It is with much sadness that we have to report the untimely death of Gordon Bruce, one of the best-known figures in motor industry consultancy and communications services, and among Guild members, motoring journalists and the motor racing community as former Ford PR manager, “Motor” magazine road test editor and well-regarded former racing driver. Gordon, who was 76, died of a heart attack during a gym session near his Buckinghamshire home just a few days before Christmas.

To his devoted wife, Marilyn, to children Alastair and Becky and to his several grandchildren, the Guild extends its most sincere condolences.

Gordon waved goodbye to his former careers as PR manager at Ford and Motor magazine’s  road test editor in 1982 to establish Gordon Bruce Associates. It evolved very quickly, becoming a team of around 20 motor industry communications specialists and one of Europe’s leading consultancies in its field. More than two decades later, in 2005, Gordon changed direction somewhat, hiving off part of the business to concentrate on becoming a boutique consultancy, but still serving the motor, motorsport, motorcycle and aviation sectors.

Although officially retired, right up to his death Gordon was still closely associated with industry colleagues, his global network of motoring friends and – not least – his many companions in the Guild.  “It seems hard to think that it was only a few weeks ago that Gordon and that gorgeous pale blue E-Type of his were belting around the mountains of Snowdonia on (Guild committee member) Kevin Haggarthy’s’ UK Guild Classic”, said another committee member.

“It’s such sad, sad news,”, said motorsport consultant Jonathan Gill. “Gordon was a very good man on just about every front: driver, scribe, PR man, friend… he will be very much missed by many.”

Not so well known to many is that Gordon was a fully qualified mechanical engineer. As Graham Payne, managing director of British Motor Heritage for which Gordon was still handling all BMH’s PR affairs, over 15 years at the time of his death, recalls: “He held a lifelong passion for anything engine powered, and was really struggling to get his head around anything to do with electric vehicles! His industrial training included researching and testing carbon fibre for the Concorde project (during which time he claimed to have helped make the world’s first carbon fibre golf club) and worked in the engineering department of Lotus Cars, where amongst other things he designed the base for Colin Chapman’s boardroom table!”

Among other accolades, in recognition of his elevated racing talents, Gordon was made an associate member of Silverstone’s elite British Racing Drivers’ Club. He was a founder member of the Duke of Richmond’s Goodwood Road Racing Club. Away from the circuits, he was also a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations and former chairman of the MIPAA PR association, now reborn as MICA.

It was in 1971 that Gordon first joined the technical staff of “Motor”, spending seven years there – fitting in also racing, rallying and hillclimbs, mainly in Capris and Escorts – before switching horses and joining Ford.

 In his five years at Ford he was responsible for all UK product and motorsport PR, as well as its 150-strong Press fleet, before deciding finally to become fully his own master and set up Gordon Bruce Associates (GBA). His subsequent list of global automotive clients – later added to by aviation and aerospace sectors – reads like a Who’s Who of the industry and includes Jaguar, Citroen, Jordan F1, Visteon and Lufthansa. It was mostly highly serious stuff. But Gordon also once recalled hiring a lion for a photoshoot with the UK aftermarket specialist, Turbo Technics. He lived to tell the tale, despite risking being photographed lying alongside it in the back of a station wagon…

Rex Greenslade on Gordon Bruce

To Rex Greenslade, one of Gordon’s friends, close former journalism colleague and former PR director at Ford, this obituary owes the last words:

Gordon and I joined Motor a couple of weeks apart in September 1971, both of us almost the same age and barely a year out of college, both holding a degree in engineering and both basically walking away from careers as engineers. Gordon and I had similar backgrounds — he had been with Lotus (cars, not shoes, or so he told us), I with Vauxhall – as well as similar strengths and similar weaknesses. We loved cars, were nuts about the car business, were pretty good drivers (we rapidly were christened the “Terrible Twins”) but had “unproven” writing ability.

But we were mad about cars, told we were going to test cars, all the best cars in the world and, moreover, get paid for doing it. We both had discovered the meaning of life… at 23 years of age.

That we had to write about cars as well was not a consideration or even a concern at the time. Engineers are not known for their stunning copy, of course, yet Motor’s Editor Charles Bulmer was an engineer and a brilliant journalist and so was Technical Editor Tony Curtis, whose dissertations on the workings of the motor car were already legendary. So, if we needed help in “transferring” there was plenty to be given.

Road test copy had to be handed in on Tuesdays, which made Wednesday Hell for Gordon and me: waiting for the critique of CAC (as we called C Anthony Curtis and pronounced phonetically, as in “cack”) or Roger Bell, Deputy Editor. Good training it undoubtedly was but there were times when those Wednesdays were pure misery – it was like taking your College Finals every week.

The truth was that CAC had a tough boat to row with Gordon and me (“the troops” according to CAC) in-line, on-time and focused. Our relevance was perhaps not in question, but our reverence certainly was. Not our reverence to the other staff (we were in awe of the knowledge, experience and sheer confidence of everyone on Motor), rather our reverence to society. This was the early ‘70s, remember, and the short-back-and-sides and three-piece suits of our interview look soon degenerated into shoulder-length hair, beards and bell-bottom pants.

We worked hard but we played hard too. Testing at MIRA (where Motor did its testing back then) was always a highlight: never was the chance to do hot laps to check out the handling of the car at hand ignored.

But first there was the hard work of getting accurate performance figures. At that time, we had an old fifth wheel for acceleration testing which provided an accurate speed measurement independent of the car’s instruments. It was hooked on the back bumper using a mechanical contraption with claws.

At each end of MIRA’s mile-long horizontal straights, where the standing starts and in-gear accelerations were run, was a banked 180 degree turn. It was important not to go through the banking at more than 50 mph as the fifth wheel wasn’t designed to take lateral g. That’s easier said than done with a quick car as you needed to go through the mile finish without lifting but immediately brake for the banking, sometimes from more than 120 mph.

One day the inevitable happened. Halfway round the banking the speedo fell to zero, we stopped and Gordon and I walked to the car’s rear. No fifth wheel. Gone. We looked for it in the long grass and scrub outside the banking for about 15 minutes. Chances were that it was smashed beyond recognition but we diligently tried. No success.

Somewhere at MIRA that fifth wheel’s still there.

Gordon and I managed to convince the Motor to test modified or unusual cars under a column called Motoring Plus. We had cars from Broadspeed, Janspeed, Westune, Richard Longman and many others. We even built a Clan Crusader from a kit – in one afternoon!

We both had huge interest in getting involved in racing. Gordon had a Cooper 500 which he hill climbed, then a season in the Ford Escort Mexico challenge in which he was super competitive. We had great models of success in Tony Dron and Roger Bell. It even seemed likely that we would be driving against each other in the BSCC but his career took a left turn and he jumped ship to Ford PR. In many ways it wasn’t entirely unexpected. Gordon and I often lamented our financial situation at Motor. In a way we had many of the trappings of luxury but none of the financial means (how many people get a Rolls-Royce Corniche Convertible for the weekend and go camping because they can’t afford a half-decent hotel?).

Gordon didn’t stay very long at Ford either, instead moving on to found his very successful Marketing and PR agency, Gordon Bruce Associates. I remember clearly admiring his confidence and courage to do what seemed to me to be hugely risky. But he made it work: for another 40 plus years he was doing what I ended up doing, but some 15 years later and the other side of the Atlantic.

We exchanged lots of emails over the years, reminiscing about our adventures, even meeting up in Munich for an awesome motorcycle escapade in the Alps: 25 passes in five days. I never managed to match Gordon’s adventurous appetite for buying and selling classic or desirable cars, some 150 plus he once told me, including a 1953 Bentley R Type, a 1973 Porsche 2.7 Carrera RS and, of course, his gorgeous Jaguar E-type.

One of the last emails I got from Gordon said he was “still nose to the grindstone and can’t really imagine life any other way.” He was still writing copy and enjoying life to the full. While his “toy cupboard” (what he called his car fleet) had become somewhat more sensible (all the hairy four-wheelers and bikes were there no longer) the trusty E-type remained.

Along the way he met, wooed and married Marilyn; I can still remember his telling me how excited he was to have met her. They have two children Alasdair and Becky and multiple grandchildren.

Above all we remained the closest of friends even when displaced by the width of the Atlantic: we had just arranged to meet in London next month. He was a great driver but was also a super writer who possessed a personal sensitivity and empathy not common in those evaluating other people’s hard work. My most heartfelt wishes and thoughts go out to Marilyn, Alastair and Becky in this most difficult of times.

Gordon’s funeral will be held at The Chilterns Crematorium, Amersham HP7 0ND on 16th January, at 11.30am. 

The Guild is saddened to inform members of the passing of Stuart Bladon, one of our longest-serving members and a former Chair. He died on Tuesday, 13th December at the age of 89.

Stuart was elected to the Guild in 1965 before we even had a numbering system for members. After this was introduced he remained proud to carry the membership number 1. He was without doubt one of the characters of the Guild and served as Chair in 1977, followed by Sue Baker who we also lost very recently.

On hearing the news of his passing several members immediately shared their thoughts of Stuart, current Chair Richard Aucock describing him as “unique, charming, and a peerless motoring writer.” Former Chair John Kendall said that Stuart was; “definitely a one-off. I once drove with him on a Nissan Primera launch years ago and got him talking about the original Mini launch in 1959 which he attended. He must have been the only surviving motoring writer to have been there.”

Stuart was renowned for his economy driving, a skill commented on by several colleagues. Perhaps this constant search for frugal motoring was the reason that the first memory News Briefs Editor Andrew Charman has of Stuart is that he was always the one to ask at launch press conferences whether each new model would include a diesel version.

Stuart was also active in many other groups, notably the Caravan Writers Guild – he was a keen caravanner – and a founder member of the Southern Group. Andrew, first Vice-Chairman of the Group, remembers that Stuart was a very proud and determined custodian of the ‘Great Book’, an enormous scrap book detailing the group’s gatherings and which exists to this day.

Current Southern Group Chairman and Guild member Ian Robertson said of Stuart; “He was a strong supporter of the Group and we saw him less than two weeks ago at the annual Christmas lunch at Orsett Hall. Despite having experienced a personal tragedy earlier in the week, Stuart didn’t mention it, and joined his friends and colleagues for a fabulous get-together. It hasn’t quite sunk in yet that we won’t see him again. 

“Stuart was a long-term contributor to my own magazine, Diesel Car, and even competed in several economy challenges, driving Citroëns. Bladon’s View was a long-running column within the magazine and only recently I thought about asking him about some of the escapades he got up to. 

“Stuart will be remembered for his tenacity, his passion and his loyalty and will be greatly missed by everyone that knew him well within the Southern Group.”

Stuart’s family issued an official tribute after his passing, extracts from which we include below.

Stuart Bladon was a motoring journalist who devoted his life to an enthusiasm for cars. After a very-half hearted attempt to enter medical school, he undertook National Service in 1953. On completion, he found a job working as a writer for what was then The Autocar. Over the next 28 years he road tested hundreds of the latest cars. In those days The Autocar would test most production cars, including acceleration times, braking performance and top speed… Speeds up to 100mph could be tested at the banked track at the Motor Industry Research Association track near Nuneaton. But higher speeds required journeys abroad.

Highlights of this quest for speed included the Jaguar E-Type. When first launched, in 1962, the E-Type claimed to be the first 150mph production car. Stuart was sent to Belgium, to test the car on the Merelbeke Straight near Ghent. This stretch of motorway is still there today, but is somewhat more crowded and subject to 120kph speed limit. The team were sent with clear instructions not to come back until they had achieved 150mph. 

Perhaps the test he remembered most was the Lamborghini Miura, in Italy. One of the most revolutionary cars ever, the first mid-engined supercar, built by the tractor manufacturer who had been told by Enzo Ferrari to “go and make a car himself”. For many years the 172mph top speed was the official record at Autocar (the Ferrari Daytona was clocked at 174 mph but in one direction only).

In 1961 Stuart was involved in a near fatal car crash in Greece – he was in the passenger seat when their Sunbeam Alpine was involved in a head-on collision. In those pre-seat belt days, he went through the windscreen and suffered horrendous lacerations to his head. He needed a direct blood transfusion from a donor on site and yet still wrote his report of the Acropolis Rally using a pencil while lying in his hospital bed. 

He became a life-long campaigner for seat belts and in 1997 he wrote to the Daily Telegraph, emphasising how the integrity of the passenger compartment of Princess Diana’s Mercedes S-Class was largely intact, and that had the occupants been wearing rear seat belts, they may well have survived.

In 1981 Stuart left Autocar and set up business as a freelance motoring writer. His career continued unabated and he continued to test cars for many years. He published articles right up until 2022.

He published many books. For many years he was the editor of The Observer’s Book of Cars. Other books include BMW, Range Rover Companion, Tackle Car Maintenance, and Great Marques. In 2015 he published his autobiography, No Speed Limit, 60 years of Road Testing Classic Cars, in which he documented many of the adventures of these tests. In self-effacing style, the book is devoted to the cars, each chapter a different car rather than documenting the passages of Stuart’s life. 

In 2009 on the spur of the moment he purchased a 1979 Rolls-Royce Corniche convertible. This led him to join the Wessex Section of the Rolls Royce Enthusiasts Club and to edit the Section’s magazine, Torque.

Stuart died on 13th December 2022, after dinner with his son and daughter-in-law. He had had a heart condition since 2005 and had also become hard of hearing. However, he remained alert and able right until the end. On the afternoon of his last day he drove his Audi A3 Convertible over 60 miles, in sub-zero conditions, without complaint or incident. 

He leaves his son Bruce. In recent years they had enjoyed correspondence through the pages of Torque, as Bruce advocated the benefits of his Tesla, which Stuart had encouraged him to buy, describing it as “very good indeed”.

The Guild was deeply saddened to hear of the death of well-respected retired member Rob Golding.

Rob had a remarkable career as both a writer and automotive analyst, and excelled at both disciplines (writes Mark Bursa). He possessed both a deep knowledge of the automotive industry and the rare gift of turning workaday business or technical topics into sharp, entertaining copy.

His long career included spells as business editor of the Birmingham Post, and editor of The Engineer, before becoming editor of Car magazine in the early 1980s. However, this was not to last, as the City had begun to notice that Rob’s knowledge and analytical skills transcended those of a mere writer.

Rob became a full-time automotive analyst in 1984, rising to become director of automotive industry research and equity analysis for SG Warburg. While there, he worked on Ford’s 1989 acquisition of Jaguar, one of the deals of the decade, and was voted the UK’s top auto analyst on a number of occasions.

He pulled no punches either – as a young reporter I remember attending an automotive dinner in the City shortly after the ‘Black Monday’ stock market crash of October 1987, where Rob became embroiled in an animated public argument with dealer group boss Sir Tom Cowie, over whether it was City analysts such as Rob who had caused the crash – a position he defended forcefully and eloquently.

Rob returned to journalism in the mid-1990s as a freelance writer, deploying his incisive knowledge for outlets such as Automotive Management and Just-Auto. It was a joy to watch him in action, extracting detailed information from board-level directors, thanks to his ability to ask the hardcore financial questions they were not expecting on a press trip.

He also wrote a series of books on the history of Mini, most recently in 2007, covering the 50-year history of the brand with great clarity and readability.

Rob was also great company, both on press trips and socially, where he’d like nothing more than putting the world to rights over a beer and a curry, or better still, a day at the Oval, watching the cricket.

Sadly, Rob began to be afflicted by early-onset Alzheimer’s, bringing about an early retirement in 2015. it was painful to see such a bright and fearless intellect so cruelly dimmed in such a way.

The Guild sends condolences to Rob’s wife Shirley, his three daughters, family and friends.

In what has become a very sad month for the Guild, many members will already be aware of the passing of our Vice-President and former Chairman Sue Baker, after a long battle with motor neurone disease. Sue died peacefully at home early on Monday morning at the age of 75, surrounded by her family.

Few motoring journalists have made their mark on the industry as did Sue – while she found fame with an 11-year stint as a presenter on the BBC’s Top Gear, she was also a pioneer and lifelong advocate for women in journalism. The fact that her passing was marked in most national newspapers speaks volumes for the enormous role she played in the motoring media for many years.

Sue got the motoring bug at an early age and when she started work as a trainee on the Kentish Times she managed to persuade the editor to publish her reports on races at Brands Hatch. These came to the attention of John Webb, the circuit’s managing director, and Alan Brinton, editor of Motor Racing magazine (and Guild chairman) who employed Sue to run the Motor Racing News Service based at the circuit.

Her next step in the world of journalism was to the Evening News, where she was taken on as a general reporter but soon graduated to motoring correspondent and became, with Judith Jackson and Anne Hope, one of only three women in Fleet Street specializing in motoring. 

In 1978 Sue was elected the first female Chairman of the Guild; at the Annual Dinner, pregnant with her first child, she was presented with some baby bootees knitted by Tom Leake, the outgoing Chairman.

Ever-ambitious, Sue also became well-known for her TV appearances on the original Top Gear programme and BBC Breakfast Time. In 1982 she moved newspapers to The Observer, where she was motoring editor for 13 years before establishing herself as a freelance.

She worked in Fleet Street for 23 years and was at the BBC for 11 years, before she left to have her daughter, Hannah. Her older son, Ian was extremely proud when his mum picked him up from school, usually in something fast and flashy.

Sue’s capacity for work and eagerness to write meant that she was never short of outlets and editors appreciated her professionalism: always clean copy, well constructed, to length, and on time. Behind it all was a joy for life, a love of nature and travel and a keenness to participate in all sorts of activities; she gained a racing licence early in her career and was an experienced rally co-driver (notably winning the 1983 Audi Sport National Rally with Michelle Mouton in a Quattro).

Social media could have been made for Sue; she was as busy on her phone as the most tech-savvy teenager. The extensive network of friends and contacts that she cultivated was invaluable when she became chairman of the Southern Group of Motoring Writers, secretary of the Fleet Street Motoring Group, a Trustee of the Guild’s Benevolent Fund and a Guild Vice President.

Even when she was diagnosed with motor neurone disease and confined to a wheelchair, Sue maintained her sense of fun, cheerfully continued communication by phone and laptop, and had a ready smile for anyone she met in person.

Southern Group chairman Ian Robertson first got to know Sue, “like many other teenage boys”, by watching her on television, on Top Gear. “That was back in the days when wheel spins were frowned upon, and presenters were forced to reshoot. And of course, that was before Jeremy Clarkson appeared and changed motoring television for ever.

“When I joined the industry in 2007, Sue took me under her wing and introduced me to everyone that I needed to know,” Ian added. “She would say to them, ‘Have you met Ian Robertson?’. She had a great knack for reading the room and seeking out anyone new and bringing them into a conversation and making them feel welcome. She would often suggest driving together at a new car launch, putting them at ease.”

Martin Gurdon described Sue as having a warmth to her, an almost parental kindness that came from liking people and wanting to know more about them. “This was a brilliant asset for a journalist – Sue was the genuine article and never made people feel as if they were recourses to be mined. They always had her complete attention, and she was a good listener.”

“One colleague described her as his ‘motoring mum,’” Martin added, “which resonates with me and I suspect a great many of us who were near contemporaries, young enough to be her children and more recently her grandchildren. It’s no surprise that some of Sue’s journalist friends nicknamed her ‘Ma Baker.’ 

“When I first met her at a Geneva Motor Show dinner in the mid 1990s, I was chaperoning a very green, very young journalist who was new to the industry. I realise now that she took both of us under her wing, making suggestions of people we should speak to and facilitating introductions. We’d never met her before, but that didn’t matter, and over the years I saw her show similar generosity to many other colleagues.”

Martin worked closely with Sue for many years, including when he was commissioning editor for an Evening Standard motoring supplement. “Many journalists offered nothing but road tests, but Sue, whose profile and experience eclipsed virtually everyone else, had carefully read the supplement and understood what we needed – she had an endless fund of good ideas.

“Her copy was always the right length, immaculate and on time. She was ambitious and competitive, but completely free of the ‘don’t you know who I am?’ egoism displayed by a few contributors whose talents she completely eclipsed. She loved cars and she loved to work, and would put the same effort into a down-page, 150 worder about people in Catford restoring Ford Capris as she would a cover story.”

Martin also came to appreciate what a trailblazer Sue was for women in automotive journalism in particular, and national newspaper journalism in general. “She started her career during the early 1970s in an industry where casual misogyny was rife. Her success helped open doors for succeeding generations of talented women writers.

“Some of her motoring journalist friends will also cherish serial memories of being in airport departure lounges waiting for a determined, compact figure hauling a wheeled suitcase to puff into view as their flights were called for the umpteenth time. Sue’s heroically last-minute time keeping was entirely consistent, but then, so was her kindness, professionalism and positivity. She was greatly loved, and will be greatly missed, but she deserves nothing less.”

Southern Group founding chairman David Ward described Sue as “always fabulous company, kind and considerate – and patient particularly when I made the all-too frequent mistake of missing a turning on the test route when we didn’t have sat nav in those days. She always had a smile and was an excellent conversationalist on so many subjects.”

Among many personal memories David remembered an incident on a drive to the Geneva Motor Show. “We were stopped by some obnoxious French traffic cop claiming she was speeding… her French-speaking skills were excellent, unlike mine, and she stood her corner to deny the accusation and in the end the officer, taken aback at her explicit response, quickly waved us on our way with an apparent apology!”

Sue’s enthusiasm extended well beyond journalism and she was a tireless advocate behind the scenes for the Guild. “Sue was the driving force behind the two Guild stands at the Beaulieu Autojumble which raised in excess of £7,000 for the Guild Benevolent Fund,” recalled former Honorary Secretary Chris Adamson. “She came up with the idea, drove the van full of the books and press packs and spent the whole weekend manning the stand.” 

Sue’s husband John Downing died in 2019 and now her devoted children Ian and Hannah have to come to terms with the loss of both parents. The Guild sends them sincere condolences. 

The Guild thanks the several members who have written to share their memories of Sue. News Briefs editor Andrew Charman particularly thanks Ray Hutton and Ian Robertson for their assistance in compiling this tribute. We understand that a celebration of Sue’s life is planned and we will share details through News Briefs when they are released.

Sue receives the Guild’s Pemberton Trophy, awarded for an outstanding contribution to the cause of motoring, from then-Chairman Guy Loveridge in 2014.

We are sad to report the passing of our member Simon Arron at the age of 61 on Friday 11th November following a short illness.

Simon was a well-known figure to many Guild members, particularly those working in the motorsport arena. He started his career on the editorial staff of Motoring News in 1982, having provided reports and photos for the weekly newspaper while still at school. He then moved to Fast Lane magazine as first production editor and later road-test editor. 

He was appointed editor of Motor Sport magazine in 1991 before turning freelance five years later, concentrating on Formula One from 2001. Simon edited two editions of the annual motorsport bible Autocourse in 2011 and 2012, then returned to Motor Sport in 2013 as features editor. In recent times he had been freelancing again, while continuing as the magazine’s Editor at Large.

“I first met Simon, who was just six months older than me, when he was at Motoring News and he was a constant presence throughout my motorsport media career,” News Briefs editor Andrew Charman said. “While he was renowned in the rarified world of F1, you were just as likely to find him trackside at a clubbie at Brands Hatch and enjoying the day no less – if he was there you knew you were in for a good chat and a laugh. 

“On my own return trackside last month I was looking forward to catching up with Simon at the Formula Ford Festival, one of his favourite meetings, but sadly it was not to be.”

Guild member David Tremayne, a long-time friend of Simon’s, penned the following tribute; 

“ “So, Tonio…” – I haven’t heard that opening remark, spoken in a relatively high pitch, ever since our mate Tonio Liuzzi graduated to F1 back in 2005. Up to 2004 that would be how FIA interviewer Simon Arron would usually begin the post-race F3000 press conferences. And, of course, we would hop from foot to foot as if our heels were sprung, twiddle with a forelock, and mimic him mercilessly vocally too, when he walked back into the press room. Our hilarious mirth would be met with an inevitable and good-natured vee sign.

I think he joined Motoring News early in 1982, one of then editor Mike Greasley’s last hires before I took over in August. I left in February 1995, and in all those years together, and since whenever we would hang out at F1 races, we never had a cross word or a crossed sword. We took the mickey out of one another, sure, but you always knew you would win that because, fundamentally, Si was a very proper bloke. He would quietly get, not offended, but bemused, by bad language or if he heard tales about people we knew who might not be behaving themselves correctly, so his repertoire for ribald comebacks was always limited.

He was completely dedicated to motor racing. He loved it, just like we all did. He had been hooked on cars since he was a toddler, and while still at school had persuaded the editor of his local newspaper that it was crucial that he published race reports from Oulton Park, Aintree and anywhere else he had been spectating. But with his calm and even-tempered nature he made a better fist of putting up with the nettlesome meddling of MN proprietor Old Man Tee than the rest of us. So long as he was doing something to do with racing, whether it be covering F1, F3000 or just a clubbie at his beloved Oulton, he was content with life. And in recent years he had added being a snapper to a long list of talents which included an encyclopaedic knowledge of even the most arcane aspects of British club racing.

It was no surprise that his innate correctness was matched by a sweet nature. He was one of the most good-natured people I’ve ever known. I cannot remember a single time in the 40 years I was lucky to know him that I ever saw him angry. Temporarily discombobulated, perhaps, bemused, as noted, but never angry. Even the time when he and I had journeyed to Crondall to visit Denis Jenkinson and a truck driver deliberately rubbed down the side of his company Ford Sierra in a roundabout. Si behaved as if it had been entirely his own fault, and remained affable and courteous. Just as he had been with Jenks, who was being wilfully cantankerous throughout our meeting.

Si was one of those rare people who just see the good in everyone and every situation. His sunny disposition was always highly prized amid all the weekly madness at MN, and, I’m sure, at Motor Sport magazine where he was editor-at-large. We are lucky that, via those publications and others to which he contributed as a freelance, he leaves a huge body of work that will endure.

We nicknamed him Tubber, though actually he wasn’t tubby at all. But as I learned to my cost one time I tried to pass him down the inside at Coffee Corner at the Motoring News office, collision with him was more painful than inverting a jet dragster at 250 mph. He was fit and… solid.

And now he is gone. It will take a long time to sink in that the serious heart attack he suffered at home while we were in Texas for the US GP created problems that could not, as we had all prayed, be alleviated with a pacemaker.

And so we lose another good friend, another loved and valued team-mate. It hurts, and our thoughts are with his family, especially Tom and Lucy, who lose their father so soon after their mother, Michelle.”

The Guild sends its sincere condolences to Simon’s family and very many friends.

Thanks to Shirley Woodall for photo

The Guild is very sad to report the passing of our member Ian Donaldson at the age of 75, after a short battle with cancer.

Ian was a familiar figure to many members, particularly those attending new car launches over the years. He was also a regular on Guild Classic events with his replica AC Cobra and later a Porsche 911 Cabriolet.

Guild News Briefs editor Andrew Charman remembers getting to know Ian when attending his first launches in the 1990s; “When Ian was on an event you were always guaranteed a friendly and enjoyable chat, particularly as many of his wide-ranging interests chimed with mine,” Andrew said.

Ian’s long career included stints as Associate Editor and Motoring Editor of the Northants Evening Telegraph. He turned to motoring writing full-time in 1995 and went freelance two years later.

He will likely most be remembered, however, for his remarkable 25-year stint as chairman of the Midlands Group of Motoring Writers. When he stepped down earlier this year his long service to the MGMW was recognised by his being appointed as the Group’s first president. 

Ian was working until very recently, but after feeling ill late last week he was taken to hospital, and he passed away in the early hours of Saturday 29th October.

We are sure all Guild members will join in sending sincere condolences to Ian’s wife Jean, his family and very many friends inside and outside the motoring media.

The Guild is saddened to report the passing of our member Alain de Cadenet on 2nd July at the age of 76, after a long battle with cancer.

Alain was a highly talented international racing driver and race team owner who found an equal passion and talent in the written word and behind the microphone. He took race victories in the World Championship for Makes and competed 14 times in the Le Mans 24 Hours between 1971 and 1986, seven of these behind the wheel of his own De Cadenet Lola. His best result was third overall in 1976, ahead of works entries from the likes of Porsche and BMW.

Retiring from motorsport he found a new passion as a TV presenter and writer, hosting numerous programmes for the Speed Channel, ESPN and others. He also experienced an early example of ‘going viral’ when during a piece to camera he was surprised by a very low-flying Spitfire (The clip can be viewed here).

Classic & Sports Car magazine, for whom Alain wrote a regular column, penned a tribute on social media, commenting; “Alain’s stories in person, on stage and in his regular columns were always hugely entertaining, reflecting a life lived at the sharp end – and often on a shoestring – during a golden era of motorsport.”

Guild member Andrew Marriott, writing for Motor Sport, described Alain as “quite simply a one-off, a man of intellect, humour and a brilliant communicator. That’s before you get into his cavalier career as a racing driver and later team owner … then add the fact that he flew a Supermarine Spitfire and, along with HM the Queen, owned the finest collection of King George postage stamps.”

In his book The British at Le Mans Guild member Ian Wagstaff asked “Can anyone at Le Mans have been more British than Alain de Cadenet?” and added that “however serious his intent, it was always important to Alain that Le Mans should be fun.”

Guild President Nick Mason raced at Le Mans in the same period as Alain and considered him a dear friend. Nick penned the following tribute;

“I had always perceived Alain as indestructible – particularly after a horrific motorcycle accident in the USA some years ago – so despite knowing that he had been ill, I was devastated to hear that he was gone. Truly a unique and wonderful personality, the world has to be a poorer place without him.

“What I will particularly miss is his overwhelming generosity of spirit. He shared his passion and deep knowledge of motor cars and motorsport with everyone he met.

“He was also a committed and talented racer himself, and was more than happy to become a mentor to any would-be competitor. I certainly benefited enormously from his support, as did my family. In 1979 he taught me the way round the Le Mans circuit, and in later years did the same for both my wife and daughters.

“It was there that I overheard DeCad in conversation with the Queen Mother, who was paying a brief visit to the circuit. She enquired what happened if it started to rain during the race? Alain put on his rarely used serious expression, and explained that one would immediately drive in to the pits and put a Frenchman in the car…”

Andrew Charman       Photo by Jeff Bloxham

Leigh Robinson was a Cumbrian, born in the Lake District on 30 March 1948. In his early years he drove trucks for a living as a driver for BRS. Writing was clearly what motivated him though and he made his break into the local press in the 1970s, initially in the North of England, working on papers in Kendal and Blackpool, before moving further away from his roots on newspapers in Wimborne, Rugby and Newport. His break into motoring journalism came when the previous motoring correspondent of the Swindon Advertiser left to move to New Zealand. Leigh maintained his connection to publications in Swindon and Wiltshire, contributing regularly until his untimely death. 

Before joining the Guild of Motoring Writers in 2013, Leigh had become a member of the Western Group of Motoring Writers and served as its chairman. This involved playing a key role in organising the annual Western Group PR Driving Day at Castle Combe Circuit, which was no mean feat at the time. Leigh remained an active member of the group until his death. He was due to take part in the Western Group’s inaugural Classic Run later this month with his partner Lisbeth Shore.

Two aspects of Leigh’s character have been mentioned repeatedly in the past week: his good humour and his gentlemanly behaviour. His was always a welcome presence. He will doubtless be remembered for much more besides, but these traits were unquestionably vital attributes in his long and successful career as a journalist. 

Leigh’s wishes, stated many years ago were for no funeral or church service to be held. The Guild extends its sincere condolences to Lisbeth and daughter Julia.

John Kendall

Tony Gilroy, the man who saved Land Rover in the 1980s and turned the company into “the jewel in the crown” of the UK’s manufacturing sector by the early 1990s, has died peacefully at his Worcestershire home. He was 85.

A native of Cork, Tony kept a twinkle in his eye but had a reputation for toughness. In the boardroom he demonstrated a detailed knowledge of every aspect of the business, forensically identifying key issues and actions to resolve them.

Outside the boardroom he never sought the limelight. He also shunned the perks, such as a personal chauffeur, believing it was an unnecessary company cost. He was never as widely known as his contemporaries, Michael Edwardes, Harold Musgrove, Graham Day, and George Simpson.

But many who worked with him at a senior level, or for him on the shop floor, saw him as an unsung hero of the British motor industry.

His career started at Ford before taking on one of the toughest jobs in car industry – manufacturing director of the Longbridge factory. He managed to convince the workforce to accept the British Leyland rationalisation plan, and was instrumental in the dismissal of the Longbridge trade union convener, Derek ‘Red Robbo’ Robinson, who opposed it. Robinson was reported to have led 523 walk-outs in the 30 months before he was sacked in 1979.

Tony played a key part in the introduction of the mini Metro in 1980 and was promoted to managing director of Freight Rover, the van manufacturer. Given six months to turn the company around – or close it – Gilroy saved the business.

In 1983 he was appointed to the top job at Land Rover, and within months had identified its deficiencies and had developed a plan to make it successful. At the time 75 per cent of the company’s business was from sales of Land Rovers in Africa, the Middle East and Far East. But the collapse of the African economies, and the decline in oil revenues, meant that these markets could no longer afford to buy Land Rovers.

Tony recognised that Land Rover had to be more successful in mainland Europe and Australia. More importantly, Land Rover would have to sell vehicles in the world’s two largest car markets, North America and Japan (where Land Rovers were not sold at the time).

To succeed in North America the Range Rover had to be come a luxury vehicle with bigger engines, luxury leather interiors, and a host of other refinements.
Looking to the future Tony identified changes in the world’s four-wheel-drive markets. New vehicles being developed by Japanese manufacturers (such as Toyota, Nissan and Mitsubishi) were in a growing new four-wheel-drive market segment between the agricultural Land Rovers and the luxury Range Rovers.

So Tony set up a special team that developed the Land Rover Discovery in a record time of 36 months — when most new vehicles took five years to plan and bring to market. Tony cleverly divided the development programme into elements that fell below his financial sign-off authority to avoid interference from British Leyland headquarters.

By using the existing Range Rover suspension and chassis — as well as raiding the parts bin from Austin Rover vehicles — Tony was able to develop the Discovery at a fraction of the cost that other manufacturers were incurring for their brand new cars.

The investment in improved Range Rovers, and the Discovery, was made possible by Gilroy’s plans to significantly reduce the company’s manufacturing cost base. He saved millions of pounds by closing more than a dozen satellite component-making plants and moving 3,500 people and their 22,000 manufacturing operations onto the main Solihull factory.

With Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s government anxious to sell off British Leyland, Land Rover was offered to General Motors who offered Tony a free hand with the company. But he had other plans, rejected the offer, and supported a successful ‘Keep Land Rover British’ campaign.

What Tony wanted was to acquire the company through a management buy-out. He very nearly succeeded but Thatcher stepped in personally to prevent the Rover Group being sold off piece-meal.

The management changes brought in by Graham Day (merging the Austin Rover Group board and the Land Rover Group board into one Rover Group board) left Tony in an impossible position. He left the company at the end of 1988, ironically before the public launch of his creation, the Discovery, in the autumn of 1989.
Tony later headed up Perkins Engines, part of the North American-based Varity Group. When the company was merged to become LucasVarity Tony rose to chief operating officer worldwide working both in the United States and Europe.

When he retired he was able to spend his leisure time playing golf (he had been a member of Redditch Golf Club since 1974) and also took up shooting. Tony leaves a widow, Sandra, son Declan, daughters Claire and Fiona, and seven grandchildren. He was pre-deceased by son Aidan

His legacy in the UK was that he had saved Land Rover, developed one of the most commercially successful vehicles in British motoring history, and had laid the solid platform from which Land Rover became a successful worldwide brand.

As a former Land Rover employee commented: “If you had done your homework, you were OK. If not, you were dead.” It was true that Tony didn’t suffer fools gladly, but he enjoyed enormous respect from the people who worked for him. Many will remember Tony as a man who had a fierce exterior – but behind it there was a heart of Irish gold.

Colin Walkey
Photo: Land Rover Owner

The word ‘gentleman’ is often applied to individuals we have lost but I can think of no better tribute to the wonderful, professional, kind and generous individual that was Tim Jackson.

Modern motor industry PR reflects little of what Tim stood for, concerned primarily with delivering a message whereas Tim always sought to be an individual with intense moral rectitude, warm and sincere humanity as well as a desire to seek to discover the nature and heart of every individual he encountered. He was always smartly turned out and never accepted that phrase ‘smart casual’ . . . , in Tim’s lexicon there was smart or there was casual!

I first came across Tim in his journalistic role with the Worksop Guardian – a welcoming and high-spirited motoring journalist in the halcyon days on the late 1970s. His bear-like figure loomed large over any and every gathering and his sense of humour, delicious love of a practical joke and an over-riding commitment to excellent writing and communication made him shine out in a period when there were many ‘wannabes’ and part-timers who seldom matched his energy and enthusiasm.

He persuaded me to leave the North and move South to join Renault just as the brand was making major waves with exciting product underlined with enormous presence in motorsport that Tim worked tirelessly to develop. He single-handedly made the Renault 5 Turbo Cup, Formula Renault, and then the Clio Cup and Renault BTCC entry, a mainstay of British motorsport – something that was later properly recognised by his role with the governing body. His love for high-octane motorsport led him to help so many talented individuals develop their careers in the sport and he also worked behind the scenes to maximise Renault’s involvement with the then all-conquering Williams F1 team – Mansell, Hill and Coulthard all benefitted individually and professionally from Tim’s unstinting support.

It was an intense pleasure to sit in his office with one of the Williams’ British pedallers discussing the current season and the potential of the latest product from the minds of Frank and his vital sidekick, Patrick Head. By that time Tim had quit smoking due to his diabetes so I benefitted for a massive supply of Camel cigarettes!

But most of all Tim was just such a pro. He used all of his personal charisma to entice me to move to the deep dark south but thereafter he taught me an inordinate amount about maintaining a balance between the demands of the company and the needs of the media. He tore me off more than one strip! But it was justified in every instance and I never made the same mistake twice. His guidance, friendship and attitude ensured that when I eventually left Renault I had the best grounding in the business I could have wished for.

When he married Ann, none of those who knew him were surprised! He had quietly but effectively sought her attention and even developed an affection for Preston North End FC to make sure his courtship delivered on his ambitions! And what a pair they made – with two wonderful children – Tim Junior and Helen – and a happy life away from the business with a lot of it spent cruising on their canal boa. Tim and Ann carved their own channel and lived the life they desired.

Tim was a true friend, a wonderful mentor and a magnificent professional. There are very few of his ilk stalking the corridors of the motor industry these days. The industry is poorer for it but those of us who knew him, spent time with him and worked with him are very much the richer for that experience.

So many of us will miss him but will be enlivened for having shared this world with him.

Stephen Kitson
Friend of the Guild