Scott Hughes' McLaren M8F Can-Am RacecarOwner: Scott Hughes
City: Sunset, South Carolina
Model: McLaren M8F
Engine: Chevy big block V8
Built by: Commander Motor Homes racing team
Race prepared by: Jack Deren
Scott Hughes' McLaren M8F is presented here in the familiar livery of the Bruce McLaren Motor
Racing team, circa 1971. It even bears the name of their championship winning driver, Peter Revson.
To be perfectly clear, this car was built by the Commander Motor Homes racing team during
the 1973 Can-Am season. It didn't exist in any form in 1971 when the McLaren team was racing
their own M8Fs. This article includes the car's actual history, some of the history of the team
who built it, and for background we'll briefly review the history of the McLaren team's own M8F
racecars. As always though, BritishRaceCar.com is primarily interested in design and construction
details. This car provides a largely accurate representation of how McLaren built and prepared
their original M8F racecars.
Note: this article was originally published on March 12th, 2011. It was updated on June 28th, 2011 with period photographs and historical information from former Commander Motor Homes team member John Bruce Robles and from McLaren vintage racer and historian Bob Lee. I'm very much indebted to these gentlemen for their assistance. -Curtis
Danny Hopkins drove the Commander team's first number 98 McLaren, chassis M8FP 72-09,
to a 13th Overall finish in their first race of the 1973 Can-Am season (at Atlanta, July 7th.)
The Commander Motor Homes Team
Commander Motor Homes owner Mike Slater empowered Charlie Agapiou to launch a formidable
assault on the Can-Am series. They envisioned a three driver program, and went looking
for cars. They ultimately procured five McLaren sports cars.
Two of the five sports cars had an especially noteworthy pedigree: they were the cars that Bruce McLaren Motor Racing teammates Peter Revson and Denny Hulme had driven to an easy one-two finish in the 1971 Can-Am championship. After dominating that season, the McLaren team had sold both Peter Revson's championship winning M8F and also Denny Hulme's second place M8F to Gregg Young of the Young American Racing Team. During the 1972 season, Francois Cevert drove the Revson car through a successful season, ultimately placing fifth in championship points. Gregg Young personally drove the Hulme car, until wrecking while racing at Mid-Ohio and then again during practice at Edmonton. After the 1972 Can-Am season, Young sold both former McLaren team M8Fs to the Commander Motor Homes racing team. Commander painted the Revson car white and assigned it number 97. Commander sent the badly damaged Hulme car to John Mason's shop, to be extensively rebuilt under the direction of none other than famous race engineer Carroll Smith.
The third car Commander purchased for their program was actually built by a company called Trojan under an exclusive license from McLaren. Trojan built nine complete "production" McLaren M8FP racecars in 1972. (The M8FP model was simply the production version of the M8F. Some of the specific technical differences between the production cars and the original team cars are pointed out in photo captions below.) The ninth and final complete Trojan M8FP, serial number "72-09", was purchased slightly used from a gentleman named Bill Cuddy. By all accounts it was in almost new condition. Originally delivered in baby blue gel coat, Commander Motor Homes painted 72-09 white and assigned it number 98.
The Commander Motor Homes team built up their fourth McLaren M8F from a spare monocoque tub during
the 1973 Can-Am season. The tub was provided by Trojan and is nominally an M8FP tub, but it came
with neither a Trojan nor a McLaren chassis plate or serial number. This McLaren M8F is the main
subject of our article. After M8FP 72-09 was badly damaged in an accident, this fourth car was
pressed into service and it assumed racing number 98.
Commander's fifth McLaren sports car was a very different beast: the 1972-model McLaren M20 that McLaren team driver Denny Hulme had flipped at Road Atlanta. The negotiations behind this purchase could be the subject of an interesting book, but they're outside the scope of our article. Suffice it to say that Mike Slater had persuaded Mario Andretti to drive for Commander Motor Homes but that the deal hinged on Andretti being provided a really top flight car. To be that competitive, Commander would need to master turbocharging.
Mike Slater and Charlie Agapiou initially hoped that they might be able to satisfy Mario Andretti by building the ultimate McLaren M8F, with a chassis re-engineered by Carroll Smith and a turbocharged big block Chevy engine which would be developed inhouse by their engine guy: Barry Crowe. Mario Andretti quickly put a stop to their ultimate M8F plan. The McLaren M20 was a newer design, and he would require a state of the art chassis. The Hulme M8F was rebuilt, re-powered, and sold by the Commander team without of entering a race during their ownership.
Instead, the ex-Hulme McLaren M20, was purchased with a McLaren-installed turbocharger system which was used at Road Atlanta and then abandoned. Commander's Barry Crowe would instead develop a unique new system for the Mario Andretti M20.¹ Unfortunately, Commander's turbocharger development program didn't yield fruit quickly enough. Ultimately, the Crowe-developed turbocharged M20 was only driven in the last two events of Commander's 1973 Can-Am season, and it didn't complete either race. It wore Commander livery and the number 96.
How did this new race team fare? Here's the short version, extracted from the record books:
(Note: the long version is more interesting!)
Commander's 1973 Can-Am Season Results
|#97||Milt Minter||Road Atlanta||7/7/1973||DNF (engine failure)|
|#97||Bobby Brown||Watkins Glen||7/22/1973||DNF (engine failure)|
|#97||Bobby Brown||Road America||8/26/1973||5th|
|#97||Bobby Brown||Edmonton||9/16/1973||DNF (blown engine)|
|#97||Bobby Brown||Laguna Seca||10/14/1973||4th|
|#97||Bobby Brown||Riverside||10/28/1973||DNF (broken wheel)|
|#97||Bobby Brown||Final point standings||11th, with 26 points|
|#98||Danny Hopkins||Road Atlanta||7/7/1973||13th|
|#98||Danny Hopkins||Watkins Glen||7/22/1973||13th|
|#98||Danny Hopkins||Road America||8/26/1973||9th|
|#98||Danny Hopkins||Edmonton||9/16/1973||DNF (accident)|
|#98||Danny Hopkins||Final point standings||18th, with 8 points|
|#96||Mario Andretti||Road Atlanta||7/7/1973||DNS (qualified 6th)|
|#96||Andretti/Cannon||Laguna Seca||10/14/1973||DNF (accident)|
|#96||Andretti/Cannon||Riverside||10/28/1973||DNF (oil pressure)|
After Danny Hopkins crashed M8FP 72-09 at Edmonton, the team rushed to prepare a replacement.
Here's John Cannon at Laguna Seca, getting ready to qualify in the team's second number 98
McLaren. Mark Ellis and David Kapter stand by as Bruce Robles tapes down door tabs.
The Second Number 98 McLaren
After Danny Hopkins suffered a bad shunt at Edmonton, the Commander team worked quickly to
complete construction of a replacement McLaren M8F. It was built on a different tub, but many parts
from Danny Hopkin's car were transferred over. John Cannon was recruited to drive it.
(Cannon had scored a sixth place finish at Mosport and a fifth place finish at Watkins Glen
earlier in 1973 for Motschenbacher Racing.) Bobby Brown would continue to drive the number 97 car.
Mario Andretti was still under contract to drive the team's number 96 McLaren M20 when he didn't
have conflicting obligations, which included the season's last two races.
John Cannon helps push his McLaren M8F through the paddock at Laguna Seca, 1973. David Kapter
steers. Note the distinctive "shovel nose" and updated livery compared to M8FP 72-09 (above.)
Compared to its predecessor, the second number 98 McLaren had several very significant
Firstly, in lieu of regular McLaren M8F front bodywork, the team created a custom shovel nose. Its scooped shape, in combination with new louvers over the tires on the forward-facing surface, resembled Porsche's 917-10 and 917-30 models. Result: more downforce, resulting in more traction for the front tires.
Bruce Robles helps push the McLaren M8F through the paddock at Laguna Seca.
Note the distinctive rear wing placement, much further back than other M8Fs! The vertical
wing supports were special too, being constucted of airfoil tubing and being dog-legged
to come through an existing opening at the rear of the bodywork, albeit notched for clearance,
instead of a coming through holes in the top surface. (We'll come back to this point later.)
Secondly, the rear wing was relocated rearward where it would be more effective due to cleaner
airflow. Also, very importantly, rearward placement of the wing means that aerodynamic downforce
is applied through a longer lever arm to achieve more mechanical advantage.
Can-Am scrutineers objected to Commander's new number 98 car because it was fitted with
larger rear tires that extended outward beyond the bodywork. The team rushed to make and
install fender flares that would bring their car into compliance. Bill "The King" Eaton
is shown here rolling a flare to refine its shape. Charlie Agapiou is to his left.
Bruce Robles is shown fitting the new fender flares in the Laguna Seca paddock.
Thirdly, bigger rear tires. Back in 1968, John Cannon had dominated a rainy Laguna Seca Can-Am
by shrewdly snapping up the only set of intermediate (rain) tires Firestone had brought to the track
that weekend. No one knew better then Cannon the importance of being on the "right" tires!
For 1973, the right tires were the big Goodyears that had been developed for the Penske Porsches.
Cannon would have them on his McLaren M8F, even though they were so wide that their
installation necessitated installation of fender flares. (The Commander team had used narrower
Firestone tires on the number 97 car and on the first number 98 car.) After testing the Goodyear
tires on the number 98 car at Laguna Seca, the Commander team believed they were worth at
least half a second per lap.
Fourthly, Commander team mechanics updated the car's front suspension geometry by fitting McLaren M20-spec magnesium uprights and control arms. M8F and M20 uprights are made from the same magnesium casting; the difference lies in how they're machined. The overall height of an M8F front upright is 11.30" versus 10.810" for the M20. All of that height difference comes from removing 0.49" from the bottom surface, which also brought the lower connection point closer to hub centerline. Of course, it's very hard to second guess the significance of this change forty years hence. One interesting point: original M20 control arms were fabricated from 4130 (Chrome Moly steel), and the Commander team neither painted nor plated them. By 1973, racers were becoming aware that chrome plating can cause or exacerbate hydrogen embrittlement, causing welds to fracture. Paint makes welds more difficult to inspect.
John Cannon's M8F as it was presented at Riverside for the final event of the 1973 Can-Am season.
The harsh reality was that even with absolutely state-of-the-art tires, aerodynamics, and
suspension geometry, nobody could've been competitive in 1973 Can-Am racing without a
turbocharged engine. (Among turbocharged engines, the factory-backed Porsches had an
"unfair advantage" or two.) Top tier turbocharged engines were producing over 1100hp
at the wheels.
Once race worthy, the Commander team's second number 98 car would likely vie for "best in class" against Jackie Oliver's Shadow among naturally aspirated cars. (If restored to Commander's preparation level, it might also be the fastest McLaren M8F in vintage Can-Am racing.)
The Commander team was faced with a paradox: their turbocharged M20 had the power to be competitive, but couldn't win with legendary driver Mario Andretti at the wheel because of a personal sponsorship contract Andretti had with Firestone. The contract prohibited Andretti from racing on anyone else's tires, even though Firestone didn't produce a competitive tire for Can-Am. Goodyears were the only tires worth having. John Cannon had Goodyears on his M8F. Commander might possibly have a winning combination if they moved John Cannon and his tires to the turbocharged M20. It wasn't until the very last opportunity that they tried this combination.
At Laguna Seca, John Cannon drove the newly built M8F to qualify 8th fastest, at 1:01.927. In the turbocharged M20, Mario Andretti qualified 13th, at 1:03.303.
In 1973, Can-Am races were divided into two heats: first a short "sprint race" followed by a longer "cup race". Results from the sprint race determined starting order for the cup race. Due to tire (traction) and oil pressure problems, Mario Andretti decided to go home after the sprint. John Cannon therefore parked his M8F after the sprint race in order to try out the turbocharged car. Just three laps into the cup race, Cannon was involved in a six-car accident and damaged bodywork forced his withdrawal from the race.
At Riverside, Andretti drove the M20 to qualify 8th fastest, at 1:15.191. Cannon qualified 10th fastest at 1:15.393. In the sprint race, Cannon completed 24 laps (of 30) before an engine failure forced him to retire the number 98 car. A quick engine swap would be required if the number 98 car were to compete in the cup race. Andretti's sprint race results don't show up in official race reports, although many people believe they saw him there.
Since Cannon had tested the M20 at Riverside, the Commander team had Cannon's M20 seat, foot peddles and steering column in their hauler. They went to work installing them, and also switching over wheels and tires. Because of the driver change, Cannon was required to start at the rear of the field. In fact, he was working his way up though the field with very competitive laptimes until about lap twelve (of 49) when a needle bearing came adrift from a rocker arm in the engine and worked its way to the oil pump ending his race due to oil pressure problems. Riverside was particularly grueling that year. Of 24 cars qualifying, only eight were running at the finish. Mark Donohue won with ease; it was his sixth victory in a row. The Commander Motor Homes Team seemed to have tremendous potential, but very little luck.
Three Commander Motor Homes team cars ready for Friday morning practice at Riverside, October 1973.
Also shown (at left) George Follmer's ex-Penske 1972 championship winning Porsche 917-10K as it
appeared in 1973 with Rinzler / RC Cola livery.
After the 1973 season ended, Commander decided not to continue in Can-Am racing. They sold all
five of their McLaren sports cars. The Commander team's second number 98 car is only known
to have raced a couple more times in the 1970s.²
McLaren's M8F Model
The M8F was McLaren's fifth and final championship-winning Can-Am model. Team drivers Peter
Revson and Denny Hulme drove M8F racecars to a 1-2 finish in 1971 championship points.
Revson won five of the ten Can Am races in 1971, and Hulme won three others.
The combined success of the M8 lineage had been brought to thirty-seven wins in forty-three
races, spread over five seasons. At season's end, the McLaren team sold off its M8F racecars
(Revson's M8F-01 and Hulme's M8F-02), and committed themselves to developing a new model.
The McLaren team was ready to move on to a whole new car for 1972. As they had done with
earlier models, McLaren licensed the M8F design to Trojan. Trojan produced nine complete
M8FP cars for customers, and also distributed repair parts to second-tier teams.
Design credit for the M8F model belongs to McLaren team member Gordon Coppuck, but with qualification because much of the design carried over from previous Can-Am models and because a few parts were shared with or based closely on McLaren Indianapolis 500 (open wheel) car designs. Preceding variants of the design had been credited to Bruce McLaren, Robin Herd, and Jo Marquart.) All these cars shared essentially similar construction;
As described in original McLaren sales literature: "The M8F is constructed from 16 and 20 gauge L72 aluminium alloy with Argon welded steel bulkheads, bonded and riveted; designed to use a 7-8 litre Chevrolet engine as a stressed unit of the chassis. The suspension pick-up points are taken from the steel bulkheads to give maximum strength. The outer sections of the monocoque are used to carry the fuel, thus ensuring a low centre of gravity." Compared to the previous season's M8D model, the new monocoque tub supported a three inch longer wheelbase yet provided improved stiffness.
The original McLaren team raced their M8Fs with two distinctly different engines. They started the season with Chevrolet-produced iron-sleeved aluminum engine blocks. Gary Knutson built these up to 494cid, (4.44" bore, 4.0" stroke.) McLaren also and more famously raced the M8F with "Reynolds motors". The Reynolds engines used special linerless high silicon aluminum blocks. Without liners, cylinder bores could be slightly larger without changing cylinder centerline spacing. Knutson started conservatively, but ultimately built the Reynolds engines up to 509cid (4.50" bore, 4.00" stroke.) One problem with the Reynolds motor was that it required very specially plated pistons that were in short supply. Knutson is also credited for McLaren's use of staggered length intake trumpets. By using two different intake tract lenghes, he was able to smooth a double-humped torque curve that had been characteristic of big Chevy V8's used previously in Can-Am.
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Features and Specifications
|Engine:||Dart aluminum "Big M" engine block (current displacement: ~503cid).
Winters Foundry aluminum cylinder heads.
Lucas - MacKay mechanical fuel injection.
Vertex magneto ignition system.
Specially modified dry sump with alloy tanks and Aeroquip oil lines and fittings.
|Cooling:||aluminum double-pass radiator (with both ports on the bottom tank.)
|Exhaust:||polished stainless steel four-into-one headers.
|Transaxle:||Hewland LG-500 4 speed with reverse and limited slip differential. (1st:1.679, 2nd:1.344,
3rd:1.083, 4th:0.923, and 3.30:1 final drive ratio.) Borg & Beck sintered three plate clutch.
Trojan/BRD roller splined drive shafts.
|Front Susp.:||dual wide-based wishbones.
Koni aluminium telescopic double adjustable shock absorbers.
Cast magnesium (L127) hub carrier.
Hollow forged EN39 axles on needle roller bearings.
Rack and pinion steering in magnesium housing.
Standard front springs, rated 535 lb./in.
Adjustable anti-sway bar.
|Rear Susp.:||independent, with transverse link, radius arms and lower parallel links.
Koni aluminium telescopic double adjustableshock absorbers.
Cast magnesium (L127) hub carrier.
Hollow forged EN39 axles on needle roller bearings.
Standard front springs rated, 620 lb./in.
|Brakes:||(master) dual Tilton master cylinders (not original) with plastic reservoirs and adjustable bias bar.
(front) Lockheed 11.90" x 1.25" ventilated discs with CP2279 calipers.
(rear) Lockheed 11.90" x 1.10" ventilated discs.
|Wheels/Tires:||magnesium wheels (15x11 front and 15x17 rear).
Avon front tires.
GoodYear Eagle rear tires.
|Instruments:||(left to right)
AutoMeter transmission oil temperature (100-250F),
AutoMeter engine oil temperature (100-250F),
Stewart Warner engine water temperature (0-200F),
Smiths engine water temperature (120-260F),
Stewart Warner engine oil pressure (0-100psi),
Jones mechanical tachometer (0-10,000rpm).
|Fuel System:||4 rubber fuel cells (57 U.S. gallons, total.)
|Safety Eqpmt:||Schroth Racing 6-point cam-lock safety harness.
Personal steering wheel, mounted on universally jointed steering column.
In lieu of a vintage engine, Scott's car uses a modern aftermarket Dart aluminum engine block.
A car with such a powerful engine must have a strong and rigid chassis. Remarkably, McLaren
advertised that their monocoque aluminum chassis weighed only ninety-eight pounds.
Lucas fuel injection provided very precise fuel metering at all engine speeds and throttle positions plus
excellent vaporization. However, Lucas didn't offer a complete injection system: they only produced the
metering components. Companies like MacKay and Kinsler produced manifolds, drives, linkages, etc.
Throttle linkage, attached to MacKay fuel injection throttle bodies.
The McLaren team used stainless steel headers. Trojan-produced M8Fs came with mild steel headers.
Thick aluminum front engine mounting plate.
Dart "Big M" aluminum engine block.
Harrison 3016340 aluminum coolant header tank.
Optima Red Top high performance AGM battery.
An electric "starter" fuel pump runs until the engine gets up to speed. After that, a mechanical
pump (driven off the crankshaft) takes over.
Vertex magneto: "Cap numbers are cylinder numbers."
Sales and Service
Joe Hunt Magnetos
Torrance Calif 90501
The magneto and a Lucas fuel injection metering unit share a common drive mechanism.
A large NACA duct on the passenger side of the body directs air into a single engine oil cooler.
The driver side duct isn't directed anywhere in particular.
McLaren engine builder Gary Knutson developed staggered intake trumpets to tame a double-hump
torque curve that had been characteristic of big Chevy V8's used previously in Can-Am.
The snowflake logo casting mark tells us that these are Winters Foundry aluminum cylinder heads.
In this view we can just spy a large, multi-stage oil pump as required for a dry sump system.
When McLaren and Trojan cooperated to develop a production car specification, they decided Trojan
would provide a dry-sump oil system of McLaren design, even though they weren't providing engines.
Traco remote oil filter mount.
Aluminum engine oil cooler.
Aluminum engine oil reservoir.
Suspension / Transaxle / Etc.
Basic dimensions: 98" wheelbase, 60" front track, 57.75" rear track, 167" overall length, 79.5"
overall width, 30" height to windscreen, 36" height to top of roll hoop, 1520 pounds dry weight.
For 1970, on the McLaren M8D model, McLaren had experimented with a wide track design.
For 1971 they returned to more familiar proportions. (The difference was ~4" front and rear.)
Hewland's LG500 MkII transaxles featured beefed up cases and side plates compared to the MkI model.
Girling clutch slave cylinder.
McLaren's flirtation with inboard mounted rear brakes resulted in a subtle but lasting change to
the rear suspension: reversed lower A-arms were replaced by Surtees-style parallel links. A
benefit of this change was reduced bump steer. Other differences from the previous (M8D) model
resulted in better camber change curves (front and rear) and increased anti-squat.
19-row transaxle oil cooler.
Hewland Engineering Limited Maidenhead, LG500-489
Adjustable rear anti-sway bar.
Trojan/BRD roller splined drive shafts.
McLaren cast magnesium (L127) hub carrier, marked "M8D 001 AM L127".
The McLaren team originally equipped its own M8Fs with inboard mounted rotors and Lockheed
CP2270 calipers. By mid season they had moved the rear brakes back outboard, and that's
where they appear on the Trojan produced M8FPs.
Koni aluminium telescopic double acting shock absorber.
The McLaren M8F featured 3" of extra length, added right in the middle. This length helped
shift weight bias rearward, but it was also favorable in terms of driver comfort. It was
introduced concurrently with introduction of a four-bag fuel cell layout (two bags per
pontoon) in lieu of the earlier two-bag layout of the previous year's model.
Schroth Racing 6-point cam-lock safety harness.
Personal steering wheel, mounted on universally jointed steering column.
Former Commander mechanic John Nobles says this current dashboard is substantially different
from how they built and raced the car. We're looking for a period photo to illustrate the difference.
(left to right) AutoMeter transmission and engine oil temperature gauges, Stewart Warner
and Smiths water temperature gauges (0-200F and 120-260F respectively), Stewart Warner
engine oil pressure gauge, and Jones mechanical tachometer (0-10,000rpm).
Scott Hughes' McLaren M8F as presented in the garages at Watkins Glen International for the
"Glenora Wine Cellars 2010 U.S. Vintage Grand Prix, presented by Welliver McGuire"
Scott's M8F is qualified to vintage race in Sportscar Vintage Racing Association's "7ASR" class.
At the 2010 U.S. Vintage Grand Prix seven other 7ASR cars were entered including a Lola T163, the
Matich SR3, the McKee Mk10, and a McLaren Mk12 (i.e. an M8A body on top of a M6B chassis.) These
were all somewhat earlier Can-Am cars. The 7ASR class also included a "March 817 Can-Am" which is
a car from the much later single-seat Can-Am era. It was about ten seconds per lap quicker...
McLaren built the first M8F - Peter Revson's car - with a simple trapezoidal radiator opening. However,
the opening was extended to both sides on later M8Fs including Denny Hulmes' car and the Trojan cars.
Hold-down "pip pins" are located at the far ends of the opening's extensions.
(This is different from the original McLaren design.)
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Marston aluminum double-pass radiator.
Talbot Berlin mirror.
American driver Peter Revson tied with Mark Donohue as the second most successful driver in terms
of career Can-Am championship points. Revson appeared in seven of the series' nine seasons, and
he won the Can-Am championship in 1971 by scoring 142 points and winning five of the ten races.
The most successful driver in Can-Am history was Revson's teammate Denny Hulme. Hulme scored 132
points and won three races in 1971. He had previously won the 1968 and 1970 Can-Am championships.
After the 1973 season, Commander Motor Homes sold the real Peter Revson M8F to Dan Hanna. M8F-01
was badly wrecked during Hanna's ownership. Chuck Haines rebuilt it around a new tub. The complete and
theoretically raceable car is now owned by Evert Louwman and is on display in his museum in Holland.
Louwman also owns what's left of the original monocoque chassis including the floor and one pontoon.
The roll hoop is titanium, which was a new and unique to the M8F model. However, you can see here that
the rearward brace to the engine is steel. On original McLaren team cars, these braces were titanium.
Kill switch and starter switch mounted behind the drivers headrest.
Quick coupling for jump starting and battery charging. Note that the pontoon sides are made of 0.062"
thick aluminum. This uncommonly stout choice was an attempt to provide extra protection for fuel cells.
Connection detail for the jump start coupling.
Rear bodywork detail, including stone screens for vents.
A single duct on the top of the body, passenger side, serves the transaxle oil cooler.
Earlier in this article we pointed out Commander's unique rearward wing installation. Clear signs of that
installation remain on the car now. Notice how the nickel-plated 4130 Aero-tube wing supports have
been cut and reworked. Patches have been added at mid-section, below the turnbuckle, to cover and
reinforce the splice. (Reinforcement patches weren't necessary on original M8F wing supports.)
Commander also cut clearance notches in the fiberglass bodywork at the rear, where their dog-legged
wing supports came through the large opening. The notches are still there, even though the bodywork
has been otherwise modified to move the wing back to a forward position. In this view you can also see
one of the most distinctive features of the McLaren M8F model: its full length fender top fences. They
continue from the very front of the car to the back and help channel airflow to the rear wing.
McLaren magnesium 15x11 front wheels, fitted with Avon tires.
McLaren magnesium 15x17 rear wheels, fitted with Goodyear tires.
Although the Commander team's M20 isn't the central focus of this article, we'll take this
opportunity to point out a couple interesting details. First and foremost, the turbocharger:
Commander's installation featured two fuel injection nozzles per cylinder, from two separate
Lucas metering units: one for low boost and the second for high boost.
This McLaren M8F was purchased from Commander by Eugene Nearburg as part of a package deal
which also included the actual ex-Hulme McLaren M8F. Eugene's son Charles entered the number
98 McLaren (still painted Commander white) in several mid-1970s events. Specifically, we
know Nearburg was marked "Did Not Start" in SCCA races (ASR class) at Road Atlanta on
November 1, 1975 and October 30, 1976. Those were SCCA Runoff races. To qualify for
participation, Nearburg would have had to have entered a couple SCCA races earlier in
each of those seasons.
At the 1976 "World Sports Racing Prototypes World Championship" 200 mile race at Mosport, Nearburg finished fourth in class and ninth overall in a competitive field led by Jackie Oliver, George Follmer, and Jacky Ickx. (By then the car's ownership had passed to family friend Carter Crompton.) At Mosport, the M8F still wore white paint and number 98, but the front bodywork had been changed back to original McLaren style, which suggests the car may have been involved in a mishap. The unique and distinctive tail-wing installation remains.
Charles Nearburg also drove the M8F for Carter Crompton on 7/24/1977, at the (single seat) "Can-Am of Road America". By this time the car was equipped with a small block Chevy engine. Although finishing five laps behind the leaders, Nearburg was credited with 11th place.
Carter Crompton sold the M8F to Joel Finn. From Finn, ownership passed to Bill Wonder and then to current owner Scott Hughes.
Except as otherwise credited, all photos shown here are from September 2010 when we viewed the car at The US Vintage Grand Prix at Watkins Glen. Photos by Curtis Jacobson for BritishRaceCar.com, copyright 2011. All rights reserved.
All period photos of Commander Motor Homes racing team cars and personnel are from the personal collection of Bruce Robles and are used here by his express and exclusive permission. They have been substantively modified for BritishRaceCar.com website use. Copyright 2011. All rights reserved.
All photos of the ex-Commander McLaren M8F racecar being driven by Charles Nearburg are from the personal collection of Wayne Ellwood through the assistance of Bob Lee, and are used here by their express and exclusive consent. They have been substantively modified for BritishRaceCar.com website use. Copyright 2011. All rights reserved.
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