"Foot pedal,” Richard Bensted-Smith’s memo was succinct, “is one word too many.” He was editor of The Motor, economical with words, and his advice to a new member of the road test staff was a masterpiece. It is 50 years since Gordon Hailey wrote this letter appointing me. I had been freelancing. My mother was deeply suspicious; it wasn’t a proper job until, in 1962, my dream was fulfilled. I knew life would never be the same again. I was surely heading for fame and, if not fortune at £1250 a year, a regular income at last. I had been working towards gold medals for years and like any Olympian cried tears of relief and joy
Testing cars for a living gave me the time of my life. Driving every week on MIRA’s banked track was sheer delight. Talking cars with fellow-testers, having my copy put right by the gifted Bunny Tubbs, meeting, if not quite on equal terms the great Laurence Pomeroy, pure joy. It was even a privilege to have Charles Bulmer gently put right my mathematics. Technical editor Joe Lowrey did it more brusquely, although just as humanely. Dear Joe, a role model for any motoring writer.
Some of the colleagues, alas, are gone. Dick Bensted-Smith was an influence for ever. His accounts of driving with John Sprinzel on European rallies still make me laugh and his legacy survives. RBB-S identified a novel means of communication that flourished. Newspress remains a priceless asset to the motoring press and the car industry and I have been happily in its debt ever since. I took advantage of its distribution service for everything from The Motherwell Times to The Sunday Times.
Mother never did come to terms with freelancing. “Eric has gone freelance for the moment, but I’m sure something will turn up.”