Dorothy Sanderson, who has died aged 80, was perhaps best known as the wife, then widow, of the legendary Scots racing driver Ninian, who stunned the newly speed- obsessed world when his team Ecurie Ecosse beat the odds to win the Le Mans 24 hours in 1956.

Her sudden death in her flat in the west end of Glasgow brings to an end an era which began in post-war hope and flamboyance - and which put Scotland, and in particular Glasgow, on the international racing map.

Born the youngest of five children to Stephen and Hannah Tuck, she was reared to be a "good and charming wife", and after she met Ninian, the son of a wealthy bus-company owner, when she was 14, there was never any doubt that she'd found her match. Beautiful and wilful, and nicknamed "Blackie" because of her raven hair, she was shocked into "real life" by the outbreak of the Second World War. Aged just 17, she became a sea-going messenger in the Wrens. She always claimed it was because she was pitifully inept at any other skills, such as shorthand, needlework or "land-girly things". Her uniform, naturally, was hand-tailored at Forsyth's.

With important orders and papers handcuffed to her wrist, she would be ferried from ship to ship as they lay offshore from Portsmouth to Greenock. As was tradition in the Royal Navy then, it was obligatory to accept rations on each naval vessel - a tot of rum to be drunk immediately in the wardroom, and a packet of cigarettes to be taken away. In later years, explaining that the War Office had turned her into a cigarette addict with an enjoyment of alcohol, she would describe how she would be whizzed off the ships clinging to her handcuffed briefcase in a haze of rum, clutching her precious ration.

Her amusing stories hid a much deeper, and certainly darker, truth about her duties as a teenager plunged into the morass of war. Pressed, she would also recount, with lasting grief, the boys - each one recalled by name and face - who left the mess on duty or on exercise never to return.

Married in 1947, she and Ninian flew to New York on honeymoon, an extravagant indulgence, her cases filled with a rather sorry collection of a trousseau. Courtesy of his father, Ninian had organised a meeting with a tailor who ran up perfect copies of Dior's "new look" within days.

Back in Scotland, the Sandersons led what, to many, was a charmed life. Their homes, in Glasgow's south side and latterly on the hills behind Dumbarton and at the city's Kelvin Court, were filled with an enviable inherited and bought collection of nineteenth- and twentieth-century Scottish art.

Ninian, until his death in 1986, was the public, often outrageous, face of the Citroen car collection in Scotland, but privately the couple gave an extraordinary amount to charities. Each Christmas, Ninian, his wife and his friends personally delivered boxes of groceries and "luxuries" to those in need in the city. It was done with style, never patronage.

After his death, Blackie gradually moved into a life in her own spotlight. She gathered around her an eclectic mix of friends of all ages, attracting them with her sense of fun, elegance and self-deprecating wit. She would be appalled that her "foolish little life" should attract a eulogy. She used to joke that the main mourners at her funeral would be the sales assistants of Glasgow who watched her progress through their shops - ramrod-straight, grey hair in a ribboned bun - hoping she would stop for a chat, if not a purchase.

At her funeral reception, pink champagne and egg sandwiches were served. The only meal she ever made, she used to announce, was "afternoon tea" - her version. She leaves behind a host of friends, two daughters and five grandchildren.

But most importantly for such a "foolish woman", she leaves behind a past when manners were all, when elegance was to be strived for and when being amusing was an art form in itself.