Bill Boddy MBE 1913-2011

A memorial service for Bill Boddy was held on Friday July 15 at St Andrews Church, Presteigne. The service took place at 2pm, afterwhich the congregation gathered at the Radnorshire Arms at 3pm to enjoy sandwiches and chocolate cake (WB’s favourites). The family have requested no flowers, preferring the alternative of donations to Great Ormond Street Hospital.

Motor Sport is deeply saddened to announce the death at the age 98 of Bill Boddy, the mainstay of the magazine throughout most of its existence. Universally known as WB, Boddy was officially the Editor of Motor Sport for an astonishing 55 years, from 1936 to 1991, during which time he made the title an opinionated and highly influential voice in the worlds of racing and motoring. Remarkably, he continued to write for the magazine every single month since, dictating his last column only days before his death.

Bill Boddy

But his significance extended much further than one publication. He was also arguably the single most important figure in the vintage and classic car movement, using Motor Sport to promote interest in old cars at a time when few were interested. He became a human encyclopaedia on Brooklands, the world’s first race circuit, and apart from writing the definitive history he founded the Brooklands Society which saved the derelict track. A stalwart of vintage and veteran racing – he went on 39 Brighton Runs – he also supported low-cost racing during the 1950s by helping to found the 750MC and promoting the 500cc racing movement which later led to Britain’s domination of the racing scene.

WB’s frank and fearless road tests became the industry benchmark, and by recruiting ‘Jenks’ (the forthright Denis Jenkinson) to the magazine as Grand Prix correspondent he created a pairing which genuinely was, as our masthead proclaimed, “the authoritative voice of the sport”. Boddy used this power to campaign actively on many topics, notably against the introduction of the 70mph speed limit. With a string of books on cars and racing, WB’s deep knowledge was well known and he made countless appearances on radio and TV. In 1997 he received an MBE for services to journalism.

There has probably never been such a long working career in any field: Boddy’s first article was in Motor Sport in 1930, an amazing 81 years ago. WB saw both Nuvolari and Vettel race, knew Caracciola, Hawthorn and Clark, and tested Austin Sevens when they were brand-new. He turned Motor Sport from a tiny specialist title into a major player with great influence in the motoring world, and its continued existence is his legacy.

A full appreciation will appear in the September issue. Following a private cremation, there will be a memorial service for all those who wish to pay their respects. Details at the top.

By Gordon Cruickshank

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