It was back in 2001 when I had just bought my second classic Mini after a gap of 15 years that while, looking for articles on BMC and British Leyland on the Internet, I stumbled on a website called, ‘The Unofficial Austin Rover Web Resource’.
I read an article on the Austin Maestro and Montego. I can’t say I agreed with everything written about the car. My father had owned a 1990 MG Montego, which had been a good runner, and I wrote to the webmaster to say so. I formally addressed it to ‘Mr Adams’.
He kindly wrote back to say that he had taken an objective view of the Maestro/Montego. He was quite right. A 1990 MG Montego was a world away from the sheds badly-assembled at Cowley during 1984–85 – those that had done so much to damage the credibility of British motor manufacturing.
We soon started corresponding, a Yahoo group (that still exists!) was set up, and we were joined by others, such as Alexander Boucke, John Capon, and Declan Berridge. Alexander is still very much with us as the site’s Deputy Editor, but the others seem to have disappeared off the radar.
We all first met at the 2002 BMC/BL Rally at Peterborough. All I knew about Keith was that he came from the North West, had a job in information technology and was born in 1970. I imagined him to be slim, good-looking with a full head of hair …
Keith turned up in an Audi A6.
It is a sign of Keith’s affability that he allowed me to start writing for ‘The Unofficial Austin Rover Web Resource’. I now look upon my early efforts with embarrassment, they are badly written and lack research.
However, it was not until 2009 when I started to upload stories from the online Times newspaper archives to the then forum that I really had something concrete to offer.
Keith very kindly allowed me to update the development stories he had written, without being precious about it. After all AROnline, is his baby, he created it. It is not something I could do. I don’t know the difference between software, hardware and Tupperware!
By creating AROnline, Keith has created an antidote to the ill-informed gossip about the British motor industry pedalled by the likes of Top Gear and lazy journalists who can’t be bothered to do their research properly – and I do despise lazy journalism. I thought the purpose of journalism was to find out the truth, not to regurgitate myths, half-truths, cliches and reprint corporate press releases.
AROnline is the place to find out the truth, not to rubbish our industrial heritage and eulogise everything made east of Lowestoft. There are some glorious failures on AROnline, perhaps my favourite is the Austin Maxi. I freely admit I would rather own an Austin Maxi than a Ferrari. Does that make me odd?
Anyway, as Keith moves on to pastures new, I would like to say a big thank you for creating the best car site on the Internet, a meeting point for all us Leyland-holics who would rather jump in a vat of boiling oil than drive a German car.
Thanks for the ride, Keith!