He passed away ‘peacefully at home’ on Thursday 4 December having retired after a remarkable career with cars.
A lifelong journalist, he was motoring correspondent at the Daily Sketch from 1958. When that paper was absorbed by the Daily Mail in 1971 he continued his globetrotting career there until his official retirement in 1995. However he continued working until 2008.
His widow Fran said: “Journalism was his life. It is a blessing that his passing was peaceful.”
The couple moved to Denham Garden Village in Buckinghamshire two years ago but are lifelong Londoners.
Ray Hutton, vice-president of the Guild of Motoring Writers said: “The Guild has lost one of its most respected members and a very professional Fleet Street reporter who covered the whole of the motoring spectrum. No matter where he was in the world he would always be on the hunt for a phone and be filing copy from his notebook or from his head. I don’t think I ever saw him use a typewriter.”
Former Guild chairman Chris Wright, currently chairman of the Fleet Street Group of Motoring Writers said: “Mike was one of the founding members of our group in 1982 and was much admired and respected. His energy and enthusiasm for the job was boundless, if not legendary.”
Al Clarke, president of the Motor Industry Public Affairs Association said: “Mike was a Fleet Street legend who loved to get motoring news on the front page. What made him special was his nose for a story. He made sure our industry was talked about.”
Denis Chick of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders’ media committee and communications director at Vauxhall said: “Mike Kemp was a doyen of the elite Fleet Street group of motoring writers. Softly spoken and always with cigarette in mouth, he was a formidable journalist, eager to seek out a scoop.”
He added: “I first met him on the Austin Montego launch in 1985 along with his fellow Fleet Street writers. They were important and always in the first group. Cornering the Chief Exec, Mike would be first with the inside story and probably one that was nothing to do with the launch of the car.”
“My abiding memory will be of Mike’s early morning Sunday calls and his cry of: ‘I need a Sunday for Monday mate’. Once he said: ‘You’ve got a new engine for the Metro, must be great for economy, what can we work up’? Front page of the Daily Mail next day was ‘The 100 miles per gallon Metro’. Wide of the mark but it was on the front page. Rest in peace Mike, you were a star and a real gentleman.”
Edmund King, president of the AA said: “Mike Kemp was a master journalist and a charming man. You never seemed to mind when he disturbed your Sunday morning looking for stories. ‘Hello old chap, it’s Kemp here, you don’t mind?’ You didn’t mind because more often than not the story would make the front page. He will be missed by all.”
Former Jaguar PR Colin Cook said: “I first met him nearly fifty years ago – at the 1966 motor show. He was a tremendous supporter of the British motor industry and particularly Jaguar. Throughout his time with the Mail he was also intensely loyal to the paper.”
Ian Morton, former motoring correspondent of the London Evening Standard who drove with him on many launches said: “He was assiduous in his quest for a scoop or an angle, much to the discomfort of his motoring colleagues who failed to spot it. He was very hard working and constantly in touch with his news desk. There was barely an event anywhere in the world at which you didn’t hear someone shout: ‘Telephone call for Mr Kemp.'”
TV producer Andy Wilman said on behalf of the BBC Top Gear team including Jeremy Clarkson: “Mike was one of those great, colourful, motoring correspondents who worked in a very exciting era, an era before identical cars came off computerised production lines. I think all of us were a bit jealous of the life he and his peers led.”
The funeral of Michael Kemp is to take place on Friday December 19, however Mike’s widow Fran has advised it will be a private event for immediate family only. She conveys her sincerest thanks for all the tributes and expressions of sympathy she has received. A memorial service is expected in due course and details will be advised.
Ray Massey is Transport Editor of the Daily Mail. He succeeded Michael Kemp as the Daily Mail‘s motoring correspondent.