Stirling’s No. 7

Moss and McQueen

Not much information available on these photographic lots from the upcoming Heritage Auctions Vintage Movie Poster and Signature Auction in Dallas next month.

Whether McQueen was taking in (what looks to me like) the 1965 Monaco Grand Prix as research for his potential role in Frankenheimer’s Grand Prix, or—more likely—just because he was a fan, I don’t know. But since this workshop photo is from ’63, and they were photographed together at Brands Hatch in ’62, it seems to me more like a couple of pals taking in the races.

Robo Moss 9000

Comic book artist and character designer Jon Haward was commissioned to create this life-size standup of Sir Stirling Moss for the Goodwood Revival this year. We all knew that Stirling drove like a machine, but this may start to explain some things.

I flipped through some of the Goodwood Revival programmes and ephemera from this year’s event today and I am continually impressed by the commitment to authenticity and to evoking the period so brilliantly by the entire Goodwood team. Jon’s piece here is no exception.

When he was contacted by the branding and design team at Northstar Publishing, who are responsible for much of the Revival’s graphic look, they already had many of the details sorted. As Jon says, it “had to look as if it was from The Eagle comic from the 1950’s, the idea was to show Sir Stirling as a kind of cyborg with a computer for a brain, gears and springs and engine for his legs and chest etc.”

A bit eccentric? A bit specific? Perfectly of the era? Perfectly perfect?


More of Jon Haward’s process on this piece on his blog.

Moroccan GP, 1958

Stirling’s Cooper

I started out looking for a photograph of the Cooper team in 1958 & 59. Not just the drivers, mind you, but the entire team.

It seems like the kind of thing that must exist but I haven’t managed to dig one up. You see, I was playing in my mind the notion of Ferrari’s dreaded garagistas that were making his life difficult and I had this mental image of a dozen or so chaps in a garage piecing the Championship winning Cooper together. I wanted some visual representation of that; of this handful of hot-rodders coming together to compete on the international stage; and figured that there must be a group photo of the team. I still haven’t found one.

But you know how Googling goes… One link leads to another which leads to another and I ended up on this video of Sir Stirling Moss taking us through the paces in a ’59 Cooper Climax at Donnington. That’s worth passing along, right?

Stirling’s New Ride

Auction houses vigorously protect the privacy of their purchasers, but in this case Stirling Moss seems to have wanted to shout from the rooftops about his new car, and so authorized Gooding & Co to announce the proud new owner following their Amelia Island Auctions. One of only fourteen Porsche RS61 Spyders built, and the final evolution of the 50s and 60s Spyder family, this RS61 (chassis 718-070) is indeed a treasure. A treasure befitting the $1,705,000 bid that finally won the car. Whew.

The car has an interesting history, particularly for a machine that spent most of its life in the States. The car took class wins at SCCA National events at Daytona, Lime Rock, Maryland, Meadowdale, and Road America. A further class win at the 1960 Sebring with Bob Holbert and Roger Penske sharing the wheel sealed the deal on a remarkable history book for 718-070.

As to the car’s current condition, which looks absolutely stunning in the photos, perhaps the Gooding catalog for the event says it best:

On a recent test drive by Gooding & Company, this RS61 exhibited all the delightful qualities for which the late Porsche Spyders are renowned: nimble and responsive steering, effective brakes, a lively, free-revving engine and an almost telepathic level of feedback. The Ernst Fuhrmann-designed four-cam loves to climb up the rev-range and emits an unforgettable, staccato bark, made all the more raucous by the single, center-exit stinger exhaust.

Inside, the passengers are treated to a minimalist, business-like cockpit that is an ideal setting for fast, focused driving; yet with its spacious and inviting feel, full FIA windscreen, lightweight bucket seats (easily adjusted for different drivers), clear readable gauges and a comfortable driving position, it would be a reasonable long-distance event car.

Porsche RS61 718-070 at Sebring 1961

Not only is the car a thrill to drive, once placed in the right hands, an RS61 is more than just a class contender – it is a car with the potential for outright victory in any grid of early 1960s sports racers. Yet despite all its on-track talent, an RS61 is capable of driving down the highway in relative comfort and with surprising ease.

Hey Gooding, how do I get that pre-auction test driver job?

The purchase took place just days after Stirling’s fall down his home elevator shaft. It looks like Moss is fully committed to recovering quickly from this broken ankles and returning to the track. Now he’ll just have to decide between this amazing machine and his equally lovely OSCA. Congratulations, Sir Stirling.

Via Classic Rallies.

More Stirling: San Fran, Nancy Sinatra & Telephones

Here’s another shot of Stirling Moss from a late 60s issue of Playboy, this time in an advertisement for AT&T. Naturally, Moss is a giant in the racing world, but I never realized that he was a well known enough figure in the States that he would be in a non-automotive ad in a mass-market magazine. Good Stuff.

Stirling Moss in Playboy

Don’t worry, the photos are safe. This was from the days of Playboy’s immensely high quality interviews and articles. Thanks to the Playboy Cover to Cover project, we can dive back into those days of excellent journalism… among other things.

The September 1962 issue is of particular interest, as it features a 19 page interview with Stirling Moss with the evocative title Stirling Moss: a Nodding Acquaintance with Death. When was the last time you read a 19 page article about anything in a magazine? Surely it must be a sign of the reduced prominence of magazine journalism.

The interview was conducted just after Stirling broke the Goodwood lap record and subsequently crashed the Lotus he was piloting at the time. He had to be cut from the chassis and spent the next two months in hospital. In 1962, it was probably the only place a journalist would have been able to keep him still long enough for an interview of any length. There’s a number of interesting pieces of information in the article, including Stirling’s thoughts on the sheer danger of Formula 1 in one of its most deadly eras:

…”Grand Prix driving, is the most dangerous sport in the world. In some recent years the mortality rate has been 25 percent per year: one of every four drivers starting the season could expect to be dead at the end of it.”

Amazing to think how much the sport has changed in the years since. Massa’s crash and recuperation had F1 fans on the edges of their seats in 2009, it’s hard to imagine a similar injury getting more than a paragraph in the race report 35 years earlier.

Of course the obvious question was: why play such a dangerous game?

“Because it’s also the most compelling, delightful, sensually rewarding game in the world. In a race-driver’s view, endeavors like tennis and golf and baseball are excersises, pastimes: demanding, yes, if you like, but still games that children can play.” … “Bullfighters, mountain climbers, skindivers know something of the racing-driver’s ecstasy, but only in part, because theirs are team sports. Toreros are never alone and mountaineers rarely; the skindiver not usually, and in any case his opponent, the sea, though implacable and deadly, still is passive. When a race-car is passive it is sitting in the garage, and its driver’s seat is as safe as a baby’s cradle”

I’m sure there would be some to disagree that bullfighting and mountaineering are team sports, but the romance of the danger of the era is certainly spelled out clearly enough by the comparison.

A fascinating bit from the author, Ken Purdy, just might be the origin of a long-revered mantra in racing circles. When describing the allure of danger, he recounts a story by famous highwire performer, Karl Wellenda; recounting a quote of his from when he struggled to overcome the tragedy of the Wellenda family’s famous accident in Detroit. “To be on the wire is life; the rest of waiting”.

Adapted years later in Le Mans, McQueen’s riff on this very line would become a catch phrase of amateur and professional racing drivers forever.

Head over to the archive for the complete article, well worth a read.

Life Archives: GP Drivers at the Indy 500

Invasion at Full Throttle!Google Books’ archive of Life Magazine has turned up another wonderful bit of racing history in this ominously titled article about the arrival of Grand Prix cars and drivers at the Brickyard.

Invasion at Full Throttle” may have been a year or two early, but the prediction about the impending dominance of the rear-engined menace from across the pond was fairly accurate. It wouldn’t be long before Jim Clark would indeed be enjoying a bottle of milk at the end of the Indianapolis 500. Of course the author of this particular article would have been in a good position to know a thing or two about the funny little cars heading to the 500; Stirling Moss penned this piece. I’m sure Mr. Moss wasn’t to worried about ruffling a feather or two when he wrote, “I have a hunch that the U.S. will be shocked by what happens. In effect, the race will be an international showdown between our all-purpose, all-weather cars and drivers and your closed-circuit specialists who steer only to the left in beautifully built, overdeveloped, unsophisticated cars that belong to the past.” Overdeveloped AND unsophisticated? Ok, Stirling.

I can just imagine a midwestern race fan not finishing the article once he reached that passage and throwing the crumpled magazine across the living room. But Moss does backtrack a bit, describing his own experience behind an Indy Roadster at the Monza-napolis 500 several years earlier. It’s a wonderful read, especially with the knowledge of hindsight of the Indy at the front/rear engine transition and the impact of the European GP drivers on this most American of races.

Two Views of Monaco ’55

Here’s two fantastic visions of the 1955 Monaco Grand Prix. One is a news blurb style recap in color(!), with a focus on Moss and Fangio’s Mercedes team. I quite like the shot of the pack on the far side of the track, weaving through the Monte Carlo streets. It’s a view we don’t often see of the races today with cameras on every corner of the track. Somehow, seeing the cars in the distance like this makes it feel more like you’re there than seeing every straight and turn.

The other, a home movie shot on grainy 8mm. I can tell you which one I like better. Can you believe how close to the track you were able to stand, filming away happily while these shiny rockets screamed past, narrowly avoiding lamp-posts and curbs? The closeness and immediacy of the home movie displayed below really puts you on the sidewalks of Monte Carlo, as if you briefly glanced over at the passing racing cars on your way into Hermés. It is footage like this that keeps Monaco on the calendar today. Even if huge portions of the romance are gone, Monaco is still magic.