Boyhood fan lands Bruce McLaren’s Jaguar
Bruce McComish treats his Mk2 Jaguar like a ‘mobile shrine’ to its first owner, formula one driver Bruce McLaren.
In 1958, in Lower Hutt on New Zealand’s North Island, young Bruce McComish followed the career of another Bruce with avid interest. He had seen Bruce McLaren racing at the nearby Levin circuit and became a devoted fan.
“In the first place, he had this terrific name,” jokes McComish. “He was a young crowd favourite, competing against bigger cars and more experienced drivers. I just wanted to be like him.”
Soon after, McLaren won the New Zealand Driver to Europe award and headed off to try his luck racing at Brands Hatch, Monaco and the Nürburgring.
“All that the Driver to Europe got him was a plane ticket,” notes Bruce. “But he made the most of the opportunity and quickly established himself as number two to Jack Brabham in the Cooper team.”
Bruce McComish next to Bruce McLaren's Jaguar
I’d wanted a Jaguar since I collected cereal-box cards of the Le Mans-winning Jaguars as a boy.
When Jaguar introduced the 3.8-litre Mk2 model in 1959, the first 20 examples were built to high specifications for celebrity owners. Car number 14 went to McLaren.
Bruce followed McLaren’s career until his death in 1970 at England’s Goodwood Circuit. He never lost his admiration for his boyhood idol or his love of cars.
Having passed through several owners, in the 1990s McLaren’s car was put up for sale by international blind tender, with single sealed bids. The highest bid was the winner.
“I’d wanted a Jaguar since I collected cereal-box cards of the Le Mans-winning Jaguars as a boy,” Bruce says. “Moving around so much in my career, I’d never been able to indulge that passion until settling in Melbourne. When I heard a Mk2 Jaguar first owned by Bruce McLaren was for sale, I couldn’t resist it.”
McLaren reputedly availed himself of all the performance options available. “He used it as his reconnaissance car, to familiarise himself with circuits,” Bruce says. “Later his father owned it in New Zealand, where Stirling Moss and Denny Hulme drove it, before it came to Australia.”
Bruce, an industrial economist, did his sums. But his wife Anne told him not to bid like an accountant, but to “add a thousand to your bid”.
Soon after, there was a call to say the car was his, with a bid $1000 higher than the next.
“Now I treat his car like a mobile shrine,” Bruce says, “although I am sure that McLaren tinkered with it for maximum performance.”