It took a lot of hard work, but I’ve finally realised one of my childhood ambitions. No, I’ve not piloted a jet plane or scaled Mount Snowdon without the aid of a steam train… I’ve not even managed to find an XX-flavoured Rover 800 without rust. Nope, I have had a piece published in AUTOCAR magazine. Now, I imagine to many, this fact could well be accompanied with a “so what?”, but to me, it really does mean a lot.
Allow me to explain: I’ve been reading Autocar magazine since I was knee-high to a grasshopper, and although I used to dislike the crappy paper it was printed on, and how there were pages of classifieds in the front of the magazine before the news pages, it became a weekly staple for me all the same. Back in the 1970s, growing up, as I did, on a Council estate, our local newsagent never stocked such esoteric things as car magazines, and therefore, to get a copy of Autocar meant a long walk into town. It was invariably worth it.
After a three-mile walk into Blackpool town centre, I’d go into WHSmith, buy Autocar (I couldn’t afford Motor as well on my 50p per week pocket money), have a look at CAR and WHAT CAR? and then carry it home again. I would always resist the temptation to read it on the way back. Why? I didn’t want anyone from school spotting me, and thinking I was “different” (even though I obviously was – and probably still am).
…growing up, as I did, on a Council estate,
our local newsagent never stocked such
esoteric things as car magazines.
Once home, each issue would be pored over for new information – if there was a new car launch that week, all the better. The lead-up to a new car launch was always exciting – the black silhouetted picture promising something the in the previous week’s mag – and this was always a big, big tease. Back in the 1970s and 80s, there was little in the way of humour – the product mattered – and it wasn’t until later that this aspect of motoring journalism became widestream, so I always assumed that in order to make it as a motoring journalist, you had to be a good road tester. As a teenager, then, I used to write my own car magazines, “testing” various new cars, illustrating them with my own drawings. My sketching became more widespread, and before long, I was creating my own “future cars”. In 1984, I designed nice 3-door Montego-based sports estate, followed by a Golf-class Audi hatchback – the absurdity of it!
So I wanted to be a car designer, right? Not a bit of it. I wanted to be a motoring journalist. By my late-teens I was boring anyone that would listen: motoring journalism was where I wanted to be. However, there was a flaw to this ambition: my English teacher thought I was no good, and a career in something more pragmatic was what I should be trying to pursue.
Having had all of my confidence taken out of me, I finished school, went to college, and never again did I entertain the idea of writing.
A reasonably lucrative career in IT followed, and then austin-rover.co.uk…
And as we all know, the website built up a small but enthusiastic audience. Including some of the motoring journalists I so admired as a youngster. I remember the first time, a journalist e-mailed me – it was almost like meeting a hero. It seemed they liked my work. Contact was made. The word spread, and after a little while, I was corresponding… The next step came, when I met the guys at Autocar, and before too much longer I had talked Richard Bremner into taking one of my stories.
The result, you can read in the magazine, but be prepared, it is not about Austin-Rover. Maybe the next one will be. If there is a next one. I hope so. Having seen my name in print once, I quite fancy seeing it there again.
Is the Editor of the Parkers website and price guide, formerly editor of Classic Car Weekly, and launch editor/creator of Modern Classics magazine. Has contributed to various motoring titles including Octane, Practical Classics, Evo, Honest John, CAR magazine, Autocar, Pistonheads, Diesel Car, Practical Performance Car, Performance French Car, Car Mechanics, Jaguar World Monthly, MG Enthusiast, Modern MINI, Practical Classics, Fifth Gear Website, Radio 4, and the the Motoring Independent...
Likes 'conditionally challenged' motors and taking them on unfeasible adventures all across Europe.