You’ve got to hand it to McLaren, they know how to celebrate a half-century. Not only are they releasing a Can-Am inspired 12C GT Edition, but the good-looking line up you see before you will be flaring its McLaren-shaped nostrils at the Goodwood Festival of Speed this summer.

Shiny racing visions, old and new, will be showcased together – comprised of McLaren’s new flagship P1 Supercar (the most powerful 12C produced to date) and a selection of their historic Can-Am racers, plucked from the brand’s illustrious past. All the makings of a top birthday shindig, then.

This being McLaren’s 50th year on earth, they’ll be busting out their newest move too, the 12C GT Can-Am Edition – the first McLaren model to wear the Can-Am badge since 1972.

Back in the day, the Canadian-American Challenge Cup was like a sports car free-for-all – as long as the car had two seats and bodywork enclosing the wheels, virtually anything went. And most of the time it did. Minimum regulations and unlimited engine sizes made for some terrifying, ozone-destroying, edge-of-your-seat racing. The Can-Am championship became the birthplace and test-bed for some outrageous technologies – including the first of the high wing race cars and first use of weight-reducing carbon-fibre within racing car chassis.

Through the ’60s and ’70s, before Roger Penske’s brutally fast turbocharged Porsches came along, McLaren was almost unstoppable. The team dominated between 1967 and 1971, scoring five back-to-back world championships and making drivers Bruce McLaren and Denny Hulme even more famous in the process. In that year’s six-race series, Hulme had achieved a hat-trick and Bruce a rally of wins, and Can-Am had become known as the “Bruce and Denny Show”.

What makes this particular setting so poignant is that it was at the Goodwood track on June 2, 1970, that Bruce McLaren left the world reeling when he met his tragic demise at the young age of 32, while testing his M8D. The rear bodywork came adrift at speed, the car spun, left the track and hit a bunker on the Lavant Straight. His legacy has lived on in the spirit of McLaren, and the Can-Am Edition is a tribute to the inspiring driver, engineer and designer that he was.

The 12C GT Can-Am Edition is the rawest, most track-focused beast ever to have been built by the experts at McLaren Group’s race car arm. An immense V8 engine sits underneath, with the new model fitted with an unrestricted version of the 3.8-litre twin-turbo powerplant in the 12C GT3.

Supply is strictly limited: the track-only 12C GT will be built in a run of just 30 objects of desire. Excitement, power and a bucket-load of cool: it’s the stuff festivals of speed are made of.

Goodwood Festival of Speed will run from July 12-14, 2013.