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Thread: Bruce McLaren

  1. #1

    Bruce McLaren

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    Every year, on the 30th of August, I become one year older. I share my birthday with people such as Cameron Diaz, and Warren Buffett. But, more importantly, I share my birthday with my fellow countryman, and hero, Bruce McLaren.

    I was only a teenager when I became fascinated by McLaren. I’d never seen him race, in fact, he was killed before I was even born. But I read a lot of old car magazines when I was young, and was always fascinated by this young Kiwi, taking on the world, driving cars of his own name, which he’d designed, and built with his own hands. It wasn’t until I lived in the UK that I truly understood the impact McLaren had had on the racing world, and the high regard in which his name is held internationally.

    I’ve read several books written about Bruce McLaren, but the one I enjoyed most was the small autobiography he wrote himself, called Bruce McLaren. From The Cockpit, which was first released 1964, just as he was on the cusp of heading out on his own to start his own race team, under his own name. The last paragraph in the book has the small description that would eventually describe his own fate, even though it was meant for his team mate at the time, American Timmy Mayer: “To do something well is so worthwhile that to die trying to do it better cannot be foolhardy. It would be a waste of life to do nothing with one’s ability, for I feel that life is measured in achievement, not in years alone.”

    Several years ago, when I was trying to get accepted into the British Guild of Motoring Artists, I was required to do a portrait painting as part of my test. So, of course, my subject matter was Bruce McLaren. It’s the only portrait I’ve ever attempted.

    Had McLaren not been killed at Goodwood in 1970, he’d be 73 now. And I sometimes wonder what he’d think of the fascination we enthusiasts have for him and his race cars, and his legacy. He was a forward thinker, an engineer, always looking for the next big thing, the next breakthrough. Would he be interested in his past, or would he still be looking to the future, designing, tinkering, and building something bigger and better?

    Bruce McLaren had so many talents, as a driver, and a designer, but perhaps his biggest natural gift lay in his people-skills, his ability to motivate those around him, to believe in the cause enough that they’d forego almost everything outside of his race team to please him.

    Bruce McLarens light certainly shone brightly, if all too briefly.

  2. #2
    I've just finished reading Phil Kerr's book "To finish first" which covers his years with Jack Brabham and then Bruce McLaren & the McLaren Team. It's a very good read. I also think that John Britten of the Britten Motorcycle fame was another out of the McLaren mould. You can't help wondering what additional greatness they would have achieved if they had survived for a full life span.

  3. #3
    Hi Steve,

    I remember the day Bruce died when I was a 15 year old with the radio on in the kitchen before school. It hit me like my best friend had died, unbelievable, people like him don't make fatal mistakes. My best couple of mates and I used to scrape enough money to buy Motorman by Donn Anderson and I'd scratch build 1/32 and 1/24 slot cars, most passionately CanAm McLarens (never did get the orange right). Bruce was the centre of the universe as far as NZ motorsport fans were concerned in the 60s and until that day in June 1970.

    More than 10 years ago I met Bruce's sister Jan at an early Bruce McLaren Trust display in Te Puke. Greta Hulme had driven Denny's beautiful M23 up from Rotorua (on a trailer!) and I joined the supporters club that day. The Trust was formed to preserve Bruce's awesome legacy to motorsport. His colossal achievements predated but at least equalled our America's Cup yachting achievements. CanAm was the richest roadracing series in the world and Kiwis were cleaning it up, thanks to the vision and leadership of Bruce McLaren. And so it was, about 1999, as a full-time video and television cameraman/editor/producer I offered to document the Trust's projects and events and assist with that part of the archiving with future projects in mind. One of the main projects has been over a decade of filming of the reconstruction of the Trust's M8A CanAm car. Starting with a "basket case" which had been donated to Denny from Goodyear and almost lost in a landfill, this is now an object of exquisite beauty. If you were breathing sports racing cars in 1968 this represented one of the pinnacles of the genre. Denny Hulme won the first of his 3 CanAm titles in this very car and it is the only one in existence and will always be so.

    The bodywork was completed about 18 months ago after a huge struggle getting all the "forensic evidence" together to make the moulds. The rolling chassis just needs a complete 7 litre Chevrolet engine and it will be ready for track demonstrations. We continue to hope it will be "this year"! Duncan Fox and Tony Roberts will hopefully one day also complete their other CanAm McLaren, the high-wing M8B which (along with it's sister B) won all eleven rounds of the championship in 1969.

    One day not too distant I will produce the M8 story for DVD, hopefully incorporating the car in the USA at a historic meeting and some of the old American drivers of the era. There is already a preview of things to come on the Festival of Motor Racing DVD.

    Incidentally, talking to Jan McLaren today, the portrait you did of Bruce above sits in the Trust's Remuera offices (the old McLaren garage and home above). Jan said you put it on display at one of their events and when they packed up you were gone. I'm sure it's in good hands as Jan absolutely loves the pensive mood you caught Bruce in.

    Thanks Steve for all the work you have put into this site, not just getting it off the ground which must have been immense in itself, but the incredible amount of activity, photos etc you continue to feed into it. Brilliant forum.

  4. #4
    Steve that is a magnificent portrait, and I would like to repeat all that Murray has said about your work and the site.
    I was just about 19 when I heard the news that Bruce McLaren had died form the accident, and it was a shock, as i believe most of us young fellas back then looked up to and wanted to be like Bruce McLaren.

  5. #5
    Semi-Pro Racer
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    I also recall the shock of Bruce's death (even though I was no longer a teenager). Like Jim Clark two years earlier, Bruce was someone you just knew wouldn't be killed in a racing car

    We have to be eternally thankful that Ron Dennis (and co) made the decision to keep the name alive on cars that have remained at (or near) the top of the F1 tree ever since

  6. #6
    I think this is well worth watching for any fan of Bruce McLaren.....

    http://www.nzonscreen.com/title/trio-at-the-top-2001

    Denny Hulme and Chris Amon also feature..... It's a documentary posted in several parts.
    Last edited by Leo D; 07-06-2011 at 11:56 AM.

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by Murray Maunder View Post
    Hi Steve,

    I remember the day Bruce died when I was a 15 year old with the radio on in the kitchen before school. It hit me like my best friend had died, unbelievable, people like him don't make fatal mistakes. My best couple of mates and I used to scrape enough money to buy Motorman by Donn Anderson and I'd scratch build 1/32 and 1/24 slot cars, most passionately CanAm McLarens (never did get the orange right). Bruce was the centre of the universe as far as NZ motorsport fans were concerned in the 60s and until that day in June 1970.

    More than 10 years ago I met Bruce's sister Jan at an early Bruce McLaren Trust display in Te Puke. Greta Hulme had driven Denny's beautiful M23 up from Rotorua (on a trailer!) and I joined the supporters club that day. The Trust was formed to preserve Bruce's awesome legacy to motorsport. His colossal achievements predated but at least equalled our America's Cup yachting achievements. CanAm was the richest roadracing series in the world and Kiwis were cleaning it up, thanks to the vision and leadership of Bruce McLaren. And so it was, about 1999, as a full-time video and television cameraman/editor/producer I offered to document the Trust's projects and events and assist with that part of the archiving with future projects in mind. One of the main projects has been over a decade of filming of the reconstruction of the Trust's M8A CanAm car. Starting with a "basket case" which had been donated to Denny from Goodyear and almost lost in a landfill, this is now an object of exquisite beauty. If you were breathing sports racing cars in 1968 this represented one of the pinnacles of the genre. Denny Hulme won the first of his 3 CanAm titles in this very car and it is the only one in existence and will always be so.

    The bodywork was completed about 18 months ago after a huge struggle getting all the "forensic evidence" together to make the moulds. The rolling chassis just needs a complete 7 litre Chevrolet engine and it will be ready for track demonstrations. We continue to hope it will be "this year"! Duncan Fox and Tony Roberts will hopefully one day also complete their other CanAm McLaren, the high-wing M8B which (along with it's sister B) won all eleven rounds of the championship in 1969.

    One day not too distant I will produce the M8 story for DVD, hopefully incorporating the car in the USA at a historic meeting and some of the old American drivers of the era. There is already a preview of things to come on the Festival of Motor Racing DVD.

    Incidentally, talking to Jan McLaren today, the portrait you did of Bruce above sits in the Trust's Remuera offices (the old McLaren garage and home above). Jan said you put it on display at one of their events and when they packed up you were gone. I'm sure it's in good hands as Jan absolutely loves the pensive mood you caught Bruce in.

    Thanks Steve for all the work you have put into this site, not just getting it off the ground which must have been immense in itself, but the incredible amount of activity, photos etc you continue to feed into it. Brilliant forum.
    Hey thanks for that Murray. Your documentary sounds great. I'll be looking forward to that.

    Yes thats correct, I think I was at a historic event at Ruapuna and I loaned that portrait to Jan for a display the trust had there and they still have it on long term loan. I haven't seen it at the trust, but Jan has said she enjoys having it there, and having Bruce keep an eye on things.

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by Leo D View Post
    I think this is well worth watching for any fan of Bruce McLaren.....

    http://www.nzonscreen.com/title/trio-at-the-top-2001

    Denny Hulme and Chris Amon also feature..... It's a documentary posted in several parts.
    Thanks Leo. That was screened on tv a couple of years ago from memory. Excellent documentary as you say.

  9. #9
    Here Bruce explains the layout at Mosport.


  10. #10
    A photo of Bruce probably not seen before. Taken by Brad Ward in 1960 - Brad was a Kiwi race mechanic who worked for Graham Warner (of The Chequered Flag fame) in 1959 and 1960. As well as being race mechanic for Warner's Lotus Elite LOV 1, Brad helped build the first Gemini race cars - two of the cars he built in 1960 now reside in NZ. Brad sadly died late last month but has left a legacy of a fantastic photo collection from his UK and European motor racing adventures.


  11. #11
    Roger, that is an amazing photo! Have you shown this to Jan McLaren?

  12. #12
    Yes Steve, I sent it through to the McLaren Trust when I converted Brad's slides to digital format. Without wanting to ambush this thread on Bruce here are a couple more shots from Brad of Jack Brabham, Stirling Moss and Jim Clark in his first ever single seater drive (Gemini Mk2 BMC, Brands Hatch, Boxing Day 1959).






  13. #13
    Amazing photos, thanks for sharing

  14. #14
    Hey Roger, thanks to you and Brad. Terrific photos. The one of Bruce in the Cooper reminds us of how young he was when he started driving for Cooper. Mature beyond his years too, obviously, to exhaust more than a lifetime of achievement by the age of 30. Phew! That's big - GP winner as a driver, CanAm champion, LeMans winner, F1, CanAm and Indy constructor. As Howden Ganley told me "if Bruce told us in the factory that we were going to walk across the Sahara everyone would have said OK let's go".

    In many ways Bruce the race driver was overshadowed by his leadership achievements and the area of his influence. By his mid-twenties he personally new the chiefs of US corporations Ford, GM, Goodyear, Reynolds, Gulf Oil and could walk into their boardrooms. A long way from a bed in a "crippled children's home" in Auckland, New Zealand. I still consider it a disgrace that his name isn't regarded by New Zealanders on the same level as Sir Edmund Hillary, a truly great Kiwi, but also one we can admire as a human being.
    Last edited by Murray Maunder; 07-07-2011 at 03:07 AM.

  15. #15
    RogerH, those are beautiful photos, and the quality is amazing. The shot of Brabham looks like it could have been taken yesterday.

  16. #16
    Instead of putting some of Brad's photos on the Bruce McLaren thread, I'll start a new thread.

  17. #17
    Yeah thats a great idea Roger.

  18. #18
    Fantastic historic photos - looking forward to seeing some more
    Cheers

  19. #19
    Journeyman Racer
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    Quote Originally Posted by nigel watts View Post
    I've just finished reading Phil Kerr's book "To finish first" which covers his years with Jack Brabham and then Bruce McLaren & the McLaren Team. It's a very good read. I also think that John Britten of the Britten Motorcycle fame was another out of the McLaren mould. You can't help wondering what additional greatness they would have achieved if they had survived for a full life span.
    New Zealand has been pretty unlucky, we have lost some amazing people just when thay were starting to really produce. Bruce Mclaren, John Britten, Peter Blake and Possum Bourne come to mind.

  20. #20
    Weekend Warrior
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    Absolutely awesome photos!
    Cheers
    ----------------
    Chris

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