Pat Moss-Carlsson, the younger sister of Stirling and wife of Erik, died after a long illness on October 14. She was 73.
Both first-class show jumpers, it was Stirling who taught Pat to drive and that lit the fuse on an explosive 21-year driving career that saw her win the European Ladies’ Rally Championship an incredible five times—in 1958, 1960, 1962, 1964, and 1965.
Her career got underway quietly enough in 1953, when she was the navigator of Kent Gregory, then Stirling’s manager, in a club event. Some time after that, she canvassed all the top teams for a drive in bigger events, got turned down by Triumph, and taken on by MG’s Marcus Chambers. She placed 3rd best woman in a TF, in Britain’s 1955 RAC Rally. Three years later, she broke into the big time with a 4th in the RAC at the wheel of a Morris Minor. In 1960, Pat put in her most memorable performance by beating all comers to win the exceptionally tough Liège-Rome-Liège outright, completely dominating the raw power of the 6-cylinder Austin-Healey 3000. It was the first international rally ever won by a woman.
Pat’s run of prominent performances continued with 2nd places in the 1960 Alpine Rally and Britain’s 1961 RAC. She came 3rd in the big Healey in the 1962 RAC, but the other major success for which she will always be remembered is giving the then-new Mini-Cooper its first international victory in the 1962 Tulip Rally. That set the little car on the road to its legendary world-beating giant-killer status, including three (the Brits would say four) Monte Carlo Rally wins. But she was not exactly in love with the Mini, which she famously described as “twitchy and pretty unruly on the limit.”
In 1963, Pat moved to Ford to drive a Lotus Cortina but, perhaps more importantly, she married triple-RAC-winner and Saab-star Erik Carlsson. The Ford venture was not a great success, with only a 6th in the Acropolis to show for it; so Pat Moss-Carlsson switched to Saab in 1964 and competed in 11 international—later to become world championship—rallies that year. She scored a 5th overall for the Swedes in the Monte Carlo and took a remarkable 3rd in the 1965 Monte.
Then came the move to Lancia and the new Fulvia, of which Pat was also not a great fan because of its heavy steering and lurid understeer. Star that she was, though, she took 2nd in the 1968 international San Remo Rally, overall victory in the Sestriere, and 3rd in the Italian 999 Minutes event. Eighth on the rock-strewn loose surfaces of the Acropolis was followed by 7th in the Corsican Grand Prix, as the Tour de Corse international championship rally is known. Then came a 6th driving the Fulvia in the 1969 Monte, before Pat left the sport to give husband Erik their daughter Suzy, who was also to become a prominent show jumper.
Pat was nearing the end of her career when she came 10th in the Monte Carlo, driving a Renault Alpine A110, after which she made her last move—to Toyota—before retiring for good in 1974.
Two books were published by Pat: The Story So Far (1967, William Kimber) and, with husband Erik, The Art and Technique of Driving (1965, Heinemann).
To her husband Erik, daughter Suzy, and brother Stirling, Vintage Racecar would like to express its sincere condolences.
by Robert Newman