Obituary : Graham Robson (1936-2021)

Graham Robson

Prolific author and ex-Triumph Engineer, Graham Robson, has sadly passed away, aged 85. He’s written more than 160 books in his career and contributed countless magazine articles, usually beautifully-researched and written with a knowledge and passion that made him the favourite author of so many enthusiasts.

In his usual modest way, he recently said in an interview with publishing house Veloce, ‘it’s an awful admission to make, but I’ve been writing books for a very long time because I am old. People keep on asking me to write books, which is wonderful – and, as long as I’ve got the mental strength to carry on, I shall keep on writing because it’s such a pleasure still…’ It’s things like this that made Graham Robson such a pleasure to know.

He was a Yorkshireman who made it into the car industry in 1957, when he joined Jaguar Cars as a Graduate Trainee. ‘I was a grammar school boy,’ he said. ‘Then I went to Oxford, and from there, I talked my way into the Graduate Training Scheme. I worked there for about three years, doing little bits of E-type, and then moved to Standard-Triumph, also in Coventry,’ he added.

His job as a Development Engineer meant he ended up closely working with Harry Webster, who Graham described as his mentor, working on the Vitesse and the TR4 projects before being asked to run the re-opened works Motorsport Department in 1962 which he did until 1965.

His move into writing was effortless. ‘I was headhunted by Autocar magazine, and it’s then that the writing began to take over,’ he said. ‘After that I’ve been writing independently for myself for 40 years. The last “real” job I had was for Chrysler UK, which was in the process of being rationalised by the Americans, and we were into mass-production cars like the Avenger. It was all good fun – but I spent half my time in meetings and there wasn’t much time for writing.’

His bibliography is impressively long, and his work is regarded to be some of the finest in the business, which has inspired many people to become writers over the years. His detailed books on the Austin Metro, Ford Cortina and the cars of the Rootes Group are still de facto reference works decades after they were published, and his presence within the industry will be sorely missed.

Our man in the US, Richard Truett, asked Graham what his favourite Triumph TR model was for an interview (which you can view on YouTube). He said, ‘I love the TR3a for the numbers it sold, I thought the fact that it was a facelift worked remarkably well, and I think that’s the car I love. However, I personally would love to own a very nice TR8 convertible – if it had gone on sale when it was supposed to, it would have been a much, much more successful car.’

Fellow author David Knowles said: ‘I wrote to him at the time when that book first came out, and he replied – and we remained in touch ever since. We sometimes helped each other out with photos and information and he even sometimes shared draft articles with me, which was incredibly generous of him.’

Keith Adams, Editor of AROnline said, ‘Graham Robson’s work helped inspire me to follow my dreams and become a motoring author. His list contacts and his unprecedented access into the upper echelons of the British motor industry makes his work uniquely insightful and wonderfully detailed. I doubt tales such as the labyrinthine development story of the Austin Metro would be half as well understood without Graham’s logical, detailed and entertaining story telling. A massive loss…’

Graham Robson

Keith Adams

5 Comments

  1. A minor matter but what is wrong with the one syllable word “wrote”? Why, “He’s authored more than 160 books “? Two long syllables when one will do. Just one more needless example of making a noun into a verb. I’ve written two full length books and countless articles, etc. I may have been their author, but I ‘wrote’ them. Did my mother “birth me”?

  2. RIP. Graham’s fantastically comprehensive ‘A-Z of Cars of the 1970s’ has been a perennial favourite since I was a lad.

  3. Thank you Keith, for the sad news of Graham’s passing. He was an extremely well-informed author and his books have always been presented logically and in an easily-absorbed fashion. His in-depth knowledge of the British motor industry, particularly as pertaining to the latter half of the 20th century was, I would venture to say, unsurpassed. Regrettably, I never had the pleasure of talking with him personally as, having both worked for Triumph and Rootes/Chrysler, I’m sure that we would have been able to relate to each other. May he rest in peace.

  4. Just looking at my books in my vehicle library it is amazing how many were written by Graham. Sadly missed

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