Mille Miglia Memories

Noel twamley

The most famous motor road race in history, the Mille Miglia (thousand miles) began in 1927 and ran from Brescia to Rome and back. Over five million fans or tifosi crowded the streets to view this epic race. Alas, the greatest road race ever came to a halt in 1957 due to the horrific loss of life.

56 people in total died and hundreds were injured during its time. Italian driver De Portago and co-driver Nelson, crashed and died, killing another nine people including five children. Another driver Jowe Gottgens died in his Triumph TR3. The price was too high for it to go on. The loss of life and severe injuries was simply staggering.

In 1955, one of my sporting idols Stirling Moss drove to victory in the magnificent 300 SLR Mercedes-Benz. Stirling and navigator Jenkinson won the Mille Miglia in a record-breaking 10 hours at an average speed of 100mph, a truly incredible time for an open road race.

Some 20 years ago I brought my son Mark to the motor show at the RDS. We made our way to the Mercedes-Benz stand where I met and reminisced with my colleagues. We chatted about the American actor Robert Mitchum who I had to deliver a new, tax-free car to in the Shelbourne Hotel and the Wexford-born movie star Dan O’Herlihy with his classic left hand drive open 2805

My ex-technical director at Mercedes, Dennis Dowdall arrived and invited us into the inner sanctum of the Mercedes stand. As we walked in, my eyes glazed over, I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. There in front of me was the holy of holies, the 300 SLR. The car Stirling Moss won the Mille Miglia in. We were allowed to climb inside this unbelievable vehicle. I held the large steering wheel in my hand, gazing at the three dials on the dash.

This classic car had no carpets, no door panels, nothing, it was built for power and speed only. I could almost hear the howl of the engine. I was in heaven on earth to be sitting in such a car. I’ll never forget it.

The 300 SLR driven by Stirling Moss is now on display in the Mercedes Museum in Stuttgart and valued at tens of millions.

Pictured: The 300 SLR in Stuttgart’s Mercedes Museum.

By Noel Twamley