13 February 2009
Andrew Ralston talked to Sir Stirling Moss about the models that chart his driving career. ...
"Who do you think you are? Stirling Moss?"
The old joke about the policeman and the speeding motorist is now so firmly embedded in popular culture that you can buy a tee-shirt with these words emblazoned across the front. That in itself is an indication of how Sir Stirling remains the best-known and best-loved of all racing drivers, even though he’s been retired from the sport since 1962 – some 22 years before Lewis Hamilton was even thought of! As his biographer Robert Edwards puts it: ‘There are people who drift in and out of public awareness, and then there are others whose impact is so fundamental, so definitive, that people simply never forget them – such a man is Stirling Moss.’
You don’t need to be an expert in motor racing history to see why Sir Stirling has such a reputation. It has been calculated that he entered more than 500 racing events, and won approximately 40% of them. As a Grand Prix driver between 1954 and 1962 he achieved 66 wins, starting with a famous victory in the 1955 British Grand Prix. Yet he never won the world championship – though he might have done in 1958 had his innate sense of fairness not led him to stand up for his rival Mike Hawthorn, who had been penalised in the Portuguese Grand Prix, allowing Hawthorn to go on to clinch the championship by a single point. But Stirling Moss’s achievements weren’t confined to formula racing: he was equally successful in rally and sports car events, especially in 1955 when he won the Mille Miglia and Targa Florio. A serious accident in a Lotus at Goodwood in 1962 brought his career to an end but certainly didn’t lessen his profile. In fact, even at the age of 79 he is as active as ever in historic racing events. When he spoke to ‘Diecast Collector’ last September, he had just been to the Goodwood Revival and was soon to leave for ‘La Festa Mille Miglia’, a 1000-mile classic sports car rally taking place in Japan.
Much has been written about Stirling Moss the racing driver – but what about Stirling Moss the model car collector? Among the memorabilia on display in his Mayfair home is a sizeable selection of models. ‘I drove 84 different cars in the course of my career,’ he says, ‘and I’ve got models of most of them. I think the oldest one I have is a Sunbeam. It was given to me by a fan but seems to have lost one of its wheels!’ The model is the Dinky Toys version, carefully repainted and upgraded with the correct licence plate and ‘500’ roundels on the doors to resemble the car which secured him a Coupe des Alpes d’Or in 1954 after three successive victories in the Alpine Rally. Who knows? Today, the fan who made the model might even be a reader of ‘Diecast Collector’. . .
* This is part of a feature that was published in the February issue of Diecast Collector.