Nought to Sixty
Following his retirement in 1966, John Baldwin compiled a typescript account of his working life as a motoring journalist, publicity manager and RAF intelligence officer.
It includes vivid descriptions of pre war motoring journalism, car launches, and publicity trips to continental Europe. This autobiography ends with Baldwin's account of the launch of the Rover 2000 in 1963. Below is a selection of passages:
Returning from the 1934 Isle of Man Tourist Trophy race
On the way back from Liverpool after the race we sat in an open dining car coach and when dinner had been cleared, Bryon de Grineau, the Motor's commissioned artist, got out his reference sketches. He had spent the race walking around the course, listening to eye witness accounts of incidents he had not seen, observing other incidents himself and finally checking with "Grande Vitesse" on some of the speeds and final positions. Now with a couple of hours to Euston left, he opened his portfolio and began working on six of the most promising pictures, working with lightning speed, a cigarette dripping ash as he worked. This he simply rubbed in, along with coffee stains and charcoal.
By the time he reached London his pictures were ready to hand in at Rosebery Avenue. Apart from actual track pictures the story was that his wife was portrayed in all crowd scenes – whether Westminster Abbey or Brooklands Paddock; and this seemed be so when someone pointed out a Burne Jones type figure in an Illustrated London News spread.
Naming the Rover 2000 and Triumph 2000
The evolution of the name was a bit haphazard. We would liked to have called it the 200, conscious of the Mercedes image, which so successfully multiplied its litres by 100; but it was realised that they would have objected most strongly if we did, so we went one better and used a quotient of 10000. It sounded right too, Rover 2000. One got ideas of the year 2,000, the car of the future, undertones of gas turbines and a pioneer of the motoring age to come.
Standard was thinking on the same lines and I heard on the grapevine that they had almost fixed on the name. I rang their publicity manager and we actually confirmed our companies choices. We referred our information to our Boards; but neither was willing to consider an alternative so the die was cast and elaborate catalogues began rolling. "The car that takes motoring years ahead" was the slogan evolved after many meetings with P.W.P. prompted by a most helpful briefing on the specification and the potential by Peter Wilks.
Public relation problems with the Jowett Javelin
Basil Cardew, the motoring correspondent, was pressing me for a road test of the Javelin for the Daily Express. With a new style of popular writing on motoring matters he was very keen to get scoops – as proved by his deal for the exclusive account of Alan Hess's promotional trip for Austin – and I decided that the Express would be the right national paper being "popular" and of high circulation. I also wanted the Motor, for sentimental reasons to have the first technical report. The only question was "when".
Finally after checking with the works, I told Basil that "when" was up to him. We had lunch at Browns, and decided on a day when he would pick up the press car. On the day he came round in the morning and was shown the controls, and I answered all his anxious questions. The showroom door was opened and he was off for the weekend.
He had not been gone for more than a minute when I took a 'phone call form Idle, Yorkshire. "Don't let the press car out", they said, and for emphasis they added "for God's sake". It seemed the first customers were having steering disasters because on occasion the ball joint and the steering arm parted company. I hared down to Piccadilly and caught Basil in a traffic block. Needless to say it needed a bit of explanation…his scoop evaporating and his weekend's motoring arrangements scuppered; but he took it very nicely and I later was able to maintain my promise that he would be the first national pressman to have an exclusive drive.
This was the first of the troubles.
Getting to London from Sussex by train in 1947
London was still drab and dirty. The trains were packed and dirty, nearly always late. All the people who had moved out to Sussex to escape the bombs were still unwillingly there, trying to get back to London, but unable to find a house and condemned to standing in a corridor for two hours each day
They were mostly uncomfortable journeys until the fares went up and up, and more and more commuters moved nearer and nearer in. I was always entertained by the old stagers' resentment of the new and my sympathies were always with the old: I was trying to become one as quickly as possible, and conformed rigidly to the old stagers' code. It was roughly as follows:-
1. Never start a conversation, but reply briefly and courteously if unfortunately addressed
2. Never allow your newspaper to overfly your neighbour's air space
3. Never ask permission to fold up the armrest to enable four-abreast seating: stand in the corridor; even if some cad with no inhibitions or manners does find himself a seat.
4. Never open windows, even if stifling. It is however permissible to shut a window without too much concern for other occupants. (They usually smiled gratitude and understanding of the dreaded draught, which must be avoided at all costs).
These conventions, strictly observed at Hayward's Heath, were less rigidly interpreted as Gatwick gave way to Horley, and by the time Coulsden and East Croydon were reached on a stopping train you never quite knew what you were in for. Very often there would be a knitter, who clicked needles, jogged elbows and dropped wool.