Wednesday, 2 September 2015

AUTHOR PROFILE No.18: PETER GRIST

Peter Grist has written three books for Veloce, and his biography of automotive designer Virgil Exner is reprinted later this month.

Peter Grist is regarded as one of the world’s most knowledgeable figures in American automotive history circles, and, in particular, the Chrysler Corporation. With four books on the subject already published it would be easy to assume that he is a homebred American, but Peter was actually born on a council estate in West London in 1964.
     At the tender age of 16 Peter joined the Army as a Junior Leader, which is where he first learnt to drive. By the end of his tenure, over a decade later, he had progressed to HGV1 class vehicles and was a unit driving instructor. His love of 1950s music led him into buying his first classic car while based in Bicester, Oxfordshire, a 1961 Ford Consul 375 featuring 50's styling. The Consul was restored and became an award winner, and was taken to Germany on Peter's next posting. The Ford was then traded up for a 1955 Buick Century, the first of many American cars that became part of the Grist family over the years.


On leaving the Army in the early nineties, Peter moved away from London and settled his family in Southampton on the South Coast of England, purchasing his first Mopar car, a 1959 DeSoto Firesweep at the same time. This car would be the catalyst for his writing career. As with most owners of older cars, Peter wanted to join the national club for his car's marque to learn more about his kind of car, and to communicate with like-minded enthusiasts. Sadly, a club for Chrysler vehicles didn’t exist; only a hand-written fanzine from an enthusiast’s register could be found. Peter joined this register and began writing of his experiences in restoring his car, and the trips he made in it. This led to Peter taking control of the fanzine and creating The Chrysler Corporation Club UK and its monthly publication TalkFlite. With help from his wife, Peter ran the club virtually single-handed for more than a decade, honing his skills as a writer and broadening his knowledge base. This led to writing articles for high street magazines including Classic American, Old Car World and others.
     Peter was approached by a publishing company, and asked if he would consider writing a book on an American automotive subject to coincide with the launch of that company’s American office. Peter accepted and created Dodge, The Performance Cars, a hardback, black and white, book that offered a potted history of Dodge and then every performance vehicle built by Dodge over the next 50 years.
     Peter continued to write for TalkFlite and other magazines whilst training as a DoT (Department of Transport) driving instructor, which eventually became his full-time occupation. He is now an advanced driving instructor working for a Hampshire-based charity.
     His love of American cars was only just beginning and, over the years, Peter has owned a 1967 Dodge 440, a Jeep Cherokee, Dodge Neon R/T, Chrysler Voyager, Shelby Charger and a Dodge Stealth R/T amongst others. Currently in his garage at home is a WW2 Willys Jeep which he is restoring.
     On the writing side Peter has let the historical books simmer on the back burner so as to finish his first novel, Flashback, which is due to be published late 2015, but he has already started writing the history of the Chrysler Corporation’s Forward Look. Peter still lives in Southampton with his wife, Catherine, and two of his three children.




Virgil Exner – Visioneer: The official biography of Virgil M Exner, designer extraordinaire (Paperback edition) by Peter Grist is published later this month. Click here for more information about the book.