Updated: Jan 27
Sir Jackie Stewart remembers his friend
The ‘quiet Beatle’ as he was known, was also the car enthusiast Beatle. As soon as the Fab Four hit the big time, George bought himself an E-type. It was the perfect marriage of Swinging Sixties icons. He first tasted motor racing with another who wore his hair long, rising Formula One star, Jackie Stewart, another keen E-type man.
‘I got to know him through motor racing’, recalls Sir Jackie. ‘He came to the Monaco Grand Prix. In fact, the Beatles came to the Monaco Grand Prix in the mid-'60s, all four of them. George was the most interested in cars. He then came again later with Ringo and we got together and we started to create a friendship. He was an enormous enthusiast for cars and had a very good collection. We got to know each other from that time and he would come and stay with us and we would go and stay with him.
Our two boys were very small. George taught Paul to play the guitar. Mark knew him well but wasn’t into the guitar at all. We were all great friends and it was a great family relationship with Dhani, who was George and Livvy’s son, who we know very well to this day, and Livvy we keep in contact with. She’s a good friend.
‘He came to a lot of Grands Prix with me – one of my best friends. Loved his cars. He had a McLaren, he had an E-type, he had Ferraris, all sorts of cars. I drove with him many times. He was a cautious driver; he wasn’t a racy driver. He drove quite a few racing cars. I think it was when Fangio came to the Gunnar Nilsson fundraiser, at Donington Park, that George drove Rob Walker’s Lotus, the one that Stirling won the Monaco GP in in 1961. I was driving the Tyrell. I drove Fangio back to Heathrow Airport that night because he also became a friend.
‘George drove from time to time on the track, so he enjoyed it.
‘I think he met John Coombs along with me. Obviously he knew all about John and his E-type and the fact that I had driven it.’
Another good friend of George’s was Jools Holland. ‘I remember I had a C-type replica for a bit,’ states Jools, ‘and I remember taking George Harrison in that because he loved cars. He had an E-type at one point – he was a Jaguar fan. George loved cars. He drove this C-type and he was laughing because he enjoyed it being so antiquated. He was about to get a McLaren.’
‘He brought his McLaren [F1] up to our house more than once,’ continues Sir Jackie. ‘One day, we had his McLaren, Paul’s McLaren and Rowan Atkinson’s McLaren – all outside the front door! I was the only poor guy there!
‘He was always a big fan of the E-type. Like me, he recognised that Sir William had created something that almost put the coachbuilders out of business. Until that day, exotic cars cost a lot of money, cars with that type of thoroughbred and that type of beauty. Every dimension was right. Sir William and his team did the most fantastic job. And at £1,840 or whatever it was, this was where Sir William was so brilliant.
‘All the right people had them. No doubt about that. The Swinging Sixties, Flower Power and free love – it was a time when Britain was at its very best, when the very best could be enjoyed and was enjoyed. And the E-type was part of that.'