1972 McLaren M20 Can-Am

David Newhardt, courtesy of Mecum Auctions
David Newhardt, courtesy of Mecum Auctions

After several years dominating the Can-Am series with a series of school-bus-yellow racers, McLaren Cars stood up to the developing Porsche challenge with the brand-new 1972 M20. Designers Gordon Coppuck and Tyler Alexander departed from standard McLaren practice in the M20 by removing the radiator from the front of the car and replacing it with two side-mounted units. This allowed improved cooling, relief from cockpit heat for drivers Denis Hulme and Peter Revson, and improved front-end aerodynamics. The latter was achieved by opening the space between the front fenders and installing an adjustable wing for improved downforce.

Peter Revson raced the car for the entire season. Hulme won at Mosport and Watkins Glen, while Revson took 3rd at Mosport and 2nd place at Watkins Glen. Revson finished 2nd again in the last round at Riverside, after which McLaren Racing withdrew from the Can-Am and left the field to Porsche.

M20-1 is the only one of the three M20 McLarens still retaining its original tub and bodywork. Remarkably, it also has a period-correct Reynolds Aluminum engine, one of the few still running without steel cylinder liners. It has an unbroken record of ownership history and the same owner from 1987 to the present.

Thor Thorson

Thor Thorson - SCM Contributing Editor

Thor grew up in northern Iowa. His father bought a red Jag XK 150 in the late 1950s, and that was all it took; he has been in love with sports cars , racing cars and the associated adrenaline rush ever since. He has vintage raced for more than 20 years, the bulk of them spent behind the wheel of a blue Elva 7. When he’s not racing, he is president of Vintage Racing Motors Inc., a collector-car dealer and vintage-racing support company based in Redmond, WA. His knowledge runs the full spectrum of vintage racing, and he has put that expertise to good use for SCM since 2003.

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