A development of the McLaren M16 Indianapolis 500 car, the McLaren M23 was introduced in its first form as a Formula One contender in 1973 and would remain competitive until McLaren replaced it in 1977. Housing a Ford Cosworth DFV engine, which was prepared by specialist tuning company Nicholson-McLaren Engines, the M23 was capable of around 490 brake horsepower. The 1975 season saw further development for the M23, including the edition of a six-speed gearbox, which was a real novelty in this era of Formula One. Other developments included various bodywork updates, including aerodynamic kick-ups in front of the rear wheels, refreshed nose profiles and extended bodywork in front of the rear wheels that housed the oil coolers.
This model is based on the fourth and final iteration of the M23 used in 1973, the M23D. The car was to be driven by 1974 World Champion Emerson Fittipaldi and German driver Jochen Mass, until Fittipaldi left McLaren and joined his brother's Copersucar-Fittipaldi outfit. The team management signed British racer James Hunt, who had performed well for Hesketh Racing but some doubted whether he could sustain his performances long enough to challenge 1975 champions Ferrari and Niki Lauda. It transpired to be one of the most extraordinarily dramatic and political seasons in Formula One history.
Lauda continued his Championship winning form in the early races of 1976 and by mid-season was favourite for a second title. James Hunt, however, remained a constant thorn in Ferrari’s side. Suffering with poor reliability, Hunt retired from four of the first six races of the season, though his return from the other two was hugely impressive: a win in Spain and a second place in South Africa. The first controversy of the season came in Spain, where, after ending Ferrari’s run of five straight wins, Hunt was disqualified from first place after his M23D’s tyres were found to be too wide, giving the race to Lauda. McLaren appealed, saying this was due to the expansion of the tyres during the race, and two months later, the decision was overturned and Hunt reinstated. This injustice would only spur Hunt and McLaren on and intensify the media scrutiny of his developing rivalry with Lauda. Reliability improved and Hunt claimed two points in Sweden before claiming victory in the French GP. Further victory would seemingly follow at his home Grand Prix at Brands Hatch, but Hunt was disqualified after driving on an access road whilst returning to the pits following a first lap pile-up. Contentiously, the appeal had come from Ferrari. In the next race at the Nürburgring, Lauda crashed heavily at Bergwerk and his car burst into flames. Severely injured and badly burned, he was given the last rites in hospital. But Lauda staged a miraculous recovery, and although badly scarred, he was racing again within five weeks at the Italian GP. Hunt had closed the gap by the time of Lauda’s return with victories in Germany and the Netherlands. Despite retiring at Monza, Hunt would win in Canada and the USA to set up a grandstand finale to the season, being just three points behind before the last round in Japan. In appallingly wet and dangerous conditions Lauda withdrew, whilst Hunt would claim the final podium place, earning four points and snatching the World Championship of Drivers title at the very last.
Overall, the M23D earned McLaren six race wins and four further podiums, scoring 74 points and earning a Drivers’ Championship title.
This fine 1:8 scale model of the McLaren M23D is based on the car that James Hunt raced to third position at the final race of the 1976 season at the Fuji Speedway in Japan, securing the Drivers’ Championship title. This was no mean feat, particularly given the fact that by this time the M23 was a three-year-old car, up against the might of reigning champions Niki Lauda and Ferrari.
Hunt qualified in second, but Lauda was right behind in third, setting up the race perfectly. On race day, in torrential conditions and with the whole world watching, Hunt started well and took the lead. At the end of the second lap, Lauda came into the pits and withdrew, saying that the conditions were too dangerous. At the front, Hunt was leading but was soon challenged by the March of Vittorio Brambilla until the Italian spun out of contention. Hunt began to suffer from tyre wear and was passed by Mario Andretti’s Lotus and Patrick Depailler in a Tyrrell with 11 laps left. Hunt was still in a strong position as this was enough to secure the title but then misfortune struck, as a front-left tyre puncture forced him into the pits. Hunt returned in fifth, with two laps left, requiring fourth place to secure his maiden title. He passed the Surtees of Alan Jones and Lauda’s Ferrari teammate Clay Regazzoni to finish in third position. Even then, Hunt thought he has lost the title in the confusing final laps, only to learn that he had finished third – enough to become the 1976 World Champion.
This model has been handcrafted and assembled in our workshops using detailed colour and material specifications supplied directly from the McLaren Automotive, and our own CAD data created through digital scanning of an original car. Furthermore, it has undergone detailed scrutiny by both engineering and design teams to ensure complete accuracy of representation.