1970 McLaren M8C
Year of manufacture1970
The ex-Lothar Motschenbacher
1970 McLaren M8C Can-Am Sports Prototype
Chassis no. unnumbered
A stalwart of the Formula 1 World Championship for 50 years of the current teams, only Ferrari has been in the sport longer the company founded by New Zealander Bruce McLaren first rose to prominence in sports car racing, building a highly successful series of prototypes for the emerging Can-Am series in North America. Indeed, McLaren and his fellow Kiwi team-mate Denny Hulme's domination of the series was so overwhelming that it was nicknamed the 'Bruce and Denny Show'. The team won the Can-Am championship on five consecutive occasions between 1967 and 1971 before the Porsche 917s of Penske Racing took over.
Bruce had won the 1967 Can-Am championship driving the McLaren M6A, and for 1968 the works team would use the design's next evolutions: M8A and M8B, which were notable in their use of the all-aluminium Chevrolet big-block V8 as a semi-stressed chassis member. The M8C was developed as a customer version of the M8A. Fifteen M8Cs were built by Trojan, and these cars featured a more conventional chassis that did not use the engine as a stressed member, giving customers more freedom in choosing an engine.
One of the M8C's purchasers was Lothar Motschenbacher, who competed in the Can-Am series between 1967 and 1972, clocking up more starts than any other driver in the series. Born in Germany, Lothar had moved to the USA in 1956, initially working as a Mercedes-Benz mechanic, before establishing his own business. He took up racing in the early 1960s, carrying on until 1974 when his career was ended prematurely by an injury. The highlight of his career was finishing 2nd in the Can-Am championship behind Hulme in 1970.
During the 1970 season Motschenbacher had campaigned a McLaren M8A and an M8B. At Elkhart Lake in August 1970 the M8B's engine crankshaft vibration damper exploded causing extensive damage to the rear of the chassis and cracking Lothar's shoulder blade. The McLaren went off into the woods and slammed into an embankment. Lothar got out without serious injury but the M8B was a total write-off.
Motschenbacher was the McLaren agent for the USA and he quickly ordered a new chassis frame from McLaren's construction partner, Trojan. This chassis was meant for an enclosed GT version (possibly M12) and was hastily assembled by Motschenbacher using parts from the old car including the M8B's bulkhead. This replacement frame was never numbered.
The car ran with race number '11' like the original M8B and Motschenbacher competed in two races in 1970: Laguna Seca in October where it retired, and at Riverside where it was placed 5th. The car was sold after the 1970 season to Charles Kemp of Mississippi, who raced it in five Can-Am races and also in SCCA events.
After the 1971 Riverside race the McLaren was sold following damage to the left front wing, and late in 1971 was purchased by Bill Rhea of Los Angeles. In 1976 the car was sold to William L King, who kept it for 11 years, selling it to Harold Drinkwater in 1987. The McLaren was then imported into the UK for a rebuild. Undertaken by Jim Clark's former mechanic Cedric Selzer, the restoration was completed in October 1987 and the car was sold to Chris Beauvoisin. In April 1989 Beauvoisin sold the McLaren it to the current Swedish racing-driver owner. At the time of the latter's purchase the car was described thus: "The entire car is as new and in perfect condition as you can expect following a complete and professional restoration. Any parts that needed replacing have been replaced. You have in fact an as new monocoque built around the original bulkheads and to which has been attached the original uprights and such original suspension parts as were re-usable. The car has a new body, re-conditioned transmission and a freshly rebuilt (ex-Chaparral/Foulston) 5-litre full race Chevrolet engine. This work has been carried out by Racing Fabrications."
Today the car remains in 'as new' condition having been used only for occasional exhibition runs in Sweden during the current vendor's ownership. A guaranteed entry into historic sports car events and series worldwide, this rare McLaren Can-Am racer is offered with HSCC and FIA papers from 1989 confirming the ownership chain back to 1970.