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Racing Toward Father’s Day! McLaren Formula 1 Car by Car – ORANGE CRUSH

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Book Review

Racing Toward Father’s Day! McLaren Formula 1 Car by Car – ORANGE CRUSH

Racing Toward Father’s Day!

McLaren Formula 1 Car by Car


In 1972 author Charles Fox published The Great Racing Cars and Drivers, essentially a highlight reel of men and machinery from before World War I to the Formula 1 campaigns at the start of the 1970s. On the cover of the book is driver/constructor Bruce McLaren, while a two-page color spread of McLaren’s 1969 M8B Can-Am occupies pages 206 and 207. Within over a century of competitive motorsport you’d be hard-pressed to identify one driver or one constructor as ‘the best’, but of the relatively small number of drivers building their own cars, the late Bruce McLaren constructed one helluva history, one that continues 50+ years after his untimely death – at the wheel – in 1970. 

Although McLaren didn’t live long enough to achieve personal success as a constructor in F1, his time spent in the Can-Am series racked up a series of wins for both him and co-driver Denny Hulme; that consistent success provided the financial underpinning to compete – and eventually succeed – in Formula 1. And in my view – and that of many – it’s Formula 1 for a reason; no other form of motorsport is quite so purposeful in its pursuit of performance, or as demanding in its need for excellence.

courtesy of

The history of McLaren Racing is thoroughly chronicled in Stuart Codling’s McLAREN FORMULA 1 CAR BY CAR – EVERY RACE CAR SINCE 1966. The book’s editorial scope is as expansive as its title suggests, and encompasses its own highlight reel, from the McLaren M2B introduced in the ‘60s to the MCL 60 of today. And within its 200+ pages of info and photos – plus an expansive appendix – is the overview a casual F1 fan can enjoy, along with the more-than-adequate serving of F1 minutiae the Grand Prix zealot would demand. 

As you’d guess, Team McLaren is made up of far more people than its namesake. Team managers come and go, and those comings and goings are well documented, as are those names behind the wheel – many of them legendary. If you’ve seen – and enjoyed – director Ron Howard’s Rush, you’ll know driver James Hunt took McLaren’s first World Championship in 1976. And Hunt’s nemesis in the film, Niki Lauda, drove for Ferrari during that period, but would join McLaren from 1982 through 1985, winning the overall championship for the team in 1984. There was also Ayrton Senna, Keke Rosberg and the author of the book’s forward, World Champion Mika Häkkinen. But if the drivers provide a celestial seasoning, the cars are the stars – and in these six decades the sheer variety is astounding. 

The history begins with the 1966 Formula 1 campaign waged by the all-new McLaren M2B. Employing monocoque construction and a less-than-conventional Mallite structural sandwich, the all-new chassis was sabotaged by the lack of a competitive powertrain. A Ford Indy V8 was reduced to 3.0 liters (and 300 horsepower), and when that didn’t prove suitable an Italian-sourced Serenissima V8 was employed. This first season earned the McLaren team its first championship points – in the ’66 British Grand Prix – but was scrapped after that first year. Of note: its weight was listed at 1,179 pounds!

If there’s a favorite McLaren for this reader it’s the M7, which took McLaren – company and driver – to the team’s first F1 win at the Belgian Grand Prix in 1968. Finished in what is now McLaren’s signature papaya, the M7 – in any of its ‘A’ thru ‘D’ derivatives – represents what is for me the high-water mark in single-seat, open-wheel architecture. And it would also – notably – be Bruce McLaren’s final Grand Prix win. 

There have been many ups and downs in almost 60 years of competition. But in Codling’s thoroughly researched history, you can enjoy both, using the carefully crafted narrative as either a historical resource or a casual weekend read. Published by Motorbooks, McLAREN FORMULA 1 CAR BY CAR is available from your local bookseller for $60 in the U.S. The publisher provided my review copy. 

Although it may be some time before I attend another Formula 1 race, I’m always inclined to visit a McLaren showroom. There, you can enjoy the excitement of great design, still drawing its inspiration from a great man.

courtesy of McLaren Automotive

Boldt, a contributor to outlets such as, Kelley Blue Book and Autoblog, brings to his laptop some forty years of experience in automotive retail, journalism and public relations. He is a member of the Texas Auto Writers Association, The Washington Automotive Press Association and L.A.'s Motor Press Guild. David is the Managing Editor of txGarage, a regular panelist on the AutoNetwork Reports webcast/podcast, and the automotive contributor to Dallas' Katy Trail Weekly.

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