Friday, 29 November 2013

AUTHOR PROFILE No.8: JOHNNY TIPLER

Motoring journalist & author Johnny Tipler has a new book published this month. He's no stranger to scribbling about cars – here's his story ...

Driving a Porsche 356 Carrera Cabriolet.

Driving Porsches for a living? It’s tough, but someone’s got to do it. And one of Veloce Publishing’s original authors, Johnny Tipler, does just that: writing for three of the UK’s independent Porsche titles, 911 & Porsche World, Total 911 and Classic Porsche. Topics include interviews with famous names who’ve raced or rallied Porsches – aces like Walter Röhrl, Bjorn Waldegård, Hans Stuck, Jürgen Barth and Vic Elford – and the specialists who tune them, such as Alois Ruf, Willy Brombacher, Josh Sadler and Duel’s Ed Poland, with reviews of important and specially-commissioned cars offered by the likes of Paul Stephens, Lee Maxted-Page, Specialist Cars of Malton, MCP Motorsport, and Adrian Crawford.


Owned for eight years, Johnny’s own car is a Porsche 964, affectionately dubbed The Peppermint Pig, thanks to its original mint green hue. This vehicle also provides Johnny with a fund of stories, since he drives it when following events like the Monte Carlo Historic Rally, Mille Miglia and Roger Albert Clark (RAC) Rally, or when covering meetings such as Le Mans Classic, Spa Six Hours, Nürburgring Old Timer and the Zandvoort Historic Grand Prix. It serves as transport when he visits defunct racetracks like Berlin’s Avus, Reims, Rouen, and Porto. In February 2013, when it had logged 315,000km, the 3.6-litre flat-six was rebuilt at Kontich-based 911Motorsport near Antwerp, and in November it carried Johnny to Portugal and back while he put his Douro holiday home on the market.

'Peppermint Pig' in Portugal.

With some 35 books published over the last 25 years, including driver biographies of Graham Hill, Ronnie Peterson and Ayrton Senna, Johnny’s first tome was also Veloce Publishing’s inaugural title, Alfa Romeo Giulia Sprint GT and GTA, just re-printed in a new large format third edition. He’s written three books on Alfas – another Veloce title, now out of print, was Alfa Romeo Berlinas; other marque and model books cover Morgan, Jensen, Caterham, TVR, Fiat (124 Spyder), Land Rover, Mini-Cooper, Triumph Motorcycles, and Harley-Davidson, as well as more general tomes on heavy equipment, racing cars, automobile stylists, and trucks.

The first ever Veloce book! From 1991, (part number V000): Alfa Romeo Giulia Coupé GT & GTA by Johnny Tipler.

Johnny verges on the prolific when writing about Lotus, with eight titles published, mostly on racing cars like the Types 25/33 and 78/79, plus the Elise, and the gestation and construction of the Evora. For six years (from 2005 to 2011) Johnny wrote most of the features for Lotus Cars’ in-house Lotus Club International quarterly magazine, in the course of which he travelled to locations as far-flung as Las Vegas, Marrakech, Indianapolis, Stockholm, Lake Garda, Daytona, Morzine (Geneva), Monticello (New York), Route Napoleon (Grasse), Route 66 (Arizona), The Ice Hotel (Kiruna), Porto, and Lime Rock (Connecticut). He composed drive stories at the wheel of various Elises, Exiges, Europa, 2-Eleven and Evoras, and interviewed aces associated with the marque, such as Mario Andretti, Sir Stirling Moss, John Surtees, Johnny Herbert, Jackie Oliver and Emerson Fittipaldi, plus Lotus affiliated stars like Jay Leno, Rick Wakeman and Chis Rea. As well as key factory personnel, Johnny also established an amiable rapport with Clive Chapman, who provided access to legendary Lotus racing cars, present-day drivers like Duncan Dayton, James King, Dan Collins, Katsu Kubota and Chris Locke, as well as the CTL mechanics, some of whom, like Bob Dance, Eddie Dennis and Chris Dinnage, Johnny knew when he was JPS Motorsport Press Officer, an era spent mostly living at racetracks during the ’70s and ’80s.
Johnny puts his vehicular passion down to his father’s job as a commercial traveller, having spent a great deal of his school holidays as passenger in dad’s cars: an Austin Westminster and VW Beetle are fondly remembered, and it was his father’s pirouette into a hedge in a Porsche 356 that kindled his childhood obsession with the Zuffenhausen marque. The most exotic Porsches he’s driven – for features in 911 & Porsche World magazine – include the 906 and 910 prototype sports-racing cars, and the Ruf RT12S, probably the most evolved example of the 911. As well as a 3.2 Carrera, other notable cars Johnny’s owned over the years include a 1340cc Ford Anglia, a trio of MGBs and an MGC, Lotus Elan S4 and BMW 1602. There has been a glut of Alfa Romeos, including a Giulia 1300Ti (upped to 2.0-litres), a 1750 Berlina, two Alfetta GTVs and a GTV6 – converted into a race car for the AROC series in 1989 and then back again – and an Alfa 75 3.0 and a 155 V6. Current family hack is an Alfa 156.

Johnny’s previous Veloce offering is La Carrera Panamericana, subtitled ‘the world’s greatest road race,' which he covered as a journalist in ’06 and ’07, and then wrote up as a book in 2008. He went back in 2011 to drive the event as a competitor, spending seven days and 2000 hair-raising and hilarious miles travelling the length of Mexico in company with 115 other gung-ho racers, which he regards as his ultimate motoring experience. The tale is soon to been reissued by Veloce as an eBook, and includes a new chapter on Johnny, and co-driver Sarah Bennett-Baggs’ exciting experiences in their Porsche 914/4 GT, as well as some video clips. It was so good he vows to go back and do it again. And then another chapter can be added!

Johnny Tipler and Sarah Bennett-Baggs,with Porsche 914:GT4 in Oaxaca, at La Carrera Panamericana, 2011.

Alfa Romeo Giulia GT & GTA – Enlarged & revised 3rd edition (Limited to 1500 copies) by Johnny Tipler. Coming soon! Click here for more info.