In 1952 aged just 14 years old Bruce McLaren entered his first competition driving event a hillclimb in New Zealand with an Austin A7 Ulster which hois Dad Les had restored. by 1957 he was driving a Cooper Climax which he also modified sufficiently to become runnner up in the 1957 and 1958 New Zealand Formula 2 series.
By the end of 1958 Bruce made his Grand Prix debut in the German Grand Prix driving a works Formula 2 Cooper Climax where he finished fifth but was not awarded any World Championship points which were only awarded to drivers of Formula One cars. Bruce stayed with Cooper for seven years becoming the then youngest Grand Prix winner aged just 22 in the 1959 US Grand Prix at which his team mate Jack Brabham won his clinched his World Championship.
In 1963 Bruce founded Bruce McLaren Motor Racing Ltd and his first car was the Zerex Special a car that had been transformed from a 1.5 litre / 91.5 cui Cooper Climax single seater Formula one car to a two seater sports car powered by an Oldsmobile V8 featuring a tube frame of Bruces own devising, the rechassisied car painted garden gate green was distinguished by eight stub exhausts angled to the rear, won first time out at Mosport in Canada in 1964 and again at Brands Hatch the same year. This car was last seen in Venezuela at the end of the 20th Century.
For 1964 Bruce built 3 Oldsmobible powered M1A sports racing cars which were the first first to bear his name, of which the first Bruce raced, the second was used for testing and the third was a show car. Bruce entered into an agreement with Trojan who were also owners of Elva Cars to build a production run of customer M1A’s under license for the 1965 season.
Today’s featured car is one of the 24 M1A’s built under license and was marketed in the USA as the McLaren Elva Mark 1 which could be fitted with Chevrolet, Ford or Oldsmobile V8’s. This particular chassis #M1A-20-15 was originally supplied to Joe Starkey who is recorded as having won seven events in McLaren Elva Mark 1 chassis in 1965 and 1966, although at the time of writing these achievements have not been specifically ascribed to the chassis featured today. If you believe this car is the one Joe won those races in, as seen winning at Green Valley in 1966 in this linked photo by Jerry Melton please do not hesitate to chime in below.
In 1968 having failed to attract much interest in it’s 3 litre / 183 cui Formula A open wheel series the SCCA opened up it’s premier category to 5 litre / 302 cui stock block motors which over the ensuing 6 years proved extremely popular in the US, UK South Africa and particularly Australia where the F5000 series, as Formula A was known outside the USA, remained a premier category until 1982.
For the new 5 litre / 302 cui regulations Joe Starkey had his M1A transformed into an offset single seater open wheel car running a 500 cc / 30 cui undersized Oldsmobile motor. Starkey’s McLaren in open wheel form can be seen in this grainy linked photo. Joe was not alone converting a McLaren 2 seater into an open wheeler for Formula A.
Since the featured photograph of the car restored to it’s original closed wheel form was taken, with current owner John Bladon driving at Goodwood, the large chrome safety cage has been replaced with a black one of more modest proportions in time for a winter trip to Australia.
I’ll be celebrating McLaren’s first 50 years by featuring 3 more McLarens on Sunday’s for the rest of April.
My thanks to owner John Bladon, David McKinney and RA Historian from The Nostalgia Forum for their help identifying today’s featured car.
Thanks for joining me on this “Racing Transformer” edition of “Gettin’ a li’l psycho on tyres” I hope you will join me again tomorrow. Don’t forget to come back now !