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McLaren’s “first” race car sells for $1 million in auction

Although McLaren’s history is largely remembered starting with the M2B, the team’s first Formula One car that made its debut at the 1966 Monaco Grand Prix, McLaren was established as a racing outfit. three years before competing with cars from other manufacturers.

Over the weekend, a car billed as the first race car ever made by McLaren at an auction in Bonhams to coincide with 2022 Goodwood Revival in the UK, and the sale price ended at £911,000 ($1.03 million).

The car was recently discovered in storage in South America, with all that’s left of basically a rusted chassis, a few body panels and the last engine it ran on, an Oldsmobile 3.9 liter V-8. It started out in 1961 as a Climax-powered F1 Cooper T35P car and was modified six times before reaching its current form. It was sold to McLaren in 1964, which was operating as the Bruce McLaren Motor Racing Team at the time, and has been modified twice when McLaren took hold. McLaren showcased the car at various events that year, with founder Bruce McLaren taking home wins at the Aintree and Silverstone tracks.

1961-1964 Cooper-Zerex-Oldsmobile was owned and raced by McLaren - Photo: Bonhams

1961-1964 Cooper-Zerex-Oldsmobile was owned and raced by McLaren – Photo: Bonhams

Even without the McLaren contact, the car’s pedigree is exceptional. During its first F1 season in 1961, as a Cooper it was crashed by Walt Hansgen at the US Grand Prix, held at Watkins Glen.

It was sold to Roger Penske the following year, who rebuilt it with a more powerful engine, at that time the car was known as the Zerex Special. Penske won at Riverside and Laguna Seca in the US and at Brands Hatch in the UK. It was then sold to McLaren in early 1964.

McLaren would continue to modify the car and win it until the team sold the car in 1965 to Texan amateur racer Dave Morgan. He then sold it to a Venezuelan amateur racer in 1967, at which point it was out of sight. Given the amount of money the current owner has spent on the car, we suspect a full restoration, possibly to the condition the car was in as it was when it was raced by McLaren, will be operational soon.

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