So for a couple of generations, British traffic cops sneeringly asked speeding motorists, “Who do you think you are, Stirling Moss?” (Moss, who had been knighted, was once asked that question, and answered, “Sir Stirling, please.”)
Moss said a name like Bill Smith just would not have done. But what about Hamish, the old Scottish name his mother, Aileen, had proposed? His father, Alfred, deemed that ghastly. The compromise was Stirling, the name of a town near his mother’s family home.
Stirling Craufurd Moss was born in London on Sept. 17, 1929. Both his father and mother had raced cars, with his father having competed twice in the Indianapolis 500, finishing 16th in 1924, while studying dentistry in Indiana. Stirling grew up excelling at horsemanship, but said he gave it up because horses were hard to steer.
His passion was cars.
As a boy, Stirling was allowed to sit on his father’s lap and steer the family car. When he was 10 he begged for and received the present of a very old and dilapidated seven-horsepower Austin. He made his own private racing circuit on the family farm. At 18, he got his first driver’s license and bought into a Cooper 500 racing car, winning 11 of the first 15 races he entered.
Within two years, he was racing across Europe in numerous classes of cars. In 1953, he became a full-time driver on the Grand Prix circuit, the sport’s big league. His first Grand Prix vehicle was his own Maserati, not a machine from the respected Maserati stable.
In 1955, he joined the Mercedes-Benz team, led by his idol, Juan Manuel Fangio. That year, Moss became the first British driver to win the British Grand Prix, edging out Fangio by two-tenths of a second. For years, Moss asked Fangio if he had lost on purpose. Fangio kept saying no.