|First of the big block cars. With two second places in the Can-Am feature race in 2000 and 2001 and an overall win in 2005, the M8D is an elite race car. This M8D has been impeccably maintained, fully sorted, and is ready to go racing. It has been restored and raced to the most original standards possible. On June 2, 1970, Bruce McLaren was killed at Goodwood while testing an M8D, less than two weeks before the beginning of the 1971 Can-Am series. When he died, Bruce was just three months short of his thirty-third birthday and reigning Can-Am champion for the second time in the series, which had been running for just four years. Team McLaren, and indeed moor racing, had lost one of their natural heroes and leaders. Team McLaren responded to Bruce’s death announcing they would continue by running in the 1970 Can-Am series.
The M8D was a natural evolution of the M8 series. For the 1970 season the F1A introduced rules banning any aerodynamic device above the wheel center line being connected to the suspension. This meant that moving spoilers and wings were banned as were engine intake scoops. As a replacement for the tall wings seen on the M8B, the M8D has high tail fins with a low wing attached between them. The new aerodynamic features gave the M8D the name ‘Batmobile’. Lap times were expected to be slower because of the newly introduced rules so McLaren concentrated on finding more power. For the first time McLaren had access to the Reynolds Silicon-Aluminum Chevrolet blocks, these new engines had massive capacity. The 8 litre produced 700 bhp but for reasons of reliability a 7.6 litre was used instead.
Designed by Jo Marquart the M8D was wider, longer and bigger than any Can-Am car before it and 8 inches wider than the M6A with the extra space holding fuel. The monocoque chassis was made from aluminum alloy sheets with a magnesium floor. The transmission forms part of the rear chassis structure.
The story behind the M8D in the Mathews Collection is very unusual and a bit difficult to trace. The car was shipped in parts to Australia in 1971 and was assembled there to avoid high duty imposed on complete cars. The car was assembled by James Gord, Don Sullivan’s engineer, from drawings supplied by McLaren. The car was first raced as a Gardos McLaren at the Wanneroo race circuit in Perth in 1972. It was campaigned throughout Australia by O’Sullivan and later by Keith Poole until it went to the USA in 1991.
In 2000, the Mathews’ M8D raced in the feature Can-Am race at Elkhart Lake, where Greg Mathews set the fastest lap time of 2:09.347. In 1970 at the Elkhart race, Hulme in the M8D qualified at 2:10.6 and had the fastest lap at 2:12.4. A comparison of these results shows just how well the Mathews’ cars are kept. They can still run as fast as they did in their heyday.