By Bill Boddy MBE: Founder Editor
It began as the Brooklands Gazette when Radcliffe’s decided that the prevailing interest in racing at Brooklands justified a monthly magazine with that title. Less than two years later, the title was changed sensibly to the all-embracing Motor Sport. At the time, although the three weekly motor journals (four, if The Auto is included) reported on sporting events, there was scope for a high-class monthly.
Motor Sport had a number of different publishers and editors, the latter including Oscar E Seyd, H Scott Hall, Richard Twelvetrees, LA Hutchings — with Rodney Walkerley as his deputy, later to become The Motor’s Sports Editor — Herbert H S Keogh and W S Braidwood, BA, who raced a GN and ran a garage while studying at Oxford to become a successful doctor.
T G Moore, Bentley-owner and Monte Carlo competitor, took it over in 1929. When he left England for New Zealand in ’36 it was acquired by Mr Wesley J Tee. He had printing and production facilities but no-one to edit his new possession. I had had a few letters and an article (about Brooklands, of course) published in Motor Sport and The Autocar, etc, from age 14, so he took a chance and let me in. That would be in 1936 and, with bursting enthusiasm, I developed the magazine in the way I thought it ought to go, with race reports, news of the clubs, readers’ letters, road tests of any cars offered to us, also some assistance from several continental contributors, and the rest of it. Having little advertising to begin with, we could afford to be outspoken, both about cars and political interference with driving pleasures. This remained an aspect of Motor Sport from then on.
The Vintage Sports Car Club and the Veteran Car Club were fostering interest in the older cars and we published 20 ‘Veteran Types’ pieces up to 1939. We were soon influential enough for me to request articles from the well-known giants, such as Laurence Pomeroy Jnr, whose ‘Racing Car Evolution’ resulted in his epic two-volume ‘Grand Prix’ books, and Cecil Clutton and Anthony Heal, respected VSCC members, who wrote for us, the latter, with John Wyer, about the history of the Sunbeam racing cars.
As readership rose, more and more advertisers came along, and our circulation grew to highly respectable figures, unlike my very slender payment cheques. (Post-war Mr Tee told me we outsold the two leading weeklies combined.) But I balanced that against the pleasure of the job — the latest cars to test (at Brooklands, of course), full of fuel and insured by their makers for all eventualities (the only one I wrote-off was a yellow Ford Mexico). There is no better occupation than that of motoring writer (not journalist, please) unless it be that of affording to motor race, which I could not.
Apart from the world slump years when, from costing one shilling, the front cover of Motor Sport was filled only by an enormous ‘6d’, a price reduction to try to hold circulation, all went well, as it has to the time of this anniversary.
When I saw No2 of The Brooklands Gazette on Smith’s bookstall at Baker Street Station, and immediately begged a bob from my mother to buy it, and got her to order Nosl and 3 and subsequent issues, I had no idea that one day I would be the editor of its successor, which I ran (for a wage of £2 a week) throughout WWII. It was only in 1945 that Mr Tee made me Editor, and in 1991 bestowed on me the title of Founder Editor.