HILL-CLIMB MAS­TER

MCLAREN F5000 M10B

New Zealand Classic Car - - EDITORIAL - Words: Michael Clark Pho­tos: Adam Croy, Bruce Mclaren Trust

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

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