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Bruce McLAREN and the cars that made him

Five of the most significant cars from Bruce McLAREN's lifetime

Driver, designer, engineer, inventor. Bruce McLaren was all of these and more. But what links all four? Cars, of course.

Throughout his short 32-year life, Bruce drove plenty and worked on just as many. Since his passing in 1970, we've produced, driven and raced even more – the most successful of which can be seen as you walk the floor of the MTC Boulevard. But what were the key cars of our founder's lifetime?

52-years on from his death, we look back through a selection of his most significant machines.

Austin Ulster 7


Where would Bruce McLaren be had his father not bought a beat-up 1929 Austin Ulster for $110?

Little more than a bucket of bolts at the time, his father, Les McLaren, brought it home with the intention of making a profit, but Bruce, a mere 13-years-old at the time, convinced him they could make a race car of the four-cylinder, 750cc engine-powered machine.

The canny teenage Kiwi was a long way from becoming the brilliant engineer and race-car driver we remember him as, but that's why the Austin Ulster was such a key pivotal part of his education. The two years he spent restoring the car using second-hand parts, whilst taking it from 72mph to 87mph, was a rite of passage.

Not content with being involved in every element of the restoration, Bruce wanted to learn to drive and race his creation. Still not technically old enough to race, it was his father who initially competed in the Austin Ulster.

Whilst his father raced the Ulster, Bruce taught himself to drive it, and so when his father suffered from gallstones one day, a 15-year-old Bruce entered the race under his father's admission and won it.

McLaren M6A


As much as anything, it's the colour of the M6A that makes it quite so significant. At the first round of the 1967 Can-Am season at Elkhart Lake, out of the McLaren garage, drove a freshly painted papaya orange challenger.

It was thought, by Bruce's business partner Teddy Mayer, that the colour would stand out on black and white televisions, increasing the team's marketability to sponsors whilst also making for a daunting sight in the rear-view mirrors of oncoming cars.

And so, the team's papaya roots were born.

For the bright new lick of paint to stick, it would need to be successful. Thankfully, it wasn't only the colour of the M6A that stood out; its nose, raised tail, and 'wedge' shape was unlike anything else on the grid.

Designed in just 11-weeks by Bruce and his carefully-assembled team, Robin Herd, Gordon Coppuck, Tyler Alexander and Don Beresford, the bodywork was specifically shaped to increase downforce on the Can-Am circuits.

After an extensive testing programme that included more than 2,000 miles of running, the M6A went on to win five of six races as Bruce took the title that year.

McLaren M7C


The M2B was the McLaren team's first foray into Formula 1 in 1966, while it was in the MA7 in 1968 that Bruce won his first – and only – grand prix with the team bearing his name, but it was the M7C in 1969 that proved to be the most consistently competitive and transformative.

Although, the M7C is arguably just as famous for its nickname: 'The Thursday Car'. The initial configuration showed up to the first Thursday practice of the season sporting a radical front-wing, which was dubbed 'the guillotine', and immediately banned.

Inspired by the innovation of its predecessors, but now powered by a Ford Cosworth DFV - which became known as the most successful engine in Formula 1 history – the reconfigured M7C went on to score points in every race it finished, taking three podiums.

Liveried for the first time in our traditional papaya colour scheme and featuring the Speedy Kiwi on the side, Bruce drove the M7C to third in the championship, laying the path for the team you know today.

McLaren M6GT


Used by Bruce on his commute to work and to attend race meetings, the M6GT was technically McLaren's first-ever road car.

Inspired by the dominant Can-Am racing car described earlier, the M6GT was light, low and deafeningly loud. It was also extremely quick. Fuelled by their Can-Am success and the team's increased popularity, an entry to the closed-cockpit Group 4 GT Series was mooted before a rule change rendered it financially impossible.

Still, Bruce had always held ambitions to turn his race cars into road cars and the work already undertaken presented an opportunity to create what would become the highest specification, fastest accelerating road car in the world.

Unfortunately, the project to build 250 production cars ended with Bruce's untimely death, but its DNA and legacy live on through every McLaren road car created since.



The car in which Bruce tragically lost his life. During a test at Goodwood in 1970, our founder drove out of the pits for the last time in the M8D, never to return.

His untimely death inspired McLaren to one of their greatest Can-Am triumphs, winning nine races from just 10 rounds, with Bruce's teammate Denny Hulme dominantly clinching the title.

Nicknamed 'the Batmobile', the car was another of the team's distinctly different designs, featuring a pair of tails fins created to support its low-mounted wing, a change that was enforced by a new rule banning strut-mounted wings. This change resulted in less downforce, and so in went a more powerful 7.6-litre Chevrolet V8 engine to compensate.

For all of the heartbreak, the team had done exactly what Bruce would have wanted by racing on in his memory. And after winning the title in such a dominant manner, it became unthinkable that the McLaren team wouldn't continue.

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