Stirling Moss - Some Personal Memories
By Mark Cole - Motorsport Commentator and Author
I know that you will be as sad as I in losing our hero. I was fortunate to grow up in Tring, Hertfordshire, where Stirling lived with his family at White Cloud Farm, and on Monday mornings during school holidays, my 10-year old pals and I would hang on the gate waiting for him to return from his latest race; he would always stop and talk to us.
My passion for racing grew from that, and Stirling Moss’s Book of Motorsport Sport (1955) was an early Christmas present. I first met him through our neighbour Norman Ward, who raced Ford Zodiac saloon cars, and it was he, Stirling and Mike Keele (who went on to build Keele Karts) who started the karting at Long Marston airfield. The USAAF was still in residence there in the 1950s, and American airmen brought over these new-fangled go-karts from California, and it became an international craze. The circuit had two corners I remember well, Wardy’s Wiggle and Stirling’s Bump.
Later Norman took me to Silverstone regularly, where we would meet Stirling (who always had time to introduce me, still in short trousers, to his friends including Mike Hawthorn). Stirling was always very amenable, and in the early 1980s I ghosted his motoring column in Harpers for a few months, visiting him at his hi-tech Shepherd’s Market house.
I loved your Stirling Moss scrapbooks and those, along with many other Moss books, autographs and models, I will treasure for the rest of my life.
Michael Kliebenstein - Author and Automobilist
When I asked him in which car he would like to be driven at London Classic Car Show in London, he immediately pointed at my 1922 Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost.
He said that he had lots of respect for the immense quality of the early Silver Ghosts and that they played numerous and diverse roles in the history of Great Britain. But above all that they were masterpieces of automotive design. And he added the old Rolls-Royce mantra that “... obviously the quality remains long after the price has been forgotten”!
He enjoyed the drive and I was very taken by the fact that he really appreciated the old Ghost. Other cars we gave him to choose from were a Blower Bentley, a Ferrari 275 GTS and a Maserati Tipo 26 B. A truly great man who appreciated history and quality so much.
Philip Porter - Author, Publisher and Close Friend
For me, it all starts in 1956. I was just five and my parents took me to Silverstone for the International Trophy Meeting. Stirling - my hero was driving a DB3S and for Vanwall. I was no doubt a real pain because I excitedly pointed him out to my parents on every lap he passed our grandstand.
To every schoolboy in the ‘50s and ‘60s, he was the perfect role model: daring, courageous, patriotic, successful, dated beautiful women and often won against the odds.
Fast-forwarding to the late ‘90s, he accepted my invitation to become Patron of our Jaguar XK Club - ‘On a strictly non-participatory basis, Old Boy’. He then came to every one of our Annual Dinners, at the House of Commons, for at least the next 10 years. I would interview him after dinner and the capacity audience of 170 would love it. We had so much fun and our friendship rapidly grew.
I have so many memories of our time together, sometimes just us, sometimes with our wives. We had so much fun and laughed so much. As I got to know him better and better, our friendship grew to the stage where I could tease him. Of course, he would give as good as he got.
One of the things I treasured most was the absolute trust. We did four books together - the four Scrapbooks we published. We never even had a contract.
As to money, Stirling could be very careful but also very generous. On one occasion about 14 years ago I, together with colleagues Abi (who designs these Newsletters) and Clare, were at the house for two days - I was marking in Stirling’s scrapbooks what was to be copied and the girls were scanning like mad. At one point Clare was making tea in the kitchen and Stirling ‘told her off’ for not using a tea bag more than once!
However, on a number of occasions we went out for dinner, sometimes the three of us, or four of us, or in a larger party. Almost every time, Stirling would insist on paying for everyone. In fact, he had usually had a discreet word with the Maitre d’ on the way in and made his wishes clear. Very generous and you couldn’t argue because it was already sorted.
I used to take a pile of books to Stirling and Susie’s house in Mayfair for Stirling to sign. They were in slipcases in individual book boxes in cartons of six. I would park in the garage, carry the boxes through Stirling’s office, take them up in the infamous lift to the first floor and into the main sitting room. There I would take the individual book boxes out of the cartons, the book and slipcase out of their boxes and the books out of the slipcases. It was chaos with piles of cartons, book boxes, slipcases and books everywhere. I had wrecked their tidy room.
Stirling would then come and sign them in batches and I would repeat the process in reverse: books into slipcases, into boxes, into cartons, into lift, into car. On occasions the lift, which would become famous for all the wrong reasons, would refuse to work for me. Susie would come and shout at it, kick it and thump it. The lift then obeyed instructions but it was a cussed creature.
After Stirling famously fell down the lift shaft and, remarkably, survived and made a pretty good recovery, I suggested he put a trampoline at the bottom in case it happened again. ‘Can’t do that, Old Boy - I’d hit my head on the roof!’
All the publicity at that time helped our book sales. I said to him, ‘When sales tail off, I’m going to push you down again!’
At some stage, we had changed our Range Rover for a Discovery - the original one with a raised roof at the back. We carefully checked the height of the garage and decided it would just fit. I carefully reversed in and began the process described in tedious detail above. Not being very bright, I had not thought what might happen to said Discovery when it became rather lighter. It wedged itself against the ceiling of the garage.
Rather sheepishly, I told Stirling, who was in the room directly above, what the current situation was. His splendid response was: ‘I thought I felt the floor rising!’
For at least 10 years, in spite of his packed schedule, Stirling and Susie would visit our stand at the Goodwood events, at both Festival and Revival, twice a day for 20 minutes or often more on the Friday, Saturday and Sunday to sign our Stirling Moss Scrapbooks. For at least six years, Murray Walker would do the same, signing the Scrapbook we did together.
For obvious reasons, they would be scheduled to avoid clashing. On occasions, though, the track timings, which impacted on Stirling’s schedule, would have been affected by accidents or whatever. Thus several times they would be on the stand together, which was great fun and lovely for them as they were great friends.
While we had two queues and were trying to cope with all the sales, our wonderful Rob Schulp would be outfront, drumming up sales. ‘Come and meet the legend that is Stirling Moss and get your book signed. Come and meet the man with the most famous voice in motor racing...’ When Murray first saw Rob in action, he said to me afterwards, ‘That chap is worth his weight in gold.’ True.
Rob had some great lines. Memorably, when they were both on the stand, Rob referred to them to his audience, as ‘The Ant and Dec of motorsport!’
One of Susie Moss’s favourite stories she told me involved both Stirling and Murray. One evening, they gave a talk together on a cruise ship. Next day, a lady went up to Murray and said, ‘You were awfully good last night. And that commentator chappie wasn’t bad either’!
I recall being at Goodwood Revival in, I guess, 1999. Stirling’s 70th birthday was being celebrated and he was driven round the track by Damon Hill dressed as a chauffeur. The car was an enormous Cadillac and Stirling was in the back with a Marilyn Monroe lookalike. It had been raining earlier but luckily had now stopped.
After completing their lap, Damon drove into the paddock and happened to stop right by where I was standing. The rear door was opened and, as there was a puddle adjacent, Stirling gallantly lifted the young lady and placed her on the ground beyond the puddle.
I heard him mutter, very quietly so no-one else would hear, ‘Just like the old days: pick ‘em up, drop ‘em immediately’!
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