McLaren honors 50 years of Canadian-American Cup racing with 650S limited edition

Article by Christian A., on October 9, 2015

Half a century ago, McLaren was a name that dominated the race tracks of Can-Am. Faced with the race’s reputation as the most extreme motorsport event, the company still succeeded in securing the championships not only once, but five times in a row with its high performance sports cars from 1967 to 1971.

Now, McLaren pays tribute to this great part of its history with a limited edition 650S Can-Am automobile. With only 50 units to be produced, the 650S Can-Am is designed with inspiration coming from the race cars of this period when McLaren was the top brand in the Can-Am race tracks.

The Canadian-American Challenge Cup held its first racing competition in the spring of 1966. The racetrack demanded a lot from both the competing drivers and the machines of steel that they were driving.

In this race, the young Bruce McLaren made a name for himself and his company, Bruce McLaren Motor Racing. McLaren eventually became a household name within the racing circles together with Graham Hill, John Surtees and Jackie Stewart.

The Can-Am Racing and McLaren’s exceptional performance also meant plenty of exposure and popularity for the fledging company, which is now one of the biggest names in the industry.

When the company competed with driver Bruce McLaren behind the wheel at Can-Am, it made sure that its racing cars were built from the best technologies and materials that were available at that time.

Since the 650S Can-Am is based on the cars that were produced with the specific purpose of racing in Can-Am, McLaren has made sure that its manufacturing continues the tradition. The only difference is that the 650S Can-Am sports carbon fiber in its construction in place of aluminum and mallite used in the company’s racers in the Can-Am era.

Carbon fiber features prominently in the MonoCell chassis, and is also found in areas such as the bonnet, airbrake, front splitter, rear bumper center, door blades and the sill cover. It is also used to build the car’s louvered front wings, which were built with a design philosophy for augmenting the downforce generated by the car’s aerodynamics.

To save weight and ensure optimal performance, McLaren Special Operations also chose to use lightweight alloys for the wheels. With five spokes and a diamond cut rim, the wheels’ aesthetics is dominated by glossy black finishing.

Aside from carbon fiber and the special alloy, another material in the 650S Can-Am is ceramic – it is combined with carbon to make the standard brake equipment for the 650S Can-Am. Wrapping its wheels are Pirelli P Zero (TM) Corsa tyres.

Rounding up the exteriors is a set of four circular tailpipes made of polished stainless steel. This extraordinary quad-exit exhaust system is designed to emulate the iconic trumpeting of the older models’ exhaust system when aggressive throttling is applied. The sound signature it generates, however, is totally unique to the 650S Can-Am.

How the brand pays homage to the 650S Spider is also evident under the hood and in the car’s performance. The 650S Can-Am can accelerate from zero to 62 mph or 100 kph in just three seconds! Drivers can take the car to a maximum of 204 mph, or 329 kph, thanks to the 3.8-litre twin turbo V8 engine that gives it its power.

The engine outputs a record horsepower of 641 bhp or 650 PS, and a torque of 678 Nm or 500 lb. ft. Some of the 650S Can-Am’s interior features are also made of carbon fiber, together with leather and the new material, Alcantara, for its upholstery.

There is also a unique dedication plaque on the driver side door as proof of the new 650S Can-Am’s link with its historic cousins. The 650S Can-Am will begin deliveries by spring of next year. Early buyers can already pre-order their units priced at £255,850.

Deliveries are timed to commence together with the 50th anniversary of the first Can-Am race, which took place in Mont Tremblant, Canada. As for its chassis, buyers can choose to have their orders painted in Mars Red, Papaya Spark or Onyx Black.

Mars Red is a tribute to the 1966 competition and the M1B racer that was piloted by McLaren and Chris Amon. Papaya Spark is a new rendering of the McLaren Orange that marked the company’s later competing cars, while Onyx Black is a nod to the default finish in the cars used by McLaren customers competing in the later Can-Am races.

To complete the homage to the Can-Am races, each purchase of the 650S Can-Am comes with the racing livery featured in McLaren cars that participated in that competition.

Press Release


McLaren established itself throughout the 1960s and 70s as a world-beating force in one of the most extreme forms of motorsport, Can-Am, winning five consecutive championships between 1967 and 1971. In honour of the 50th anniversary of the 1966 inaugural season, McLaren Special Operations (MSO) has created the limited production 650S Can-Am which takes its inspiration from the race cars of this golden age of motorsport. The 650S Can-Am can be commissioned now priced at £255,850 with deliveries set to commence in the spring of 2016, 50 years on from the first race at Mont Tremblant, Canada. Just 50 examples will be produced globally, all based on the 650S Spider.

The Can-Am series, or Canadian-American Challenge Cup, was a no-holds-barred battle of power and speed around some of the most iconic circuits in North America and Canada. It attracted the best drivers of the time including Graham Hill, John Surtees, Jackie Stewart and, of course, Bruce McLaren. The championship started in 1966, only a year after Bruce McLaren Motor Racing was established and in the series that followed, the young Kiwi became one of most successful names in the sport.

Key to the success of the McLaren Can-Am racers was the use of the latest technologies and materials. This principle is carried through to today’s 650S Can-Am. Where lightweight materials such as aluminium and mallite were used in the construction of yesterday’s racers, the modern-day celebration features extensive carbon fibre not least in the construction of its lightweight MonoCell chassis. A carbon fibre retractable hard top features for the first time while further carbon fibre is used for the bonnet, Airbrake, front splitter, rear bumper centre, door blades and 650S Can-Am branded sill cover. MSO has also created a unique set of lightweight forged alloy wheels inspired by those of the 1960s racers with a gloss-black finish on each of the five spokes and a diamond cut rim. Held in place by titanium bolts, the wheels are shod with Pirelli P Zero™ Corsa tyres. Carbon ceramic brakes with black painted callipers are standard equipment.

Further unique features inspired by the iconic Can-Am racers include carbon fibre louvered front wings and a new quad-exit, polished stainless steel exhaust system. The louvres are designed to reduce pressure over the front wheels and increase downforce, while the four circular tailpipes at the rear of the car housed within a new visual carbon fibre rear grille echo the aggressive and purposeful throttle trumpets of the historic models. They also provide the 650S Can-Am with a unique soundtrack.

Like the 650S Spider, this limited production model features the award-winning 3.8-litre twin turbo V8 which produces 650PS (641bhp) and 678Nm (500 lb ft) of torque. Performance and economy figures are just as exhilarating: zero to 62 mph (100 km/h) sprint takes a mere three seconds and its top speed is 204 mph (329 km/h).

The 650S Can-Am is offered in three bold colours. The launch colour, Mars Red, is directly inspired by the M1B raced by Bruce McLaren and his teammate Chris Amon in the debut season. The second colour, Papaya Spark, is a modern and metallic take on the famous Can-Am racing McLaren Orange. The final option is Onyx Black which is similar to the base colour used by many of the McLaren customer teams in the later seasons. Each is additionally available with a corresponding racing livery to give an even closer visual association with the historic Can-Am series.

Inside, the standard sports seats are upholstered with leather and Alcantara® which complement the exterior. Carbon fibre naturally features extensively throughout the cabin while a further bespoke Can-Am touch is the unique dedication plaque on the driver’s door.

Commenting on the 650S Can-Am, Paul Mackenzie, Executive Director of McLaren Special Operations explains: ‘Can-Am racing is a major part of McLaren heritage, and this latest model from MSO pays homage to the cars and the racers who played a key role in making the championship such a spectacle during the 1960s and 70s. The championship was a true test of the engineering ability, driving talent and bravery of Bruce and his teammates, which led them to secure five consecutive championships.

‘The 650S Can-Am is a modern day interpretation with a mixture of functional design features taken from the all-conquering models, combined with the lightest and most pioneering materials available, as was the case with the race cars. The extensive use of lightweight visual carbon fibre, including for the retractable hard top, adds to car’s dramatic appearance and with the roof down, drivers are treated to a stirring V8 soundtrack just as Bruce and his teammates enjoyed.’

See the 650S Can-Am, and the learn more about heritage behind the name, at

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