In the video below, Formula One driver Derek Bell is once again reunited with his 1969 McLaren M9A at the Silverstone Circuit. This is the same track where the car made its debut in 1969 (more below), but was unfortunately marred with failure when Bell had to retire due to suspension problems.
More on the 1969 McLaren M9A
McLaren has had a long-standing glory in the world of Formula 1 and has been the closest competitor to the prancing horse over the years. Though the current few years have been eating away into a lot of McLaren’s glory through the abysmal performance displayed by the Woking based team after their association with Honda, McLaren is still a formidable name in the paddock. The car in discussion today didn’t earn much glory for the McLaren team back in 1969, but was instrumental in helping McLaren understand what didn’t work in terms of designing and engineering a Formula 1 car. The M9A was McLaren’s take on implementing four wheel drive into their M7A Grand Prix cars. Furthermore, the M9A was an experimental car that ran in the 1969 British Grand Prix alongside the McLaren M7A.
The Mclaren M9A was fitted with a custom gearbox and a four-wheel drivetrain to make most of the newer generation of Cosworth engines. The 3-litre V8 engines produced 420hp and though the car implemented a four-wheel drive system, it still weighed a meagre 526kgs. Majority of the lightness was contributed by the aluminium monocoque chassis, the engine was mounted just behind the driver in a mid-engined configuration. Another odd characteristic of the Mclaren M9A was the tubular subframe almost forming an exoskeleton around the car, which was instrumental in supporting the double wishbone suspension system.
It could be debated that this unique exoskeleton holding the suspension formed a weak link which led to the M9A retiring just after 6 laps in the 1969 British Grand Prix, on contrary to the popular setup of using the gearbox as a subframe for suspension mounting in the rear. So, it was quite an experience for the young Derek Bell back in 1969, when he was invited by Bruce Mclaren to drive the experimental M9A for the British Grand Prix right after he found himself without a drive. Though it was more than a handful for Derek Bell to drive back in the day even after his suggested “Tea-Tray” rear wing was installed. It’s the oddity of design and engineering that still captures attention from fans and drivers alike to this very day as a glimpse into an era where manufacturers were rather brave in their experiments. The glorious Mclaren M9A finished off in a delicious shade of Mclaren orange dons the halls of museums transporting fans through time.