. At that point the odometer registered just over 1,900 miles.
After Bruce McLaren's passing, driver Denny Hulme and McLaren's old friend and co-managing director at the firm, Phil Kerr, bought the M6GT and shipped to their native New Zealand, where it was displayed in the Auckland Museum of Transport and Technology. Hulme sold the car in 1990 and it ended up in the U.S. It has since changed hands several times.
Bruce McLaren's GT dream car is now owed by John Stafford in Chicago and isn't sitting dusty in a garage, but being used. Thank goodness.