A whole book – a 320-page autobiography no less – on just one car? Now that must make it rather special… You can decide that for yourself over the Revival weekend as you are able to get up close to both it and its equally famous owner.
The car is the Ferrari 250 GT Short Wheelbase, known (as they all are) by its chassis number of 2119 GT. Yes, it’s the car Stirling Moss won in three times, and Mike Parkes another three times. Among Stirling’s wins was the Tourist Trophy at Goodwood in 1960 when, famously, he listened to Raymond Baxter’s live race commentary on the Ferrari’s radio, saying later that it was handy knowing exactly what the gap was back to the chasing Aston Martins…
And the car’s owner today? That’s one Ross Brawn, the former Formula 1 technical director/team boss of Benetton, Ferrari, Brawn GP and Mercedes, winner of eight world championships, and architect of Michael Schumacher’s winning blitz, as well as Jenson Button’s title in 2009. The same Ross Brawn who now wants to go fishing and can’t wait for the next London to Brighton Run (full interview with Ross coming soon).
Car, owner and Mr Motorsport himself are all coming together at Revival in what promises to be a poignant reunion, marking the launch of the new book, The Autobiography of 2119 GT which has been penned by our very own Doug Nye.
So just how special does a car have to be to warrant its own autobiography?
‘To me, it’s as aesthetically near perfect as you can get for a sports racing car of that era,’ Ross tells GRR. ‘The historical connection means a lot to me because when I drive it I think of Stirling. There is a lot of meaning for me to know that Stirling, and Mike Parkes, won races in it.’
Ross has had 2119 GT for coming up to three years. ‘It’s rather embarrassing but I have another 250 GT Short Wheelbase, a car with a less illustrious history. When 2119 came up for sale I decided it was such a unique car I had to have it as well; I had to muster everything I could to buy it. The owner was very keen for me to have it because he felt it continued the line of owners very well.’ Indeed it does.
Ross says the car is remarkably original after 55 years. ‘As far as we can tell, the car has its original engine and gearbox. And it has a radio, but unfortunately not the radio Stirling listened to in 1960. It would be lovely if it had the original radio.’
The 250 GT Short Wheelbase is, of course, one of the world’s most coveted and valuable cars (yes, and Ross Brawn has two of ’em!), so how does he use it?
‘It doesn’t get huge use. I take it to car shows but I don’t think you can race a car like this any more. It’s become too historically important to race; if it got damaged it would be a tragedy.’
And what’s it like on the road?
‘It’s a lovely car to drive. On the road it is quite tolerable, noisy of course but not unsophisticated. The transmission is fantastic for a car of its period. You have to let it warm up a bit but then the gear lever is so slick and the lever falls perfectly to hand,’ says Ross Brawn the road tester.
‘It gets up to speed amazingly easily and you have to be careful on public roads. The steering is great. It has a live rear axle so that has its limitations, but it is amazingly well developed. Stirling says it was one of the nicest handling cars he ever drove.’
The greatest Ferrari then?
‘I have never aspired to a 250 GTO. The GTO was undoubtedly quicker on the track but it lost some of the Short Wheelbase’s simplicity. Some people like the vents and the masculinity of the GTO but for me the GT Short Wheelbase is the nicer car.’
You can enjoy a great deal more about this particular car and its history in Doug’s book, which also includes the story of the 1960 Goodwood TT, as well as the rest of its racing past, and the car’s life up to the present day.
The Autobiography of 2119 GT by Doug Nye is published by Porter Press International and the standard hardback edition has a recommended retail price of £60.
Photography: Pete Summers