The Canadian-American Challenge Cup, or Can-Am series for short, was an SCCA-sanctioned sports car racing series held in the United States from 1966 to 1974, then again from 1977 to 1986. In its prime, the series featured some of the world’s best drivers, competing in some of the world’s fastest cars, like the Lola T-70, the McLaren M8 and the Porsche 917/30KL.
Except for an attempted revival in 1998 (that ultimately led to the creation of today’s Grand Am series), the name has been dormant for decades. Still, it carries a lot of emotional ties to motorsports in North America, which is probably why McLaren chose to tag its latest MP4-12C concept with the Can-Am name. The automaker has certainly earned the right to do so, as McLaren took the Can-Am championship from 1967 through 1971.
For now, the McLaren 12C Can-Am Edition is a one-off concept, designed to be the “ultimate track car.” As it wasn’t designed for a particular series, the designers weren’t hampered by regulations on horsepower, weight or aerodynamics, which likely means the concept is fasted than the 12C GT3 race car it’s based on.
Output is said to be some 630 horsepower, making the 12C Can-Am concept the most powerful variant built to date. Weight is reduced to 1,200 kilograms (2,646 pounds), and a unique aero package increases downforce (and grip) by 30 percent.
Sprayed in McLaren Orange as a tribute to McLaren’s dominant Can-Am cars of the late 1960s, the 12C concept also gets a track-ready cockpit, including racing seats with six-point harnesses, a race-spec rollcage and the same steering wheel that’s fitted to the 12C GT3 racers.
While McLaren calls the car a concept, we’re sure it’s being shown to gauge interest in a track-day MP4-12C model. If enough Pebble Beach attendees say “build it,” chances are good that McLaren will listen.