After a brilliant year with their works team M6A, McLaren began releasing these short-range tactical missiles to the public. A well-heeld customer could therefore purchase one of the M6Bs with some ease, though driving it effectively would not be so simple.
The M6B boasted 650 horsepower from its 7.0-liter, fuel-injected, Chevrolet V8, the first aluminum monocoque ever seen on one of their cars, and a grander aero package to suit the Can-Am series’ regulations. Weighing only 1,700 pounds, the M6B fit in snugly to the expectations of the series: to go as quickly in a closed wheel car, unrestrained by rules. Therefore, the Can-Am cars boasted as much horsepower as the manufacturers could muster, and the wise drivers knew to give these machines their due respect.
By modern standards, the car lacks the grip to complement such a torquey and mellifluous-sounding engine, but it’s not much of a concern for overall winner of the 1996 12 Hours of Sebring, Jim Hall. Hall understands the limitation of the tire and brake technology of the day, and stands on the brakes startlingly early for less-than-rapid deceleration. His braking zones are more akin to stock cars of today than sports cars! My, how the times have changed.
What’s most fascinating about the way the car moves is just how much oversteer is seen mid-corner and past the apex. Without hampering momentum much, Hall casually countersteers the snarling Can-Am beast through the corner with tiny flicks of opposite lock. It’s really a thing of beauty to see this car driven with minuscule amounts of oversteer, as they’re smooth, natural, and are reminiscent of a rally driver piloting their car on a sodden road. The slides befit the torque and the tires of the day.
As radial tires were coming into fashion around the beginning of the Can-Am era, the series began focusing on how much power could be put to the ground effectively, and a race to develop the rubber underneath these testosterone-laden machines raced forward. With the 1,500-horsepower Porsche 917/30 to follow, the series was, in many respects, absolutely bonkers — which is why these machines are so exciting to watch.