Kiwi spirit

New Zealand Classic Car - - CONTENTS - Ed­i­tor Ash­ley Webb

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 …

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