Exclusive: Trust says it was a heart-wrenching decision but to keep it would have bankrupted it.

An irreplaceable piece of New Zealand history has been sold and is about to head overseas.

The car driven by Bruce McLaren when the legendary Kiwi won his last race now has a contract on it which the Herald understands is for around $1.5 million.

The McLaren M8A-2, which was gifted to the Bruce McLaren Trust in the mid-1990s, was restored through fundraising to its former glory.

Bruce McLaren in 1967. Photo / Getty Images

But the car is now destined for the United States after the trust confirmed it had made the "heart-wrenching" decision to sell.


It says the car's maintenance and running costs were around $100,000 a year, and no other organisations could meet that commitment. However, the decision has disappointed some enthusiasts.

The Can-Am sports car, which was built at the McLaren factory in England, was the official team car for champion Kiwi driver Denny Hulme but also used by McLaren in the final race of the 1969 series when he won the Can-Am championship.

After he died the following year the car was bought by an American but was badly damaged and in 1978 ended up in the care of Museum of Transport and Technology in Auckland.

The McLaren Trust's website said at some point the vehicle was "misplaced" but was found on a farm by members of the Northern Sports Car Club and claimed from the property's new owner, who was preparing to bury the dilapidated car. It was stored in an Otahuhu warehouse and the club became involved in a protracted ownership dispute with Motat.

In 1995 Jan McLaren helped form the Bruce McLaren Trust to honour her brother, and all parties agreed to grant ownership of the car to the trust.

Yesterday Northern Sports Car Club president Vicki Burnitt said it was agreed the car would not be sold, and the reversal of that had disappointed some.

However, she recognised the position the trust had found itself in financially.

Ms McLaren told the Herald the almost 20-year restoration cost around $500,000, of which about $200,000 was met through fundraising.

The intention was that the car would stay in New Zealand, Ms McLaren said, but running and maintenance costs of around $100,000 a year were too much.

The decision meant the trust's other work, which includes perpetuating McLaren's memory and supporting the Bruce McLaren Intermediate School in Henderson could continue.

"It has been a heart-wrenching decision, for sure ... and, yes, a lot of people haven't agreed with it ... but it literally would bankrupt us. "We cannot service it, and nobody else is willing to service it. So it would end up stuck in a dusty museum and deteriorate again. And that's not a good memorial."


• Car driven by legendary New Zealand driver and engineer Bruce McLaren to leave the country after being sold to an overseas buyer.
• The car had been painstakingly restored over 20 years by the Bruce McLaren Trust, which had planned to keep it in New Zealand.
• However, the trust says running costs of $100,000 a year meant it had little choice but to sell - a move that has disappointed car enthusiasts.