Let me start by saying that From The Cockpit by Bruce McLaren is absolute must read if you consider yourself a fan of motor racing, cars, mechanics or history.
(Full Disclosure: Bruce McLaren wanted me to read about himself so badly that wrote his autobiography in 1963 and finished it in early 1964, it was published in 1964 and my copy was printed in 1965. I purchased the book with out a second thought after finding a copy for sale on Amazon a few weeks ago. It arrived at my house on Friday and I finished it last night.)
The book begins with Bruce McLaren waking up in a German hospital after his wreck at the 1963 German GP on the Nürburgring. He is questioning weather or not to remain in racing. He then goes on to go through his life through birth in 1937 until 1963.
He talks about his childhood in New Zealand and in his father's garage. His dad was an amateur racer and a good mechanic, who was a huge influence in Bruce's career. He bought the car pictured at the top and used it for a little while in racing until giving it to a 13 yearold Bruce to learn how to drive and race. Bruce drew out a track in their back yard and drove around it until he got his driver's permit and then he transitioned into hill climbs.
After awhile of club racing in New Zealand, Bruce became skilled enough to be sent over to Europe and drive in an F2 Cooper. From there, he recounts his races with the names of the time. Drivers like Stirling Moss, Gahram Hill, Jim Clark, Phill Hill, and his good friend and fellow Cooper driver: Jack Brabham. He talks through the upgrades of each car through his years and how much cars had advanced from front to rear engined cars, from tube frames to monocoques, and 1.5L 4 cylinders to V8's.
Just about every single race that Bruce drove in is in the book with details of each. The early hillclimbs, the F2 races, the F1 races, the sportscar races, the touring car races, Le Mans, and the down under seasons with some Formula Libre races. You get a very candid view of the races, the post race parties and the death that loomed over the drivers of the day. And death is where the book ends. The death of Timmy Mayer in February, 1964 during a practice for the Tasman Series Race at Longford, Tasmania. Where he crashed while doing over 100 mph in his McLaren built Cooper T70. Bruce McLaren wrote Timmy's eulogy that would hauntingly be used for Bruce's own.
"The news that he had died instantly was a terrible shock to all of us, but who is to say that he had not seen more, done more and learned more in his few years than many people do in a lifetime? To do something well is so worthwhile that to die trying to do it better cannot be foolhardy. It would be a waste of life to do nothing with one's ability, for I feel that life is measured in achievement, not in years alone."
That alone is a perfect summation of the book.