Amanda McLaren has opened up on the legacy of her beloved dad, Bruce McLaren, revealing her fondest childhood memories in the new movie honouring the life of the Kiwi motorsport icon.

The only child of the New Zealand racing legend, Amanda McLaren was just 4 years old when her father was tragically killed in a crash during testing at England's Goodwood Circuit on June 2, 1970.

In a heart-breaking account, she has revealed her memories from that dark day and how the movie shines a light on the man behind the McLaren empire.

Documenting the life of the boy whose love for motorsport took him from a Remuera petrol station to Formula 1 glory, McLaren opens at the New Zealand box office on Thursday - the day before the 47th anniversary of his passing.


In Amanda's only New Zealand interview on the upcoming film, she says while her dad's racing and manufacturing achievements are well known, Bruce's "untold story" off the track are what take centre stage in the new Kiwi-made movie.

"What comes through very strongly in the documentary is Bruce the father - the family man - and his leadership qualities," McLaren told the Weekend Herald from Woking, England.

"They're interviewing some of his old team, mechanics and drivers, and without exception every one of those men are in tears talking about June 2, 1970, when my father was killed."

Despite being only four years old, McLaren has a clear memory of that day 47 years ago - and how her devastated mother, Patty, did her best to protect her.

"I can recall going to a friend's house that afternoon and being given a doll set to play with. I had no idea what had happened, to me it was just going to a friend's house, they had young children, so it was just another normal day for me," she said.

"Obviously, my mother's world had completely turned upside down. But she very much shielded me from it. It was a slow realisation that daddy wasn't there anymore.

"By the time I really understood what had happened, I was quite a bit older and probably much more able to cope."

But she feels fortunate to have had her father's life so comprehensively recorded and preserved.

"I have a number of friends who lost a parent at a young age and all they have are family photos and some memories of the surviving parent," she said.

"I have all these people who remember him so well and constantly receive emails and Facebook messages from people with wonderful stories about meeting my father.

Part of that preservation is the McLaren company. The cars first created by Bruce are now part of one of the world's top luxury brands. It's enduring presence in Formula 1 is also a vital part of the wider legacy, with Ferrari the only other manufacturer to be involved in F1 from the 1960s.

Kiwi motorsport legend Bruce McLaren is the the subject of the new documentary McLaren.
Kiwi motorsport legend Bruce McLaren is the the subject of the new documentary McLaren.

In 2014, UK-based Amanda and her husband, Stephen, accepted roles as ambassadors for McLaren Automotive - bringing the daughter of the company's founder back home.

"When you start working at McLaren, you go to HR and get your photograph taken and it goes on your ID card," she said.

"But what security did was put that photo of me as a four-year-old [sitting in one of her dad's prototype cars] on my ID card. It's a lovely a gesture.

"Every car that leaves McLaren whether it's a road car or a race car, has still got my dad's name on it. For me that's the most fantastic tribute to him and what he achieved."

From left to right - Denny Hulme, Phil Kerr and Bruce McLaren chat in pit lane.
From left to right - Denny Hulme, Phil Kerr and Bruce McLaren chat in pit lane.

Affectionately re-telling anecdotes about how her father would give jobs at McLaren "if you were a New Zealander and knocked on the workshop door", McLaren said there are still plenty of Kiwis walking the corridors of the company's Woking HQ.

Similarly, she says it's equally fitting for the upcoming documentary to be Kiwi made.

Directed by Roger Donaldson - the man behind the critically-acclaimed The World's Fastest Indian about Invercargill's two-wheel motorsport icon Burt Munro - the film casts Auckland-born actor Dwayne Cameron as a young Bruce McLaren.

"It really is a New Zealand production by New Zealand people," Amanda McLaren said. "It's been very cleverly done, they've merged scenes with current actors into the documentary. Because there's no speaking part for Dwayne there's no realisation it's not the real thing.

"It's not like it's a movie, it's to link the story together. It's been done very nicely.

"The on-track achievements are quite well known, but Roger and his team have really picked up on the untold side of dad, Bruce McLaren as a man and his story.

"Dad would be so proud to see what the company has become - and see that his name is still attached to it."

Bruce McLaren

• Born: August 30, 1937 in Auckland.
• Died: June 2, 1970 (32).
• McLaren died in a crash during testing at Goodwood Circuit in England.
• Raised in Remuera, McLaren went to Meadowbank Primary School.
• Henderson South Intermediate was renamed Bruce McLaren Intermediate shortly after McLaren's death.
• McLaren was diagnosed with Perthes disease age 9 which left his left leg shorter than his right.
• He founded McLaren Automotive in 1963. Today the company is one of the world's top luxury car brands.
• McLaren won four Formula 1 Grand Prix events, including Monaco in 1970 - his last win.
• He also won the iconic Le Mans 24-hour race in 1966.
• McLaren was laid to rest in Waikumete Cemetery in Glen Eden.