There is a famous old photo of Bruce McLaren’s car. It’s parked outside a corner shop in East Horsley, with its doors up, slouched in the chaise-longue driver’s seat of a Can-Am racer. If you decide to Google it, you won’t be disappointed. Fitted with treaded tires, and enclosed with in-flame red bodywork, it was, to all intents, a street-legal McLaren supercar, 23 years before the F1. It quickly becomes Bruce’s daily driver. It’s tough knowing that he died on the day he drove it to Goodwood in 1970.
Fifty years later, and about 4,000 miles west of those leafy Surrey suburbs, the same car sits beneath the aging ironwork of Chicago’s overhead railway. In the city that inspired Gotham, the car is the British Batmobile they never had. A cartoonish doorstop that is completed with pop-up headlights, and flip-up doors, manually raised using finger holes in the pods.
Bruce’s McLaren – The Needle in the Hay
It took a while to track down. It has a very private and incredibly generous owner, who’s agreed to let it be in the wild for a while. It’s even more remarkable when you find out that this car has covered only 2,094 miles in its entire life.
In 1969, McLaren was at the peak of his powers in the Can-Am series. His machines were unbeatable, and you understand why he fancied his chances in the arena of endurance racing too. He had a plan to enter the WSC (World Sportscar Championship), including the 24 Hours of Le Mans, against the Ferrari 512, Porsche 917, and the Ford GT40.
Bruce was just 32 when he died while testing his monstrous M8D Can-Am car. He was already a veteran racer, and he’d been considering quitting driving to focus on building up the business. Who knows, if he’d come home from Goodwood that day, the GT might have made it into production. And then, the Seventies supercar story would have had a whole other chapter.