Look back in history Sunday: More memories of Bruce McLaren

| Photographer Credit: Terry Marshall

This week, we continue to look back on the life of Kiwi racing driver and constructor Bruce McLaren. Photos from Terry Marshall.

The Zerex Cooper Oldsmobile

Zerex Cooper Oldsmobile

It is reported that Roger Penske bought the wreck of a Cooper T53 F1 car after driver Walt Hansgen crashed out of the 1961 US Grand Prix. Penske replaced the damaged chassis tubing and added full-width enveloping body work and the car became known as the Zerex Special (after his sponsor). Penske sold the car to Bruce McLaren in 1964 who apparently widened the chassis and fitted a 3.5 litre Traco-Oldsmobile V8 engine. That car was what eventually led to the first Can Am type car that McLaren Cars built.

Wally Willmott, Bruce and Patty McLaren with the Zerex Cooper

Penske won his first race in the Zerex Special, the Los Angeles Times Grand Prix, the fourth round of the USAC Road Racing Championship. He went on to take a number of podiums and wins at Monterey and Puerto Rico, winning the 1962 title. In 1963 he competed in the SCCA National Sports Car Championship with wins in Maryland, Cumberland, and Brands Hatch (UK).

Having bought the car, in 1964 McLaren debuted the car in the second round of the British Sports Car Championship at Oulton Park, but retired with oil pressure problems. He won at Aintree, Silverstone and Brands Hatch. He also took it to Canada winning at Mospert, beating Penske’s Chaparral 2A Chevolet. Dave Morgan purchased the car prior to the start of the 1965 SCCA season.

Timmy Mayer

Brothers Teddy (Edward) and Timmy Mayer headed to Europe in the early 1960s along with fellow US driver Peter Revson, joining Bruce McLaren in setting up a Formula One team. Timmy competed in one Formula One race, the US Grand Prix in 1962, retiring with ignition problems.

Mayer joined Bruce to compete in the Tasman Series in 1964, in custom-built Cooper T70s’. The inaugural international series was contested over eight rounds, four each in New Zealand and Australia.

All set to go, Bruce McLaren’s Cooper T70 and transporter in New Zealand in 1964

Unfortunately Timmy was killed in practice for the final race of the series at Longford in Tasmania. It is reported that he died instantly, having lost control at over 100mph, spinning and hitting a tree.

Timmy Mayer (Cooper T70) from from Dalton, Pennsylvania. Mayer’s older brother Teddy was one of the founders of the McLaren team, with Bruce McLaren

Bruce’s eulogy for Mayer is as follows:

“The news that he had died instantly was a terrible shock to all of us, but who is to say that he had not seen more, done more and learned more in his few years than many people do in a lifetime? 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.”

Teddy Mayer was to play a pivotal role after Bruce’s death in 1970, taking control of the McLaren team until it merged with Ron Dennis’ Project 4 team.

Bruce McLaren is congratulated on his first (and only) New Zealand Grand Prix win in 1964

Eoin Young

Kiwi journalist and writer Eoin Young made his mark as a columnist for Autocar over 30 years. What is not readily known is how important was his relationship with Bruce. Originally, Young was a bank clerk back in Timaru, NZ, and met Bruce at Clelands Hillclimb in South Canterbury. Young introduced Bruce to his future wife, Patty, a local Timaru girl and the rest is history.

Eoin Young poses with the McLaren M6A Can Am car

Young was done with banking and headed to the UK, becoming Bruce’s secretary which morphed into a directorship of the Bruce McLaren Motor Company.

McLaren letter head

He continued to write and eventually returned to full-time journalism in 1966, writing a regular F1 column ‘From the Grid’ for Autocar magazine.

He wrote a number of published books including McLaren’s biography in 1971, McLaren: The Man and His Racing Team, a biography of F1 driver Chris Amon, Forza Amon! (2003) and in 2007 Memories of the Bear, a biography of the 1967 F1 world champion, Denny Hulme.

Bruce takes Eoin for a ride in the M6A at Goodwood

Main picture: In 2009, New Zealand Post issued five stamps called ‘NZ Champions of Motorsport’ which included Bruce McLaren, Scott Dixon, Ivan Mauger, Denny Hulme and Hugh Anderson.

Benjamin Carrell is a freelance motorsport writer and currently edits talkmotorsport.co.nz. He writes for a number of Kiwi drivers and motorsport clubs. That's when he's not working in his horticultural day-job or training for the next road or mtb cycle race!


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