McLaren’s history with the Can-Am racing series is almost as intrinsic as its links with Formula 1 and Le Mans. To celebrate this, and 50 years of the Can-Am series, McLaren has launched a limited edition of the 650S Spider – the 650S Can-Am.
Can-Am – abbreviated from its full title of the Canadian-American Challenge Cup – began in 1966, attracting stars from across the motor racing world – names such as Graham Hill, Jackie Stewart, Dan Gurney and Keke Rosberg all competed in the series over the years.
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Another notable name was that of Bruce McLaren. Already a hugely-respected driver thanks to his exploits in F1, the New Zealander set up business as a constructor in 1963 and entered cars in both F1 and the newly-formed Can-Am series in its inaugural season.
While F1 constructors’ success took the best part of a decade to arrive, McLaren made an immediate impact in the Canadian-American series. The team’s first car, raced by both Bruce himself and Chris Amon, took no wins that season, but proved competitive all the same.
1967 was very different. With Denny Hulme and Bruce McLaren at the wheel, the team – and Bruce in particular – won the championship. While Bruce was killed in a testing accident in 1970, the team won five consecutive championships between 1967 and 1971, cementing its place in the history books.
McLaren is a very different company today – and its Formula 1 team isn’t quite enjoying the success of those early years – but the 650S Can-Am does take several (mainly visual and conceptual) cues from those original racers.
Among those is widespread use of lightweight materials such as carbonfibre, in both its chassis and the car’s retractable hard top. Carbonfibre is also used for the bonnet, airbrake, front splitter, rear bumper centre, door blades and a Can-Am branded sill cover.
The car’s alloy wheels are inspired by those of the 1960s race cars, and finished gloss black. More distinctive still is the Can-Am inspired quad-exit exhaust system, formed from polished stainless steel – designed to evoke the throttle trumpets sprouting from the engine cover of the race cars. Mars Red paintwork matches that of the of the original season’s racer, while Onyx Black and Papaya Spark – the latter a metallic take on McLaren Orange – are also available.
Performance is unchanged from standard – the rear deck lid still hides a 641bhp, 500lb ft 3.8-litre twin turbocharged V8. 0-62mph arrives in three seconds flat, with a top speed of 204mph. The cost of all this performance and history is £255,850, and only 50 will be sold globally.