The M6GT. The McLaren that everyone forgot.
When somebody says McLaren, what comes into your mind? Formula 1, the P1, 650S, 12C, the legendary F1, and probably Shmee150. If I said the first McLaren (Automotive), you would probably think about the McLaren F1. Guess what, you’re wrong. That was the fastest McLaren. So what was the first McLaren? It was the 1969 M6GT.
Bruce McLaren wanted to race in the Group 4 GT Series. He wanted to gain the respect from his rivals such as Ferrari, Porsche, and Alfa Romeo, who were excelling in that race category. Mr. McLaren envisioned a coupe like body, based on the existing M6 platform, to make the car more suitable for endurance race environments.
Unfortunately, the race officials changed the regulations for the race, requiring the manufacturers to create at least 50 production examples. Because McLaren wasn’t a mass car manufacturer yet and was focused more to road-illegal race cars, the project was scrapped. But that paved the way to McLaren Automotive.
After that unfortunate turn, Bruce McLaren wanted to try something new. Mr. McLaren was known for pushing his skills to the limits as a designer, an entrepreneur, and an innovator. He decided to produce a road car, one that would become one of the highest specification, fastest and quickest accelerating road cars in the world. Based on the M6GT vision that he had, performance and handling would be vital, but safety was also an essential feature of Bruce’s design.
It was based on an existing race car, the McLaren M6A. After it’s retirement from racing, the car was redesigned to be more suitable for road use. It also had a new roof and headlights installed to comply with road standards. It was aimed to be mass produced for the road.
After it’s R&D, the first prototype M6GT, registered OBH 500H, was light, low, loud and unbelievably quick, and Bruce used it on his commute to work and to attend race meetings. Its Bartz-tuned Chevrolet engine ensured sparkling performance, with an estimated top speed of 165mph and a zero to 100mph time of eight seconds. The prototype also had some quirky features, like manually operated lights that were raised and lowered using finger holes in the leading.
Despite Bruce’s vision of the car being mass produced, McLaren only made 2 examples of the M6GT road car, one of which became Bruce McLaren’s personal transport. 23 years later, McLaren produced the F1, which was not only the first mass produced McLaren, but the fastest McLaren in the brand’s history, and the world at that time. 12 years later, McLaren introduced the MP4-12C, later renamed into the 12C, which is the first everyday supercar the brand has ever built. 2 years later, McLaren expanded their lineup, by adding the Ultimate Series, which consists of only the P1 and it’s GTR variant, the Super Series, which consists of the 675LT and 650S, and the Sports Series, a line of entry level McLarens which consisted of the 570S, 570GT and 540C. Today, McLaren is one of the most successful supercar manufacturers.
If it wasnt for the M6GT, combined with Bruce McLaren’s interest of being interested in trying something new, McLaren would never produce such great supercars for the road today.
"To do something well is so worthwhile that to die trying to do it better cannot be foolhardy. It would be a waste of life to do nothing with one's ability, for I feel that life is measured in achievement, not in years alone.” Bruce Leslie McLaren. 1937-1970
Sources: McLaren Automotive: M6GT, Wikipedia.