Pat McLaren

Bruce McLaren Story

Yes, starting with the much-used quote from Monty Python. “And now for something completely different”. When I was on my New Zealand breakaway, I was given some old race programmes from the 1960s to bring back for a friend of a friend. While having a look through one of the programmes, an old newspaper clipping fell out. This article, from the Christchurch Press in 1961, turned out to be an interview with Bruce McLaren’s mother.

Bruce McLaren

For those that are unaware, the McLaren F1 team and car company was founded by New Zealand race car driver Bruce McLaren. At age 14 Bruce was racing his highly modified Austin 7 around a figure 8 course through his parent’s orchard. When he was 16 he entered his first competitive event, a local car club hill climb. In 1959 Bruce became winner of the NZ International Grand Prix Association’s first “Driver to Europe” scholarship. Bruce was tragically killed at Goodwood in 1970 while testing one of his Can-Am cars. This was a great loss to New Zealand and to world of motorsport. The McLaren motorsport logo is based on New Zealand’s national emblem, the kiwi.

McLaren P1 headlight

Squint at the headlight to see a kiwi

Humbled by a Mini

Where all this links to my Ariel is that one of my late father’s many stories involved Bruce’s wife, Pat. My father once owned a 1966 V8 Chevrolet Impala. He loved that car and loved maximising the V8 power at every opportunity. In a time when most other cars on the road were British “grey porridge”, he thought he was king. One day he came home most upset. He said he had the Chev flat to the floor when he was passed by a woman driving a Mini. He could not believe that had happened to his V8 power and male pride. Much later he found out that the Mini was a modified Cooper S and was being driven my Pat McLaren. Bruce McLaren’s wife. Pat came from the same town as my family so I guess she was back visiting her family.

The paper clipping gives an amazing insight to being a parent of a budding racing driver. I love the language used and the style of the writing. It is hard to imagine the mum of our current crop of F1 stars writing anything as open and honest. 

Finally, thanks again for those restorers that have taken the time to contact me with help and hints. It is really heartening to her other people’s stories and knowing that I have an audience is keeping me motivated.

Speaking of which, it must be time to head back to the garage.