Notorious Women: Pat Moss

Pat Moss was like the Tasmanian devil. She had a very graphic face, so she could look alternately really striking or formidable, depending on how she was dressed and what she was doing at the time. Pat was the sister of Stirling Moss, the world's greatest living racing driver. She married Erik Carlsson, one of the most famous rally drivers of the day. She met him while she was rallying, but she didn't begin as a racing driver. In her teens, she was an Olympic-level equestrian. By then, her older brother, Stirling, was winning races all over Europe. The early photos showed her in equestrian events. Then came a photograph set up by one of the London papers with her driving her brother's rally car, and Stirling riding her horse. It was just a total setup, but she turned out to be brilliant behind the wheel. She quickly turned to rallying, where she became without a doubt the most famous female rally driver until Michele Mouton took over from her in the late 1970s.

Racing History

Pat was a five-time European Ladies' Rally Championship winner. She and co-driver Anne Wisdom contested rallies all over Europe from the mid-1950s to the late '60s. Pat started in a Triumph TR2 that she bought herself and first distinguished herself with a 1958 win in the British RAC Rally in 1958, in a Morris Minor. She drove an Austin Healey 100-Six to fourth place in the Liege-Rome-Liege Rally, which she won outright in 1960. She was also winner of the 1962 Rallye Deutschland. After her marriage to Erik, she switched to the Saab factory team. They competed together in eleven international rallies in the mid-'60s. Once, while she was dating Erik, she was ahead of him on the road in a rally, racing a Healey, and crashed her car and ended up upside down. The first thing Pat checked was if the side glass windows were broken, because they were very expensive. She was relieved to discover they weren't. So while she was upside down in the car, she was carefully removing the set screws that held the window in place. She was just about to remove the final screw when Eric came around the corner, saw her upside down, jumped out of his car in a panic, and ran to the car and kicked the window in. Much to his surprise, Pat came flying out of the car. What he had on his hands was a screaming, spitting hellcat, yelling, "You bloody idiot! I'm perfectly fine, you've ruined my window." After they got married, they lived in Monte Carlo for a long time as many drivers did to avoid taxes. When I met them, they lived on the Moss family farm in Tring, northwest of London. Erik mucked out the horse stables and would always admonish Pat to stop swearing and stop smoking because it would set off these horrible coughing fits. She tended a massive flower garden and did the cooking, both activities with an eternal cigarette hanging from her lips. Erik would say, "That's right, pretty mom, light another cigarette." She would respond, "Sod you, Erik." I spent a lot of time with Pat in the 1980s and early 1990s. By the time I met her, she had already retired from rallying and dedicated her life to driving her daughter and her daughter's horses to horse jumping events all over Europe.

At Home with the Moss-Carlsons

The first time Erik took me home to meet the family, I stayed at Erik and Pat's house. I slept in the den on a fold-out bed with orders to not bloody wake anybody up early in the morning. Next to me was the bookshelf with all of the family scrapbooks. There was not a single photo in the scrapbooks that wasn't taken by a newspaper or professional photographer. Pat's, Erik's, and Stirling's lives were totally in the public domain. Everything they did was commented on and examined in the newspaper. They were the stars of the day.

Pirelli Classic Marathon with Stirling, Not Pat

I had a chance to drive with Pat in 1989, when Pirelli Tires asked me if I wanted to co-drive with her in a Pirelli Classic Marathon across Europe, from London to Cortina d'Ampezzo. I called her, and she said, "That bloody car didn't kill me back then, and I'm not going to give it another chance." I ended up doing the event with her brother, Stirling, which was the beginning of our nearly thirty-year friendship. In retirement, Pat wrote two books: The Story So Far, which was a memoir, and The Art and Technique of Driving, which she co-wrote with Erik. Shortly before she died in 2008, she managed to get a speeding ticket while towing a horse trailer.
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