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Motoring News was a sister publication to Motor Sport from mid-1955 to 2006.
Originally the cover-all that its name suggests, the inaugural front page proclaimed Ban Flashing Indicators when it could have led with Disaster at Le Mans, or Alberto Ascari’s death, or Stirling Moss’s maiden World Championship Grand Prix win.
Gradually, however, under the guidance of editor Cyril Posthumus, MN morphed into the motorsport-centric title that it remains today.
A regular feature during the 1960s was Personality Parade, a resume of the careers and opinions of the sport’s movers and shakers in and out of the cockpits.
I long presumed that these had stemmed from interviews with the intended ‘targets’ – until I rescued a tatty accordion folder from a bin at the newspaper’s Standard House HQ in London. Jammed with typed/Mimeographed/Xeroxed press releases from Gold Leaf, Gulf, Matra-Simca, STP and the like, it also yielded several Personality Parade questionnaires.
Their explanatory blurb read: To enable us to give an accurate ‘picture’, would you please answer the following and kindly return this form to ‘MOTORING NEWS’, 15-17 City Road, London, E.C.1 (MONarch 2540). We would also appreciate the loan of a head-and-shoulders photograph (not a copyright of another magazine!)
Cheapskates. (I can confirm that nothing had changed on the financial front by the mid-1990s)
Geoffrey Healey deigned to reply. So, too, did Porsche motorsport boss ‘Huschke’ von Hanstein, Chevron wannabe designer Derek Bennett and Grand Prix driver, ‘goodie’ manufacturer and Volvo owner Les Leston, who knocked a few years off his age and, surprisingly for such a go-getter, stated that he had no ‘Future plans?’ Probably his spell as an Air Gunner in Lancaster bombers had taught him to take one day at a time.
Yorkshire’s Trevor Taylor also completed a form, as did Charlie Crichton-Stuart of Flat 6, 283 Pinner Road, Harrow – a famous if hardly salubrious motorsport address. Sweden’s Picko Troberg acceded – speedily and perhaps at an event given the scrawling script – and so, too, did South Africa’s Trevor Blokdyk.
All provided illuminating snippets: Bennett’s favourite road car, for instance, was ‘any that the windows wind up properly and with a decent heater’; von Hanstein contested motorcycle rallies and dirt-track races in 1929 while studying at Exeter; Taylor’s racing debut saw him spin his TR2 at the first corner, at Aintree in 1955; Crichton-Stuart was running a Jaguar E-type by October 1968 but regretting selling his Ferrari Berlinetta of 1961; and animal lover Blokdyk kept two trained baboons as pets.
The favourite questionnaire in my possession, however, is Jack Brabham’s (see images at the end of this article).
Filled in 1962, his pivotal first year away from Cooper Car Co., ‘Black Jack’ also enclosed a tightly spaced datasheet printed on what appears to be Izal toilet paper, albeit with a letterhead, and attached a passport-sized photo (yep, it’s still on ‘loan’).
His handwritten answers confirmed his UK address as 3, Ashcombe Avenue, Surbiton – within easy walking distance of Cooper’s base – and his works phone numbers at Brabham Racing Organisation Ltd., 248 Hook Road, Chessington, Surrey as ELMbridge 4808/9280.
Interests outside motorsport? Flying, photography and waterskiing.
What road car(s) do you run at present? Sunbeam Rapier (modified) and Mini Minor.
Any strong views (on motoring events)? More co-ordination between drivers and race organisers, particularly with regards to safety factors of circuits.
Future plans? To build and race ‘Brabham’ GP car.
But the topper, the ever-loving Lulu of all time, was: Highlights of career?
Can you imagine asking that of Ayrton Senna in 1993? Can you imagine his reply? Never mind trepidation, take cover!
Yet Jack simply wrote: WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS 1959–1960.
His capitals, I think, were for neatness rather than emphasis. There’s even evidence of a correction to obviate any chronological confusion.
That answer alone gives an accurate ‘picture’ of the personality in question and the times he operated in.