Friday, 4 July 2014

AUTHOR PROFILE No.13: LINDSAY PORTER

Lindsay Porter is sometimes referred to as the UK's top-selling motoring author, and he has been writing motoring books since Veloce Publishing's director, Rod Grainger, first commissioned him in 1981.
Lindsay was amoung the first to develop the photo-intensive style for
which his how-to publications are known. He currently has 5 books published by Veloce, with another due in 2015.



“My first published work was a magazine article on converting and building our house, for DIY Magazine in 1979, while my latest, a book for Veloce, is the Renewable Energy Home Handbook. In between, all of my books and articles have been on motoring, caravanning, and other related technical subjects, so, after all this time, I feel as if I’ve come full circle.

Lindsay’s Dad restored this for Lindsay's 3rd birthday. He was slightly pleased it seems.

“I was born in 1949 in the industrial West Midlands, the main centre of the British motor industry of the time. I well remember, as a small boy, hearing a bloke talking to Dad, on the shop floor at John Thompson Motor Pressings, in early 1958. The bloke had spent his life building traditional ladder-frame chassis: heavy, rigid and strong. He said to my dad, then a young accountant at the factory, 'Doug, just look at this bloody thing – it ay no good at all! Yow wouldn’t get me in one of them things!' as he shook and wobbled a newly-pressed floorpan for the yet-to-be-launched 'Frogeye' Sprite.

Half a century on, Lindsay restored his own ’59 2CV (see Lindsay's and Veloce’s 2CV Restoration Manual) and took it back to Quai André Citroën, adjacent to where it was built.

“Dad sympathised, probably thought something Scottish, and on we went to see ‘the biggest press in the world’ (as it then was), passing by badly-shielded canvas bays with their bitter smoke, unearthly, shadowy blue lights, and guttural growls of powerful arc welders at work. And my fascination with the way things were made was well under way.

“I became a school teacher in 1972. I found my time in the profession deeply rewarding, but left in the early '80s as my writing work began to take off, though I have done a little more work in the classroom in recent years, some of it voluntary. Along with rescuing a suffering dog or cat, there is nothing more satisfying than seeing a child discover they can achieve things that they previously hadn’t thought possible.

“But back to publishing: that first piece of professional writing, in 1979, explained how my wife, Shan, and I built and extended our own country house – the one we still live in today. The article was produced after encouragement from our friend, publisher and leading Jaguar authority Paul Skilleter.

“I was still teaching when we became friends with Paul and June Skilleter. I had read in Thoroughbred & Classic Cars that they had moved to a house a few miles from ours, that his E-type – externally almost identical to the one we owned at the time – had broken down locally, and that he hadn’t known who to contact for help. We swapped E-type tales, discovered a shared interest in both mechanical and domestic cats (we ‘inherited’ a wonderful Siamese called Tigger from the Skilleters when ill-health forced a rehome), and became firm friends.

“Paul encouraged me to write that first article, and must have liked what he saw, because, when he launched Practical Classics magazine, he employed me to write for them as a freelance. I was already a keen photographer, but he also taught me how to take ‘proper’ car photographs. Incidentally, Shan – who has a great eye for picture composition – has always been on hand with the camera, and quite a number of ‘my’ pictures are actually hers!

“In 1980, Paul introduced me to Rod Grainger, then Managing Editor at Haynes Publishing, and the man responsible for a number of lasting innovations there. Rod was immediately helpful and encouraging, and as a result the MGB Restoration Manual – first published in 1982, and like most of my books still in print today – became the first, heavily-illustrated, step-by-step manual of its type, guiding the reader through every stage of the technical processes, using pictures in conjunction with friendly, helpful text.

“In 1985, I launched Porter Publishing Ltd, and produced the first commercial range of classic car videos, in association with Castrol, eventually building up to over 70 titles. The printed word soon followed, and Porter Publishing was commissioned by Fiat, Perkins Engines and Halfords, among others, to produce workshop manuals, including the first all-colour ones for modern cars. At the same time, I continued to write, including books and magazine articles on caravanning and motor caravanning. I was for many years the Technical Editor at Land Rover Monthly magazine.

Before getting to Paris, an enthusiastic local – and former Citroën employee – came out unbidden in his slippers to carry out essential adjustments.

“Now in our mid-sixties and around 50 years since we first met, Shan and I still live in the house in Herefordshire that sparked off the whole thing. My greatest passions, apart from Shan, of course, are our nine (last time I looked) ‘rescue’ dogs and cats; our small patch of woodland, and the classic, compact tractor I just had to buy to go with it; my immaculate, low mileage 1989 Audi 200 Turbo Quattro Avant – oh, that engine sound! – and then there’s my involvement in the whole area of renewable energy, which is where I’d like to concentrate most of my writing from now on. We’ve got some great nieces and nephews, and, in all probability, they’ll have children, too. We owe it to them – and to everyone else’s kids of the future – to do our best to pass on a more sustainable planet than the one we’re living on now.

“I am now involved in developing publications that will deal with the practicalities of eco-energy for the home and car owner. I'm still writing books, and am extremely happy to be published by Veloce’s Publisher, Rod Grainger, once again.”
Lindsay Porter

Fortunately, all of the Porters’ rescue dogs are keen classic car
enthusiasts, too.

Click here to view all Veloce books by Lindsay Porter.