The Elva-built McLarens, called M1A to distinguish them from the original McLaren prototype, were campaigned by some of the most famous and successful drivers and teams with a variety of powerplants. Their characteristics reflect the McLaren team’s emphasis on simple, straightforward design and rugged construction, traits which had been inculcated into them from years with Cooper.
The frame was based on three main tubes incorporating a multi-tubular space frame structure and stressed sheet floor and bulkhead panels. The suspension was independent all around with very widely spaced pickups for the front upper wishbones, the rear element running almost to the cowl. The rear had reversed lower wishbones, single upper links and parallel radius rods. Springing was by coil springs and tubular shocks.
The body was designed by Tony Hilder with a pointed nose split into two nostrils to take in the air for the radiator, which exhausted out the top of the nose directly in front of the very long, shallow, complexly curved windscreen. The nose also had air intakes to cool the front brakes; intakes in the front of each rear fender did the same for the rear brakes. The McLaren-Elva M1A was designed to accept a variety of powerplants, although the Traco-Oldsmobile was the preferred source of motive power. A Hewland transaxle was used. In all, it is believed that 24 McLaren-Elva M1As were built.