Women in Motorsport & Social History: Pat Moss

Pat Moss with Austin Healey 3000
Posted  28.09.2016
Comments  (00)

One of the most successful female rally drivers of the 1950s and 60s, the younger sister of Sir Stirling Moss was fiercely competitive.

Women on the Rise: Mossie and Wizz

Pat and her fellow co-driver Ann Wisdom (who suffered from acute car sickness) were an impressive pair, affectionately known as Mossie and Wizz, who contested rallies throughout Europe from the mid 1950s to the late 1960s.

This was an era when there were more opportunities for women to compete in international car rallies, which were increasing in popularity and status. It was an exciting time, especially with new models coming off the production line for the first time in five years; with manufacturers understandably keen to demonstrate their performance and reliability. It is a well-known fact that women were, for the first time, having much stronger influence on the cars being bought, with most of the leading manufacturers running works teams comprising entirely of women drivers.

Pat Moss

Pat would become hugely successful, achieving three outright wins and seven podium finishes in international rallies. Crowned five-times European Ladies Rally Championship winner and the Coupe des Dames on the Monte Carlo Rally eight times, she also won the gruelling 1960 Liege-Rome-Liege Rally in a fearsome Austin- Healey 100/6 and went on to finish second at the Coupe des Alpes.  Her biggest achievement was winning the Tulip Rally in 1962 in the newly-introduced Mini Cooper.

Back To the Beginning: The Stirling Siblings

Patricia Ann Moss was born on 27th December 1934 and was driving a jeep around the family home, ‘White Cloud Farm’ at Tring, Hertfordshire by the age of eleven. Her instructor was, naturally, her elder brother, F1 legend, Stirling. By the time she was seventeen Pat was a confident driver of Land Rovers. Her father then bought his daughter her first car, a 1936 Morris Ten. However, initially Pat was not keen and showed little interest, remarking that cars were, in her opinion, only useful for towing horseboxes.

Stirling Moss

Both Stirling and Pat were accomplished show jumpers and at the tender age of eight Pat was competing against her brother at various pony events. Both Stirling and Pat were presented to King George VI after winning the Victor Ludorum at the 1945 Windsor Cup horse trials. Pat’s successes continued with victory at the 1950 Horse of the Year Show and in 1953 she was presented to the Queen after winning the Queen Elizabeth Cup at White City. When she was eighteen she was a successful Olympic-level equestrian. Meanwhile, Stirling was winning races all over Europe…

Patt Moss with Austin Healey 3000

Catching The Rally Bug

In 1953, aged eighteen, Pat started competing in national rallies throughout the UK in her Morris Minor convertible, having been introduced to the sport by her current boyfriend and Stirling’s business manager, Ken Gregory, who took her on a treasure hunt. However, horses were always a major part of her life and initially the rallies would take second place to her showjumping commitments.

Not Such A ‘Triumph’

In 1954 whilst competing in rallies in her own Triumph TR2, Pat approached Ken Richardson, Competitions Manager at Triumph, asking if they would be happy to cover her expenses and enable her to enter her car in the 1955 RAC Rally. This did not materialise, with Triumph only offering her a car and stating they didn’t have the budget to cover her expenses. Luckily for Pat, Marcus Chambers of MG was only too delighted to take her on; enabling her to compete in a brand new MG TF 1500 and also covering her expenses. So, Triumph lost the Moss name, a female driver and a winner. Ann Riley (nee Wisdom) put it all down to Triumph seeing her as ‘just another lady driver.’

A Family Affair

Pat was a delight to be around on a rally – outside the car she was friendly, generous, vivacious, sometimes forgetful and often mislaying her oversized handbag!  Once behind the wheel she was ‘one of the boys’ and had no difficulty in proving her prowess as a female rally driver – every bit as quick (and sometimes faster than) her male competitors. Motorsport and the thrill of speed was no stranger to the Moss family; Stirling and Pat’s father, Alfred had competed in the 1924 Indianapolis 500 whilst studying dentistry in the USA and her mother, Aileen clocked up an impressive race record competing in various trials in Singer and Marendaz sports cars.

Pat Moss in an Austin Healey 100 - 1955

First Successes

Pat first distinguished herself with a 4th in the 1958 British RAC Rally driving a Morris Minor and later that year drove an Austin-Healey 100/6 also to 4th during the Liege-Rome-Liege Rally.  It was the first time a woman had finished in the top ten on this tough endurance rally and the points she gained clinched her the Ladies European Championship.  Interestingly, more than forty years later she would attend the auction of her winning car in London – which made a staggering £155,000. This was of course at the height of the ‘Classic Car’ boom.

A Competitive Marriage

1958 was also the same year Pat met the famous Swedish rally driver, Erik Carlsson, whom she married five years later. The marriage certainly had its ‘stormy moments’, especially when they were competing against one another, including one occasion when Pat was racing ahead of Erik in her Healey when she crashed, ending upside down. With no thought for her own safety the only thing on her mind was to check if the side glass windows were broken as they were extremely expensive (luckily they were intact!) –  the situation worsened when Erik hurtled around the corner, leapt from his car and proceeded to kick the window in! The Lady was not happy!

Eric Carlsson

For a time the Moss-Carlssons lived in Monte Carlo, as well as running the Moss family farm back in Tring.  Erik would often be found mucking out the horses with Pat tending to a huge flower garden.

In 1963 Pat accepted an offer to join Ford to compete at the wheel of their recently launched Cortina saloon, but left the following year to join Erik at Saab.

Speeding Through Retirement

Throughout the remainder of the decade Pat was a consistent front-runner. She switched briefly to Lancia but following the birth of her daughter Suzy in 1969 she made fewer appearances and it was when she was with the Toyota team that she finally retired in 1974.

Pat’s love of horses was rekindled, helped by her daughter’s involvement in showjumping and despite keeping horses Pat always found room at the back of her garage for her beloved Morris Minor in its original green livery. Shortly before Pat’s death in October 2008 she was caught for speeding whilst towing a horsebox!

Footnote: Pat Moss was the author of The Story So Far published in 1967 and The Art and Technique of Driving in 1965 which she co-wrote with her husband Erik.

Sarah Crofts has been sharing her passion for motorsport with Beaulieu’s visitors since she first joined as a volunteer in 2007. Now a Museum Attendant, she has grown to love her role more and more and can’t imagine doing anything else! Sarah’s popular Women in Motorsport tour is one of several daily tours on offer in the National Motor Museum.

Categories:  Archived