The Schoolboy Who Sold Manuals to Adults
Behind every classified advertisement there must be a story, but it is unusual to find that two lines in MOTOR SPORT’s “back-page bible” have literally been the foundation of an Anglo-American publishing empire. That is what happened when Sutton Valence schoolboy John Haynes offered our readers Suggested Designs, Modifications and General Information on Building a 750 c.c. Special. Written and drawn by J. Haynes.
About 250 people replied to that offer, paying five shillings apiece to contribute to a total sell-out within 10 days. Today that same Haynes, exuding bouncy confidence borne upon the production of 2½ million motoring books a year, presides over a business that stretches from its home in Somerset to Los Angeles, via Leeds.
The principles are still the same. The author works with those taking a vehicle (80% cars, the rest motorbikes) apart and reassembling it in the workshops, with photos taken at all appropriate points. In the old days Haynes did it all himself, preferring to illustrate rather than photograph.
Suprisingly, though the principle has taken Haynes to the position of being the second largest motoring publishers in the World, the idea of actually taking vehicles apart “in-house” and fully describing the process has not been adopted by others. Thus it remains a strong selling point in the English-speaking countries where the manuals, and a growing range of the now Haynes-owned G. T. Foulis general motoring books, are sold. Some of the titles are also available in Dutch and German.
* * *
The schoolboy did not turn into a publishing prodigy overnight. “The Seven manual carried on for years through the late fifties,” John Haynes remembers, “but I was in the RAF serving on the transport administration side before I produced a successor in the shape of a book about Ford specials. I thought people would get fed up with this man Haynes so I changed my name to G. B. Wake!”
A customary broad grin of all-engulfing mirth interrupted our conversation before Haynes recalled how the books were marketed by the Services-closeted author. “My father (Harold) had recently retired to Yeovil and he ran the mail order book business from the back of his garage. The company was formally started on May 18th, 1960.”
Still in the RAF John Haynes started racing an MG-A “around 1962, which gave us a bit of practical experience for a B-series tuning manual I suppose! Then I had a Lotus Seven with Cosworth Formula Junior engine and Hewland 5-speed gearbox, which I wrote off at Goodwood in 1963. Then there was the ex-Pat Ferguson Elva Courier: I put a new B-series racing motor in that which gave us the satisfaction of seeing the chequered flag first on occasion.” Haynes has never really given up competition driving, though today there are only rare appearances in the brutal TVR Tuscan 5.7 Holman and Moody V8 in either sprints or hill-climbs. The company has sponsord both the RAC Sprint and Hill-climbing series, at present supporting the Leaders Championship. “We also sponsored David Harris and his Macrae; as soon as he got our sponsorship he dropped from twice Champion to runner-up,” Haynes quipped.
By 1965 Haynes was serving out in Aden and living in a fourth floor flat. “A friend had a Frogeye Sprite which I said I would help him strip and rebuild. I felt the standard of workshop manuals was abysmal and so I decided to combine the exercise with one written and illustrated by myself.
“I was on Air Movements at the time which meant shift work with a couple of days off afterwards, which was quite convenient.” Not so easy was lugging the components of the Sprite upstairs for attention, difficulty highlighted by temperatures approaching, and sometimes surpassing, 110 degrees! An Asahi Pentax racked up “at least 500 shots on that Sprite — and I have still got it and use it today! In fact I worked out that we have something like 4½ miles of film in the Haynes archives today,” Haynes pointed out proudly, though I should make it clear that the boss has invested in some new photographic equipment for his staff. There are also five illustrators, headed by cutaway specialist Terry Davey whose work is almost as familiar as the Haynes trademark around the buildings that sprawl over the present 4½-acre site.
Haynes left the RAF in August 1967. He had completed “18 books or so,” by the time he left and knew that was what he wanted to do. Haynes was a Flight Lieutenant by this stage, but one of his vivid memories of the period was of his father’s mail order premises at St. Michael’s Avenue in Yeovil. Haynes laughs when he looks back: “We called the business the Sporting Motorist’s Bookshop. Most days you could see somebody running up and down the avenue looking for a bookseller.”
A proper shop was found at Lower Odcombe, not far from Yeovil. The terraced premises had a Rotaprint 30/90 in the back and a stitching machine, left by brother David Haynes who was returning to the RAF. As today all the printing processes, as far as possible, were owned by Haynes. “I was horrified by what printers would charge, so I was often out at the back around 10.30 at night, still turning the handle and determined to do it my way.”
It was not long after that the Haynes, by which I mean Annette his wife as well, for she had been working on the typesetting since 1963. had moved to their present home in West Camel. Adjoining the house was a barn — “I will never forget loading our printing presses up to the barn from a lorry by human chain,” says Haynes. They had been extremely fortunate in obtaining local permission to use part of their home for this purpose: today it houses part of Haynes’ 15-car collection, but the gigantic steel reinforcing girders remind them what a super multi-purpose home thay had.
A former Unigate dairy became the final step in the tale so far as a headquarters for Haynes was concerned. The village of Sparkford is one of many to straddle the A303 artery to the West of England, but if you take it slowly going over the stone-walled railway bridge you will probably manage to slow sufficiently before turning in sharply to the left and the present premises. Too fast and you are liable to collect John’s bright red XJ-S (“I love it, but the torque converter did fail at 5,000 miles,” he says reflectively) or the main shop/reception area’s plate glass window.
Subsequent landmarks in the company’s growth included the July 1973 acquisition of G.T. Foulis at Henley. This was an important buy for Haynes personally as he felt the company, established in 1928, “had earned enormous respect for books like the Phillip Smith Design and Tuning work and Hans Tanner’s Ferrari title. Miles Marshall wanted to retire from the business and I wanted to expand my interests in motoring beyond the handbooks and workshop manuals.
“Incidentally, you can see what a small world motoring is from the fact that, as we moved G.T. Foulis down here, the premises were let to Julian Berrisford.” The former Alvis “duckback” driver was then setting up his own motoring advertising/PR business.
America came right for Haynes “in 1974, after two disastrous false starts with American publishers trying to distribute our wares. The first one failed (fortunately we had ECGD cover) and the other could not sell our books!” They chose a site near Los Angeles, that warehousing and sales establishment at Newbury Park run by 12 staff now and accounting for “a substantial number of sales as a proportion of the 10 million books we sell annually. In fact I see much of our future growth coming in US dollars for there are 250 million in the population and 19-20% of all sales are the imported cars in which we specialise.” It seems certain that Haynes will progressively go into the domestic American car manuals in an effort to take the coveted “Biggest motoring publisher in the World,” title.
If Haynes do get to the top I would not like readers to think that it was a question of just straightforward hard work and application. As with anything else in human endeavour there has to be a degree of hardship and some measure of good fortune in overcoming the setbacks. The Haynes assimilation of Foulis was rather more ambitious than might appear to the casual reader, for the essentially serious, low run, smaller profit general motoring books had to be assimilated within a production schedule for the successful workshop publications. In other words it was rather like trying to produce Porsche 911s and Chevrolet Impalas on the same line.
Now the Foulis line seems to be prospering and invigorated by the change, but at the time there were many who thought the confident Haynes had simply taken on too much. Haynes himself commented, “We were getting into a very serious branch of publishing. When we did a book on the Rolls-Royce Phantom neither we, nor the editor in charge, knew about the subject as we did with the manuals. Now we do employ people who know the areas we are involved in, notably Jeff Clew on the motorcycle side.”
Now they expect Foulis books to provide 15% of their total output. At present they have around 100 titles awaiting publication across the board in the next 8-10 months and 400 titles ready for distribution.
* * *
The heart of the business must remain the step-by-step manuals and handbooks — especially in days when handbooks are becoming wider spread in their coverage and less informative.
How do Haynes carry out the workshop manual side today? The first basic question is to secure the car. I was mildly surprised to find that they do no “demon deals”‘ with manufacturers over the release dates for new models. Though there is a significant percentage of buyers who never intend working on their cars, Haynes generally let demand build up for the model in question before launching accompanying literature; this applies especially at the top end of the car market where the car has to filter down through the first, second, and possibly even third owners before any element of DIY enters into its life.
American models feature largely in their life today, so I was not surprised to see the American version of Chevette awaiting attention alongside the railway line at Sparkford. This model, like the Chrysler Horizon, shares little but the basic facts of engine and transmission layout and floorpan with its European cousin. How did Haynes get hold of the car? Well, they do not buy in through their American operation, though there is no reason why John Haynes should not pick up an exceptionally interesting model while spending three months of every calendar year in Los Angeles. No, a little British ingenuity is applied to gaining the latest American models in the UK. Haynes write to the commanding officer at a USAAF airbase of their choice and offer an acceptable Haynes staff car for a fortnight or so in exchange for the car they are interested in! It always seems to work, though how Americans get on with manual transmission and RHD was not passed on to this reporter.
Over 200 vehicles have passed through the hands of John Horsfall in the Haynes workshops for manual strip and rebuild purposes. However, that is just the tip of the iceberg as Jeff Clew told me: “He also looks after staff cars — I have never known one break down on the road.”
Talking to Mr. Horsfall I wondered how many mechanics get the chance to turn from water-cooled two-stroke triples to rotary and more conventional car engines? I asked how the procedure went from his viewpoint?
“The cars take about a fortnight to work on. We strip down to the last nut and bolt, calling out the author and the photographic people when it gets interesting! However, the bulk of the manual work is done when the car is back on its way together, because that it what you really need a manual for.”
Cars in for the treatment when I called also included a Toyota Starlet and the Golf LD diesel. The Toyota coloured our conversation slightly as I asked what the most complex strip-down tasks were?
Brian replied, “Well, we did the Land-Rover transmission once! Then, there was the Porsche 911. That made us think a bit. Is the quality there for all that money? Yes, I would say it is: certainly a lot of thought has gone into the Porsche design.”
Turning to the simplest jobs I gained the feeling that there were so many mass-production cars produced along the easy servicing lines these days that they were all much of a muchness when it came to their workshop session at Haynes. However, Brian picked out, “My favourite for simplicity is the Toyota. The Starlet engine has quite a lot in common with the A-series BMC so far as the head goes, but you have to remember the bottom end is a five-bearing layout. With the Japanese stuff we find that if it is meant to fit as a sliding fit, then it does — no need to resort to the big hammer in other words.”
I queried that the American cars must be ever more complex with the emission-enforced equipment installed? “No, they seem to be getting the hang of it all now. This Chevette has not even needed air injection, though it has pretty well everything else.
“I went over to the States for four weeks concentrating on the Chevrolet LUV pick-up. As we worked our way through I realised it was not a Chevrolet at all, you can still tell when the Japanese have been at work! In the same way I can tell if a car is European in origin without being told, but it would now be harder to tell French from German or Italian within Europe.
“When it comes down to it most cars have pistons that go up and down, crankshafts that go round and round, and so on.
“That is why I enjoy working on something different. The Golf diesel is interesting, but I don’t like the idea of small diesel engines and look forward to seeing how they look at 50,000 miles.” That was an astonishing coincidence, for exactly the same remark was made at the Peugeot press conference to launch the 305D . . .
Brian voted the Mazda RX3 gearbox the easiest to work on. “It is assembled in two halves for the casing: you split them and the whole gearbox is lying on the bench looking at you! I replaced the third and fourth synchromesh on my own Mazda in under two hours and quite enjoyed working on it.” Quite some admission. for such an activity in one’s spare time at this job definitely comes into the busman’s holiday category.
Brian was also fascinated by the Mazda rotary engine. “It’s a very nice unit. I admired the fit and finish and think there is a long way to go with rotaries, especially as I can see no reason why they should not be run on paraffin.” I gathered they had proved this to their own satisfaction . . .
Naturally Horsfall is looking forward to the arrival of the twin rotor RX7 sports car in the workshops. In the meantime I asked about recent sports cars they had worked on: what were his impressions? It turned out that the last pair were Continued on page 807
Triumph’s 1500 Spitfire and TR7. Brian Horsfall would not comment on the TR but was quite relieved to see the 1500 Spitfire carried on with the safer independent rear end of recent years — “I used to rally a Triumph Herald coupé on three or two wheels,” he remembered.
I shall not describe the processes in the manual beyond that point, for the gathering of the manuscript, photography selection, production of pages and final assembly within soft or hard covers is similar to the labours we perform every month to produce MOTOR SPORT. Suffice it to say that the best part of nine months is also needed to produce each new Haynes offspring and that 150 staff are employed at Sparkford to take the books from typescript and negative to glossy new books in Haynes cartons. As ever, every process is carried out on site and Haynes has invested about half a million pounds in the past three years to make sure of having modern equipment to stay competitive with his rivals.
As I looked around John Haynes’ personal collection of cars I thought of the 5/- booklet in its orange soft covers that started it all. The idea is still the same: pack in as many facts and illustrations as possible to actually help somebody do the job from your own first-hand experience. Like the monocoque, aerofoils, wide tyres and ground effect, the idea is simple, . . it is making it work that counts! — J.W.