ED AND SALLY SWART Life (and Love) in the Fast Lane of Racing and Marriage
This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!
Mon, Jul 10, 2017
The LACar Editorial Staff
Story by Hector Cademartori
Photos courtesy of Randy Simon and the Swart family... I really hope that our readers will pardon me for that rather clichéd headline above, but Ed and Sally Swart are tried and true members of the racing community and have been married (to each other!) for quite a significant amount of time (especially based on local LA stats!) and they both love cars!
My wife Florencia and I were recently honored with an invitation to the Swart’s 50th wedding anniversary at their home in the south of California. The happy couple's two children, Sharon and Rendell, were there along with family members and a wonderful selection of people from the couple’s life which centers on church, family, Sally’s longtime interest in horses and, of course, motor racing. The latter group included people who’ve been around vintage car racing for a long time and, specifically, those who were part of Ed’s club, Historic Sportscar Racing (“HSR”) - West.
"50 years later ... Sally and Ed still all smiles with Florencia and author Hector Cademartori ... "So many memories."
And so ... let’s roll the calendar back on this wonderful marriage of half a century and see just where this long-term love story all began:
“Once upon a time...” there was a fetching young British lady by the name of Sally Stokes (no relation to our Editor)* who, in the summer of 1963, was having lunch at the London flat of a family friend named Gunilla Whitmore, when a handsome young Scottish racing driver showed up "completely unannounced".
They didn’t know each other, but young Miss Stokes, a motorsports fan, certainly knew who Jim Clark was. “We had a lovely lunch and, quite to my surprise, my friend announced that she had an appointment and left, leaving me with Jimmy, to do the washing up. I should have known that this had been plotted, but I was so naïve it was years before I discovered it had been a setup”, Sally recently recalled.
(Clark at that time was already on his way as a Formula One driving star and a later that year would be crowned World Champion after an incredible 10-race season where he took pole position seven times and won seven times.)
Clark invited Sally to the premiere of the movie “Cleopatra” the next night which they attended with friends, including Stirling** and Elaine Moss, and John** and Gunilla Whitmore, who had had set up “THE lunch” the day before.
Sally and Clark started dating and eventually she became part of the Lotus racing team, attending all the races including Formula 2, Indianapolis and meetings in Australia and New Zealand for the Tasman Cup.
Meanwhile back at the ranch (as they used to say in those old TV westerns) a young Dutchman whose family ran an important Fiat and Lancia distributorship in The Hague, Netherlands, was driving and doing well in touring car races as a factory driver for Fiat Abarth. His name was Ed Swart and he was moving in the same circles as Sally and it was not very long before their paths would cross.
Here's Ed flying low at the Nurburgring, all four wheels in the air, driving the Fiat Abarth SP2000.From Sally’s photo panel: Sally and a very young driver by the name of Mario Andretti. It was 1965 in Indianapolis, the year that Clark won the “500” and Mario was Rookie of the Year.I remember asking Sally one evening at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana during the Historic Festival, why she ended the relationship with Jimmy and she was quite candid about it. “Jimmy was getting more and more professional and more and more busy with his career and his travels. I didn’t want to marry him while he was racing and I realized that he wasn’t going to stop anytime soon.”
I also asked Ed about his first meeting with Sally...“We met on a blind date. We were introduced to each other by another Brit, Warwick Banks, a mutual friend and fellow racer who drove for Ken Tyrrell,” he explained. It started when we talked about girls in Budapest during the 6 hour touring car race there in October 1964. What kind of girls do you like, etc. and in December 1964 he invited me to the racing car show in London because he wanted me to meet Sally, who he thought would be a perfect girl for me."
"What he did not tell me was that she was Jim Clark’s girlfriend at the time!," Ed told me with a smile, "When I found that out later I was quite shocked since he was the most famous race car driver of the day, the F1 World Champion, and I was a Fiat Abarth touring car driver".
“At the time Sally and I met, Jim Clark was racing in the Tasman Series in New Zealand. Jim won in 1965 both the Indy 500 and the World Championship again and I won the European Touring car Championship in Division1,” Swart told us. “Both of us were kept quite busy racing and ‘fighting’ over Sally. In the end I won and married Sally on April 22, 1967.” Adding gingerly: “That’s the story ... and it will be in my upcoming book.”
Sally stayed very good friends with Clark and his family after becoming Mrs. Swart, even after the young driving champion’s shocking and untimely death at a Formula 2 race in Hockenheim a year later. Clark’s sister Betty was their daughter Sharon’s godmother and the Swart’s are both very involved in the expansion and updating project for the Jim Clark Museum that’s located in Duns, Berwickshire, Scotland.
In 1980 the Swarts moved to the USA. Ed became the West Coast representative for Bitter Cars (which were very exclusive, high-end/high-performance cars built in Germany that used GM drive train components) and continued racing in vintage car events.
Eventually, he had started HSR-West and ran it until it was acquired a couple of years ago by the SVRA (Sportscar Vintage Racing Association).
The SVRA kept Ed onboard as their event director on the West Coast thus continuing his service to racing, much as he had as Race Director (or "Clerk of the Course" as they call that position in Europe) for the Dutch Formula 1 world championship race at Zandvoort in Holland, from 1974 to 1981. Already living in the U.S. in 1981, the race organizers flew Swart back to Europe to preside over that year's event.
Circa 1968 when Ed was a factory team driver for Fiat Abarth, here having a bit of fun with his teammate Arturo Merzario playing “bandidos”.To this day, you can see his helmet displaying the orange of his native Holland, and him wearing it behind the wheel of one his two beautifully-prepared vintage Chevron race cars (an F2 car and 2-liter sport prototype). And it’s very likely that you’ll find Sally not very far away, at the Swart pit encampment, bottle of cool spring water in hand, ready for Ed to come back in from the track.
The Swarts with their Pastor, Jim Welch from the Peninsula Community Church in the City of Rancho Palos Verdes, who blessed the event and the couple’s 50th wedding milestone. But, after all their time in the whirlwind of motor racing, their greatest accomplishment has taken place on an even more difficult “circuit”: the circuitous race track of life, love, and marriage.
So... we uncork the champagne, raise our glasses and propose a toast:HAPPY 50th WEDDING ANNIVERSARY ...
from all of us at LA Car!* Many years ago at a race meeting, I asked Mrs. Swart about the possibility of us being related (as we both were born Stokes’). She indicated as how we most likely might possibly be very distant cousins and that she was as cool with me claiming her as a relative as I was with her claiming me as some tenth or twelfth cousin twice removed. -Ed.
**And, you are correct; both of those men were knighted a bit further on down the road.