Currently reading: McLaren M1A Can-Am racer inspires road-legal V8 supercar
Stunning Nichols N1A pays tribute to legendary McLaren with 700bhp, manual gearbox and 900kg kerb weight

The jaw-dropping N1A supercar is a British-made, V8-powered, ultra-light tribute to one of McLaren's best-known race cars.

It is the product of Hampshire-based Nichols Cars, the eponymous outfit founded by storied motorsport engineer Steve Nichols, whose pioneering work with carbonfibre was instrumental in McLaren's domination of the 1988 Formula 1 world championship, with Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna driving the Honda-powered MP4/4 to victory in 15 of the season's 16 races.

Nichols subsequently enjoyed success with Ferrari, Jaguar, Jordan and Sauber throughout the 1990s - but his new road-going creation is inspired by a racer from much earlier, as testament to his view that "the racing cars of the 1960s are among some of the best cars ever created". 

The car in question is the McLaren M1A - a ferocious Group 7-spec prototype, and the first race car designed from the ground up by the British firm - launched in 1964 when the outfit still bore the full name of its founder, the late Bruce McLaren.

It was powered by an Oldsmobile-sourced small-block V8, weighed just 551kg, and later evolved into the similarly designed M1B and M1C, which achieved high-profile success in America's Can-Am series.

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The legacy of the M1A shines through in Nichols' latest creation, which is dressed in a similarly shapely lightweight bodyshell formed from graphene-infused carbonfibre, which boosts rigidity while keeping weight to a minimum. 

With that ultra-aero-efficient body cloaking a carbon-aluminium spaceframe chassis, the N1A tips the scales at just 900kg - lighter than a Mazda MX-5. That means the 650bhp supplied by the N1A's LS3 7.0-litre naturally aspirated V8 gives a power-to-weight ratio of nearly 700bhp per tonne.

The motor itself has been heavily uprated by Langford Performance Engineering – an engine development partner for the Ligier and Tyrell F1 teams in the late 1980s – with new steel liners, custom pistons, conrods, throttle bodies and a dry sump. It is mated to a six-speed manual gearbox as standard.

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While visually almost identical to its 1960s inspiration, the N1A is actually slightly wider and longer, and sits on low-profile Michelin Pilot SC2 performance tyres - "making the most of the modern innovations available". 

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It can also be specified with power steering, and rides as standard on bespoke double-wishbone suspension hardware at all four corners, with a view to optimising on-road usability.

Nichols said:  “Having experienced amazing racing cars over the decades, I’ve never been able to implement those quirky qualities into a road car, until now. Taking into account all the people that have worked on the N1A, I’m incredibly proud that the car is part of the next chapter in sports car history and is the next stepf or us and Nichols Cars.

"The process from pencil to production model has been extremely gratifying; this should be a reminder to the entire automotive industry that combining the past, present and looking to the future, is the way forward for this entire community.”

Nichols has yet to reveal pricing, but will build no more than 100 cars in total, the first 15 of which will be 'top-of-the-range' examples, each specified uniquely to commemorate a specific victory of the McLaren MP4/4.

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Felix Page

Felix Page
Title: News and features editor

Felix is Autocar's news editor, responsible for leading the brand's agenda-shaping coverage across all facets of the global automotive industry - both in print and online.

He has interviewed the most powerful and widely respected people in motoring, covered the reveals and launches of today's most important cars, and broken some of the biggest automotive stories of the last few years. 

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anglia 26 July 2023

Sorry, I mean G.M.

anglia 26 July 2023

Superb. Headlights express a slightly 'depressed' but characterfull face. Will General Motors claim it as their own design?