We are often asked why David Murray, an Edinburgh accountant and racing driver, chose a French name for his team but we do not need to look far for the answer. David Murray was a true Francophile who, in addition to his accountancy practice owned a number of pubs in Edinburgh and a wine shop that featured French wines. He also reasoned that if he was going to develop a motor racing team that would race Internationally having a French title might help extract a little more starting money from European organisers!
Had it not been for World War II David Murray might well have started motor racing earlier but as he once explained, when we are young and have all our faculties we usually do not have the money but later, when we have the money, we arrive in the sport too late. Certainly Murray had to wait until the war was over before he
started to earn money sufficient to buy an MG to race in Scotland. This in turn led, through his friendship with the great British racing driver Reg Parnell, to him buying Parnell’s Maserati 4CLT/48 racing car. It was the Maserati that took him into grand prix racing and he became the first Scottish driver to race in a post-war grand prix when he took part in the 1950 British Grand Prix at Silverstone. He retired with a blown engine. He raced the car in a number of grands prix but success eluded him. It came to an end at the German Grand Prix of 1951 when he crashed heavily in practice and retired from motor racing.
By this time he had brought a famous pre-war racing mechanic, Wilkie Wilkinson, to Edinburgh as a co-director in Merchiston Motors, the garage Murray established in the cobbled Merchiston Mews in the Bruntsfield area of the city.
Having retired from racing Murray still longed to be involved at the circuits and in conversation with Wilkie and two of his garage customers, Ian Stewart and Bill Dobson, the concept of running a private team where the drivers owned the cars. The plan was that Murray would provide the organisation and “Wilkie”, the pre-race preparation. When it came to choosing a name Murray came up with Ecurie Ecosse ( Team Scotland) and a motor racing icon had been created. Esso was prepared to offer financial support to the team but they specified that all three cars had to be the same type. As a result the three original drivers for Ecurie Ecosse were Ian Stewart, Bill Dobson and Sir James Scott Douglas who all had bought Jaguar XK120’s.The Dobson car had been David Murray’s own car and Jamie was brought into the team because he was Scottish and had
an XK120.The three cars were prepared at Merchiston Motors in a group of small lock-ups at Merchiston Mews in the Bruntsfield area of Edinburgh.
Ecurie Ecosse raced for the first time at Charterhall in Berwickshire and from there the team established its name. Whereas Bill Dobson and Sir James Scott Douglas were successful with the XK120’s Ian Stewart had not only been approached by the Jaguar team but raced for them at the 1952 Le Mans 24 Hour Race. It was a bad race for Jaguar as all three streamlined C-types retired within the first four hours with overheating. However at the same time Jaguar team manager Lofty England intimated that Jaguar were going to build a series of customer C-types and the works team drivers would get the first chance to buy them. As a result Duncan Hamilton bought the first private car, chassis 05 and Ian Stewart bought the second one, 06 and proudly collected it at the factory and drove it straight to Jersey for the Jersey Road Race. He won it outright so giving Ecurie Ecosse their first major International win. Many were to follow.
The Jaguar XK120’s proved to be the ideal cars to establish the team and even though they were outclassed when faced by the Ferraris, the C-type Jaguars and the Aston Martins Ecosse had some good results in 1952. At the British Empire Trophy in the Isle of Man Sir James Scott Douglas won the 3 litre sports car class. Once he saw Ian Stewart’s success with the C-type Jaguar Jamie Scott Douglas decided he would buy one for the 1953 season but Bill Dobson concluded his links with the team at the end of the 1952 season as he needed to concentrate on the family haulage business. And so the Jaguar XK120 period for Ecurie Ecosse and their first season came to an end. It had been a surprising season and the team were clearly going to go to greater things in the future.