Robin chose Mallite, which is normally reserved for internal aircraft panelling, because it was light, strong and stiff, and combined it with outer sheets of conventional aluminium for extra stiffness and crash protection. Four steel bulkheads were also incorporated, the first and fourth supporting double-wishbone suspension all round, the second and third for the dashboard and firewall between engine and driver.
Formula 1™ regulations in 1966 mandated a switch from 1.5-litre supercharged engines to 3.0-litre naturally aspirated units. McLaren chose a Ford V8 proven at the Indianapolis 500, albeit downsized from 4.2 litres to satisfy race regulations. Only the block, bottom end and cylinder head castings remained unmodified, allowing the mid-mounted V8 to deliver 303bhp to the rear wheels via a five-speed ZF transaxle.
The nascent McLaren outfit worked long hours and seven-day weeks to ready the M2B for its Formula 1™ debut. With no transporter and limited resources, they towed the M2B from England to Monaco behind their Ford Fairlane, affectionately dubbed the ‘White Whale’.
Bruce qualified the M2B in tenth position, and ran as high as sixth on McLaren’s Formula 1™ debut, but he was unfortunately forced to retire when an oil union to the oil cooler came loose.
McLaren quickly regrouped under Bruce’s motivational leadership. Robin Herd re-engineered the oil-cooler system, the team experimented with a Serenissima engine while the Ford V8 was redeveloped for extra power, and the M2B went on to score a sixth at the 1966 British GP, and fifth at the United States GP. Two years later, Bruce took the team’s first victory at the Belgian GP, paving the way for the 12 drivers’ and eight constructors’ championships that have followed since – and further victories have come in motorsport categories as diverse as Le Mans, Indianapolis and Can-Am.