If you can hustle one of these babies around the track, nobody will ever question your manhood


The Can-Am Series for unlimited sports cars began in 1966, and a year later Bruce McLaren won his first championship, driving a car bearing his own name. Teammate Denny Hulme was second, and for the next four years, the factory McLaren cars dominated, with either McLaren or Hulme taking the championship in each. Lola, Chaparral, Shadow, and even Ferrari made valiant challenges to McLaren's supremacy, but to no avail.
The M6B was an excellent design, the first monocoque chassis McLaren. It was strong, simple and an aerodynamically efficient package. The factory sold a number of replicas to eager privateers hoping to duplicate its success. Of course, this never quite happened, as the customer cars were always based on last year's model, while the factory team raced the latest new and improved hardware.
This 1968 McLaren M6B is said to have originally belonged to privateer racer Dick Brown of Detroit, who drove it in the 1968 and 1969 Can-Am seasons. It was then purchased by Gordon Barrett, also of Detroit, who totally rebuilt the car and campaigned it for the next two years with Tom Dutton as the driver. For 1971, the Barrett team fitted a 427-ci big block motor-amazingly this is the same engine still found in the car.
The M6B then passed through two more owners before being purchased by its current owner in 1987. The M6B Can-Am Race Car is now in perfect condition, the result of a three-year restoration instigated in 1999. It appears exactly as it did in 1971, even down to the correct race number 79 and forest green with yellow livery.
An acquisition of this perfect "new" McLaren M6B has a time-warp aspect to it, almost as if one had ordered it new in 1968. It can now begin a second career in historic racing, be used to gather concours trophies, or join a museum collection as an example of the best marque in America's most memorable racing championship.

SCM Analysis


Vehicle:1968 McLaren M6B Can-Am
Years Produced:1968
Number Produced:28
Original List Price:approx. $14,000
Tune Up Cost:=Cost per hour to race: $2,750
Distributor Caps:$25
Chassis Number Location:tag on front bulkhead
Engine Number Location:front near water pump
Club Info:Historic Can-Am Association, 2460 Park Blvd. #4, Palo Alto, CA 93406
Alternatives:Lola T 163, McLaren M8, Lola T 70
Investment Grade:C

This 1968 McLaren M6B Can-Am Race Car sold for $90,200, including buyer’s premium, at the RM Monterey auction held on August 13-14, 2004.
It has been said that the vintage racing experience exists as a combination of craft, adrenaline, testosterone, and ego. Can-Am cars clearly occupy the ground where adrenaline and testosterone are at the maximum. They are at once wildly exciting and absolutely terrifying. They are generally hot and uncomfortable to sit in, difficult to see out of, heavy to steer or slow down, and numbingly loud inside. But if you can hustle one of these babies around the track, nobody will ever question your manhood.
I remember my first drive in a Can-Am car, an early McLaren with a small block. It was a test day and I was the only car out. There was a huge roar as I pulled the trigger through three gears, then almost complete silence as I tip-toed the rest of the way around the track, my eyes like saucers. I’m a small-bore sports-racer kind of guy and I’m used to dropping the hammer and getting something like “eeeeeee-snick-eeeeeeeeee-snick-eeeeeeeeeeee.” In the McLaren, it’s more like “whump-clunk-whuuummpp-clunk-whuuummmppp.”
You do get used to it, though. It’s a standard joke that when somebody goes out in a Can-Am car for the first time, they come in after five laps saying, “How can you expect to drive this thing?” After five more they come in and say, “You know, this car is actually pretty cool.” After ten more they finally come in and say, “It’s really neat, but it could use some more horsepower.”
Indeed, more horsepower quickly became the mantra of the series. The basic concept at the Can-Am’s debut in ’66 was “professional, minimum rules, closed wheel sports cars, who can go fastest.” But a quantum leap in tire technology soon made it a contest of getting the most horsepower to the ground. A Lola making probably 450 hp drove to the championship in the inaugural season, but power outputs escalated rapidly. In 1974 Porsche showed up with the 917-30 making about 1,300 hp, at which point everybody else just folded their hands and the series collapsed.
In the early years, tube-frame cars were the order of the day, but this shifted to monocoque construction after about 1967. (Though Porsche stayed with aluminum tube construction to the very end-and it obviously worked.) McLaren’s M6 was the first of its monocoque sports cars, designed to take the GM small-block V8, mated to a Hewland LG five-speed transaxle. 1969 saw the introduction of the M8 series, which were similar, but were fitted with a big-block V8 and a four-speed LG (the bigger engines didn’t need the extra gear). The M8 and later cars frequently used the all-aluminum Reynolds block, which was substantially lighter, if not as durable as the iron version.
In the pantheon of Can-Am cars, the McLaren M6B pictured here fits pretty much in the middle in terms of desirability and value. It’s a monocoque McLaren, which is the right kind of car from the right marque, but it’s not an M8. Though it’s common to stuff the big block (in this case an iron 427) into the M6, these cars really don’t handle the weight or the power as well as the later ones do. Even in the best hands, this will be no better than a mid-pack runner.
Values of V8 Can-Am cars are in the $100k-$400k range, with most trading hands around $200k. So the question here is, why did this one sell so cheap? The catalog indicated that it had been freshly restored by some well-known and highly competent shops, and it certainly looked pretty enough.
Part of the answer is that the auction block is rarely the best place to sell a Can-Am or similar race car. Most cars of this caliber are bought and sold among known parties, and are accompanied by extensive mechanical inspections including practices like Magnafluxing of components. Except for the occasional extremely big ticket, collector-grade race car, often race cars that show up at auction either have mechanical or provenance issues, or represent a desperate seller. The bids reflect this, as three Can-Am cars sold at Monterey this year, and I’d say that each, assuming they are cars without stories, might have brought significantly more if traded privately.
They did sell, however, which is the big thing. Even on the best day, Can-Am cars are a very difficult sell, with few real buyers. The perceived risk of
getting an expensive lesson in mechanical failures runs extremely high, so closing any deal is tough. What this means is that for the buyer who’s willing to do some homework, there are some great values to be had on Can-Am cars sold at auction. I suspect this was one.
(Historical and descriptive information courtesy of the auction company.)

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