At the coalface

Michael Cotton: Assistant editor 1966-67

‘Bod and Jenks’ as they were always referred to, were not inseparable but they were the heart and soul of Motor Sport for nearly four decades. “Your job is to produce the magazine, but you are not expected to write anything; we do that,” I was informed by Mr Boddy when I was appointed assistant editor in 1966.

The two oracles filled practically all the editorial pages, although I did manage to squeeze in a feature about the development of the Lotus Elan, which soon became my company car thanks to the largesse of proprietor Wesley Tee.

I also wrote part of a ‘twin test’ feature on the Ford Mustang and the Chevrolet Camaro, two new American cars which had just reached the British market, and remember being flat broke for a week after filling the Mustang to the brim, driving it to a rendezvous with Mr Boddy, and finding nothing but fumes in the tank of the Camaro! No credit cards in those days, it was all cash.

‘Bod’ was the living authority on all motoring matters pre-war, and continues to this day to amaze his disciples with his never-ending fund of stories about people, events and forgotten makes.

‘Jenks’ was a constant source of delight. His grand prix articles arrived by the end of the week, beautifully hand-written on lined foolscap, and needed no subbing at all. Mr Butler, the ace compositor at the City Road works, sorted out the comma situation (Jenks’ one and only failing) and returned a set of galleys that needed only to be laid down on the pages, perhaps with space for a picture or two (most, though, went into the centre spread, printed on finer paper).

Grands prix were not televised in the 1950s or 1960s, rarely in the 1970s, and newspapers reported only the crashes and the results. Fans had to wait for Motoring News and Autosport on Thursday to find out what happened, and for Motor Sport on the first day of the next month to find out why it happened.

‘Jenks’ had this happy knack of digging for the truth, seeing through the little fibs that drivers and team owners tend to tell, and presenting an absolutely accurate report of the event.

Historians today would do well to rely on Jenks’ copy before all other sources when they want to draw conclusions.