Has there ever been a cooler series than Group 7 in the mid-to-late 1960s? Back then the way to build a fast car was to shove a big American V8 in a lightweight and nimble European chassis and jam the loud pedal as often as possible. The cars were incredible, but were matched on talent from the roster of amazing drivers who ran in that series. Mark Donohue, John Surtees, Phil Hill, Jim Hall, Dan Gurney, Graham Hill, it was a goddamn who’s who.
1966 was the inaugural season of the Group 7-based Canadian American Challenge, better known as Can Am. While Lola’s T70 dominated the series that year, Bruce McLaren and Chris Amon managed to lead a few races in their fast and fragile M1Bs. They knew they had a chance to run at the front, but the car always seemed to fail them at the most inopportune moment.
Thankfully, those quick machines of 54 years ago are still trotted out to vintage race events for all of us to enjoy today. I wasn’t around in the 1960s to see Amon and Big Mac run them in their day, so this is the next best thing, I suppose.
While McLaren wasn’t successful in 1966, the team would go on to dominate Can Am with updated M6A chassis for 1967, winning five of six rounds.
The M1B wasn’t limited to Can Am competition, however, as it was eligible for any FIA Group 7 class worldwide. For that reason, McLaren was able to sell 28 of the thrice-updated Elva-based design in 1966, keeping only two for its own use in North America.
This video, lovingly captured by champion of YouTube 19Bozzy92, features a pair of these incredible sixties machines pounding around the Nürburgring Gp-Strecke during last year’s Oldtimer GP races.
Allow these big V8 bad boys to act as a salve for you in these troubled times. I know I will be playing this on a loop for at least the next hour.