The Ex Sir Stirling Moss, Bib Stillwell, Coil Sprung 1959 Cooper T49 ‘Monaco’
To many the 1950’s is still the most evocative era of sportscar racing. Le Mans at its heyday, the Mille Miglia, names like Moss, Hawthorn, Fangio and the start of transition of power from the big manufacturers like Jaguar and Ferrari to the more bespoke race car manufacturers like Cooper and Lotus.
Colin Chapman and Lotus often get the credit for revolutionising the racing world in the late 1950s and on into the 1980s, but it was Charles and John Cooper and their team who started it all and to some extent had an even greater impact on the racing world back in the early 1950s. The advent of the lightweight, rear engined and very competitive Cooper 500 put the Cooper Car Co. firmly on the map and launched the career of a number of great drivers including Sir Stirling Moss.
International success soon followed in 1955 with the first of Coopers rear engine sports cars, the distinctive Type 39 Bob-Tail. Formula 2 and then Formula 1 successes followed and by the late 1950’s Cooper were a household name and very much the class of the field.
In November 1958 Cooper replaced the highly successful Bob-Tail with the even more revolutionary looking Cooper Monaco Mark I. Named ‘Monaco’ after Maurice Trintignant’s 1958 victory in the Monaco Grand Prix, behind the wheel of a Rob Walker-entered Formula 1 Cooper-Climax.
Penned by Owen Maddock, the new Monaco utilised many common components with the Formula cars being produced at that time and maintained similar weight distribution, with four main 1 ½ inch, 18-gauge tube longerons spanning the two-seat width amidships and the engine and gearbox mounted in the rear. The original Cooper Monaco Mark I model combined coil-and-wishbone front suspension with a transverse-leaf rear end, disk brakes all round and was a notably short-wheelbase sports-racing car, amazingly low and light for the period, clothed in sleek and purposeful aluminium bodywork.
The Monaco was a success straight out of the box taking the fight to the likes of Graham Hill in the 2 and 2.5-litre Works Lotus 15. Several cars were sold as self-assembly kits for tax reasons or collections of suitable parts for the customer teams to assemble, or have assembled, for themselves.
This stunning example is the most special of all the Monacos. Commissioned new in 1959 by Sir Stirling Moss, it was prepared and entered, for Moss, by Keele Engineering. Known for building Go-Karts they were based in Stirling’s home town of Tring and Stirling was a director of the company. Sold to Moss in chassis form, and fitted with a then rare 2.5-litre Coventry Climax FPF engine, this car is unique in that it was fitted with a special coil sprung rear suspension set up developed by Alf Francis for Moss’ GP car and the Cooper CS5 5-Speed gearbox. The photographs below show the car in build at Keele Engineering in 1959. This car has the prestige of being the only Monaco allowed to run coil sprung rear suspension and the desirable 5-Speed Cooper CS5 Gearbox in ‘50s sporscar racing, making it significantly more competitive than the other Monaco.
Known as Chassis No. 20, Stirling qualified the car on the front row of the grid for the 1959 British Grand Prix Sports Car Race at Aintree as seen above. Sadly, he stalled on the start and was hit from behind. The bump, started the engine and he was charging through the field when he had to retire with a burst oil pipe.
After Aintree, Moss took the car on a successful Scandinavian Tour, racing the car at Karlskoga in Sweden and the Roskilde Ring, near Copenhagen in Denmark. Moss won both races with the car. In Stirling’s diary, according to Doug Nye’s book – Cooper Cars – the Monaco was geared to 160mph at 7,000 rpm and he comments: ‘Karlskoga – bad brakes, broken roll bar, jumping gears etc…. led start to finish, beat Brabham &Bonnier; 137 at 7,000 gearing, got 6,700rpm…’
After the success of his Scandinavian tour, Moss then moved his focus onto the new Lotus 19 and the Monaco was returned to Cooper where it was purchased from the Cooper factory along with a Type 53 Lowline Grand Prix car by Australian Bib Stillwell, who was on a trip to the UK in 1961. Still fitted with a Coventry Climax 2.5 litre FPF engine and beloved to be supplied with both the Keele Engineering coil sprung rear end modification and the standard leaf sprung set up, the car was shipped to Austrailia where it continued an illustrious career and remained in Stillwell’s ownership for the next 40 years.
Stillwell immediately had great success with the Monaco racing it alongside his T53 Low-Line Cooper single seater. He was four times Australian National ‘Gold Star’ Champion from 1962 to 1965. His battles with rival Frank Matich in both single-seaters and sportscars, Stillwell in the Monaco and Matich in his Lotus 19/19B, in the early 1960s were legendary. The car was believed to have been run in both its coil and leaf sprung configuration, as can be seen the photo above (middle left), taken at Warwick farm in 1961.
Stillwell won the ‘Australian Tourist Trophy’ in the Monaco in 1961 and 1962, now painted what appears to be a very dark green. At some point between 1961 and 1963 Stillwell had an accident in the car, presumably damaging the rear end. At this point the rear of the chassis was updated to the then current, fully integrated coil sprung, configuration as can be seen in this picture at Sandown in 1963 (above middle right). At this point the body work was reputedly rebuilt or replaced. By the 1965 Warwick Farm meeting the car had been fitted with a Buick V8 as seen in the bottom two pictures above.
Remarkably the Monaco remained in the Stillwell family ownership until after his death in 1999, when it was purchased from a third party, along with his Brabham BT4, by well known racers and BRDC members Frank Sytner and John Coombs in late 2000. Ownership of the Cooper soon moved solely to Frank and he repatriated this famous car back to the UK and entrusted highly regarded racing specialists Simon Hadfield Motorsport to completely restore the car back to its original Moss race winning configuration.
Simon and his team meticulously retuned the rear end of the chassis back to its original 1959 specification with the help of the former foreman from Keele Engineering (who had been present when the car was converted from new), using period photographs and studying the original Alf Francis modification on the T51 Grand Prix car.
Once restored, the car returned to the track in 2-litre format in the hands of Frank Sytner and with Frank and Simon Hadfield together and had an almost unbroken record of race wins and podiums. Frank won nearly every race in 2001 and 2002, winning all bar one rounds of the BRDC ’50s Sportscar Championship and the championship itself. He also won the competitive ’50s Sportscar support race to the British Grand Prix. In his ownership the car continued to be maintained and raced with great success by Simon Hatfield and his team. In 2010 the car was fitted with a new Crosthwaite and Gardiner 2-Litre Climax FPF engine.
In 2011 No. 20 was purchased by its current owner, himself a well-known and competitive racer. He has had the car maintained with no expense spared by equally respected race preparation specialists, Pearsons Engineering and has gone on to race the car in the Stirling Moss Trophy partnering with Gary Pearson.
Accompanied by current FIA papers and an extensive history file, including period photographs from both Moss’ and Stillwell’s ownership, as well as more contemporary historic racing and a comprehensive collection of invoices for work both during Frank Sytner’s ownership and the current owners time.
This is a unique and exciting opportunity to own such an important and highly competitive car. Supplied to and driven to victory by the great Sir Stirling Moss, recipient of a decorated racing career and long term ownership with Bib Stillwell in Australia, winner of the prestigious BRDC ’50s Sportscar Championship and most importantly, the only Cooper Monaco allowed to run with coil sprung rear suspension and the enviable Cooper CS5 5-Speed gearbox in ‘50s Sportscar racing.
Surely the ultimate ’50s Sports Racing Car. This is your chance to put yourself at the front of the Stirling Moss Trophy and numerous other and ever popular ’50s Sportscar grids including the prestigious Goodwood Revival.