In 1966, the world of racing birthed the Canadian-American Challenge Cup, a sports car series that offered entrants a good deal of flexibility when it came to technical and mechanical specification. As a result, competitors frequently pushed the limits of go-faster tech, especially in the areas of aerodynamics, forced induction, and lightweight materials. One such innovator was New Zealand-born Bruce McLaren, who entered the championship in its inaugural season, eventually going on to take five consecutive championship titles between 1967 and 1971. Now, five decades later, the automaker that bears Bruce’s name is celebrating that dominating performance with this limited-edition 650S Spider.

“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,” says Paul Mackenzie, Executive Director of McLaren Special Operations.

While mechanically unaltered over the standard 650S Spider, the 650S Can-Am does bear a variety of exterior modifications that do well in acknowledging McLaren’s past. But can this modern take really recapture some of those old glories?

Continue reading to learn more about the McLaren 650S Can-Am.

  • 2016 McLaren 650S Can-Am
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  • Engine:
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  • Displacement:
    3.8 L
  • 0-60 time:
    3 sec.
  • Top Speed:
    204 mph
  • Price:
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  • car segment:
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2016 McLaren 650S Can-Am High Resolution Exterior Wallpaper quality
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Back in the glory days of Can-Am racing, many teams (including McLaren) used a material called Mallite in the creation of their race cars. Mallite is an aerospace-derived laminate composite that sandwiches a balsa wood core between sheets of duralumin (an early aluminum alloy), offering low weight, high rigidity, and high strength.

McLaren also added a unique retractable carbon-fiber-hardtop, a first for the model

Sound familiar? These days, carbon fiber is the composite material of choice, especially when it comes to supercars like the 650S Spider. Beyond the standard-issue carbon-fiber-MonoCell chassis, McLaren also added a unique retractable carbon-fiber-hardtop, a first for the model. Additionally, carbon fiber is used for the hood, airbrake, front splitter, door blades, and the requisite special edition sill cover.

Further exotic materials can be found in the lightweight wheels, which are made from a forged alloy and come in a unique, five-spoke design that harkens back to the old ‘60s race cars. These rollers are finished in glossy black and have a diamond cut rim. The wheel studs are made from titanium, while the brake calipers are painted black.

Other unique features include louvered front fenders, also made from carbon fiber and inspired by the 1966 M1B racer. The slats above the wheels reduce pressure and aide in overall aerodynamics. In back, there’s an exclusive quad exhaust framed in a carbon-fiber grille. Made from polished stainless steel, the exhaust pipes are meant to resemble the throttle trumpets on old race cars, and supposedly offer a distinctive engine note.

Buyers can have the 650S Can-Am in one of three individual colors, each of which comes with its own historical significance

Buyers can have the 650S Can-Am in one of three individual colors, each of which comes with its own historical significance. The first is Mars Red, another nod to the M1B that Bruce McLaren and Chris Amon drove in the debut Can-Am season. Next is Papaya Spark, a reimagining of the famed McLaren Orange hue, complete in a metallic finish. Finally, there’s Onyx Black, which recalls the old McLaren customer teams that raced in the later Can-Am seasons.

Each paint option also comes with an available old-school racing livery.


2016 McLaren 650S Can-Am High Resolution Interior
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While Bruce and company had no need for creature comforts on their way to the Can-Am podium, this special-edition 650S Spider retains all the original interior amenities. That means you still get full carpeting, a top-notch infotainment system, and high-quality materials throughout, plus a driver-centric layout and performance-oriented switches and controls.

The hugely bolstered sport seats are decked out in Nappa leather and Alcantara, plus they come coordinated with the exterior paint choice. Meanwhile, carbon fiber once again makes an appearance, this time in a glorious composite weave for the center console. Fittingly, a Can-Am dedication plaque is placed on the driver’s door.


2016 McLaren 650S Can-Am High Resolution Exterior
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McLaren didn’t change any of the greasy bits when it came to the 650S Can-Am. You still get the same twin-turbo 3.8-liter V-8 producing 641 horsepower and 500 pound-feet of torque. A sprint to 60 mph is achieved in three seconds, while top speed is rated at 204 mph.

Routing the power is a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, while McLaren’s Proactive Chassis Control suspension offers adjustability for either the road or the track. Wrapping those unique five-spoke wheels, you’ll find Pirelli P Zero Corsa rubber, while standard carbon-ceramic brakes throw the anchor.

Drivetrain Specifications

Type 3.8-litre twin turbo V-8
Output 641 HP
Torque 500 LB-FT
0 to 62 mph (100 km/h) 3 seconds
Top speed 204 MPH (329 km/h)


2016 McLaren 650S Can-Am High Resolution Exterior
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Pricing for the 650S Can-Am starts at 255,850 pounds, or $392,308 at current conversion rates (10/9/2015). That’s a whopping $112,000 more than the standard 650S Spider.

Of course, only 50 examples will be produced globally, so if you want one, you’d better jump on it sooner rather than later. Odds are the 650S Can-Am will sell out rather quickly, even at this inflated price.

Deliveries are scheduled to begin in the spring of 2016, 50 years after the first race at the Circuit Mont-Tremblant in Canada.


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2015 Shelby Cobra Daytona Coupe 50th Anniversary High Resolution Exterior
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2015 Aston Martin Works 60th Anniversary Limited Edition Vanquish High Resolution Exterior
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2016 McLaren 650S Can-Am High Resolution Exterior
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We’ve seen other special edition 650S models from McLaren before, including the 650S Le Mans and the 675LT, but the 650S Can-Am is arguably the most important. The Canadian-American Challenge Cup is a vital part of McLaren’s legacy. It’s the series where the team first proved it could produce a cutting-edge competition vehicle that was both reliable and incredibly fast.

So the question remains – does it live up to the name?

Visually, the 650S Can-Am certainly does a good job spicing up the design. Next to rivals like the Lamborghini Huracan or Ferrari 488GTB, you could say the standard 650S looks a bit subdued, sterile even. The 650S Can-Am, however, fixes that, with the liveries, bare carbon fiber, and fender louvers adding a much-needed dose of aggression.

The new exhaust is a nice addition as well, and although it would have been great to see a few upgrades to the drivetrain and suspension, I’m not surprised McLaren focused primarily on aesthetics. After all, I’m quite sure the mechanical pieces were all extensively refined prior to the 650S’s release.

Is this thing worth the extra outlay? In my opinion, no, not really. But that hardly matters, as all 50 examples are sure to sell faster than a McLaren 1-2-3 podium finish.

  • Leave it
    • Only real changes are to the exterior
    • Huge price tag

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.

2016 McLaren 650S Can-Am High Resolution Exterior Wallpaper quality
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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.

2016 McLaren 650S Can-Am High Resolution Exterior
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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.

2016 McLaren 650S Can-Am High Resolution Exterior
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‘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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