Graham Robson 1936-2021 - A Sad Loss to Our Historic Vehicle Community

Published: 26/08/2021

The name Graham Robson will be familiar to many readers .   His background is almost entirely  motor industry related  including running the Triumph Motor Companies Competition Department from 1962 – 1965.   He has never given up his enthusiasm for rallying and was keenly involved in the Triumph Clubs, as well as anything post-war  Ford connected. He  ran the Coventry office of Autocar magazine before taking up  freelance writing full time in the early 1970’s. He has written some 170 motoring books  as well as many magazine articles. He wrote speeches for industry personnel and was a   very popular after dinner speaker himself.  He was an established commentator at  shows and events.    Writing recently his friend and author  Ray Hutton wrote” A Yorkshireman with a blunt manner that some found abrasive, he was modest about  his own achievements and intensely loyal to his friends and colleagues.”   Most enthusiasts will have one or more books by Graham on their shelves.  Writing 170 motoring  books  is very unusual – probably a record that will never be broken. He pointed out to me once that he was in at the beginning of the popularity of the   post-war car as a collectors item. He was able to be first in writing books about quite a number of different makes. He was a stickler for accuracy and liked  to  double check every fact if he could.  He enjoyed meeting and interviewing  the people who were there at the time. I interviewed him for Classic Car Weekly in 2005 and he told me: “The golden era of making money from motoring books has gone. The eighties were the best period. You had to be very disciplined. It should take no more than four months to research and write a book, six at the most,  and you needed to have the next one ready to research, with a publishers contract signed, as soon as you have finished the last.”  He went on to say: “I am a classic car tart and will work for (almost) anyone who will pay.  The nice thing about being an established freelance is that, to some extent, you can pick and choose what you do”.

On a personal note he was a true friend of the National Motor Museum at Beaulieu and he chaired many Friends evenings talking to people such as  such as, Dave Richards  of Prodrive, Murray Walker (at least twice) Paddy Hopkirk, Brian Culcheth, Stuart Turner, Marcus Chambers, Tom Walkinshaw, Maurice Gatsonides and many others. Like his books, each one  keenly researched beforehand. He commentated on some on events at Beaulieu.  There is a well known photo of Graham driving a Sinclair C5 at a Museum in Action Day – he was pretty scathing about it  on commentary, I seem to remember.   Graham was   a Trustee of the Michael Sedgwick Memorial Trust, closely connected with National Motor Museum, for two periods  from 1983. This Trust helps fund new motoring research and Graham’s  knowledge and experience and forthright comment  was of great help to his fellow Trustees. As one Trustee said recently: ”I  did not always agree with him, but I always listened to him”.

 I once asked him  asked him what he would do in his retirement. His reply ; ”I am not going to stop if I can help it. I am not a pipe and slippers man”. True to his word when he died on the 5th August, aged 85,  he was working on a new four-volume classic car encyclopaedia with a personal perspective – he was about half way through volume one. 

Thank you Graham for your enthusiasm for the history of our hobby.

by Michael E. Ware, retired Curator National Motor Museum, Beaulieu.  

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