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Teddy Mayer and Bruce McLaren, McLaren M7C Ford 5th, at Monaco on 18 May 1969, the hi-wings disappeared overnight. Hill G won in a Lotus 49B Ford (Schlegelmilch)

 

McLaren ‘owned’ the color papaya and having created brand recognition many marketers can only dream about walked away from the distinctive orange hue…

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Bruce and his M14A Ford before the ‘Race of Champions’ at Brands Hatch, 22 March 1970, DNF after an accident, Jackie Stewart won in a March 701 Ford (Fox)

Bruce McLaren Motor Racing ‘broke through’ in the 1967 CanAm Series, Bruce and Denny crushed the opposition with the fabulous M6A Chev, a joint Bruce and Robin Herd design collaboration.

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Bruce McLaren at Las Vegas 1967, McLaren M6A Chev, it may be a blur but you knew what it was because of the colour, right!  John Surtees won in a Lola T70 Mk3B Chev, both McLaren’s DNF with engine failure (Getty)

 

Modern marketing started in the US. In trying to create ‘cut thru’ or ‘pop’ on then new colour telly the McLaren hierarchy, Teddy Mayer is credited for choosing the distinctive shade which defined the marque until the Yardley McLaren era of 1972.

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Denny Hulme, Kyalami 1972, on the way to a South African GP win in the ‘Yardley’ McLaren M19A Ford (unattributed)

The M6A gave its sponsors a ‘fair crack of the whip’, the ’67 colour stuck, being adopted on the factory CanAm, F1,2,5000 and Indycars until the early seventies.

The photo below is of more significance than i realised when i first saw it on the internet, my friend Derek Kneller recalls; ‘I joined McLaren’s a fabricator having worked at the experimental department of Hawker Siddeley working on the P1127 (Hawker Harrier vertical take off fighter) on 26 March 1968. One of my first tasks was to prepare this car for its first tests with the ‘ally big block 7 litre Chev. I worked through the weekend with Wally Willmott and and Gary Knutson to get the car ready. We essentially ‘hacked’ the back off the M6 and grafted the rear of the proposed ’68 M8 onto the car.’

‘The photo is L>R Denny, Gary Knutson partially obscured, Teddy Mayer, Phil Kerr and Bruce. Wally is in the blue shirt and Jo Marquhart to the right in the suit with overcoat. They are supervising the ‘mule’ M6A/2 at Goodwood on 24 April 1968′. Gary Knutson and Colin Beanland built the engine at Al Bartz’ shop in Los Angeles, its losing oil which is the reason for the concerned faces. George Begg, McLaren confidante and Kiwi racer/car builder took the photo. The papaya M6 rather contrasts with the dull, rolling Sussex hills in the background and the flash pit-counter in the foreground!

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(George Begg)

David Hodges records in his ‘Profile Publications’ article on the McLaren M8 that after this chassis was used in this series of tests, and later aerodynamic work it was returned to M6 specification and then sold.

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Jody Scheckter’s works McLaren M21 Ford BDF F2 car during the ‘BARC 200’ Euro F2 Championship round at Thruxton, 3 April 1972. Jody DNF with overheating, race won by Ronnie Peterson’s March 722 Ford BDF (M Hewitt)

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Andrea De Adamich’s McLaren M14D Alfa Romeo, Mont Tremblant, Canada 1970. DNF engine, race won by Ickx’ Ferrari 312B (Schlegelmilch)

Until Yardley’s arrival on the side of the M19 a swag of sponsors logos sat comfortably on McLarens against the gorgeous, distinctive from afar, shade.

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#5 Denny Hulme and Peter Revson’s McLaren M20 Chevs at Donnybrooke, Minnesota , 17 September 1972 (Upitis)

Lotus, the leader in so many aspects of racing showed the power of wholistic F1 branding of a racing car with the ‘fag packet’ Gold Leaf Team Lotus, Lotus 49’s which first appeared in the Wigram, New Zealand round of the Tasman Series 0n 20 January 1968. Jim Clark raced, just, in the early months of the year in the ‘modern advertising era’.

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Jim Clark in the Teretonga paddock, Lotus 49 DFW, his GLTL Lotus freshly painted car finished 2nd to Bruce’ works BRM P126, painted traditional green! 27  January 1968 (Ian Peak)

Of course the Americans had refined the art (advertising on racing cars) for 50 years before the rest of the world caught up, or regressed depending upon your view of it. You cannot imagine Cadbury abandoning purple yet McLaren walked away from a signature colour which defined their cars in a most distinctive way. I’m not suggesting Bruce and the boys had as much brand equity in papaya as Cadbury in purple but you get my drift.

Ferrari of course are the prime example of a marque who ‘own red’. Their sponsors have always obtained the coverage sought against a red background rather than Ferrari adopting the ‘packaging’ of their corporate partner of the season or decade!

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Denny Hulme on his way to winning the 1968 Canadian GP at Mont Tremblant, Bruce was 2nd in a great day for the team. McLaren M7A Ford (unattributed)

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Peter Revson, Indy qualifying 17 May 1972, McLaren M16B Offy. Peter started from grid 2 but DNF with ‘box failure after 5 laps. Mark Donohue won in Roger Penske’s customer M16B (Bob D’Olivo)

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Hulme’s McLaren M20 Chev at Donnybrooke in 1972, Francois Cevert won in an ex-works M8F, both McLarens DNF with popped Chevys (Upitis)

In more recent times papaya has staged a comeback appearing on the McLaren F1 GTR LeMans car, occasionally as an F1 testing colour and as a favoured choice on its exotic road cars…

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Pedro de la Rosa and Mika Hakkinen in early 1997 testing of their McLaren MP4/12 Mercedes at Jerez, they raced in boring silver of course (reddit.com)

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McLaren M20 Chev in 1972, almost a CanAm signature, the staggered injection trumpets used from 1970 (Getty)

Credits…

Rainer Schlegelmilch, Alvis Upitis, Getty Images, Fox Photos, Bob D’Olivo, Michael Cooper, reddit.com, George Begg, Ian Peak Collection/The Roaring Season, Duncan Fox, Derek Kneller, David Hodges ‘The McLaren M8 Series’

Tailpieces: McLaren F1 GTR set against the Dunlop Bridge 16 June  1996, Le Mans 24 Hour…

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(Michael Cooper)

Victorious Papaya Blur…

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Bruce on his way to a win at Spa in 1968, M7A Ford (Schlegelmilch)

 

 

 

 

Comments
  1. jacky andrzejewski says:

    modern mclarens in orange are pedro de la rosa (pedro on his crash helmet) and mika hakkinen.

  2. Every year I hope (in vain) that McLaren will return to their roots with orange livery…such a spectacular colour!

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