Bill Boddy: an appreciation

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When the sad passing of our Founder Editor Bill Boddy MBE was announced on the Motor Sport website, the response was both immediate and overwhelming. So this month, instead of our usual correspondence, we bring you a selection of those tributes, both from people who knew and worked with WB and those who simply admired or were inspired by him. We felt it worth the break with tradition we hope you understand and appreciate the sentiments expressed herewith.

BILL FOUNDED THE BROOKLANDS Society in 1968 and wrote for its publications from their inception until his column in the current Gazette. He, along with others such as Kenneth Evans, was fundamental in saving the site from dereliction, leading today to the thriving museum. But he was more than that, not always outgoing in public, but if you met him in his warm Welsh kitchen he was a wonderful host, speaking quietly in a wonderfully informed and authoritative manner on every motoring and aeronautical topic under the sun. You heard the stories he hadn’t written!

We will miss him, and the Society sends their sincere condolences to the family.

Graham Skillen, Chairman, Brooklands Society

BILL BODDY WAS ONE OF THOSE RARE people who became a legend in their own lifetime. Apart from Motor Sport, with which he will always be associated, his other abiding interest was in Brooklands.

He founded the Brooklands Society over 40 years ago to preserve the history and what remained of Hugh Locke-King’s remarkable pioneer track after racing ended in 1939, and he continued to write for the Society’s Gazette until the present issue.

Founding the Society eventually led to the formation of the present Brooklands Museum and the preservation for posterity of the Clubhouse, Test Hill and many other features.

The Society will mourn the loss of WB and its condolences go to his family.

James de la Mare, Hon Secretary, The Brooklands Society

NEWS OF THE DEATH OF BILL BODDY IS the end of an era. He was largely responsible for the founding of the 750 Motor Club way back in 1939 and was appointed president about 30 years ago. He always took a keen interest in all 750 club activities and last attended our National Austin Seven Rally at Beaulieu when he was 80.

His Motor Sport was compulsive reading for any enthusiast. He indeed was the archetypal motor history guru. Our thoughts go out to his daughter Nondus, who more recently has attended 750 events on his behalf.

Ken Cooke, Hon Vice-President, 750 Motor Club

WB WAS THE LAST LINK THAT THE Vintage Sports-Car Club had to its beginnings. From the very start he was an inspiration to the Club, supporting us whenever necessary.

His articles succeeded in saving numerous aged cars long before the war. One of the cars he managed to save was the Grand Prix Itala — the very epitome of the Club in so many ways.

He wasn’t too fond of bureaucracy and many of us remember his Boxing Night Informal Runs from Staines to Cornwall in the late ’50s with great affection.

Bill Boddy was a true enthusiast and will long be remembered by all in the aged car world.

WB died peacefully at his Welsh home, with Nondus at his side.

If you want to find an epitaph for Bill Boddy, look no further than Motor Sport.

Roger Collings, VSCC

WE HERE AT THE PRE-WAR AUSTIN Seven Club, of which Bill was an honorary member, are deeply saddened by the news. Bill was a staunch follower of the Seven and wrote the book The Austin Seven. Some years ago he was thrilled when we asked his permission to republish it.

I personally treasure the correspondence I had with him at the time, his annotated typewritten letters — most of which, at the end, apologised for the errors, stating ‘sorry, no typist available today’!

Thanks Bill, the motoring world is now a sadder place.

Chris Garner Austin Seven Club archivist

I WOULD LIKE TO EXPRESS MY MOST sincere condolences to Bill’s family and friends. I was his assistant at ‘MS’ for a few months in 1968 and he was very supportive and helpful, especially when I told him that — pardoning his presence — I just couldn’t stand the place and would be leaving as soon as I could…

His knowledge, work ethic and utter dedication to getting it right, doing it properly and encouraging others to keep to the path of motoring righteousness was unrivalled. He always seemed rather like a querulous schoolboy, ready to make a statement and challenge anyone else to tell him he was wrong. But he could be very funny, and extremely perceptive. His MBE was wonderfully well merited, yet it seemed to embarrass him deeply. His contribution to motoring in general and especially to the old-car movement in this country was immense.

He’s in a more comfy place now, and he and Jenks are probably already locked in argument over the way it used to be… God speed Bod. Thanks for all the gen.

Doug Nye, MS Special Contributor

AN ASTOUNDING AND OUTSTANDING contribution to all things motoring. We will not see his like again. My condolences to his family and friends, including the hundreds of thousands whom he never met but who hung on his every word.

Paul Fearnley, former MS editor

IT WAS SAD TO HEAR THE NEWS OF WB. His road test of the E-type Jaguar back in 1962 still sticks in my mind. When I worked for Motor Sport in the ’70s I was asked to deliver urgent press proofs to his home in Llandrindod Wells, a four-hour journey from the original office in City Road. Those were days, before electronic technology!

John Deverell

THE MEMORY OF BILL WILL STAY WITH me always. During my time in the VSCC office he was a great support, as he had been ever since I first met him at the VSCC Heston Driving Tests in 1959 when he showed interest in our little Aston Martin. Anne and I offer our condolences to his family and close friends.

Neil Murray

FROM ALL OF US (READERS AND listeners) at F1B, we offer our most heartfelt condolences. As an avid promoter and consumer of your magazine, I am left bereft of the presence of WB and that will surely be felt for years to come. He was a singular man in a world where passionless duplicity rules.

Todd McCandless, F1 Blog

BILL WAS AN ORIGINAL SOURCE OF knowledge on so many old car issues. He personally helped me with the Leyland Eight story. It was he who cycled 50 miles to Lewes to see the remnants of the Leyland Thomas No2 being dismantled for scrap, too late to be saved, but for perhaps the steering wheel.

So much of the UK has changed since his first published words. Our old car movement present and future owes him a huge debt.

David Haywood

I FEEL SUCH A GREAT SENSE OF LOSS — Bill Boddy has been part of my life for 50 years, since I started reading Motor Sport in my doctor’s waiting room at the age of 11.

I would like to recount a personal memory. It was a Sunday afternoon at the Weston-super-Mare seafront sprint in the late 1980s and I was standing in the press tent after watching Roger Collings blast that lovely Mercedes 60hp up the road. I had just signed in as M Hannon, South West Counties Newspapers when I realised that the name above mine in the VSCC book was W Boddy, Motor Sport. And there he was standing beside me! It has been one of the great sadnesses of my life that I — normally never lost for words — just stood there and couldn’t think of anything appropriate to say. I wanted to thank him for all the pleasure, etc, etc, but I guess he might have been embarrassed. And then the moment was gone. Thanks, WB.

Michael Hannon

I’VE BEEN READING MOTOR SPORT since the early ’50s, and remember the thrill when WB published one of my letters when I was aged 16 in 1954. He and Jenks were my inspiration and I’ve kept in touch with WB throughout my own career as a motoring historian. Rarely did a month pass without a phone call from “Bod Hall” with either an obscure enquiry, or the answer to one of mine, or kind words about something I had written. I had come to believe that he was immortal and the news of his death has brought great sadness. Bill was a one-off, we won’t see his like again.

Mike Worthington-Williams

MOTOR SPORT HAS BEEN A DRIVING force behind my passion and career, and WB has been a big part of that. At 14 I was given my first subscription to MS by my parents, which has continued for 15 years. Now running my own business concentrating on historic cars and motor sport I can truly say that this publication and the words of WB have inspired me.

I have always enjoyed the articles and road tests of all the contributors, but the recollections of Bill Boddy have been of particular fascination. His depth of knowledge and experience were second to none, and it is very sad to know that we will no longer be able to enjoy the musings of this great man.

Gregg May

I BEGAN READING MOTOR SPORT IN 1956 and haven’t missed an issue since. The Bod’s inimitable style and determination to speak his mind always made for riveting reading. His seemingly unlimited knowledge, stories of the early days and tales of iconic figures in motoring and motor sport will never be equalled.

I first met Bill years ago at a VSCC event at Oulton Park, and he was as entertaining and outspoken in person as in print! As Doug Nye says, he and Jenks are probably having a great debate in another place now — sharing Jenks’ one plate, one cup, one bowl, etc. What a loss!

John Dickinson, Vancouver

I WAS VERY SORRY TO HEAR THAT BILL has died — he has been such an influence on my motoring life one hoped he would go on forever. I experienced first-hand his kindness and depth of knowledge when visiting his house to have my three copies of the History of Brooklands autographed nearly 40 years ago. In more recent years he was supportive of my modest efforts to record motoring history, especially that of MG cars for which he seemed to have much affection.

Malcolm Green

IT’S DIFFICULT TO IMAGINE READING Motor Sport without coming to WB’s words. Fitting he talked about the VSCC in the August issue. Probably why my Lancia refused to start today. Condolences from all at Retro-Speed.

Peter Baker

 

WB’S SECTION AT THE BACK OF MOTOR Sport was always one of the first I read.

I was fortunate to have been in the presence of both Jenks and WB on a few occasions. I remember Jenks and his Triton at Loton Park hilklimb, where he was surrounded by willing helpers when trying to fix something. My memories of WB are of the New Year’s Day vintage gatherings at The Verzons, where he was often seen wearing his old Ford Rally jacket while taking photos and making notes about the more interesting cars on display. How privileged I now consider myself, having witnessed these two great enthusiasts doing what they enjoyed.

Paul Leyser

BILL BODDY HAS BEEN AN INSPIRATION since my school days in the ’40s. “Beware of the motorist who wears a flat cap and string-backed gloves!” He represented all that was good in the old car world and continually challenged the manufacturers of new shoddily-built cars. His years with Jenks produced the best motor racing journalism at the time — and probably since.

A long life well lived, rest in peace.

Michael Sharp

ALONG WITH JENKS, WB MADE perhaps the greatest contribution to ensuring that motoring and motor racing are the pursuit of so many today. His accuracy and grasp of detail was unrivalled. I have 60-plus years worth of back issues to delve into when in pursuit of the most obscure fact or figure.

Entertaining, informative and inspirational. He is irreplaceable.

Jonathan Layzell

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