MCLAREN F5000 M10B
THIS MONTH MARKS 80 YEARS SINCE BRUCE MCLAREN WAS BORN IN AUCKLAND, ON AUGUST 30,1937, A SE O IN YOUNG WROTE IN BRUCE MCLAREN: THEM AN AND HIS RACING TEAM, “UNDER THE SIGN OF VIRGO, THE CRAFTS MAN. IT WAS PROPHET IC”
It is only appropriate that we focus this month on things Mclaren. The past few months have seen the launch of Mclaren the movie, and already a new generation has been exposed to the achievements of a quiet but fiercely determined Kiwi. Shortly before his birth, Bruce’s parents had taken ownership of the service station and garage on Remuera Road, close to the Upland Road corner. That property will soon be redeveloped, and, consequently, it was fitting that the photographs accompanying the story of this special Mclaren M10B were taken there in early July, shortly after the workshop had closed for good.
The shingle slope
Bruce Mclaren knew a thing or two about hill climbing — before the days of circuit racing, hills and beaches were the main venues for competitors. The first event the 15-year-old Bruce ever competed in was a hill climb, out at Muriwai where the Mclarens had a holiday home. Bruce won his class on the shingle slope, and his destiny was set. Fast forward to the mid 1960s, and a short run of cars built specially for hill climbing and sprints — the first Mclaren had been the ‘M1A’ — a Group 7 sports car built in 1964 that was developed into the 1966 Can-am ‘M1C’. Next came the first Formula 1 (F1) car, the M2B, which debuted at the 1966 Monaco Grand Prix, while the M3A was referred to by Bruce as the ‘whoosh bonk’ — as in, “We just take these parts from here and these parts from there, ‘whoosh’, and put them all together, ‘bonk’, and we’ve got a racing car”. Three M3s were built — one with 4.5-litre Oldsmobile power went to a Swiss hill climber, one was powered by a 4.7-litre Ford V8 for use as the camera car for the filming of Grand Prix before ending up as a racing car in South Africa, and the most famous went to English driver Miss Patsy Burt — it was also Oldsmobile powered and was finished in the distinctive shade of blue that her cars always competed in.
The next Mclaren to be built specifically for the hills was part of the first run of Formula 5000s (F5000s) — the M10A. Sir Nicholas Williamson used his in a couple of Swiss hill climbs in mid 1969, before returning to the UK and running up three hills, winning each time. That car, now residing in Kerikeri, was rebuilt during the off season to M10B specification, and Williamson won the title — the Mclaren name was still a force on hills. The Mclaren M10A model therefore won the inaugural European F5000 title and the RAC Hill Climb Championship in 1969 — something that hadn’t gone unnoticed by the 1961 champion, David Good. Good’s title that year was the last of the 11 straight championships for 1.1-litre Jap-powered Coopers — hill climbing was about to get serious, with increased use of V8s together with the traction advantages of four-wheel drive. The introduction of F5000 into the UK meant that
it was only a matter of time before these cars were launched up the iconic hills that comprise the British Hillclimb Championship.
Not for the faint hearted
There is a rich history of hill climbing in the British Isles that dates back to the early 1900s, but the first championship started in 1947. All of the ‘paths’ are sealed, and they range in length from 777m to 1447m — open-wheelers dominate the title chase, but some wonderful hybrids, and even some purpose-built specials, have motivated their brave pilots to championships. Some of the hills have become part of British motor sport folklore — like Shelsley Walsh in Worcestershire, and Prescott in Gloucestershire. It had been my ambition to take in one of these events, and my day spent on a windswept hill in Scotland (Doune in Perthshire has long been part of the British championship) is one of the most memorable I’ve had watching racing cars. The level of skill required to blast a Formula 3–sized car, but with F1 power, up a narrow ribbon of tarmac was significantly greater than I had anticipated — this is not an area of motor sport for the faint hearted. I watched that day at Doune with a knowledgeable local who verbalized what I was seeing — in fact, I can still hear him, after we’d watched a particularly quick one — “He’s committed …”
Headed for the hills
David Good never let having no right arm dissuade him from getting involved — he swam, played hockey, was successful at bobsledding, and even boxed; however, he was never able to get a licence to race cars — the next best thing, then, was to head for the hills. He started with an MG TA; moved onto a Triumph TR2; and then, in the mid ’50s, the ex–dick Seaman ERA R1B. That car might have been famous once but was close to two decades old, and so gave way to an 1100cc Cooper-jap — the car in which Good took the title in 1961. After some time off, he returned to the hills in 1968 with a Chevron B6 that was soon replaced by the same brand’s B8, and, although these superb little purposebuilt sports cars from Bolton, powered by BMW’S 2.0-litre, didn’t have the power for outright wins, Good found himself regularly in the top 10. His appetite was whetted, and the decision was made to have a serious crack at the 1970 title.
He decided to order Mclaren’s new M10B — essentially the same as the 1969 titlewinning M10A, but with the key tweaks being redesigned suspension, a slightly restyled body, a new radiator, and modification to accept a dry-sump engine installation. The new Mclaren F5000 was a great success, and the significant championships were won using the M10B in 1970 — with Peter Gethin in Europe (where Howden Ganley was runner-up in another M10B) and John Cannon in the US. Graham Mcrae won the first of his three-in-arow Tasman Championships in 1971 with his modified M10B, while David Hobbs also used
an M10B to win the 1971 US title. The M10B was so good that some teams which bought its replacement, the Mclaren M18, reverted back to their 10Bs.
Despite being the man to beat at the tail end of the 1969 British Hillclimb Championship, Sir Nick Williamson could not overhaul the points advantage of David Hepworth’s self-built Oldsmobile V8-powered special — complete with four-wheel drive. In a magazine article in early 1970, Good was very aware who his main opposition was going to be — “he is most worried by Nick Williamson, in his M10A/B, and Roy Lane, an unknown quantity with his Techcraft-brm”.
Good had his Mclaren fitted with a 5.5-litre Chev pumping out some 335kw at 6000rpm. The cockpit was modified, because its pilot needed to sit close to the wheel — and, uniquely, the car had a much-modified gear linkage so that Good could change gear. The hole for the shaft on the left-hand side of car (the Mclaren, like most racing cars, being a right-hand change) remains.
To complete the Mclaren/hill-climb connections, the car — the seventh M10B chassis, or ‘400-07’ — was completed and prepared at the workshop of Patsy Burt, and Bruce himself was present at a reception at the Criterion Hotel in London’s Piccadilly for the handover in early March 1970. The car was finished in the red livery of Ski Yoghurt, a product from the dairy company run by Good.
Good was fourth in the championship after one ‘fastest time of the day’ (FTD), a second, and a pair of thirds. Good again ran the Mclaren in 1971, but Hepworth’s all-wheeldrive device, now Chev powered, took out that year’s title. He then sold 400-07, and it continued on the hills and in sprints over the next few years, until being purchased by a collector in 1977. In 1989, it was sold to another collector, but, this time, the tenure was short, and, in 1991, it was acquired by Richard Eyre, who owned it until the current owners, David and Katya Mitchell, purchased it in 2012.
As an aside, another car that won the British Hillclimb Championship has a Kiwi connection. In 1975 and ’76, Roy Lane won the title in a Mcrae GM1. That very car, still in the distinctive burnt orange Lane livery, has been enthusiastically raced by Kiwi Peter Burson over the past decade.
Rylands Traffic Yellow
Under Eyre’s ownership, 400-07 was restored by Simon Hadfield, arguably the best in the business. The chassis was reskinned onto the original bulkheads, and, as part of the complete
upgrade, the car was painted the colour it remains today. The official name for what became known as ‘Mclaren orange’ is actually ‘Rylands Traffic Yellow’. In more recent years, it is increasingly being referred to as ‘papaya’, but the reality is, the colour varied even on works Mclarens — the Can-am cars of 1972 being a slightly duller shade than the first cars to carry the distinctive hue in 1967. Today, 400-07 is finished in a colour much closer to that of the 1972 M20s than the 1967 M6AS.
Not only is Hadfield an ace restorer, but he is also one of the best drivers of historic racing cars. In 2002, he piloted 400-07 to victory at Brands Hatch against much more modern F5000 machinery in its first competition start since restoration. In the short, but stellar, history of F5000, the Lola T330/332 is the stand-out car — certainly at the end of the category in the mid ’70s but the next most famous — and in its time, dominant — is without doubt the Mclaren M10A/B range, and what makes the 10B so much more significant is that it was one of the last designs before the death of Bruce Mclaren in June 1970. Boyhood hero David Mitchell has long been a car enthusiast. He started racing a 2.0-litre Porsche 911 but has spent considerable periods working outside of New Zealand, which has not been conducive to advancing his motor-racing career.
He bought a Brabham BT21 from the US, which gave him a taste of open-wheeler racing. Powered by one of the ubiquitous (Ford-lotus) twin-cams, this ex–formula B car was typical of what was raced here in the late ’60s / early ’70s in our much-loved ‘national Formula’. David’s thoughts then turned to a car carrying the name of his boyhood hero: “Initially, I thought about an M4A — or an M10.” The M4 David refers to is the Formula 2 chassis Mclaren produced in 1967 for the new 1.6-litre phase of that iconic category (refer to Issue No. 318), which was raced so successfully here by Jim Palmer, Piers Courage, and Graeme Lawrence.
It was snowing at Donington when David took 400-07 for a test run, and, as Katya recalls, “a spin” — hardly surprising in the conditions. Clearly, it was meant to be, and, after acquiring the car, the Mitchells had it shipped to New Zealand in May 2014, and it appeared at the Gulf Oil Howden Ganley Festival at Hampton Downs in January 2015. David will compete in Formula Libre races in the coming season and intends to retain the treaded tyres rather than make a move to slicks. The car resides in the Mitchells’ garage in Remuera — a mere stone’s throw from where Bruce grew up. Bruce’s dream was to race and build his own racing cars; like so many of us, David’s dream was to race his own Mclaren.
The M10B is a beautiful thing — from an era before ground effects and when aerodynamic aids were often little more than newfangled appendages and somewhat rudimentary. It is a piece of art — but one that will do close to 300kph. With a fairly user-friendly engine, an M10B might just be the ultimate collector Mclaren to go racing with, given that Bruce oversaw it. In the case of 400- 07, he was also there at the handover — now that’s super special.
Above, left and below: The original Mclaren garage has remained relatively unchanged over the decades
Above: Chassis #400-07 being handed over to David Good (kneeling beside Bruce Mclaren) in March 1070
Below: Patsy Burt sitting in her Mclaren MJA
Today, 400-07 is finished in a colour much closer to that of the 1972 M20s than the 1967 M6AS.
David and Katya Mitchell have owned 400-07 since 2012