Earlier this month the automotive world lost one of the biggest racing legends to ever live: Sir Stirling Moss. Very few racing drivers throughout the years were so dominant, so poised, and so successful across their careers, especially across a wide array of racing series and manufactures, as Stirling Moss. In fact, his record time of the world’s most famous road race, the Mille Miglia, at 10 hours, 7 minutes, and 48 seconds will remain unbroken forever.
Sir Moss will be remembered amongst such greats as Juan Manuel Fangio, Jim Clark, Graham Hill, and many others. In remembrance, we wanted to look back on some of the most iconic racecars throughout the decades and name our top five favorites:
5. 1954 Jaguar D-Type
The Jaguar D-Type was one of the most dominating racecars of its time, winning the 24 Hours of Le Mans three times in a row from 1955-1957. Moss raced the iconic “OKV 2”/XKD403 factory werks D-Type for Jaguar at the 1954 24 Hours of Le Mans setting a speed record on the Mulsanne straight at over 172mph. Moss held the car at the overall lead of the race until the 12th hour when it unfortunately succumbed to a brake failure causing the car to drop out of the race.
Moss’ Le Mans raced D-Type is still thoroughly enjoyed and has been spotted at many historic racing events throughout the years. Being highly coveted, the “OKV 2”/XKD403 car was the highlight car of RM Sotheby’s 2018 Arizona Auction, where it failed to sell with a bid of $9.8 million.
4. 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO
After racing Ferrari’s prototype 250 GT Sperimentale, Moss wanted Ferrari’s newest GT racer for the upcoming 24 Hours of Le Mans. Moss ended up with a 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO (S/N 3505GT) new from the factory that was painted a pale green to go with one of Moss’ sponsors at the time. When Moss took delivery, he immediately had the car sent to Goodwood Circuit for the Easter races that year where he took the car out for a short practice, but did not fully race the car at speed. Unfortunately, Moss would end up crashing his Lotus Formula car that weekend that left him critically injured and caused him to call his racing career to an end.
Moss’ 250 GTO would famously go on to become the most expensive car ever sold in 2012 for a reported sale cost of $35 million, a price I’m sure many collectors would be willing to pay nowadays with the most recent public sale of a GTO fetching $48.4 million in the summer of 2018.
3. 1954 Mercedes-Benz W196
The Mercedes-Benz W196 was an incredibly dominant car in both closed (seen above) and open wheel formats. The car was so dominant in fact, that between Sir Stirling Moss and Juan Manuel Fangio, they won 9 of the 12 races they entered with the cars and won the only two drivers’ championships in which it ever competed (1954 & 1955)
Moss only raced the closed wheel format, known as the “Streamliner” or “Type Monza” body work in the 1955 Italian Grand Prix at Monza (due to the Le Mans disaster of 1955 shutting down most racing events), but the car did very well across other races including wins at the 1954 French GP, and the 54-55 Italian Grand Prix.
In the open wheel format of the W196, Moss would take home his very first Grand Prix win at his home event, the 1955 British Grand Prix, besting his stable mate Fangio by 0.2 seconds in a 1-2-3-4 finish for Mercedes.
2. 1958 Aston Martin DBR1
Aston Martin’s DBR1 is seen as the ultimate racecar in the brand’s history. It’s elegant, yet functional aerodynamic form has stood the test of time with an engine note that kicks you in your chest if you’re lucky enough to see one drive by. In fact, it was in a DBR1 that Carroll Shelby took home his overall 24 Hours of Le Mans victory in 1959.
In 1958, however, Moss won both the 1000km Nürburgring and the Tourist Trophy in a werks DBR1 which helped place Aston Martin in second for the constructor’s championship that year (behind Ferrari). Moss would also race in the 12 Hours of Sebring and the Targa Florio behind the wheel of a DBR1 where he set lap records in each, but would unfortunately was forced to retire due to mechanical failures.
In 2017, DBR1/3, winner of the 1959 1000km Nürburgring reached a price of $22,550,000 at an RM Sotheby’s auction, making it the most expensive British car ever sold.
1. 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300SLR
Sir Stirling Moss set his most famous record, the fastest completion of the Mille Miglia, in this Mercedes-Benz 300SLR. Moss, alongside British racing journalist Denis Jenkinson who gave him driver’s notes on the course, completed the 990 mile ever in 10 hours, 7 minutes, and 48 seconds with an average speed of ~98mph in 1955. This record would remain unbeaten and stand as the fastest time of this infamous road race after a tragic crash would cause the race to stop running in 1957.
This legendary machine is powered by the W196’s straight-8 that was bored and stroked to boost output to 310hp, featuring a aluminum tube spaceframe chassis and Elektron magnesium alloy bodywork that was very light. Although the bodywork was incredibly lightweight at the time, it was its magnesium construction that worsened the horrific 1955 Le Mans disaster that featured a 300SLR, causing the fires to burn much hotter than if the bodywork were aluminum or another lightweight material.
Although the 300SLR has a scar on its history, it was undoubtedly a fantastic race car, earning a 1-2-3 win at the 1955 Tourist Trophy, a 1-2 win at the Targa Florio, and earning Mercedes the 1955 World Sportscar Championship.
Sir Stirling Moss’ victories in these cars, as well as many others, cemented his legacy as one of the most prolific and inspiring racecar drivers during the golden era of sportscar racing. He stands amongst the all-time greats and will not be forgotten in the automotive world. We wish his surviving family members peace in the aftermath of his passing and hope that one day we will see another driver that could make as much of an impact as Sir Stirling Moss.