Every day this week GRR is reprinting excerpts from the new Stirling Moss book, published to coincide with the 60th anniversary of Sir Stirling’s epic victory in the 1955 Mille Miglia – also to be celebrated at the Festival of Speed on June 26-28.
I drove the amazing super-streamlined MG EX181 in 1957 on the baking hot, blinding white Salt Lake Flats at Bonneville, Utah. The people at MG designed the body first: the perfect shape was evolved, and then a chassis made to fit under it carrying all the components inside the shell.
One of the components was the driver, who was squashed in ahead of the engine with his legs right out in front of the front wheels. The only way they could find space for the steering wheel was to mount it horizontally. Its engine was developed for the yet-unannounced MGA Twin-Cam, but with a massive Shorrock supercharger, giving an output of nearly 200bhp per litre from just 1,500cc. It was so high-geared that I changed into fourth gear at over 200mph, and because of the efficient aerodynamics I needed a lot of distance to get it stopped.
We broke five world records in the MG’s class over varying distances from one kilometre to five miles, and our best speed, as a mean in two directions to average out the effect of any wind, was 245.6mph. A black line had been painted dead straight for seven miles across that featureless white desert, and trying to keep EX181 on that line at nearly 250mph was a very different experience. In some of the publicity afterwards the record was advertised as four miles a minute or a mile in 15 seconds, which does sound quite quick.
The bodywork had to be removed to get me in, and then fastened down on top of me. So I was totally shut in, with an inch or two to spare, and if anything had gone wrong I wouldn’t have been able to get myself out.
Tomorrow: First Formula 1 World Championship beckons…or does it?
This is an extract from Stirling Moss: My Racing Life (£50) which is available from all good book retailers and direct from Evro Publishing, www.evropublishing.com