Sunday, April 12, 2020

VALÉ - SIR STIRLING MOSS - FAREWELL OLD FRIEND by John Crawford

It's coming up to the 40th anniversary of the first time we met. It was 1981 and some sleazebag had brought Stirling and a number of famous international drivers to Melbourne for an event called 'Tribute to Champions' - but then the organiser left town without paying anybody; drivers without accommodation; and no return airfares.

A mutual friend appealed to me to help the great man, and by juggling my PR budget I paid for a few nights at a 5-star hotel, loaned him a Jaguar to use in Melbourne and a First Class airfare back to London.

We've been close friends ever since, and not just Stirl and JC; but it's been a family affair with both our wives becoming dear friends, and all of us watching young Elliot Stirling Moss growing up. Elliot took over managing Stirling's many properties a number of years ago.
Yes, I was at Warwick Farm in 1962 when Stirling Moss beat Jack Brabham; Moss, yours truly and Juan Fangio in 1985; Our first 'Jaguar Promo Job' at the defunct Warwick Farm track; with Sydney radio personality John Laws, who was desperate to meet Moss.

This collection of photos, which are not all in my personal archive, but just those I could locate quickly, tell the story of a close and affectionate relationship between two friends 14 years apart, but via our love of motor racing, as close as twin brothers.
Stirling, James Hunt and JC in Adelaide 1990; at 46 Shepherd Street in 1988 with young Elliot proudly showing off his broken arm, plus Caesar the Westie; in Los Angeles in 1990 for the Mosses 10th wedding anniversary.

One of our most special get togethers was in 1990 when Yvonne and I were invited to join a group of Stirling and Susie's close American motor racing friends in Los Angeles to celebrate their 10th wedding anniversary. It was some dinner, at the St. James Club in Beverley Hills. The guests included Phil and Alma Hill, plus Dan and Evie Gurney.

Stirling and I worked together for many years to improve the image of the Jaguar marque in Australia, and the USA. One of those moments which was extra special was when Stirling and I joined Juan Fangio in 1985 at the inaugural Australian Formula One Grand Prix in Adelaide.
In 1991 Stirling and JC doing a double act; in 1992 we met at the Monterey Historic Races and the Pebble Beach Concours, then the Mosses invited us for Xmas lunch in their Fort Lauderdale vacation home.

Every time we visited London, we were invited to occupy the guest room on the 6th floor at 46 Shepherd Street, and were woken every morning by the Moss's West Highland White terrier, Caesar, who climbed the spiral staircase and barked outside our door to be let in for an official 'good morning'.

We met all over the world - Australia, Great Britain, America, the Continent and once in Hong Kong where Stirling showed me what a canny negotiator he was, bargaining for 'tech'. 
Happy get together in Fort Lauderdale with Derek and Misti Bell in 2014, and last time we visited them in Aventura, Florida in 2015. One of my favourite photos of Sir Stirling and Lady Moss (2015) and my very favourite photo of the two of us at Pebble Beach in 2004.

The funny thing about Stirling was that as a racer he was brilliant, but as a tech freak, he was hopeless. But if it was the latest thing he must have it. I'm a genuine tech-head, and once on a visit to Shepherd Street he opened a cupboard in the garage full of discarded tech items. He said: "See these, I got these just because you had them, but I don't know how to use them, do you know anyone who'd want to buy them?"

On another visit, stepping off a BA flight from Detroit at 6am, I arrived at Shepherd Street around 8am, and Stirling grabbed me by the arm, saying: "Quick, old boy, put your suitcase in the office, we've got to get round to Elgin Mansions (one of the many properties he owned in London) quick smart, the silly bloody tenants have broken the door lock". He hustled me onto the back of his motor scooter, with his feet on the toolbox, me holding the new doorlock, with my arms locked around his waist, and we took off like an F1 event to whizz across London to effect urgent repairs!

Forty years of memories, great experiences, and like most of his mates, a loving friendship. Despite the hundreds of friends they have around the world, somehow Stirling and Susie made you feel you were their 'best friends' whenever we got together.

Sadly because of the COVID19 restrictions Yvonne and I will not be able to join the mourners at his funeral, nor give Lady Moss a warm embrace, but she knows our hearts are there with her, Elliot, and his lovely wife Helen. I leave this sad subject with one of our favourite photographs of a very fun evening in our favourite Greek-Turkish restaurant in Shepherd Market in Mayfair.


Together forever, many special moments that we will never forget

By God it's been a great ride with the great Stirling Moss.

John Crawford

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