Isuspect many of you will have seen the eagerly awaited Mclaren movie by the time you are reading this editorial: an insightful tribute to one of our greatest sporting heroes, Bruce Mclaren, who — with a bunch of other young friends — backed themselves, despite their limited resources and lack of funds, to take on the world of motor racing. The challenges were indeed real, as Bruce and his team took on the establishment in fine Kiwi style and showed them just how to do it and, more important, how to win.
Bruce’s battle with illness in his early years was the catalyst for his unwavering determination to overcome the odds, and his uncanny ability to attract talented engineers and good drivers eventually saw success for the Mclaren team, which formed in 1964 — a team that would go on to become one of the most successful racing teams in the history of motor sport.
However, Bruce’s motor racing dream began much earlier. When he reached the tender age of 13, his father, Les, purchased an old car, a 1929 Austin 7 Ulster, that was completely stripped apart, with the intention of reassembling it to on-sell. But Bruce had other ideas. He could see the potential in this pile of old car parts and eventually convinced his father to race it. And so the build began, with Bruce working alongside his father to reconstruct every piece of the car. At the same time, a rather improvised figure-eight circuit was also constructed, on which Bruce eventually learned to drive on once he got behind the wheel. He was a fast learner, and, before long, he was reaching fairly impressive speeds, using the three-speed gearbox to its maximum potential by adding marks on the speedometer at optimal shift points.
When Bruce was 15, his father was admitted to hospital, so he decided to enter the car into his first race — and won. The year was 1954.
Fast forward over six decades. An art director, Roger Guise, talks to his good friend Richard Mcwhannell — a vintage Austin enthusiast — about cars for Roger Donaldson’s upcoming film tribute to Bruce Mclaren, Mclaren.
With a limited time frame of just 10 days and a $1K float, Richard, along with two other Austin enthusiasts — Joss Campbell and Ian Williams — swung into action and built a replica of Bruce’s Austin Ulster just in time for filming.
In this issue, Jacqui Madelin captures the spirit of these three Kiwis as they battle the odds to build this iconic car, just as Bruce did all those years ago.
Till next month …