Brian Johnson’s Fond Memories of Stirling
I first met the legendary rock star Brian Johnson when he visited us to film an edition of his TV series Cars That Rock on the Jaguar E-type and drove 9600 HP, my Geneva launch Press car, and we have kept in touch. We occasionally meet in our mutual London local pub. Brian spends most of his time in Florida but has a place in Chelsea.
Dear Philip: Thank you so much for sending me the Newsletter. I was so upset when I heard of the passing of the great man. It took me back to 2016 when I first met Sir Stirling at the Ennstal Rally. We met in a large marquee where there were drinks and food, and I was at the same table as Stirling. Richard Frankel said to me, ‘Why don’t you sit next to him and have a chat?’
I believe it was the first time I was speechless: I couldn’t think of anything to say. I was completely in awe of the man. I had so much to ask him but couldn’t.
He, being the gentleman he was, asked me what car I was driving, My ears are pretty shot and I told him I couldn’t hear him for the crowd noise. So we talked about hearing aids for 30 minutes - not what I had in mind for the last 60 years.
The next day I drove with him in the beautiful Jaguar C-type he won 10 races in [XKC 005 which belongs to Richard - see below]. He said, ‘You drive and I'll wave. We were doing the parade lap in the town and we were the lead car. The TV cameras surrounded us and, just before we pulled away, he whispered in my ear: ‘I think you have it in reverse’! God love him, I would have committed the ultimate sin in front of hundreds.
After that we went back to the hotel with Lady Moss, Richard and our wives and spent the happiest time I ever had, drinking wine, telling stories and singing songs.
I shall always cherish that memory.
Stay safe, Phillip
[PP - XKC 005 is the fabulously historic C-type which belonged to Bill Cannell, Jaguar’s Brighton distributor and journalist, racer and rally driver Tommy Wisdom. In June 1952, Stirling drove it in the 50-lap Sports Car race at the Grand Prix meeting at Reims, winning at an average a shade under 100mph. However, the great significance was that this was the first international victory for a car fitted with disc brakes.
It was so hot that after the race, Stirling, on the verge of passing out, struggled to stand for the National Anthem and ‘Lofty’ England told me he had to pour a bucket of water over Stirling to revive him!]
I responded to Brian:
Thank you very much indeed for writing and your wonderful memories of Stirling. However, and it pains me to say this, I find it very hard to believe what you have written - you speechless? Never!
Dear Phillip: It is indeed unbelievable that I was speechless. In fact for a while I was one big vowel movement, a bit like a visit to the dentist. We are like yourselves in lockdown, bored to the back teeth... Don’t forget to put disinfectant on your cornflakes.
Stay safe young Phillip.
Cheers Pvt. B Johnson DLI.
Photos kindly provided by Brian’s wife, Brenda.