There are few racing greats as great as Bruce McLaren.
Along with a small but dedicated squad of fellow Kiwis, the New Zealand-born McLaren designed, built and raced some of the most successful cars in Grand Prix, Can-Am and IndyCar history. All on a shoestring budget and all making it up as he went along.
Now that remarkable life has been captured in a documentary called, simply, “McLaren.”
The film’s 92 minutes consist almost entirely of original black and white film, still photos and some re-enactments that flow perfectly into the rest of the movie. You’ll be drawn in by the humble beginnings of this brilliant engineer, including his start working alongside his dad in his dad’s garage and a pivotal visit when Jack Brabham (not yet Sir Jack Brabham) used the garage as headquarters for his participation in the New Zealand Grand Prix, taking young Bruce under his wing. That was really the pivotal point in McLaren’s life. From there, he went to Cooper, where he started winning races around the world. And from Cooper, he started his own company, which is with us to this day, many, many championships later.
Bruce McLaren wins again
The interviews we get to see are all of the real team members, sponsors and fans, including competitors like Mario Andretti. There are wonderful insights, too. For instance, McLaren went to America to race in Can-Am because there was no money in F1! We also get to see, twice, real documentary footage of Bruce McLaren reading Competition Press (which later became this fine media outlet). And there is praise from all the surviving team members — “If Bruce came in and said, ‘Today we’re marching across the Sahara,’ we’d’ve all said, ‘OK Bruce, when do we leave?”
But ultimately the film is a tragedy. As we all know, Bruce McLaren left us at the age of 32, after a crash while testing at Goodwood. The memory is still too painful for his teammates, who can’t fight back the tears in retelling the events of that sad day. You might find yourself reaching for a Kleenex or two as well.
Was it worth it? McLaren himself said at the funeral of his friend and teammate Timmy Mayer, “To do something well is so worthwhile that to die trying to do it better cannot be foolhardy.”
The McLaren movie poster
You can see it this Saturday June 24 at 7:00 p.m. at the Petersen Museum in Los Angeles. It will also be shown during the Monterey weekend later this summer. There will be other showings and other ways to see the movie, but distribution is still being worked out. But do keep an eye out. It will be the best movie you see all summer.
Note: The following, somewhat cryptic, non-specific email just came in from the distributor: Multiple special screenings planned: Petersen Museum (6/24); Scottsdale, Arizona (7/16); Huntington (Long Island), New York (8/2); Stamford, Connecticut (8/3); Monterey, California (August 18); leading to digital release after Pebble Beach, California, (August 25) through various video-on-demand platforms.
As for the website, it’s mclarenfilm.com
We hope they update that website because as of now it does not say where the film will be shown in any of those locations. But keep checking. It’ll be worth it.