At the coalface

Gordon Cruickshank Assistant/Deputy Editor 1982-present

I actually applied for a job on Motoring News, but I was hijacked by the Proprietor, Mr Tee, as Motor Sport's previous Assistant Ed was desperate to escape. With neither journalistic nor magazine experience behind me, and no proof that I could drive fast cars, I was the perfect candidate --- because I was available. That's the way Mr Tee recruited.

After one month's overlap with the outgoing incumbent I was left to it --- one person not only planning the issue, but writing reports, testing cars, proof-reading, choosing and sizing photos and even laying out pages. As a new boy I assumed this was normal. I thought every magazine was based in a dingy office with grubby glass, broken lino and 1940s furniture. Also that it was usual for a magazine to have its own typesetters and printing presses downstairs, and to have to negotiate favours with the print staff while yet another union dispute raged upstairs. Mr Tee did like a fight; people were always leaving his office fuming.

DSJ set the tone for me, in a letter saying "Motor Sport is not for the readers --- it's a private diary between Bod and Jenks."

Everything had to be referred to The Old Man, which meant queuing outside his office, waiting for the 'engaged' sign to go out. You couldn't ring abroad without his permission. He had to agree to every trip you made, or car you tested. ("Nobody wants to read about Ferraris, boy," he told me when I wanted him to insure a Testa Rosso.) He wanted to see every photo, and would turn one down for the most unfathomable reasons. He once refused to let me use a cover shot of a car yumping on the 1000 Lakes Rally.
"Bad driving. He'll break the car"
"But he won, Mr Tee."
"Nonsense, boy. Find something else." I did.

The upside was that once you learned how to handle him he would agree to some seriously daft proposals. In the same discussion he refused my overnight stay for a British race meeting but agreed I could follow the Mille Miglia for a week. And though my salary was feeble, he bought me a TVR.

Barmy, but wonderful too, like so much about the magazine.