The name's Moss… Stirling Moss

18th September 2019

He may not carry a gun in his glove compartment but there are some quirky connections between racing legend Sir Stirling and a certain James Bond.

Words by James Collard

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One might be a fictional hero, the other a living legend, but 007 and motor-racing icon Sir Stirling Moss have much that connects them. Aston Martins, for a start. Moss raced the DBR1, famously winning the World Championship for the marque some 60 years ago this year. And Aston Martin has been James Bond’s primary on-screen car of choice since the release of Goldfinger in 1964, when Sean Connery drove a DB5 – though Bond aficionados would be quick to point out that in Ian Fleming’s 1959 novel of the same name, the secret agent drove an earlier model. According to Ben Macintyre, author of For Your Eyes Only: Ian Fleming and James Bond , 007 drove only one Aston Martin in the books themselves: “It was in Goldfinger
– a grey DB Mark III from the secret service pool with headlights that change colour, a reinforced bumper, a radio receiver and a Colt .45 in a secret compartment. I don’t think Stirling Moss ever drove with one of those.” 

The world’s most famous spy and the racing driver also hail from the same generation. The cinematic Bond is eerily ageless, as he must be in order to keep the franchise in fine fettle. His novelistic year of birth, however, is generally calculated as either 1920 or 1921, while Moss was born in 1929, and turns 90 this month – many happy returns.

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Fame arrived for both the spy and the driver in the early 1950s. The publication of Casino Royale introduced James Bond to the world in 1953. Fleming’s books, of course, became an almost instant success, but it’s a sign of Moss’s celebrity during this era that an unpublished (and never filmed) story by Fleming, Murder on Wheels , centred on a plot by SMERSH, the evil Soviet counterintelligence agency, to bump him off while he raced at the Nürburgring circuit in Germany. In the story, James Bond rode to the rescue, or rather drove to it – having been taught to race by Moss, this time driving a Maserati.

Although the plot never made it to the movie screen – or indeed to the “Jimmy Bond” US TV series that Fleming was working on before the film franchise took off – it became the basis for Anthony Horowitz’s Trigger Mortis , commissioned by the Fleming estate and published in 2015 (with the racing driver renamed as Lancy Smith). But Moss’s biggest 007 moment came in 1967 with his cameo performance in the spoof Peter Sellers Bond movie, Casino Royale , playing a chauffeur. True, his role was brief – “Follow that car!” he was instructed – and uncredited. But he was in good company, as the movie also contains uncredited performances from none other than Peter O’Toole, Anjelica Huston and Geraldine Chaplin.   

Macintyre adds that Fleming was himself a car aficionado: “He bought a Daimler with the money from the film rights to Casino Royale and then a vast American car called a Studillac, a Studebaker with a Cadillac engine, which he test-drove at 80mph before being pulled over by traffic cops.” Now that’s something that never happened to Bond – or Moss. 

This article was taken from the Autumn 2019 edition of the Goodwood Magazine.

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