Video: Onboard McLaren’s Brutal 427 Can-Am Car

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.

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Blaze orange paint and enough torque to turn the world backwards: the McLaren M6B.

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.

About the author

Tommy Parry

Tommy Parry has been racing and writing about racing cars for the past seven years. As an automotive enthusiast from a young age, he worked jobs revolving around cars throughout high school, and tried his hand on the race track on his 20th birthday. After winning his first outdoor kart race, Tommy began working as an apprentice mechanic to amateur racers in the Bay Area to sharpen his mechanical understanding. He has worked as a track day instructor and automotive writer since 2012, and continues to race karts, formula cars, sedans, and rally cars in the San Francisco region.
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