Thursday, 5 June 2014

AUTHOR PROFILE No.12: GRAHAM ROBSON

Graham Robson is a prolific motoring historian. He began his working life as a design engineer, got involved in rallying as a hobby, began writing about motorsport soon after that, and is now one of Veloce's most published authors, with no fewer than 16 titles to his name.




Born in Yorkshire to a father who was a great motorcycle enthusiast, Graham was a grammar school boy before entering Oxford, where he studied engineering. He joined Jaguar Cars in 1957, as the first of that company's Graduate Trainees. After the obligatory time in overalls, which involved everything from making prototype body parts for new models like the XK150, and wishing he could get his hands on an early E-yype, Graham moved up to the design offices, and worked on the Mk II, E-type and Mark X.

1959 RAC Rally.

1961 RAC Rally, works Rapier, plus Peter Procter and Paddy Hopkirk.

1964 Spitfire Le Mans testing, with David Hobbs and Peter Bolton.

1967 RAC Rally, with World F1 Champion Denis Hulme + Triumph 2.5PI.

This was the time when he joined the Godiva Car Club in Coventry, where he had some success as a co-driver, and was lucky enough to meet up with Norman and Lewis Garrad of the Sunbeam works rally team, which he joined in 1961. Early successes included Team Prizes on the RAC and Monte Carlo rallies
It was during this time that Graham joined Standard-Triumph,
in Coventry, as a Development Engineer, first on Vitesse, then on TR4 projects. He was soon asked to run the re-opened works motorsport department, which he did from 1962 to 1965, during which time he conceived and helped develop the careers of the Spitfire Le Mans cars, TR4s, Vitesses, Spitfires, and 2000 rally cars.

AUTOGLYM commentaries - which went on for ten years.
Own Jaguar X-Type.

I ran two Escort RS Cosworths in the mid-1990s.

In the study - a posed picture!

Home, with RS200 and wife's Escort XR3i outside, 1987.

In the meantime, Graham kept on rallying in the UK as a successful co-driver, often writing reports (for Autosport and Motoring News), which eventually led to him being invited to join Autocar magazine in its Coventry office, where he not only wrote new model analyses, but also carried out many road tests (MIRA was just up the road, near Nuneaton). It was at this time that he became fascinated by the history and heritage of the UK's famous car-makers.
Between 1965 and 1969, Graham reported on races and rallies all
around the world, including the East African Safari and the Indianapolis 500. Back then his only personal claim to fame was that he co-drove Britain's Roger Clark to victory in the Welsh International rally, but he had to stop competing in the late 1960s when he no longer seemed to have enough spare time.
Following this period, Graham was attracted back to industry,
joining the Rootes Group in Coventry (which became Chrysler UK) to run the Product Proving department. After a brief period in 1972 as Technical Director of a Carlisle-based safety belt company, he became an independent motoring writer. Since then, he has written for publications and publishers in most English-speaking countries.
In the last 40 years, Robson has lived by the pen and by the voice,
not only by writing literally thousands of features for magazines, and books for publishers in several continents, but increasingly by commentating, presenting, and organising events of all types. During this period, he rapidly became engrossed in the classic car scene, writing his first book (on the 1970 Daily Mirror World Cup Rally) as that event unfolded, as he was also acting as a travelling controller on the same event!
Over the years Graham (and some clients, it seems) discovered
that he was a fluent speaker and event organiser. He has not only completed many video commentaries, scripts, and video treatments, but has also advised radio and TV companies on their own productions, helped rescue projects abandoned by other authors, and has also carried out promotional tours for several British motor companies and their sponsors.
His first Veloce book was on the famous Ford Cortina, but many
more titles (including the renowned Rally Giants series) have followed. Although he has had to turn down many projects in the past (including the possibility of 'ghosting' more than one motorsport personality), he has published almost 160 books, with more pending. In recent years, Graham has participated as a keynote speaker and commentator for events as far flung as in North America and Australia, along with engagements at the Goodwood Festival of Speed, the International Classic Motorsport Show (Race Retro), the Rally Show, the MSA Aviva Run, the Culzean Autoclassica in Scotland, the Wales Rally GB, and other major events in Britain and Northern Ireland.
Asked about his hobbies, Graham admits to a family passion for
owning British bulldogs. He loves fine wining and dining, but protests that he is still far too busy to take long holidays (they would turn into working trips, in any case). However, he also admits that he loves to travel to North America whenever possible.

Commentary at Beaulieu, in Sinclair C5. Hating it ...

Talking - Rosemary Smith and Peter Procter.