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Around a Cooper chassis in 1957 (left to right) are Robinson, Alfred Moss, Stuart Lewis-Evans and Ken Gregory. Photo: Tony Robinson Collection
Tony RobinsonPhoto: Ian Wagstaff
Tony Robinson
Photo: Ian Wagstaff

At the end of last year I lost a true friend, Ken Gregory. Ken was one of the most logistically aware businessman I’ve ever come across. He was the organizer behind Stirling Moss, Stirling Moss Limited, the British Racing Partnership (BRP) and manager to many other drivers, including Peter Collins. After his motor racing activities he went on to other businesses, including Gregory’s Air Taxis. He became an author, he had a publishing company and great deal more. Ken was a great friend to Stirling; indeed they shared a flat. He was also a good friend of the Moss family, particularly with Stirling’s father, Alfred. Their friendship and business affairs grew as the years went on. I think Ken and Stirling had met some years previous in 500-cc racing as Ken raced too—I’m not sure he was “cut out” for racing and he could easily see Stirling was the racer, although he did win a race or two in a Cooper. In 1951, Ken’s strength came to the fore when he was made Secretary of the Half-Litre Car Club that would later become the British Racing and Sports Car Club (BRSCC). He was involved with bringing motor racing to Brands Hatch (indeed becoming a Director of the circuit), and raced at the inaugural meeting in a Kieft. It was his relationship with Cyril Kieft that led to working with Ray Martin and the production of the Keift CK51 for Stirling Moss to drive.

Famed Moss mechanic Alf Francis, author Robinson tend to the engine in Sir StirlingÕs 250F Maserati.Photo: Tony Robinson Collection
Famed Moss mechanic Alf Francis, author Robinson tend to the engine in Sir Stirling’s 250F Maserati.
Photo: Tony Robinson Collection

It was 1952 when I answered an advert in the Autocar magazine, quite what the wording said now I cannot remember, but it was for a mechanic with Ray Martin Motors. I was offered an interview by Alf Francis. I didn’t think I’d got the job, but somehow Ken Gregory employed me as Alf’s junior mechanic. The pay wasn’t that good, I’d been used to earning around £15-18 per week, working for a glass merchant, D. W. Price, who was into rallying the Tulip, Monte Carlo, and all sorts like that. He competed in a number of cars Allard, HRG, those types of cars. He also did “mud plugger” trials. While I was basically employed to work as a mechanic on the company trucks and vehicles, I spent most of my time working on his trials cars and rally cars. However, at Ray Martin I was paid just £6 per week – I thought it was a great career move though. Ray Martin was based in Colliers Wood, London and I lived in Neasden. I was going to use my 600-cc Triumph Thunderbird motorbike to get me to and from work, but because of the wages I was offered, I had to sell the bike to subsidise my first year’s pay. We were also building the Ray Martin Cooper Alta for Stirling. The project started at Colliers Wood, but Alf Francis and Ray “fell out,” Stirling did too. It was decided that we would take the project over to the Cooper Car Company, at Surbiton, and we finished the car off there. So, I started the year with Ray Martin, and finished it as an employee of Stirling Moss Limited, Ken Gregory, Stirling’s manager, signing me on for the company. Grand Prix racing during the 1953 season was, for the second year, run to the Formula Two regulations. The Ray Martin “Special” project was abandoned; it didn’t work as planned. It was decided to use a Cooper chassis, the Alta engine and the Wilson pre-selector gearbox. We only entered about half of the races for the World Championship that year, Zandvoort, Reims, Nürburgring and Monza. Our best finish was 6th in the German GP.

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