1970 McLaren M8D Can-Am ‘Batmobile’
“McLaren built a third new M8D, and to drive it alongside Denny Hulme they asked the best man they knew, Dan Gurney. As always, the pair of bright orange McLarens were the best presented, the best prepared and the fastest cars in the grid” – Pete Lyons writing in ‘Can-Am’ (1995) on the opening round of the 1970 Can-Am series at Mosport Park. Gurney in M8D/3 was the fastest in practice and won the race, setting a new lap record in the process
This Motor Car
After its victorious 1970 season, updated to 1971 M8F specification, M8D/3 was kept as Bruce McLaren Motor Racing’s spare car for 1971. That year the ‘Bear’ was joined by Revlon cosmetics heir Peter Revson who duly scooped the title, with Hulme second.
In 1972 – the year of Roger Penske’s Porsche 917 ‘Turbo-Panzer’ – the team sold M8D/3 to Herb Caplan’s US Racing Team for drivers Jerry Grant and Mike Hiss, who were really up against it in the face of almost unbeatable opposition from the factory Porsche and McLaren’s latest M20. The following year, veteran American driver Scooter Patrick drove for Caplan and finished a fine 4th in this car at Elkhart Lake. In 1974 Caplan bought an ex-Works McLaren M20 for Patrick, while German-born Canadian John Cordts stepped into Patrick’s seat in M8D/3, still in M8F spec. That year was the final one for Can-Am as an SCCA-run championship for unlimited-capacity, two-seater sports cars.
Its finest hour in Cordts’ hands was a splendid second overall at Elkhart Lake on 25 August 1974 at the last-ever ‘proper’ Can-Am, a 1-2 for the Caplan team.
The car then passed into the ownership of Reno’s well-known racing resident, Merle ‘The Magician’ Brennan, who drove it in Can-Am tribute races in the late-1970s. From then onwards it was owned by Beverly Hills doctor Stuart Baumgard (c.1978), British computer magnate John Foulston (c.1985, who put it back to M8D specification) and fellow Brit Paul Whight, who raced it in national historic events in the 1990s.
Discerning Canadian collector of note Lawrence Stroll bought the car from Whight in 1999, immediately commissioning a full restoration to the very finest standards by top McLaren experts Lanzante Ltd, the team that ran the 1995 Le Mans-winning McLaren F1. In 2006, via an American broker, the car was bought by Portuguese aristocrat, businessman and amateur racing driver, Miguel Amaral.
Amaral – who also owned an ex-Gulf Porsche 917K – and the Papaya M8D became a familiar sight in European historic racing until 2014, when our client bought the car to enjoy alongside his McLaren F1 road car and modern 650S GT3 racer. Used only sparingly since then, always with full back-up from a professional racing team, M8D/3 is in tip-top condition, maintained without consideration of cost for the last 20 years.
Speaking to Paul Lanzante in May 2018, he confirmed that his company’s comprehensive restoration for Lawrence Stroll included the installation of a period-correct 8.4-litre Chevrolet engine. He also recalled that, when subsequently tested by ex-F1 driver and double Le Mans winner JJ Lehto, the Finn declared M8D/3 to be “the fastest thing I have ever driven…”
Of the three existing M8Ds, one is owned by McLaren Cars and will never be sold, the other is in the collection of a dedicated McLaren enthusiast in North America.
With undisputed provenance from 1970, M8D/3 is one of the finest.
It is the only opportunity to own what many consider the best-looking McLaren Can-Am car of them all, a totally ‘on the button’ testament to the “Bruce and Denny show”, one of those “marvellous monsters, the fastest road racers on earth.”