Born: Caerphilly, South Wales
Lives: Sandhurst, Berks, UK
Status: Partner Carol; two children
Occupation: Motoring writer and historian
Hobbies: Reading, walking, political history, industrial archeology
Like many boys of my generation I was a car fan spending far more time with my nose in the latest copy of Autocar than in my schoolbooks. My father had several interesting cars over the years – an Armstrong Siddeley Sapphire whose large central rev counter fascinated me, especially as the needle approached the red line, which it often did with my dad’s press-on driving style, and various Volvos in the days when they were synonymous with rallies rather than safety. As a young man I remember ogling the Porsches in Hendon Way Motors, but they all seemed to cost about £3500, as much as I earned in a year. I had to settle for a BMW 1600, but nevertheless had some great dices with a pal in his Vauxhall VX4/90.
A commercial career and family life rather took over during the next two decades and a succession of company or family cars provided transport, though in 1984 I bought a Vauxhall Nova which, 150,000 miles on, I’m still running (and on the original engine!). It was when my son started souping up his Astra that I found my old interest, which had never really gone away, returning. Then, a chap I knew said he’d bought a DB7 but never had time to drive it, I thought, how daft, if had car like that it wouldn’t just sit in my garage and reflected, I’m heading for 50, why am I still driving about in a boring car? Which was when I bought a 9-year old Porsche 911 and people who didn’t understand, talked about ‘mid-life crisis’.
Good luck to them, I said, but you can’t own a Porsche without being fascinated by the company and I started contributing a back page column to a Porsche magazine. This gradually expanded as I learned more and writing articles and features gradually took over my time as a by now self-employed individual. I began writing for other mostly classic car magazines: a particularly enjoyable piece was pitching those two 80s rivals the Sierra and Cavalier against each other. I also found my French degree useful becoming a contributor for the Paris-based La Vie de l’Auto and writing features on very British productions such as Lagonda or Bristol for its sister publication Retroviseur.
With so many writing about Porsche I have concentrated on historical aspects and interviewed many retired Porsche figures which has helped me to get into Continental and US magazines. Paul Frère was my first interviewee and remains an inspiration. Another boyhood interest was trucks and about a third of my published writing is devoted to the heavy truck scene.
As a largely historical writer I feel strongly that we need to take more care of archives. While company resources such as Porsche’s are secure, other private resources are being lost, for example much of the incomparable Haymarket archive at Teddington when the company moved a few years ago; I so wish my father had kept his 20-year Autocar collection. Bicester Heritage for example has offered to house motor club archives often too big for members to store: automobile historians need to think on these lines before more is lost.