Mclaren the movie

New Zealand Classic Car - - NATIONWIDE NEWS - Words: Quin­ton Taylor

Film­maker Roger Don­ald­son has ac­com­plished pro­ducer Michael Gar­lick’s life­long am­bi­tion to pay trib­ute to one of New Zealand’s great­est sport­ing he­roes, by mak­ing Mclaren the movie.

There is a real poignancy about this movie, with its fo­cus on a ded­i­cated group of young easy­go­ing New Zealan­ders led by a smil­ing, fresh-faced Kiwi from Auck­land.

They took a huge gam­ble, and trusted in their abil­i­ties and com­mit­ment to do­ing the very best they could with limited re­sources, and very lit­tle money, while achiev­ing so much on a world­wide stage.

It couldn’t have been for fi­nan­cial gain. Mo­tor-rac­ing in the late 1950s was very short on re­ward com­pared to its con­tem­po­rary sta­tus. It could be bru­tal, as Bruce Mclaren found out when close friends and as­so­ciates suc­cumbed around him. The death of team­mate Tim Mayer in 1964, at Long­ford, Aus­tralia, in a crash dur­ing the Tas­man se­ries was a harsh re­minder.

Speak­ing at Tim’s fu­neral, Bruce ex­pressed his thoughts on in­volve­ment in a sport which could de­mand so much. “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.”

From a dirt-floor work­shop in an earth-mov­ing com­pany’s premises to a world-class tech­ni­cal cen­tre at Wok­ing in Eng­land, the Mclaren name has come a long way. Sur­pris­ingly, many peo­ple to­day in the US and Eng­land are not aware of the Bruce Mclaren con­nec­tion with the rac­ing team name.

Emo­tion is there too with the likes of driv­ers such as the late Chris Amon, plus Mario An­dretti and Dan Gur­ney, and me­chan­ics such as a tear­ful Alas­tair Cald­well and Wally Will­mott from the early days of Mclaren — they all brought it into stark re­al­ity. There was huge re­spect from all for Bruce Mclaren.

It was the start of a golden era of in­ter­na­tional mo­tor sport through the 1960s, which was to be of­ten dom­i­nated by New Zealand names from cin­der speed­way tracks to F1 tar­mac.

It was only just in the last few years that we are start­ing to see that dom­i­nance again, with names such as Hart­ley, Bam­ber, Van Gis­ber­gen, Evans. Could it be an­other golden era for New Zealand mo­tor sport?

Celebri­ties knew the name too, and it was ‘The King’, Elvis Pres­ley, who en­joyed driv­ing the first Mclaren M1A Can-am car in the 1966 film, Spinout. Gra­ham Hill drove the car in the USA and Eng­land, and it was amus­ing to see Elvis Pres­ley named on the side of the car as a driver with Gra­ham Hill!

It was a great year, and Le Mans 1966 capped it with an in­volve­ment with Ford with its GT40 one-twothree win, with Bruce driv­ing with an­other New Zealand great, Chris Amon, fol­lowed by Denny Hulme paired with Ken Miles in an­other GT40. It showed just how sig­nif­i­cant an im­pact Mclaren and his team had on mo­tor rac­ing.

Per­haps it was the pun­ish­ing sched­ule of rac­ing Can-am and For­mula 1 which drove the team to get the job of test­ing new ideas done in as short a time as pos­si­ble, but on June 2, 1970, while test­ing at Good­wood in Eng­land, at just 32 years of age, it was over.

Typ­i­cally, the team con­tin­ued on just as Bruce would have de­manded, and to­day it’s a great legacy with a Mclaren fam­ily in­volve­ment — Bruce’s daugh­ter Amanda is still in­volved at Mclaren’s Tech­ni­cal Cen­tre at Wok­ing.

The In­ver­cargill pre­miere was fol­lowed by an in­sight­ful evening at the Richard­son Trans­port World, with a pre­sen­ta­tion by Bruce’s first me­chanic, Wally Wil­mott. Fun times as well as sad times. Wally (“I was just a petrol­head”) re­called his part of the Mclaren legacy, and it was a great way to fin­ish a thor­oughly en­joy­able evening, and with a mod­ern Mclaren road car parked out­side.

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