Last Wednesday I attended The Royal Automobile Club Motoring Book of the Year awards at the Club’s Pall Mall clubhouse along with authors, publishers, press, club members and motoring enthusiasts from around the world.
This annual prestigious event celebrates the previous 12 months’ accomplishments in the world of motoring publishing, which includes the histories of specific marques, motorsport, vehicle design, general motoring and even film legends!
Head of Motoring at The RAC, Jeremy Vaughan, said “We had an overwhelming response this year with entries representing 18 different publishers from international and independents to self-published authors. The range and quality of the books were outstanding and shows how well the industry is faring in these digital times. The judges had a tough time whittling down the entries with healthy debates on who would make the finalists and then the overall winners. The Club introduced a Lifetime Achievement Award this year to recognise outstanding contributions to the industry and adds to the Club’s family of established motoring and motorsport accolades”.
The awards were judged by six expert judges who are independent of the Royal Automobile Club and represent the UK’s most informed motoring publications. They included Gordon Cruickshank of Motor Sport, Mark Dixon of Octane, Mick Walsh of Classic & Sports Car, avid book collector, commentator and editor of the BRDC Bulletin Ian Titchmarsh. And representing the book retail sector were Ben Horton of specialist bookseller, Horton’s Books, and Christian Whitehead of the London bookstore, Foyles.
Lifetime Achievement Award
The first award of the evening was the newly introduced ‘Lifetime Achievement Award’, which was deservedly given to John Haynes OBE, creator of the iconic Haynes Manual and founder of the Haynes Publishing Group. The award was posthumously awarded in recognition of John’s significant contribution to the UK’s motoring book industry. And I have to say his manuals have proven invaluable to me over the years with the various cars I have owned.
John’s wife Annette collected the award on his behalf, accompanied by her two sons, and said on receiving the award that “John would have been immensely honoured and amazed to receive this award. He always said that the success of Haynes Publishing was not him alone. I know he would be quick to dedicate it to all the people that supported and helped the business throughout the years”.
Annette went on to tell us about John’s early years when he was at boarding school and spent time converting his £15 Austin 7 into a lightweight sporty Austin 750 Special. He then sold the car and not only made a profit, but also produced a booklet ‘Building A ‘750’ Special’, featuring his hand drawn step-by-step illustrations. He printed 250 copies of the booklet on a stencil duplicator and it sold out within 10 days at five shillings a copy.
Some years later when in the Royal Air Force, John agreed to rebuild a ‘Frogeye’ Sprite. He found the factory manual didn’t have the level of detail he wanted and therefore set about creating his own. He bought a camera and photographed the step-by-step process of dismantling and reassembling the engine. And so it was that in 1966 the very first Haynes Manual for the Sprite was published and its first print run of 3,000 manuals sold out in less than three months. The rest is history!
Thankfully in these days of modern technology and online publishing, Haynes is still the world’s leading publisher of automotive repair manuals. They are renowned for teaching millions of car owners and enthusiasts such as myself, how to carry out routine maintenance and repairs with their invaluable step-by-step photo sequences linked to diagrams. Over 200 million manuals have been sold to date, covering over 1,000 different vehicle models, and as a result, John has helped keep millions of motorists on the road, and has left behind a huge legacy. Whilst the hard copy manuals are still popular, the company has a strong online presence which has no doubt helped it to survive and thrive.
Motoring Book of the Year Award
The next award to be given was the ‘Motoring Book of the Year Award’ for a book that I had the pleasure of reviewing and thoroughly enjoyed back in August, namely ‘The Self-Preservation Society 50 Years of the Italian Job’, written by Matthew Field and published by Porter Press International.
2019 marks the 60th anniversary of the Mini as well as the 50th anniversary of British cult classic film The Italian Job and the book takes a fascinating, behind-the-scenes look at how the film made its way to our screens and is based on over 50 in-depth interviews with cast and crew members which have taken place over the last 20 years of research by Matthew. This beautiful 334-page tome features fabulous illustrations of hundreds of never-before-seen photographs and production documents and should take pride of place on your coffee table at home.
There is a wonderful forward by lead actor Sir Michael Caine and introduction by Academy Award-winning Producer Michael Deeley.
Christian Whitehead from Foyles said “It’s a treasure trove of archive material with stills, behind the scene shots, promotional cinema posters and engaging facts of the stresses that the film crew had to endure. You can’t help but smile at the story of the making of one of Michael Caine’s best loved films”.
Mick Walsh from Classic & Sports Car said “A remarkable celebration of this cult movie classic that author Matthew Field has researched passionately since his teenage years. Bloody brilliant!”.
Specialist Book of the Year Award
The next award of the evening, the ‘Specialist Book of the Year Award’ went to our host, Simon Taylor, who looked genuinely surprised and taken back when it was announced, for his book ‘John, George and the HWMs: The First Racing Team to Fly the Flag for Britain’ published by Evro Publishing. The judges felt that the book was a feat of impeccable research and flawless writing regardless of its retail cost.
Judge Mick Walsh of Classic & Sports Car said “A definitive history that is both hugely enjoyable to read and superbly presented, Simon Taylor’s book is a terrific tribute to the HWM team”.
Judge Gordon Cruickshank from Motor Sport commented “Enjoyable and of course well-written. Overdue in subject, excellent presentation, some great tales”.
Simon told us of his lifelong passion for HWM and in 1999 he realised his childhood dream when he became the custodian of the Ex-Stirling Moss HWM Stovebolt Special. The two volume 528-page book covers the biographies of the fascinating and poignant people associated with Hersham & Walton Motors, its racing story, the 19 individual cars and men who raced them along with their specifications and ownership chains. It is packed with a superb wealth of period pictures sourced from libraries and private collections worldwide. The book covers a period of motor racing that marked the beginnings of Britain’s prowess in the sport.
Simon Burrell is Editor of Our Man Behind The Wheel, a professional photographer and former saloon car racing driver.
Photographs by Gary Harman