1973 McLAREN M23 FORMULA ONE SINGLE SEATER
Chassis No. M23/004
Engine No. DFV 123
Gearbox No. FG400
Engine: Cosworth-Ford DFV V8, 2993cc, twin overhead camshafts to each cylinder bank, 465bhp at 10500rpm; Gearbox: Hewland five-speed with ZF differential; Suspension: independent front by double wishbones and coil springs, rear by lower wishbone, single top link, twin radius rods, outboard coil springs; Brakes: four-wheel disc, outboard to front, inboard at rear. Single seater.
Bruce McLaren's brilliance as a driver was quickly recognised in his native New Zealand. He came to Europe in a young drivers sponsorship scheme and soon made his mark in Formula racing. His victory at Sebring in 1959 made him the youngest driver ever to win a ranking Grand Prix. Two years later he became number one driver in the Cooper Formula One team in succession to the revered Jack Brabham. McLaren was also a capable and well organised engineer with a dream to design and race his own cars, initially building Group Seven sports-racers before graduating to Formula cars. The M2B was his Grand Prix debutante, precursor of one of the most successful of all Grand Prix racing makes. At the 1968 Race of Champions at Brands Hatch circuit its creator drove the first Cosworth engined McLaren F1 car to its first victory. Tragically, Bruce McLaren crashed fatally when testing one of his cars at Goodwood Circuit in 1970, but it is a measure of the soundness of his methods and ideals that the McLaren team has been outstandingly successful for more than thirty years, not only taking many F1 world championships, but also becoming the third British maker to win the Indianapolis 500 Miles, (when an Offenhauser-engined McLaren M16 designed by Gordon Coppuck took Penske to victory in 1972).
The trend-setting design in F1 as the 1970's opened was Colin Chapman and Maurice Philippe's chisel-nosed, mould-breaking Lotus-Ford 72. Coppuck's M16 owed much to Lotus. When the McLaren M23 was announced for the 1973 season, it was seen to follow a similar design philosophy, with its sharply-penned outlines, a central monocoque and engine assembly stressed to serve as the main chassis, inboard front suspension with outboard brakes, set off by outboard coil springs and inboard discs at the rear, but with suspension modifications to improve handling. The Colnbrook-based company was by no means alone in building racers to this formula, powered by the legendary Cosworth Ford DFV V8, but their manufacturing standards were of the highest and the cars were, back then as today, supported by an exceptionally strong team organisation. Yardley McLaren team M23's scored three 1973 F1 Championship victories: the Swedish GP was New Zealander Denny Hulme's, the British and Canadian races were both American Peter Revson's.
It was a promosing start and this chassis 23/004, had a major role in it, being built up in mid-season and replacing an earlier car damaged by Revson in the British Grand Prix at Silverstone. For the German GP only, Jacky Ickx was brought in. It was a shrewd move, for he was something of a Nrburgring specialist and took M23/004 through to third position behind Stewart and Cevert's Tyrrells. Revson drove it in the final three races of the season, taking third in the Italian GP at Monza, then a splendid victory from the front row alongside Ronnie Peterson's Lotus in the Canadian GP at Mosport Park, and then fifth in the US GP at Watkins Glen.
The 1974 season brought important changes to the McLaren team and the M23. Revson had departed to the American Shadows team. Denny Hulme returned to be joined by the finely-honed skills of the cool-headed Brazilian Emerson Fittipaldi, World Champion in 1972 at only 25, who had taken the Lotus 72 to nine victories since 1970. Coppuck lengthened the M23's wheelbase, widened the rear track and improved weight distribution, aerodynamics, air intakes and suspension. An intensive winter season's testing by Fittipaldi saw the cars with enhanced traction and controllability. Very high-powered new sponsors came in, the team henceforth racing in the bold red and white livery of the Marlboro Team Texaco, colours they were to carry to great success and many legendary championships in the seasons ahead.
McLaren made a good start to the F1 season in January in the Argentine, when Hulme won at the Buenos Aires Autodrome. In Brazil shortly afterwards, Fittipaldi won the rain-shortened Grand Prix to make two victories in succession. Back in Europe for the Race of Champions at Brands Hatch in March, the M23 team cars appeared with more modifications, notably sporting the definitive narrow-chisel noses. Prior to this event M23/004 appears to have been held back as a spare car, but Fittipaldi drove it and survived a very wet race to take third place, having risen to second before a puncture slowed him. At Silverstone in April for the International Trophy, Denny Hulme retired 23/004 after a few laps with clutch trouble. Three weeks later he ran through to finish sixth in the Spanish Grand Prix. For the Swedish GP at Anderstorp, Fittipaldi was given M23/004 and took it through to a useful fourth to support his championship aspirations. By now newer M23's were seen as McLaren's front-runners and the car was redecorated, then assigned to British Yardley Team driver David Hobbs for the Australian and Italian Grands Prix, where he managed seventh and ninth places respectively. For the Canadian Grand Prix the Austrian Jochen Mass managed sixteenth, experiencing handling problems on 23/004. The season ended with a cliff-hanging finale at Watkins Glen for the US GP, when Fittipaldi drove a canny race in M23/008 to take fourth place and clinch the World Championship for McLaren. M23/004 was given to Mass, who brought it home seventh.
The racer had a final flowering in 1975, when Fittipaldi took it to second spot in the International Trophy at Silverstone early in the season, notching up equal fastest lap in the process. It last saw active service driven by Jochen Mass in the German Grand Prix in August and that appears to have concluded its frontline racing career. It remained with McLaren until acquired in 1976 by the present owner, licensee for Malboro Leisure wear, for display as a marketing tool. Between 1989-1991, he undertook an exhaustive, difficult and costly restoration to bring the car to first-line operating condition, respecting its correct 1974/5 specification. Work on the engine was undertaken by Brian Hart, whilst the structure was restored by Grand Prix Engineering Services at Woking, a division of McLaren International. The McLaren Formula One M23 represents an opportunity to acquire an important team car which has had but one owner since it left the factory. It is probably the most original McLaren; unspoilt; a car which helped take Emerson Fittipaldi, one of the most charismatic of all drivers in the 1970's, to his second World Championship.