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Pomeroy, Setright - so what about Bolster ?


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#1 AAGR

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Posted 26 June 2012 - 21:21

Sooooo .... you've all given Laurence Pomeroy a qualified thumbs up, and a decidely mixed verdict of Leonard Setright's abilities. Now then - what about John Bolster ? Would he ever have made his name in automotive journalism if Gregor Grant hadn't indulged him so much in AUTOSPORT ?

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#2 Doug Nye

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Posted 26 June 2012 - 21:43

This is an interesting one. John always seemed to me to be, above all, a most determined bon viveur. With his like-minded friend Gregor Grant he had simply found an agreeable way of life coupled to a useful - if never generous - income. Many of his contemporary 'motoring journalists' were in fact just brother enthusiasts similarly fortunate in having succeeded in turning their interests and hobby into a job. I'm sure this rings a bell Graham? In effect any enthusiast with a little imagination who could write a passable Eng. Lang. essay might have been in with a shout in those days, especially if he had fallen in with fellow motoring-minded chaps with media connections. I don't think I was alone in regarding JVB - above all - as a genuinely colourful character. And for most of the time, he was quite good fun to be with...until the grape took full effect. For years to us juniors he was, of course, very much Mr Bolster. I know that's how Simon Taylor addressed him even when quite senior at 'Autosport'. But as he guffawed and roared and, in his cups, sang filthy songs - frequently in French - at the top of his voice, his written work was purely incidental. But he was, naturally, and quite genuinely, A Character. Unlike some...

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#3 Paul Parker

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Posted 26 June 2012 - 21:49

This is an interesting one. John always seemed to me to be, above all, a most determined bon viveur. With his like-minded friend Gregor Grant he had simply found an agreeable way of life coupled to a useful - if never generous - income. Many of his contemporary 'motoring journalists' were in fact just brother enthusiasts similarly fortunate in having succeeded in turning their interests and hobby into a job. I'm sure this rings a bell Graham? In effect any enthusiast with a little imagination who could write a passable Eng. Lang. essay might have been in with a shout in those days, especially if he had fallen in with fellow motoring-minded chaps with media connections. I don't think I was alone in regarding JVB - above all - as a genuinely colourful character. And for most of the time, he was quite good fun to be with...until the grape took full effect. For years to us juniors he was, of course, very much Mr Bolster. I know that's how Simon Taylor addressed him even when quite senior at 'Autosport'. But as he guffawed and roared and, in his cups, sang filthy songs - frequently in French - at the top of his voice, his written work was purely incidental. But he was, naturally, and quite genuinely, A Character. Unlike some...

DCN


Michael Cooper told me a story about JVB which sums him up perfectly.

Gregor Grant asked Bolster if he would pour a bottle of scotch on his grave to which JVB instantly responded with 'Only if I can drink it first.'


#4 AAGR

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Posted 27 June 2012 - 06:57

Many of his contemporary 'motoring journalists' were in fact just brother enthusiasts similarly fortunate in having succeeded in turning their interests and hobby into a job. I'm sure this rings a bell Graham?

DCN


Yes, of course it rings a bell, just so long as no-one thinks I qualify ....

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#5 Vitesse2

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Posted 27 June 2012 - 08:02

Coming at it from the other direction ...

My impression is that JVB was already a sought-after speaker, especially after he took up the cause of 500cc racing. No doubt it helped to be part of that "Oxbridge set" which provided a number of leading racers in the 30s, some of whom became the "blazers" of the 50s, 60s and 70s. (Think Tongue, Evans, Connell, Martin etc etc).

However, would Gregor necessarily have offered him a job if "Specials" hadn't been such a success? It was of course published the year before Autosport came into being (with two revised editions in two years). Did JVB actually intend writing it in the first place or was it - like Rose's "Record of Motor Racing" - a "happy accident" due to being temporarily incapacitated?

#6 elansprint72

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Posted 27 June 2012 - 08:32

Of course being born in 1951, I'm really much too young to comment; however, I remember seeing this highly-animated Terry Thomas-like figure reporting from the pit-lane on the BBC, deer-stalker slightly askew and one of those old microphones with a frame pressed tightly to the handlebar facial hair. Good entertainment and seemingly knowing what he was talking about.

As far as I'm concerned his stock went right down when, in 1980, he wrote a 128 page Collector's Guide (sic) on the Elan and Europa, without once mentioning Ron Hickman; to make things worse, he also repeated the "Chapman " strut howler.

#7 Graham Gauld

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Posted 27 June 2012 - 08:33

Yes, of course it rings a bell, just so long as no-one thinks I qualify ....

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Graham (Robson) I think Doug meant me as I was his Autosport Scottish Correspondent for a number of years. Certainly in my case Doug's following sentence pretty well summed me up "In effect any enthusiast with a little imagination who could write a passable Eng. Lang. essay might have been in with a shout in those days,



#8 Graham Gauld

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Posted 27 June 2012 - 08:45

[quote name='elansprint72' date='Jun 27 2012, 10:32' post='5794748']
however, I remember seeing this highly-animated Terry Thomas-like figure reporting from the pit-lane on the BBC, deer-stalker slightly askew and one of those old microphones with a frame pressed tightly to the handlebar facial hair. Good entertainment and seemingly knowing what he was talking about.


You mean like this ?Tourist Trophy Dundrod 1954.


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#9 Vitesse2

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Posted 27 June 2012 - 08:54

Of course being born in 1951, I'm really much too young to comment; however, I remember seeing this highly-animated Terry Thomas-like figure reporting from the pit-lane on the BBC, deer-stalker slightly askew and one of those old microphones with a frame pressed tightly to the handlebar facial hair. Good entertainment and seemingly knowing what he was talking about.

More Oxbridge connections at the BBC ;) Added to which, there was a fairly well-established bunch of ex-RAF types in senior posts at the Beeb in the 50s: I know Richard Bolster was in the RAF, but I'm not sure what John did during the war? Reserved occupation perhaps, since he and Bloody Mary were among the first back in harness in 1945?

#10 Stephen W

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Posted 27 June 2012 - 09:03

I always thought that John Bolster would have been equally at home at Motor Sport. His road tests were interesting especially the Christmas ones but I remember him best at the BBC's pit lane commentator. Didn't he once annoy Ferrari by pointing out that the works car had retired through "an electrical failure probably caused when a piston popped out of the block!"

Lest we forget he was also a stalwart competitor in hillclimbs with the extra special Bloody Mary.



#11 Odseybod

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Posted 27 June 2012 - 10:47

... I remember him best at the BBC's pit lane commentator.


"Somebody's dwoppin oil on the tweck" (in best JVB tones) became the standard Turner-household response whenever a racer fell off the black stuff for no apparent reason. Funny how these things lodge in the braincell.



#12 AAGR

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Posted 27 June 2012 - 11:01

"Somebody's dwoppin oil on the tweck" (in best JVB tones) became the standard Turner-household response whenever a racer fell off the black stuff for no apparent reason. Funny how these things lodge in the braincell.


Others included 'He's just told me he is going to finish second ....', which followed his receipt of a V-sign from a driver, and his detail description of the activities of the owner of a company called Weldandgrind ('He welds all day and .... all night')

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#13 AAGR

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Posted 27 June 2012 - 11:01

"Somebody's dwoppin oil on the tweck" (in best JVB tones) became the standard Turner-household response whenever a racer fell off the black stuff for no apparent reason. Funny how these things lodge in the braincell.


Others included 'He's just told me he is going to finish second ....', which followed his receipt of a V-sign from a driver, and his detail description of the activities of the owner of a company called Weldandgrind ('He welds all day and .... all night')

AAGR

#14 Simon Taylor

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Posted 27 June 2012 - 11:24

I have been so lucky in my working life to have known many glorious characters in this business, and JVB is up there as one of the most memorable of all. Since I was a small child, and long before I joined Gregor Grant's Autosport as an editorial junior in 1966, John Bolster was a hero of mine. I adored hearing his breezy hello-chaps tones in those magically atmospheric BBC radio broadcasts from the pits at Silverstone and Goodwood. I knew he was an ex-racing driver whose career had ended when he cartwheeled his ERA at Silverstone in 1949 - and I knew all about Bloody Mary, too - so even aged eight I knew that what he said carried authority. Although my pocket-money didn't run to a weekly copy of Autosport when I was 11, from 1954 all his road tests were re-published in an annual called High Performance Cars. I made sure that was on my Christmas list each year, and absorbed every word.

These days all sorts of journalists, qualified and otherwise, talk their way into serious racing cars and write "track tests". Some of them know what they are doing and are able to give a little well-founded evaluation of the car; others are not. I've been guilty of some of that stuff myself. But in the 1950s magazines, tests were almost entirely of road cars that were on the market. Apart from Paul Frere, an established professional racing driver who was also a journalist and wrote mainly for Continental magazines, nobody was writing such things then. John Bolster knew everybody, and was able to talk his way into driving, and writing about, cars like the Formula 1 BRM P25, Archie Scott-Brown's all-conquering Lister-Jaguar, the Porsche 550 Spyder, the Ferrari 750 Monza, and even the MG streamliner which had done 240mph at Bonneville.

He never possessed a typewriter. His articles were written on lined paper in biro, and posted to the magazine office from the letterbox at the bottom of the lane leading to the isolated Kent farmhouse where he lived. By modern standards his articles were short, because he always wrote precisely to the length required by the sub-editors. But he was very particular about what he had written, and insisted that it appeared exactly as he had written it. As soon as his posted issue arrived in Kent on Friday morning he would read the printed result. If any alterations had crept in, at 9.01 am the phone would ring on my desk in our scruffy little office in Praed Street, Paddington. I'd pick it up and those familiar tones would come down the phone, without any preamble: "Some c**t has changed my copy."

Doug Nye is correct: even when I became Autosport's editor, and John effectively reported to me, I still called him "Mr Bolster." He was, after all, still a hero of mine: and he was 58, I was 23. Later, when I was his publisher, he finally became John to me, and I got to know him very well, and his wonderful wife Rosemary who is, I am delighted to say, still a friend. Towards the end of his life he suffered from severe illness, but he continued to work as he had always done. The copy for his last road test, of a Renault Fuego, was posted as usual from the letterbox in the lane. He died a few days later, and it was published just after his funeral - which, with the party in the house afterwards, was an extraordinarily cheerful gathering of scores of great motor-racing names that had been his friends all his life. He died during a snowy snap in January, and one of his last acts was to amend his will to leave £10 to the church to allow them to stoke up the boiler on the day of his funeral because he didn't want his friends to be cold.

For someone who always appeared so extrovert, particularly at a party, he was actually a very shy man. But he was capable of the most delightfully dotty gestures. Once, when a group of British journalists were being shepherded home from a European new car launch by a harassed PR, he managed to detach himself from the party when they landed at Heathrow, find his way into the luggage distribution area, and appear up the luggage chute, sitting cross-legged among the suitcases on the endless belt wearing, of course, his trademark deerstalker.

An utterly unforgettable character.

Edited by Simon Taylor, 27 June 2012 - 15:38.


#15 Gary Davies

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Posted 27 June 2012 - 11:54

Simon, an absolutely wonderful tribute. Thank you.

#16 Sharman

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Posted 27 June 2012 - 13:38

I have been so lucky in my working life to have known many wonderful characters in this business, and JVB is up there as one of the most memorable of all. Since I was a small child, and long before I joined Gregor Grant's Autosport as an editorial junior in 1966, John Bolster was a hero of mine. I adored hearing his breezy hello-chaps tones in those magically atmospheric BBC radio broadcasts from the pits at Silverstone and Goodwood. I knew he was an ex-racing driver whose career had ended when he cartwheeled his ERA at Silverstone in 1949 - and I knew all about Bloody Mary, too - so even aged eight I knew that what he said carried authority. Although my pocket-money didn't run to a weekly copy of Autosport when I was 11, from 1954 all his road tests were re-published in an annual called High Performance Cars. I made sure that was on my Christmas list each year, and absorbed every word.

These days all sorts of journalists, qualified and otherwise, talk their way into serious racing cars and write "track tests". Some of them know what they are doing and are able to give a little well-founded evaluation of the car; others are not. I've been guilty of some of that stuff myself. But in the 1950s magazines, tests were almost entirely of road cars that were on the market. Apart from Paul Frere, an established professional racing driver who was also a journalist and wrote mainly for Continental magazines, nobody was writing such things then. John Bolster knew everybody, and was able to talk his way into driving, and writing about, cars like the Formula 1 BRM P25, Archie Scott-Brown's all-conquering Lister-Jaguar, the Porsche 550 Spyder, the Ferrari 750 Monza, and even the MG streamliner which had done 240mph at Bonneville.

He never possessed a typewriter. His articles were written on lined paper in biro, and posted to the magazine office from the letterbox at the bottom of the lane leading to the isolated Kent farmhouse where he lived. By modern standards his articles were short, because he always wrote precisely to the length required by the sub-editors. But he was very particular about what he had written, and insisted that it appeared exactly as he had written it. As soon as his posted issue arrived in Kent on Friday morning he would read the printed result. If any alterations had crept in, at 9.01 am the phone would ring on my desk in our scruffy little office in Praed Street, Paddington. I'd pick it up and those familiar tones would come down the phone, without any preamble: "Some c**t has changed my copy."

Doug Nye is correct: even when I became Autosport's editor, and John effectively reported to me, I still called him "Mr Bolster." He was, after all, still a hero of mine: and he was 58, I was 23. Later, when I was his publisher, he finally became John to me, and I got to know him very well, and his wonderful wife Rosemary who is, I am delighted to say, still a friend. Towards the end of his life he suffered from severe illness, but he continued to work as he had always done. The copy for his last road test, of a Renault Fuego, was posted as usual from the letterbox in the lane. He died a few days later, and it was published just after his funeral - which, with the party in the house afterwards, was an extraordinarily cheerful gathering of scores of great motor-racing names that had been his friends all his life. He died during a snowy snap in January, and one of his last acts was to amend his will to leave £10 to the church to allow them to stoke up the boilers on the day of his funeral because he didn't want his friends to be cold.

For someone who always appeared so extrovert, particularly at a party, he was actually a very shy man. But he was capable of the most delightfully dotty gestures. Once, when a group of British journalists were being shepherded home from a European new car launch by a harassed PR, he managed to detach himself from the party when they landed at Heathrow, find his way into the luggage distribution area, and appear up the luggage chute, sitting cross-legged among the suitcases on the endless belt wearing, of course, his trademark deerstalker.

An utterly unforgettable character.


I heard the luggage belt anecdote in the Steering Wheel in JVB's presence, an addendum was added in which he was challenged by a customs officer who demanded to know if he had anything to declare "Only an erection" was the reply. JVB did not deny this but only grinned and looked pleased with himself

#17 d j fox

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Posted 27 June 2012 - 16:27

Ahh...John Bolster..backing up the dulcet tones of Raymond Baxter and BBC's b&w coverage of the first 4 laps , then hours of horse racing and then the last 3 laps! My introduction, along with DSJ's reports , to racing in the 50's
My Dad told me that JVB was a "very blue" guest speaker at at Peterborough Motor Club Dinner Dance in the early 60's...my Mum didn't seem to like him!

#18 Doug Nye

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Posted 27 June 2012 - 19:04

JVBisms related to me over the years include:

Whipping open the side flap on the Ferodo (I think) hospitality wagon in the Silverstone paddock to announce excitedly to the occupants "I say chaps, have you heard the latest? Waymond Mays has changed his sex. To male!" (then, spotting RM amongst the startled faces staring at him) "Oh Kwyste - sorry Way, hah hah hah!". Crash, went the flap...and he was gone.

Posh bash in a hotel at Aintree, throng chattering loudly, waitress enters the room, trips on the carpet, drops her tray full of crockery. CRASH!!! Everything absolutely in splinters, bouncing and slithering all over the floor. Dead silence. Broken by JVB, sympathetically: "Shall I say it for you, my dear? Oh Ph--k!"

The Viagran story was told me by Cyril Posthumus, returning with John from a Continental trip to be confronted by an extremely officious Customs officer at Dover who plainly bristled at John's accent. He demanded several times had John read his Duty free allowance card? Each time John drawled "Yeeesss". At the third time of asking, John wasn't smiling, the "yeeesss" squeezed out very deliberately. The Customs officer then asked him twice if had understood it. Each time John's "yeessss" became more glacial. Finally, the Customs officer said "Very well, have you anything to declare then, sir?". To which, as Cyril told the story, JVB declared proudly, "Yeeessss! I'm pissed as a kite and I've got a ph-----g gweat ewection!".

As Simon confirms, a special person.

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#19 Charlieman

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Posted 27 June 2012 - 19:20

When constructing a motor circuit diorama in the 1970s, I used a kit of hard moulded plastic figures (Airfix?) which included a very tweedy 2.5" high gentleman.

In the last year or so, I picked up a couple of JVB books -- forgive me for the loose descriptions -- about French vintage cars and about upper crust cars. There is another book about cars that the family owned. And in my youth, I wisely bought a copy of Specials which I peruse whenever something different turns up at a UK VSCC event.

Specials is a remarkable book -- the lack of absolute descriptions of a car reflected the fact that it changed during the season. JVB tried to capture all of the specials of which there were so many forms -- amateurs in a garage, Issigonis, the Multi Union -- so the book can never be complete for everyone. But it is as complete as one writer's perspective can be -- it was honest where the author was ignorant.

The book about French vintage cars contains dry detail, but as a source it is a great starting point. JVB reported what he had researched and compiled it in a compact volume.

The other two books are interesting if you wish to get inside JVB's head (or to read a few anecdotes).

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#20 Geoff E

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Posted 28 June 2012 - 10:00

He appears in the 1911 census as John Vary OLDFIELD aged 10 months. His mother, divorcee Vary OLDFIELD married Richard BOLSTER later that year.

The Times, 1 Aug 1911 has a Decree Absolute for Oldfield v. Oldfield and Bolster.

Edited by Geoff E, 28 June 2012 - 11:35.


#21 kayemod

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Posted 28 June 2012 - 12:06

To which, as Cyril told the story, JVB declared proudly, "Yeeessss! I'm pissed as a kite and I've got a ph-----g gweat ewection!".


Well, that helps to explain his habitual baggy trousers.


#22 Sharman

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Posted 28 June 2012 - 18:24

....another BBC comment " and there's a gentleman doing exciting things with pieces of hot metal"

#23 garyfrogeye

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Posted 28 June 2012 - 21:18

Three minutes of John Bolster fun


#24 Paul Parker

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Posted 29 June 2012 - 11:40

Three minutes of John Bolster fun


Wunderbar!

Loved the noise the 100/6 Healey made that JVB arrived in too.

#25 David Birchall

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Posted 29 June 2012 - 13:39

Wunderbar!

Loved the noise the 100/6 Healey made that JVB arrived in too.


That appeared to be VOK490-the car that set records at Montlhery driven by Threlfall et al.

#26 Paul Parker

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Posted 29 June 2012 - 14:53

That appeared to be VOK490-the car that set records at Montlhery driven by Threlfall et al.


Thanks for the info, it certainly sounded quite potent.

Anyway the 'big' Healeys always had a wonderful exhaust note, my mother had one of the early 3000s and it was a thrill to ride in as a child.

#27 Sharman

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Posted 29 June 2012 - 16:03

Thanks for the info, it certainly sounded quite potent.

Anyway the 'big' Healeys always had a wonderful exhaust note, my mother had one of the early 3000s and it was a thrill to ride in as a child.


That needs qualifying Paul "..the big Healeys always had a wonderful exhaust note UNTIL THEY KNOCKED THE BOX OFF ON A CATSEYE"

#28 Paul Parker

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Posted 29 June 2012 - 19:07

That needs qualifying Paul "..the big Healeys always had a wonderful exhaust note UNTIL THEY KNOCKED THE BOX OFF ON A CATSEYE"


Yep, they were indeed very low slung as my mother discovered more than once.

Other faults were spring shackles that rusted into their chassis mounts and the dreadful (presumably) SU fuel pump.

Still it certainly went well enough and could see off a DB2/4 out of corners even with its ridiculously low 2nd gear ratio. It was very similar in performance to a standard XK120/140 in real life conditions but had much better brakes, discs at front, drums on rear if I recall correctly without checking.

#29 brakedisc

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Posted 30 June 2012 - 14:39

Graham (Robson) I think Doug meant me as I was his Autosport Scottish Correspondent for a number of years. Certainly in my case Doug's following sentence pretty well summed me up "In effect any enthusiast with a little imagination who could write a passable Eng. Lang. essay might have been in with a shout in those days,



Keep your head down, I think you have got away with it.