With the decline in fortunes of the Cooper Car Companies Grand Prix program, for which he had been driving since his arrival in Formula One in 1958, Bruce McLaren decided that with the success of his McLaren M1 sports cars he could follow his former mentor Jack Brabham, who left Cooper to build his own Formula One cars in 1962, and start his own Grand Prix team in time for the new 3 litre / 183 cui regulations which came into effect in 1966.
Through 1965 McLaren built and extensively tested the M2A which was designed by Robin Herd and fitted with a 4.5 litre / 274.5 Oldsmobile V8 from the McLaren M1 program.
The monococoque of the McLaren M2A made extensive use of compressed balsa wood sandwiched between thin sheets of aluminium called Malite which made the monocoque much stiffer than a conventional monocoque as had been successfully used in the Lotus 25 and it’s successor the Lotus 33.
However Malite proved to be difficult to work with and repair and so for the McLaren M2B the use of Malite was restricted to the inner skins and upper surfaces of the monocoque which still offered significant advantages to the stiffness of the structure.
Originally the M2B was powered by a V8 motor derived from Ford’s Indy programme, but this proved way to heavy allegedly when connected to the gearbox the whole power train weighed as much as some rivals entire cars, while later on a much lighter and less powerful Serenissima motor was also tried.
The two engines are easily distinguished the Indy derived Ford has exhausts between the Vee formed by the eight cylinders as seen here and the Serenissima had more conventional side exhausts.
Bruce McLaren made 4 starts in the M2B, after retiring at Monaco he realised the Ford based motor needed less weight and more power so he secured the use of the Serenissima’s as an interim measure. At the British Grand Prix Bruce scored his first World Championship point in a car bearing his own name. By the US Grand Prix improved Ford based motors were back from Traco and Bruce came in 5th, before retiring at the Mexican Grand Prix which closed the season.
Although the season was a failure the team learned from their mistakes and made do with BRM 2 litre / 122 cui V8 motors for 1967 before becoming one of the three teams using the Ford Cosworth DFV, alongside Lotus and Tyrrell in 1968.
The white and green colour scheme of the M2B is said to have been mandated by a deal between Bruce and the producers of the John Frankenheimer’s film “Grand Prix” which required the McLaren M2B to look like the fictional Japanese “Yamura” which James Garners character Pete Aron drove to a championship win in the film.
Thanks for joining me me on this Malite Monocoque edition of “Gettin a li’l psycho on tyres”, I hope you will join me again tomorrow. Don’t forget to come back now !