* BEST SELLER *
XK 120 Explored
The Plates by Bernard Viart edited by Terry McGrath. This extensively revised 416pp reprint is NOW IN STOCK!
You can order now via THIS LINK! for early delivery
The JAGUAR XK 120 in COMPETITION
Both Editions are available for immediate delivery.
For full details see our Catalogue Entry.
MIKE HAWTHORN - GOLDEN BOY!
NOW AVAILABLE - the Softback version of our best seller Mike Hawthorn - Golden Boy! In 11 Chapters and containing much of the original book plus updates. Please use THIS LINK to order!
1950 - 2012
Paul Skilleters' and Tony Bailey's Archive Online Now! Browsable, Searchable! Single or Multiple images, PayPal Accepted
Includes Jaguar, Swallow, Mercedes, Ferrari, MG, Austin, Austin Healey, Ford, and many others. Locations include Silverstone, Brands Hatch, Donington, Goodwood, Lydden, Greenham, Thruxton, various Hill Climbs, Le Mans etc plus JEC/JDC & other Club events. Even a Raiders of the Lost Ark photoshoot!
Fast Ordering via PayPal
Use Mastercard/VISA at PayPal or Cheques/Phone to us direct
24 Hour Delivery most UK Orders!
Many titles have Local Despatch for USA and Australia!
UK ONLY - Single UK Shipping Charge for multiple items!
Tel: +44 (0)1425 612669
for urgent orders
4,411,860 Site Visits
|I wrote this article a couple of years ago for a commemorative book on Motor magazine, founded over 100 years ago and one of the UK's leading weekly motoring magazines - and a fierce rival to the country's other motoring weekly, Autocar. Although not specifically Jaguar, it does serve to tell how I came into the field of motoring photography and journalism. I have slightly amended the original draft to include a few more Jaguar references.
'At the beginning'
by Paul Skilleter
I joined Motor at Bowling Green Lane, EC1, on April 1 1966, and I can't exaggerate the importance of the magazine in my life. It was the launching pad for everything that followed and, in some ways, provided the peak experiences of my working life to date. Certainly, the chance of that position in 1966 was the 'lucky break' that everyone needs in their career.
For me, that break came pretty early. You have to set what happened in context to appreciate just how fortunate I regarded myself: I was 19 years old and just completing a three-year course in photography when I wrote 'on spec.' to Motor. I wanted to combine my new-found photography skills with cars and, having failed to find employment in a motor manufacturers' photographic department (including Jaguar's! They turned me down very nicely, I remember), next I tried the magazines - and Motor was the title I had bought on and off (my pocket money being fairly meagre) since around 1957.
A reply came from a Mr Arnold Clifford along the lines of "something might be available later on and we will be in touch." That was it, I thought, and resigned myself to a career in some dull provincial studio. But then the miraculous happened: a letter arrived calling me up to Bowling Green Lane for an interview. The journey from Bournemouth to EC1 was easily the longest distance I and my 1950 Hillman Minx had ever driven, but it was accomplished with eagerness. At no. 33 I saw Mr Clifford (a kindly, white-haired man) and Mr Harold Nockolds, but not at that time, as I recall, the-then editor of Motor, Mr Richard Benstead-Smith. I remember being asked what I would like as a salary. "Enough to live on", I said. Money was absolutely and completely irrelevant: if I got the job, I would already have achieved Nirvana.
Goodwood in 1966 where I was sent as a try-out by Philip Turner. The leading Imp was driven by Nick Brittan who I would later work with (he's being chased by that great Imp tuner and driver, Roger Nathan)
The interview was apparently satisfactory, but there was to be a test: on March 15 1966 a letter came from sports editor Philip Turner confirming that I should attend the BARC Goodwood race meeting on March 19. It was to see if I could manage motor racing photography, as I had none in my portfolio. I duly attended the meeting, comprehensively ill-equipped - I'd never been to a race circuit before and also had a most inappropriate, twin-lens reflex Yashicamat camera. But by standing close to the chicane, and back home putting the enlarger at the top of its column, I managed to produce a set of prints which were deemed suitable. I was offered the job of, I think it was termed, "photographic trainee".
one of my first tasks was a sad one
Starting work at Temple Press in April 1966, one of my first tasks was a sad one: collecting what was to be my equipment (Leica M4, Mamiya C33, Mecablitz wet-cell flashgun) from George Moore. George had been a photographer with Temple Press from pre-war times, and had produced some magnificent work - including that wonderful, low-angle shot of NUB 120 on the 1952 Alpine Rally. But he had health problems and was retiring some years early, thus creating an opening for a young photographer at Temple Press for perhaps the first time in 20 years. That was my "lucky break." I had applied at exactly the right time.
George Moore's wonderful, low-angle shot of NUB 120 on the 1952 Alpine Rally
It was not until someone remarked on it at the Motor centenary reunion that I realised in retrospect that the editorial offices at
Bowling Green Lane were indeed dark and dingy. To me, barely out of my teens and in awe of everything, that didn't register: here was
where the legends had worked - Lawrence Pomeroy, Christopher Jennings, Joe Lowry - as now did their successors: Dick Benstead-Smith,
editor, Charles Bulmer technical editor, Philip Turner sports editor, Roger Bell road tests, Michael Bowler road tests, Tony Kydd travel and leisure, Tony Curtis road tests, Cyril Posthumous general and historic features, Eric Cushion accessories, RAB Cook deputy editor, Brian Hatton art department, and, of course, photographer Maurice Rowe, to whom I would be no. 2. Henry Fuller and Barry Watkin were in charge of layout. Harold Nockolds was editorial director, Paul Jennings was deputy chairman and managing director of Temple Press, and I think Richard Dangerfield - of the family which founded the company - was chairman.
Based away from Bowling Green Lane were Harold Hastings, Motor's Midlands editor, along with photographer Harry Roberts - a grizzled little man but a great Brummy character. The editorial secretaries I recall are 'Snowy' White and Maureen Argyll, but there were a couple more, I think.
My first job for Motor was to photograph the last HRG, a GRP-bodied Vauxhall VX 4/90-engined two-seater that had been built in 1965. This was to accompany a "Farewell to HRG" feature for the April 16 1966 edition by Cyril Posthumous, as HRG were due to be wound up on July 6. My second job was to photograph the assembly from a kit of parts a Lotus Elan at Charles Bulmer's house in Camberley (Charles still lives there); this article appeared in the issue of April 30 1966. On reflection, quite an appropriate juxtapositioning for my first jobs: an old name about to vanish alongside one of Britain's (and the world's) most advanced light sports cars.
my first credit as a photographer
Looking back through old issues also seems to pin-point my first credit as a photographer - the Crystal Palace meeting report in the issue of August 13 1966. Chris Irwin, Mac Daghorn and Robin Widdows were racing single-seaters, while Keith Holland won the marque sports car race in his E-type. The same issue carried the road test of a Moskvitch saloon, which I think I did the photographs for; whatever, I certainly remember the car well, and quite admired the tough old bus - while who could forget its tool kit? You could have rebuilt the entire car with it.
Incidentally, one task which fell to us photographers was to assess the boot (trunk) capacity on road test cars. When I joined, various sizes of white-painted plywood boxes were used, the idea being to fit as many as possible into the trunk, note their combined cubic footage, then stack them alongside the car for a photograph. Later these heavy old boxes were replaced by a set of Revelation suitcases and squashy bags.
Some road versions of the Le Mans winning GT40 were produced and I
photographed a couple of them at the time. This is the car that belonged
to Robert Danny back then. It was the first GT40 I drove.
August 1966 also provided a rather more exciting task: sitting alongside John Rhodes in his works Mini Cooper as he demonstrated Mini racing techniques round Brands Hatch. This was at a time when the tyre-smoking Coopers were dominating their class and even achieving overall wins in saloon car racing. The resulting article by Tony Curtis appeared in the August 27 issue.
I celebrated my 21st birthday on October 11, 1966, an event generously recognised by
my new-found friends on Motor: Barry Watkin (who with Henry Fuller did the layouts) drew a huge card featuring an XK Jaguar, and (I discovered only recently), it was the editor's secretary 'Snowy' White who organised a collection which resulted in my present - an XK 120 factory workshop manual with XK 140 supplement. This was for the ten year old, pastel blue XK 140 drophead which by now had succeeded the Minx (thanks to a small legacy from a pseudo aunt). I no longer have the XK 140 but I still have that workshop manual with its supplement.
I need to record that these people were outstandingly kind to me during those early months. To say I was wet behind the ears was an understatement: I was the archetypal innocent abroad, young - if not downright immature - for my age and utterly bereft of any knowledge of the big wide world. But there was no arrogance or contempt, just good-natured help and guidance whenever necessary - all the way from editor Dick Benstead-Smith, through the staff to Len Roffey and Jimmy Leat in the tiny photographic department on the floor above the editorial offices. Then, within the first week or two, my old Hillman Minx was towed away for illegal parking (I had yet to have a company car and thus access to the company car park). This was a total disaster as I thought it had been stolen. But RAB Cook spent an hour or so of his own time driving me round in his 'long-term test' Rover 2000 looking for it, before we realised that it was in the police pound. Funny how these little kindnesses stay in the mind.
This extraordinary demonstration of a Dan Dare type jet back-pack took place at a Brands Hatch festival of some sort, probably around 1968. The noise it made was excruciatingly loud. Made a change from the cars, though
memories from the 1960s in particular are vivid
It was the unflappable and hugely tolerant Maurice Rowe who mainly allocated me my jobs, including a number of Grands Prix a year. The memories from the 1960s in particular are vivid: those earlier years overlapped what could be termed the older generation of motoring journalists, and the sight and sound of Gregor Grant playing the spoons alongside someone playing the piano in a hotel at the Nurburgring will always remain with me. As will the 1968 German Grand Prix, when the mists descended and the cars loomed out of the swirling grey fog for, it seemed, just a few seconds before disappearing once more. Today the race would have been stopped. Then, it continued (and Jackie Stewart won).
A lot more has changed in motor racing since those days, not the least for the photographers as Maurice will also recount. In the 1960s and early 1970s you could get ridiculously close to the action - one of our favourite spots was at Copse or Stowe at Silverstone, where you could stand on the exact apex of the corner so that the drivers set the car up using you as their marker. Judge it right and the car would appear to be heading straight at you. Then it would pass literally two feet from you, with only the silly little breeze-block wall in between.
The photograph of Jochen Rindt which was selected for exhibition - the event was the Oulton park Gold Cup meeting in 1970
Immensely long telephoto lenses were therefore not essential (though many GP photographers did have 300mm or 500mm lenses). I mostly used a 135mm on the Leica, and sometimes, because of that closeness to the subject being possible, even a wide angle lens. It was using such on the idiosyncratic old bellows Mamiya C33 that I took the only photo of mine that ever came near to claiming fame - one of Jochen Rindt at the Oulton Park Gold Cup meeting of 1970. Shot with a low shutter speed, and from almost overhead, only Rindt's head was sharp. This picture was hung at the British Press Pictures of the Year exhibition of probably that same year.
Mind you, some of the continental photographers were much more adventurous than we were, and the most extraordinary sight I remember was at a continental circuit when one of them placed a round goldfish bowl - complete with water and goldfish - on a stand next to the track, obviously with the intention of shooting the cars through it. But even back then the marshals baulked at such antics, and he was hustled off clutching bowl and goldfish.
Often I would work alongside Grand Prix regulars such as Mike Cooper, Nigel Snowden and, most often, Geoff Goddard, who with Maurice was one of the outstanding photographers of the period. On reflection, I think Maurice probably nominated Geoff as a sort of minder for me in the early days, to show me the ropes at the various tracks. Anyway, we would normally share a hire car back to the airport after the race. I liked and had an immense respect for Geoff - still do of course - but he was one of the rudest people I ever knew at airports, where if anything went slightly wrong he would make the life of the check-in staff a misery. Me, the early-twenties shrinking violet hovering nervously on one leg in the background, was filled with awe and admiration as Geoff told these people what they could do with their aeroplane, airline, airport, organisation and all that they contained.
Motor covered the arrival of the original XJ6 in depth and I went to Browns Lane in September to do the photography. Riding in that car for the first time was an eery experience, so refined and quiet did it seem
another unforgettable character
Another unforgettable character was, needless to say, Denis Jenkinson. Even before I joined Motor I knew his book The Racing Driver virtually by heart (I believe it should still be required reading - even now I see power-slides described as drifts), so to work alongside this living legend was unutterably wonderful. Mind you, he could be, and often was, sarcastic and he did not suffer fools gladly. He just about tolerated me when I plucked up courage to ask a silly question, but despite being about two foot shorter than me, somehow he always managed to give the impression he was looking down on me from a great height. Intellectually, he was.
Not that I cared: his knowledge of motor racing and the drivers was probably second to none, and ten minutes spent listening to Jenks was worth reading several of other people's books. Randomly, I recall being with him and Michael Bowler driving back from, probably, a Spanish GP at Barcelona, and diverting slightly to visit Sitges. Today this is, I believe, noted for other things but for us was interesting in that on its outskirts was supposed to be an abandoned, banked circuit dating from pre-war times. We found it too, a bright, thin white ribbon of concrete under the fierce Spanish sun - but, rather like Brooklands, already invaded by an industrial estate. Maureen Argyll, who was with us, was for some reason afraid that the area was private and we'd get shot at by irate Spaniards, so we didn't stay long. I have often wondered since if that track still exists.
Everybody went to Le Mans, of course, and it was a race which still made the headlines in the daily papers. I went every year from 1967 to 1974, so saw the GT40s and 917 Porsches in full flight. But I never witnessed the end of the race. My job was to fly home on the Sunday morning with the first batch of film, with Maurice returning after 4pm with the finish pictures. My patch was the start down to Terte Rouge. I drove round the circuit in a C-type this year with Jaguar development test driver Norman Dewis and found it almost completely unrecognisable from 30 years ago. It is still the world's best motor race, though, and it's a shame it doesn't get the media coverage it deserves.
In due course Motor obtained a road test XJ6 which I took out and photographed near Highgate. The Mamiya C33 twin lens reflex I was using would produce an attractive flaring effect sometimes, but I don't think this particular shot was ever reproduced at the time
Drama of a different sort was provided by rallies. I covered the occasional international event, including the 1968 Alpine (one of the last). That was with Hamish Cardno, who I think I also accompanied on the Tulip - an event which taught me that, at a pinch, one can get away with missing one night's sleep, but not two... At least, I couldn't. But almost more enjoyable were the Welsh, Scottish and RAC Rallies: seeing the likes of Roger Clark and Erik Carlsson at full flight (literally) over the forest stages was spectacular. Funny how enthusiastic one is when young - I recall happily driving all the way from London to Scotland in my first company car, an 850 Mini (MLX 186D), to cover the 'Scottish.' No big deal, you say. But it was summer, and I had the heater full on all the time, there and back. The head gasket had blown and no other car was available.
Motor sports were only a small part of our work, however - though before leaving the subject, I must mention Philip Turner. A most kindly man, a complete gentleman of the old school and someone whose knowledge of the sport was very great. Just some things he wasn't very good at - when, at a continental circuit, the right passes didn't materialise on signing-in, the approved technique was to shout while banging your fist on the race official's desk. Yes, Philip would sort of speak more loudly then usual, but his fist banging was, to say the least, unimpressive. It just wasn't him. But he always got the requisite passes.
Road tests were an important element of Motor's output, and there was fierce competition between us and Autocar. Secrecy was also needed when either of us were attempting to scoop the other with a first-test of a new model, but this was difficult when, under the aegis of IPC, the Temple Press titles were moved to Dorset House in Stamford Street near Waterloo - Iliffe's domain.
I usually ended up feeling sick
Photographing road test cars was an almost weekly job, and so were visits to MIRA, where I also began to help the road test team - which soon included Tony Dron, Gordon Bruce, Rex Greenslade and Mike McCarthy (the latter one of the hardest working people I have ever known, and perennially good-humoured too). I would assist in such ways as holding the Tapley meter for the brake fade test. This was not my favourite task and I usually ended up feeling sick after - what was it? - ten ½g stops from perhaps 100mph. I also used to get what I privately called my MIRA headache, possibly caused by the constant bright light from the former airfield's open skies. Nevertheless, it was interesting stuff and sometimes I'd get to see Norman Dewis circulating in the next new Jaguar (little did he or I know that 30 years later I'd be writing his biography!).
'Maxing' the Daimler Double Six 'Series 1' on the continent, c. 1973. Tony Curtis was driving, I took the pictures. Here the speedo is showing an indicated 150mph at about 6,250rpm
Modified cars featured in the test programme too, and those I most respected came from Downton Engineering who achieved miraculous results in terms of increased horsepower and decreased fuel consumption - especially with the BMC A, B and even C series engines. The genius behind the company was Daniel Richmond, an almost aristocratic figure who kept a suite of rooms at, if I recall correctly, the Park Lane hotel. He was also a gourmet and connoisseur of champagne; during one visit, several bottles were consumed over lunch at a restaurant in Downton village as Daniel and Tony Curtis discussed not only gas flowing techniques but also the relative merits of various champagne houses. It was a good job I didn't drink and so could drive an only marginally coherent CAC home in his long-term Austin 1300.
There were sadnesses, too. It was travelling to MIRA one morning that I had the experience of being the last person someone spoke to before they died. Chris Hartley, an affable young man of about my age, had joined the road test team in the early 1970s. We had arranged to travel up in one car and he was driving. A few miles from our destination, I noticed Chris had stopped talking, and indeed wasn't really responding to anything I said. Still, he drove into MIRA all right and parked as arranged near the horizontal straight, though pulling up with an uncharacteristic jerk. He still wasn't speaking and, while looking quite relaxed, he was clearly uncomprehending of anything around him. Tony Dron and I took him to the canteen, sat him down and called for an ambulance. It turned out he'd had a brain haemorrhage; shortly afterwards he went into a coma and later died.
We also lost Jim Tozen, a big, beefy, outspoken man who always seemed too large for his chosen branch of motor sport - Formula 4 racing. He committed suicide after his wife apparently ran off with another journalist (not one from Motor). I liked Jim Tozen, whose regular jobs included writing the new 'Motoring Plus' column about performance modifications. Tony Scott, an excellent feature writer with a great future ahead of him, also died young, from a form of leukaemia I believe - but after he left the magazine. Gordon Bruce kept in touch and did much to assist him. These members of the team should also be remembered.
I recall going to Stuttgart to photograph the Mercedes-Benz C111 prototype of 1969/70, an extraordinary car powered by a 280bhp Wankel rotary engine and capable of 190mph
we (naturally) rated ourselves above Autocar
I was immensely proud of that team: I felt at the time (and now, come to that) it was the best in the business - technically erudite in a way that seems to be the exception on motoring magazines today, experienced, well-read and good writers all. We (naturally) rated ourselves above Autocar and regarded those on Car magazine as mere dilettantes. No other British magazine figured in our sights at all.
They were fine drivers too, these staffers. Roger Bell was a regular winner in Group 1 racing with BMW, Gordon Bruce was highly competitive in anything (including in the fiercely fought Escort Mexico series, not to mention on the hills with his 500 racer), and in my view Tony Dron was of nothing less than Formula One quality (and might have got there but for being a few inches too tall). He excelled elsewhere, though, and I recall witnessing him pitching for a works Dolomite drive with Ralph Broad in the latter's Southam office.
I also used to be highly impressed by Charles Bulmer at the Silverstone Guild Test Days (I could never have braked that late into Stowe!), while of course Michael Bowler was a top flight historic racer in his own Sebring Frazer Nash (in 1971 I began racing in historic events too, with my alloy-bodied XK 120; this produced similar lap times to the 'Nash but we never coincided in a race). Later, Michael moved on to BMW 328 MM and Lister-Jaguar.
I learnt to drive properly with these folk, notably on the Group Tests which were started by Motor in 1967. I missed the first one, but always tried to wheedle my way onto as many as possible thereafter. The format was simply to take four or six comparative cars from London to, usually, mid-Wales, swapping drivers every fifty miles or so. It proved highly educational, the direct comparisons bringing out strengths and weaknesses of rival marques which were often hitherto unexpected. I found it fascinating (even if I was there only to do the pictures, something Roger Bell had occasionally to remind me of), and it was following the likes of Michael Bowler, Roger Bell, Tony Dron & Co. at eight-tenths (thank you, Jenks) through deserted Welsh valleys that taught me a lot about car control.
This is the first E-type I ever drove - Jaguar's 1968 'Series 1 1/2' press car in pale yellow. Although I had it for a weekend, I can't find any of my own pictures of it, and this is a Jaguar hand-out of the time
I acquired a reputation on the staff as being something of a driver
Quite accidentally, I seemingly acquired a minor reputation on the staff as being something of a driver myself. This was and is entirely undeserved as I am not within a million miles of being in the same league as those just mentioned. Nevertheless, one of the remarks I most treasure was made by Tony when he once said he thought I was "quite quick." Emphatically I am not, aspiring to nothing more than occasional flashes of near-competence; nevertheless, Tony said it and no-one can take it away from me.
This might have won Tony my accolade as my favourite Motor journalist, but he is at least matched by Roger Bell. Why? Because some time in 1968 I found a note on my desk, together with a bunch of car keys. The note said, "Seeing your interest in Jaguar, you might like to take the E-type for the weekend." The keys were for JDU 877E, the 4.2 press roadster which had just returned from a group test I hadn't been on. And this beautiful yellow Jaguar E-type was mine, all mine, for a whole two days! I drove it to my parents' home in Bournemouth and I don't think the engine ever got cold as I drove it around the area with my enthralled younger brother at my side. I was just 23, and my gratitude to Roger for this gesture remains with me to this day.
This photograph illustrates the consequences of spinning off through the low breeze block wall at Stowe. The Iso Grifo was an expensive write-off; so would any of us photographers had we been standing in the wrong spot… But we didn't seem to think much about risks in those days
More good driving experiences came with Motor's coverage of the international motor shows - Frankfurt, Geneva, Paris, Turin and Brussels. Usually, two or three of us would drive there in the same car, providing plenty of high-speed continental motoring, including over the Alps on occasion. I recall highly exciting journeys in such as the-then new Silver Shadow, Daimler Double Six and V12 E-type (yes, three-up in the latter, with me sitting crosswise in the back - and in moderate comfort, too) The shows themselves were good fun - not only were there often genuinely new models on display, but the coachbuilders always had fascinating new designs to be ogled at. I also enjoyed the technical challenge of producing good, clear pictures by the careful balancing of flash and available light (the Metz was very simple - just half or full flash, so sometimes the right result was not easy to achieve).
Also, at that time manufacturers vied with each other to induce journalists to visit their stands and press conferences by means of blatantly extravagant gifts. For example, the cry "Lancia is giving away electric typewriters!" would ring out, to be followed by a surge of hacks (mostly from foreign or minor titles, we liked to think) engulfing the relevant stand. I don't recall getting anything very exotic, but I still have my beautiful mohair Lancia blanket and a more brightly coloured one from Fiat (blankets must have been in the in-thing that year).
an interminable speech during which a working majority of us fell asleep
Talking of Fiat, during a Turin show there was usually the statutory visit to the company's works by coach.
The first time I went, the fleet of coaches approached the vast factory but, to my amazement, instead of stopping for us to decant, they all drove straight into the building through huge doors. There usually followed an interminable speech by Giovanni Agnellli (God rest his soul), during which a working majority of us fell asleep.
In the evenings, we would adjourn to a fashionable restaurant - which almost always ended up being funded by PR guys such as Alfred Wolf. I recall him huddling together with others of his ilk, working out how on earth to allocate the obviously mammoth bill between them. Sometimes we would be joined by motor industry figures, and I remember Trevor Fiore - then working for Fissore if I recall correctly - lending a touch of Italian glamour to our particular table one year. Then finally it was back to the hotel, to listen for a while to the unceasing squeal of tyres on the cobbles as Fiat 124s, 850s and so on raced around the squares, pursued by the usual hordes of buzzing Lambrettas and Vespas.
This 1971 article in Motor was I think my first to be published outside of a club magazine. It told the story of the XK 120, centred around photographs I'd taken of my own car at the time, LXK 48 (chassis no. 670144, one of the alloy-bodied cars). The main picture was taken at Stowe school near Silverstone
Back home, every week there was a cover picture to be produced, except that for a spell, outside 'names' or studios were hired. Sometimes we would be accompanied by an 'art director'. One such was the long-suffering Arnold Lerner. Only twice have I left a public road unintentionally in a car, and the first was with Arnold as a passenger. We were on our way to photograph an Alfa Romeo Duetto at a chalk quarry, and I was having great fun extracting the best from the little red Alfa on the approach to the quarry when, on an unexpectedly tight bend, we understeered harmlessly off the tarmac. As we sat waiting for the dust to subside, Arnold said in a resigned sort of way, "I knew that was going to happen."
A successor to Arnold was Clive Ranger; he it was who arranged for a 5am photo-shoot involving beach buggies - a late-60s craze which persisted for some years. In fact prior to that I'd been driven at somewhat illegal speeds round London by contributor (and ace saloon car racer) Nick Brittan in another of those Beetle-based machines - this one shod with ex-GP race car tyres of outrageous width. The grip levels were simply enormous. Nick and I also borrowed Tommy Steele's Excalibur, accepting the keys from the man himself at, I think, Boreham studios. We photographed that spectacular machine in a London street market.
the horrible things that went wrong with the (mostly BL) company cars
One other contributor who should be mentioned is Tony Temp, National Trade Press fleet manager at Bowling Green Lane. He wrote Service Diary, this column based on the horrible things that went wrong with the (mostly BL) company cars. It was popular, too, but I think one of the biggest surprises (I will not say shock) we had was when a readership survey revealed that Tony Kydd's touring column, and Eric Cushion's accessory pages, were every bit (or more) popular than anything else in the magazine.
In 1974 I moved from Motor to Thoroughbred & Classic Cars magazine. This is just one of the many cover photographs I did over the following couple of years
Occasionally I would write for the magazine too, usually on Jaguar, my adopted marque. I wrote and illustrated (including the cover) an
article on the XK 120 Jaguar in 1971; this centred around my own aluminium-bodied car LXK 48 (670144), and it
was entitled '20 Years a Classic' (which it was then). The article pursued the theme that a new generation of
old-car enthusiasts had grown up to whom the cars of the 1950s were the ones that rang the bells. Up to about that
time, old-car enthusiasm was defined by vintage or PVT cars - that is, basically pre-war machines with running boards
and big P100 headlamps. The word 'classic' was not then applied to cars outside of the US and few regarded 1950s cars as 'collectable'.
I find that this article is still remembered by some even today.
I also compiled a supplement for Motor on Jaguar's 50th anniversary in 1972. These efforts must have been all right because it was around this time that Charles - now editor - asked me privately if I would swap over and become a journalist on the magazine. For various reasons I felt I couldn't make the transition (not the least being that I could see the road test team in particular were very hard worked!); I was quite content with my lot as a photographer, mainly keeping my writing activities to my editorship of the Jaguar Drivers' Club monthly journal.
Indeed, I might have stayed on Motor for many more years, but for the creation in 1973 of another Dorset House-based magazine, Thoroughbred & Classic Cars; the inspiration of Autocar man Lionel Burrel, Michael Bowler was its first editor and, with my increasing interest in the newly-defined 'classic car', transferring to this seemed an appropriate move when in 1974 a photographer/journalist was required. With some trepidation I went to see IPC director John French, a figure in the 'C.J.' mould with a loud and quite terrifying manner. But he granted me the necessary permission and around mid-1974 I left Motor.
I would not say that everything I have done since has been an anti-climax, but those heady nine years-odd were unique, and Motor remains the journal I rate the most important in my career.
To be continued: life with T&CC, penning my first Jaguar book, and entering the world of magazine publishing.