Me and My Motor: Sir Jackie Stewart on his first car, his struggle into motor sport and film production

Me and My Motor: Sir Jackie Stewart on his first car, struggle into F1 and film production

After F1, all road cars seem rather tame

GROWING UP in a village not far from Glasgow, Jackie Stewart — who won three Formula One world championships and was nicknamed the Flying Scot —struggled at school due to dyslexia. He left to work in his father’s garage, studying at night to become a mechanic, and also competed for Scotland in shooting.

By the age of 17, he’d saved up enough money in tips (“for manning the pumps and fixing punctures”) to buy a new Austin A30: “It was spruce green; ASA 500 was the registration number. It cost £375. I picked seat covers made in Stewart tartan. I was a right poseur with that car.”

He progressed from that to an Austin-Healey Sprite. “My first sporty car — a little car with a bubble on the bonnet,” he says. “It never won a beauty contest, but it was a big deal for me then.”

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It was about 1960 and, having missed out on a place on the British Olympic shooting team, Stewart tried his hand at motor racing. He married Helen — now his wife of 54 years — in 1962, and in 1964 was offered the chance to drive for Ken Tyrrell’s team in Formula Three. He won both the British and European championship that year. “Helen and I had about £1 to spare at the end of the week back then,” says Stewart, recalling a time when even F1 drivers had to compete in other series to make good money.

A chance meeting at the British International Motor Show in Earls Court later that year changed Stewart’s fortunes. He made a beeline for the Ford stand, at the centre of which was a cream Ford Zodiac with red upholstery. “This man comes up and he says, ‘You’re Jackie Stewart — you’ve had a good season. How would you like to have a car like that?’

“I didn’t know it then but he was Walter Hayes, then head of public affairs for Ford of Britain. He offered me a contract for £500, plus the Zodiac [if Stewart agreed to promote Ford]. I said yes instantly. Sure enough, it was delivered up to Scotland — my white show car.”

Stewart made his F1 debut in 1965 and won his first world championship in 1969, followed by two more in 1971 and 1973. Then he promptly retired, eager not to follow many of his colleagues to an early grave. He went on to forge a career as a commentator.


Back home (which was then in Switzerland), and now a father to two young boys, he enjoyed coasting with the ordinary dads, driving a Ford Escort, among other cars. “The thing is, when you’re a grand prix driver, you’re driving such fantastic machinery that any road car presenting itself as a top-of-the-range performance car is poor in comparison.”

Now Stewart, 76, is happy to be chauffeur-driven in his Lexus LS 600h L (“I treat it like a mobile office”) and “adores” driving his Range Rover. He is currently helping his younger son, Mark, a documentary maker, promote The Last Man on the Moon, a film Stewart has co-produced about Eugene Cernan, the American astronaut. “Back in the mid-Sixties I knew all the astronauts: Neil Armstrong, Pete Conrad, Dick Gordon — they all came to watch motor racing. It was the same sort of mentality and, back then, the same sort of risks.”

The Last Man on the Moon ( is available on iTunes


Sir Jackie Stewart: my life in cars

  • 1956 Austin A30
  • 1959 Austin-Healey Sprite
  • 1964 Ford Zodiac
  • 1966 Ford Thunderbird
  • 1980 Jaguar XJ6
  • 2016 Range Rover (long wheelbase)
  • My dream car Porsche Carrera 4S