Bruce McLaren’s First Race Car Discovered In A Storage Container
— 8 September 2022

Bruce McLaren’s First Race Car Discovered In A Storage Container

— 8 September 2022

Bruce McLaren’s back catalogue is remarkable, to say the least. The New Zealand-born icon was not only a prolific racing car designer, he also raced and engineered almost everything named after him. Establishing McLaren Automotive in 1963, pretty much every car since then has either sat on display at McLaren headquarters or found its way into a private collection. 

One car, however, has previously slipped through the cracks: Bruce’s first-ever race car to wear the official badge. That is, until now. Unearthed from a storage container sitting in South Africa, the unicorn is on track to be auctioned at the Goodwood Revival.

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The car was known amongst cult circles as the “Transformer” due to the fact it raced as seven different iterations over the years.

It started life in 1961 as a Cooper Climax T35P Formula 1 car, but after a crash at the United States Grand Prix, it was rebuilt in 1962 for America’s sports car series.

From 1962 to 1967, the car competed in various amateur racing series (McLaren included), eventually ending up in the hands of a South African-based Venezuelan driver, whom we assume stored the car and just forgot to tell anyone about it.

The official guises of the Transformer were:

  • From 1961: Formula 1 Cooper-Climax Single-Seater To Roger Penske’s 1962 Zerex Special Centre-Seater
  • From 1962: Zerex Special Centre-Seater to Roger Penske’s 1963 Offset-Drive Zerex Special
  • From 1963: Offset-Drive Zerex Special to Bruce McLaren’s 1964 Cooper-Zerex Special
  • From 1964: Cooper-Zerex Special to his 1964 Cooper-Zerex-Oldsmobile

Bonham’s auction house describes the restoration as “doable,” although we suggest going down to your local panel beater before you start sandblasting it. The motoring elite expects this one to go north of a million.

Justin Jackie is an experienced freelance writer, with more than half a decade of expertise in the world of automotive reporting and reviewing. With a breadth of Australian-based and international experience, his by-line has appeared in the likes of the New York Times, T Magazine, Mr Jones, Prestige Online and more. 

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