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G a r y   C r u m p l e r   a n d   

N i g e l   M a n s e l l

Back in 1992, Nigel Mansell won F1 race after F1 race, and went on to win five consecutive victories in his Williams-Renault FW14B… and that is where I came in.....

My connection with Nigel started earlier in late 1991 when I wanted to get involved in painting F1 races, especially with Mr Mansell. I contacted Williams F1 at their previous headquarters in Didcot, near Oxford. Gary Crumpler, who ran the merchandise sponsor section of the team, invited me over and asked me to bring a selection of racing paintings. I did have a number of car and racing pictures including a Le Mans painting – but none showing F1.

     I arrived at the William offices, which had the Didcot power station cooling towers looming over them, and sat in the reception area waiting for Gary to appear. I was surprised how small and bare the entrance area was – it was definitely an engineers' interior design, with only past F1 cups on display and not one single picture or painting.

Once I was in Gary's office he was very pleased with what he saw of my work, but he wanted to see an example of F1. 'Okay', I said, 'I'll go away and paint a picture of Nigel and bring it back asap.’


Working day and night for three days, I painted a Nigel Mansell painting for Gary.

I made another appointment at Williams and arrived at the reception again. There I was clutching my nearly dry painting, when who should walk in - but Jackie Stewart! We chatted about F1, Nigel and the painting before being summoned by Gary. Recovering from that surreal Jackie Stewart experience, I sat waiting for Gary's reaction to the new painting. He did a classic intake of breath and said, 'We are running a competition to find a new William's artist, and I want to put this painting on our walls with several other artists' work, so that Frank can choose who is to represent the team as our artist.’ I sat there slightly numb – a chance to be William's artist – yes please!

So... the weeks went past, and I waited and waited for an answer from Williams. Finally an envelope with a William's logo on it, dropped through my letter box. I madly opened it to find that no one had been chosen by Frank as the William's artist because, according to Gary, Frank wasn't interested in art and thought he didn't need paintings at the offices.   

And, so, that was that!

I phoned Gary after receiving the black news, and I tried to rescue something from the situation. Gary suggested I contacted Nigel Mansell's PA to try and work something out from that end. I left with a piece of paper with Nigel PA’s name and number written on it – it was a start.

     Armed with that information, I was able to get an appointment (surprisingly easily) with Nigel's PA, down at his sports car garage, way down in Dorset. I was disappointed to hear that Nigel wouldn't be at the meeting because he would be at the Hungarian Grand Prix. 

I arrived at his garage which was dripping with every Ferrari, Maserati and Lamborghini exotica that you could imagine.

After a few minutes, I had three people facing me at the meeting in the lounge area, including Nigel's PA. The meeting progressed positively, and thankfully they loved my painting.

The conversation was going well, when it turned to a painting of Nigel, by another artist, racing somewhere (can't remember where), that was hanging on their office wall. I sensed this was the time to put my cheeky hat on, and suggested they replace that painting and put mine on the wall instead, for Nigel to assess when he came back from Hungary - to see if he would notice the change! To my utter surprise they agreed!

So… that was where the meeting ended, with my painting hanging on Nigel Mansell's sports car garage wall, ready for him to discover. Again, quite surreal... and totally unexpected.

After his return from winning in Hungary, Nigel did see my painting and wanted to buy it – but not only wanting to buy it, but also to buy the full copyright, as well as printing off 1200 copies as a limited edition fine art print, with him signing it as well as me. These signed prints were then to be sold by mail order via Nigel's own company.

The offer was too good to refuse, and so I waited for his lawyer on the Isle of Man to send me a contract. That duly came through my fax machine (remember, this was in 1992) and when the paper finally finished issuing from the roll, it looked about 20 feet long! I waded through the lawyer ‘speak’, and found four points on the contract I wanted more information about. I phoned Mr X, the lawyer, and began working through my questions. After the third question had been answered, there was silence at the other end, then I heard, 'Do you want this ******* contract?' Looking back at that question makes me laugh so much, with an unknown artist, questioning Nigel Mansell's lawyer, and the wording of his contract. I signed up pretty smartish...

After several weeks the prints were ready and I was asked to visit Nigel's sports car garage to sign and number the 1200 prints. The final print size was large and needed careful handling to stop it being dented or bent. When I began the day, I had firmly believed I was going to finish signing and numbering the prints by 6 p.m., however, when I arrived at the garage, I found I had to do the whole signing and numbering operation by myself, on the huge pile of prints – it was at least 2 feet tall!

     I'm sure you will think the whole process sounds pretty simple... lift the print off the left-hand pile… slide it on to a desk… sign my name in pencil, below the right-hand corner of the picture… number the print by putting 1 over 1200, and then 2 over 1200 on the next one, and so on and so on, to the right of the signature… then slide the print off and start a new pile on the right.

By 6 p.m. I had managed to sign and number only half the pile, with my right hand ceasing to function – I actually couldn't bend my thumb and fingers properly! To add to my RSI, I found that my mind began playing tricks with me after the first hundred or so prints: I began to get 'number amenesia' which resulted in me repeating the same number on several different prints. 

     During the whole signing process, I was also trying to stop the prints from being dented due to their tendency to try and get away from my hands as I slid them on to the table; since they were large, air was trapped under them as they arrived over the table, which made the prints try and fly off the table in all directions.

     So... 2 days later, I finished signing the 1200 prints. Phew! Even with my dead fingers, thumbs, repeated numbers and flying prints, it was a great experience and I hope everyone who bought the print, enjoyed 'Out in Front'.

Finally, just to finish off this second Scribbles story – I always find coincidences very strange, and the following one really made me think there is something controlling my fate.

I was using an art gallery in Falmouth to sell my work and recently I went to see the owner – just a 5 minute visit to say hello. Remember, before I finish this 'coincidence', that my main story about Nigel Mansell and my painting, dates way back to 1992.

     As soon as I stepped into Mark's gallery, he turned to me and said, 'Well, speak of the devil, here he is now!' – meaning me. The customer had been talking to Mark about my Nigel Mansell print, 'Out in Front', that he had bought 25 years ago! I couldn't believe that we were both there at the same time, and neither could the customer – he couldn't get over actually meeting the artist of his print at that very moment, and at that particular location 25 years later!

Very weird.