Bruce McLaren’s buried treasure discovered 57 years later, is up for auction at Goodwood

One of motorsport’s most legendary classic sports cars, the 1964 Bruce McLaren Cooper-Zerex-Oldsmobile “Jolly Green Giant” – something that has become something of a long-lost “holy grail” to collectors – has been discovered, discovered and returned to British soil For the first time in 57 years.

The first sports car to wear the Kiwi late Grand Prix team badge and Le Mans award-winning driver and designer, Bruce McLaren, was unveiled at the Bonhams Quick Sales Festival in Goodwood, where it will go on sale later in the year, at the Goodwood Revival Sale on the 17th. September.

Being the main roots of the all-modern McLaren brand, this iconic machine was a success of the highest order in the hands of three mid-century motorsport legends: not only Bruce McLaren but also Roger Pinske and, formerly, Briggs Cunningham Team driver Walt Hansen.

Not only did the Cooper-Zerex-Oldsmobile have three famous owners, but it also had many variations, constantly being adapted – from single-seat Formula 1 to three sports car variants – to suit evolving racing regulations for three full seasons. from 1962-64, which earned him the reputation of the “Great Transformer”. In the hands of Bruce McLaren, the bodywork of the traditional sports car of the time was modified and painted in the somewhat funky “garden gate” green – the only color available during the quick re-make – earned its nickname, while its track victories garnered widespread admiration.

After virtually disappearing in the late 1960s, this treasure was found dormant and dismantled, buried away in a mysterious warehouse in South America, some 50 years later. After a six-week trek across the US and Europe, the Jolly Green Giant reached British shores last weekend, before being brought to Goodwood for her first public appearance in more than five decades.

Beginning life in 1961 as a 1.5-liter Formula 1 Cooper with a Coventry Climax engine, the car was introduced by America’s most respected team sponsor, millionaire Briggs Cunningham, for driver Walt Hansgen at the 1961 United States Grand Prix at Watkins Glen.

After Hansgen crashed there, the car was sold by Cunningham (for $1,250) to rookie American fast driver Roger Pinske, multi-car title-winner and billionaire president of Penske International. A forward-thinking and genius Penske repaired and rebuilt a Formula 1 car as “the lightweight Grand Prix in sports car apparel”.

The Penske has maintained its central driving position in a sleek, wheel-framed body. Dubbed the brand’s anti-freeze sponsor, the “Zerex Special” in the hands of Roger Penske immediately dominated America’s most important (and most lucrative) sports car race, winning the 1962 Los Angeles Times Grand Prix at Riverside Raceway, ocean The quiet Grand Prix at Laguna Seca and the Puerto Rican Grand Prix at Caguas.

After modifying the car into the form of a traditional sports car with offset driving mode to meet further regulatory changes, Penske then sold it to young Texas entrant, John Mecum Jr., and drove it to win the 1963 races in Marlboro and Cumberland, USA, as well as the main International Ranger’s Cup. In Brands Hatch, England.

Nevertheless, the car cemented its legendary status in the ownership of Bruce McLaren. The then Formula 1 Cooper Car Company The Formula 1 team captain was a longtime fan of this Penske Cooper-Zerex and bought it for 1964. Between Cooper’s Grand Prix races, Bruce was campaigning on the sports car level under his team’s McLaren Motor Racing team. New profile banner.

Using a 2.7-liter Climax four-cylinder engine similar to the Penske’s, Bruce drove it to victory in British International Sports Car races at Aintree and Silverstone, before converting the car to use the Traco’s modified 3.5-liter Traco V8. Upon completion, the hastily modified structure was finished in the only paint the team could find available on an English Sunday: Garden Gate Green, earning it its nickname The Jolly Green Giant.

The Cooper-Zerex-Oldsmobile immediately took further wins in the International 200 Player of the Year race at Mossport Park, Toronto, and powered by an improved 3.9-liter Oldsmobile engine, the International Guard Cup race at Brands Hatch in 1964; The car’s second straight victory there after Roger Pinsky the previous year.

Fittingly, Bruce McLaren’s last racing appearance was in this Cooper-Zerex-Oldsmobile at Goodwood as he started from pole position in the 1964 RAC Tourist Trophy, driving world champion drivers Jim Clark and Graham Hill in their competition cars Lotus and Ferrari. and determining the fastest lap before it is forced out due to clutch failure.

Replacing it in September 1964 with the all-McLaren M1 sports car prototype, this Cooper-Zerex-Oldsmobile passed through three subsequent owners before being acquired by the dealer’s father in South America.

Once kept in disassembled form, this gorgeous sporting gem is basically complete – apart from the body panels – and is still remarkably original. After a six-week trip from South America to the UK, Jolly Green Giant is now back on British shores.

He was greeted by Houdin Ganley, the last survivor of Bruce McLaren’s 1964 team, and later successful Grand Prix, Le Mans and Can-Am. Doug Nye, Bonhams competition car consultant and author of Copper Cars. and Allen Brown, editor of Oldracingcars.com, who witnessed the treasure chest containing the once magnificent sports gem being opened and its contents checked for authenticity.

“I’ve always felt privileged to be Bruce McLaren’s third employee on the store floor,” Ganley said. “Unbelievably, it’s been 58 years since I helped my teammates Tyler Alexander and Wall Wilmot work on the Cooper-Zerex-Oldsmobile. Having just checked out this chassis frame on his return to England, this is definitely the real car for me.”

Nye added: “Opening the box when the car returned to English dirt, to find this iconic piece of motorsport treasure inside, was truly unforgettable. I saw Bruce McLaren’s amazing Goodwood TT engine in 1964, and now I’m here in 2022, dealing With such a wonderful piece of motor racing effects. To me, it’s magical!”

Allen Brown commented, “I’ve known about this car for many years and actually seeing it was great. It’s great to see the cars before they were restored and it was a surprise that this was in such good condition. The climate in South America must have been kind to metal because it was It will erode if it is kept in this country.

“The car was exactly what we expected it to look like and the parts were exactly where they should be. It’s spot on.”

Mark Osborne, Bonhams Global Director of Motorsports, said: “Discovering this automotive treasure from half a world away is our version of Indiana Jones finding the covenant arc, so the significance of multi-level motorsports is absolutely remarkable.

“Among all its headline-grabbing attributes, a career when driven by two of the sport’s most prominent and respected giants – Roger Pinsky and Bruce McLaren – is perhaps the loudest. It was, of course, the first McLaren sports car to carry the iconic Kiwi logo designed by Michael Turner.

“We are truly proud to have the car publicly displayed at the Goodwood Festival of Speed ​​– 58 years later, in Bruce’s hands, it starred in the 1964 Goodwood TT. To celebrate its return home, there could not be a more fitting place.”

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