Blog : Keith Adams – a tribute

Ian Nicholls


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!


Ian Nicholls
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    I wish you every success in your new venture, and please don’t be a stranger.

    I often wonder just how often the site has been used to dispel the myths, and put those who criticise or knock BLARGmobiles to rights, and point out they’re nowhere near as bad as what some people would have you believe.

    Thank you Keith 🙂

  2. Nice tribute there 🙂
    Can’t praise enough Keith for creating AROnline and making it the biggest and most reliable source of information on all things-BL/Rover.
    I’m sure our paths will eventually cross 🙂

  3. I’ve always enjoyed reading AROnline. I first visited this site back when I was at high school, and learned a great deal about British cars and the industry. It’s really impressed me on how much I’ve seen it grow and develop over the years. AROnline is a real assett to you Keith and everyone who’s contributed their work on the site. I’m proud of you all. Keep up the good work. 😀

    Last but not least, I wish you luck and success on your new venture Keith! All the best! 😀

  4. I found the site when I was 14 after googling “Austin Allegro” when I was bored. Then I got into writing about cars, then I got into going to shows, and now I get bits and bobs in print. I dread to think where my future would be going, had I not found this site and discovered my calling…Doing something boring I hated probably. I’ve said it more than once and I’ll say it again, thanks Keith! 😀

  5. I do know John Capon – our paths used to regularly cross when attending various classic car shows in the South West. I believe he has his hands full these days with his business interests. I still remember the black Austin Princess and the more recent Cayman Blue Rover 825 Coupe he used to display. Both were in stunning condition.

  6. I found the unofficial web resource back in 03 after revisiting my youth by buying another Dolomite and succumbing to the new fangled computer gadget.
    Eleven years on and I still study the pages with a passion usually reserved for a teenager and a pornographic magazine.

    Having suffered a head injury affecting my memory, it’s the only site that makes my “ground hog days” bearable and learning that TR7’s look great on both sides and other equally erroneous statements peddled are a daily source of mirth and merriment.

    Keith has chided me on occasion for my lack of diplomacy and knowledge on certain topics but, rather than feel castigated, it’s more like a Fatherly chat and that’s how I see Keith. Not as Dad, we’re the same age, but more like Sir Hugh Trenchard the Father of the Royal Air Force; Keith Adams, Father of the BAH or British Automotive History.

    So the baton has passed and this is what abdication feels like. But this is how history is made, after all, Adam had Eve according to a book I vaguely remember reading before petrol entered my veins…

    All the very best for the future Keith and thanks for paving the way so that others may follow.


    • I’ve felt chided a few times too, but it doesn’t stop me coming back. A truly definitive history, amazingly detailed. Is there any published document, anywhere and on any topic, that provides a history of its subject as comprehensive as this?

  7. I found this site through the still excellent and have lost hours reading about the cars my parents and I have owned or nearly owned (the only family not to have had a Ford in the 70s or 80s?).

    The site is objective in a great way and informative whilst having no quarms about putting articles on just because they are interesting no matter how obscure.

    Long may the site continue and good luck and best wishes to everyone associated with it and Keith in his new role.

    • Agreed.

      Something about the very British way that BMC/BL/ARG just was and showed in it’s very mixed-bag-of-talent products, marketing and customer service just defines many things about the past for me and some others it seems on a surprisingly deep level.

      Tales on here and from people I’ve known over the years about ‘their’ BL
      experiences have only reinforced this.

      I knew that I’d read too much about the products and company when young to be healthy, but I’ve been surprised by the snippets I’d forgotten and more so by now obscure facts I’d never realized, (the latest being Marina vans being available in 1098cc variants as well as High/Low compression 1275’s)

      I’ve only owned an Austin 1800 and Rover 213S from the company, but even these days I admit to hankering after some of the more ‘misunderstood’ cars, like certain versions of the Triumph Toledo, 2000, Austin Maxi, e.t.c. – even though I know they would reliably be disappointing, (like most old cars) if it ever came to it!

      Long may this site continue to inform and entertain…

  8. A very touching tribute. I myself found this site in around 2007, attended the Champagne Caper later that year and have met some very knowledgeable people, and have made some great friends.

    It does feel very much like the end of an era but I hope Keith keeps popping in on occasion to see how the place is doing.

    I think the occasion does call for some kind of recognition, perhaps Keith should know be known as Chairman Emeritus?

    • @Ian: Not really – it was announced over the PA “There’s an Audi sneaking in” – I’ll not forget that…

      BTW: That first meet in Peterborough was 2002. The club stand was found under the name “Alex’ internet friends” or so. Here a rather blurry image taken with my slowly dying old digital camera:

  9. What can be said?

    A great shame but inevitable owing to his new job / career.

    Its been an absolute pleasure to work alongside him and I am proud to have a person like that who I can call upon as a good friend.

    Rest assured that I along with many others will strive and do our utmost to keep that all important ingredient of ARO at the forefront of everything we do on the site…

    Preserve the community feel!

    So long… and thanks for all the fish!

  10. Note the picture of my green 1995 Mini Cooper. I rolled it the next year. You haven’t lived until you have rolled a Mini…..

  11. The content on this site is amazing. A lot of sites have opinion or speculation, but here you can read, in many cases, the actual people involved in design and build of British cars, and see photos you can’t see anywhere else. It’s a terrific resource for anybody with an interest in the British motor industry.

  12. This was one of the first web sites I stumbled across when I went on the net. It was the first one that ended up in favourites and still my favourite. My occasional contributions to the lively debates have hopefully been read by the odd reader.

    As they say, the King is dead, long live the King. Good luck to Keith in his new ventures.

  13. As per usual I stumble onto this late. I found AROnline or The Unofficial Austin-Rover Web Resource a while back (2003 I think it was. I’ve always popped into the site, and up until recently (I picked up a Saab 9-5 a week ago) I’ve always owned BLARG cars.

    All the best K.

  14. I don’t get the last part of the last sentence:

    “a meeting point for all us Leyland-holics who would rather jump in a vat of boiling oil than drive a German car”

    Can’t people appreciate German cars as well as those thrown together by Longbridge’s finest?

  15. Thank god Keith Adams is still alive.
    I thought “pastures new” was a euphemism for heaven!!!

  16. I genuinely feel sad that Keith as moved on but sincerely wish him all the very best, this site is one of my great pleasures, and although I can be a raucous annoying twat at times I still sense there is a community spirit to this site and long may it go on.

    I will second the comment don’t be a stranger to the site Keith, come back sometime!

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