By KEITH ADAMS
I WAS deeply saddened to hear about the passing of Jeff Daniels. For those who don’t really know about the history of the creation of this site, Jeff’s book, ‘BL: The Truth About The Cars’ was a motivating factor behind the accidental creation of, what was then known as, www.austin-rover.co.uk, back in 2001. This book was a warts-and-all account of the products of our company, placing them into perfect context explaining from a product perspective just why the company suffered the indignities that it did during the 1970s.
Penned in the summer of 1980, the book stopped just before the introduction of the miniMetro (apparently, he had a hell of a job persuading the BL PR department to release an early picture, despite an on-sale date after the Metro’s launch), explaining that with the right product led recovery, BL could expect to live a reasonably bright future, with a bit of luck and a following wind. As it was, we know the story now, as it has played out to the bitter conclusion (Land Rover and Jaguar aside) – that luck and following wind failing to materialise.
The book, however, had a lasting impact on me – an 11-year old car enthusiast at the time – and helped me appreciate that the best way of following a car’s development is to understand the context of its conception, and the effect it had on the market when it went on sale. Looking at history through rose tinted spectacles was all-too common back in those days, and Jeff cut right through that. I actually had to buy a second copy of the BL book, because I literally wore out my original… I wanted to read pure gold like this about every car manufacturer, and when I found I couldn’t, was bitterly disappointed.
When piecing together my own follow-up to this book I contacted Jeff and asked if I could use his anecdote about Marina suspension (you can read about that in the ADO28 development story), as well as penning a foreward. As it was, he agreed to both… but the book floundered, and ended up becoming the website as it is today. Jeff actually got in contact with me a few months’ back to congratulate me on the progress of the site, and to say that in time, he’d be sitting down to pen the long-awaited follow-up to ‘The Truth About The Cars’…
Now, alas, we’ll never see that book.
Jeff was the product of a different age – car magazines contained a lot more technical content back then, and to write with authority, you really needed to know your stuff. And that he did. Meeting Harry Webster, and asking that a design fault be rectified on a car before it’s launched to the general public, is a hell of an achievement, and one that I couldn’t really imagine happening in this day and age.
His death is a great loss to car journalism – and he will be missed here at AROnline.