Originally published July 21, 2015 on autoTRADER.ca
It’s often been said to me, as a parent, blink and you’ll miss stuff. Well get a load of this thing.
Hand made from carbon fibre. A twin-turbo 3.8L V8 that cranks out 650 hp. A seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox that swaps gears in milliseconds. Rear-wheel drive. Convertible. Orange.
Like, really orange. Really, really orange. Orange enough to qualify as a Tropicana commercial.
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Did I say blink and miss? Um, no. The McLaren 650S is, of course, as fast as all get out, but it also draws eyeballs like the best supercars do. Admittedly, some of the attention is of the, “Awesome! Wait, what is that?” variety, as shouted at me by a couple of bros in a battered Jetta, but sometimes there was just incoherent screaming. The guy with the full face tattoo really liked it. I exited stage left.
And then, the first speed trap. “Slow down!” screamed a cop on the side of the road, not-in-any-way-incoherently. I wasn’t even speeding. Thanks, orange car.
Having picked up this be-decalled example from the dealership downtown, I immediately got out of the city by the most expeditious route possible and found myself hurtling along the Barnet highway towards Coquitlam. The mission was simple: I knew Bruce McLaren himself had raced in Canada in the 1960s. I can’t find rock-solid evidence that he drove here, at Westwood, but it’s likely as the course was part of the Canadian Sports Car Championship (CASC) circuit he ran in.
Westwood Motorsports Park is long gone, a victim of the developer’s bulldozer, but shadows of the track can still be seen. More than a half-century ago, what a sight it would have been. At Mosport McLaren took the win in his Oldsmobile-powered Zerex Special, ahead of such luminaries as Roger Penske and John Morton. Dan Gurney and Jim Clark were both there, though they sat the race out with broken cars.
Coopers and Cobras, Lotuses and Lolas. There was a Ferrari 250GTO and a Ferrari 250TR. A Scarab, a Porsche 904 GT, a Ferrari Dino. It was a golden age of racing.
The car I’m driving today could put the boots to any of those purpose-built, professionally driven racers, and do so with the air conditioning running full blast and with my honey-cured hamfists on the wheel. Straight-line acceleration is wonderfully violent, a brief pause as you come off the line, then a hip-shaking Tarantino-directed tarmac massacre, bang into second and hello handcuffs.
At the second speed trap, they’ve already pulled over some poor sap in a Honda Civic.
I crawl through Eagle Ridge, right along Paddock Drive. Westwood was a pretty interesting circuit back in the day: not much in the way of runoffs, a large pond you could fly into if you misjudged the hairpin, lots of elevation changes and a big hump at Deer’s Leap. The quiet little neighbourhood development that now occupies the area still echoes with the ghosts of the past.
So too does this brutally modern machine. Bruce McLaren died more than forty-five years ago, but his legacy is still writ large in the company that bears his name.