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John Bolster


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#1 richie

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Posted 02 May 2013 - 19:56

Having sold a huge collection of Autosports recently I came across umpteen road tests by legendary journalist John Bolster.

However, when I googled his name, nothing appeared to give a biography of what he did or any facts about him, other than memorial trophies, and cars he raced.

I heard he lived close to me about 10 miles way at Four Elms Edenbridge and last week I got my local paper to put in my request for any known relatives to come forward.

Fortunately I received 5 replies from former neighbours and even his son William, living in South America. Circa 1960 he published 'Motoring is my Business' currently doing a book search for it.

Anyone got any nuggets about the deerstalker hatted gentleman?

Edited by richie, 02 May 2013 - 19:56.


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#2 Tim Murray

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Posted 02 May 2013 - 20:05

There are some amusing anecdotes and other good stuff in this earlier thread:

Pomeroy, Setright - so what about Bolster ?

#3 Barry Boor

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Posted 02 May 2013 - 20:17

I've posted this before; it's taken from my Connew story on the internet.

"There is one funny story arising from our time on the Showboat. Dear old John Bolster, who was at that time Autosport's Technical Editor, was looking around the show, and came upon our car. It must have been during my lunch break from my temporary job with the Co-op Funeral Dept, which fortuitously was situated in Leman Street, literally a five minute walk from where the ferry was. I was standing by the car when John Bolster came upon it. Presumably, he never read the magazine for whom he worked, because he had never heard of the car, and was amazed to learn of the existence of this unknown F1 car. Anyway, he looked around the car extensively, and I am proud to say made admiring noises. Now as you may be able to see from the photos, our car had a very flat, wide nose. The obvious assumption was that the water radiators were somewhere up the back of the car, a la Lotus 72, but in fact, Peter had laid the radiator nearly flat in the nose of the car, with a clever system of cooling which worked very well. The two black aluminium cowlings beside the engine contained the oil radiators. J.V.B was making notes on the design, and I heard him mutter something to the effect that the radiators were probably too small. I was able to point out to him that in fact, they were not the water radiators, and suggested that he look under the nose. Now he was not a young man by any means, but he immediately dropped onto the floor and lay so that he could see the under-nose intake. I'll never forget his words, “Well, well… if c***s like me can't see a thing, we think it isn't there ! Very ingenious.”

#4 MCS

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Posted 02 May 2013 - 20:33

Having sold a huge collection of Autosports recently I came across umpteen road tests by legendary journalist John Bolster.

However, when I googled his name, nothing appeared to give a biography of what he did or any facts about him, other than memorial trophies, and cars he raced.

I heard he lived close to me about 10 miles way at Four Elms Edenbridge and last week I got my local paper to put in my request for any known relatives to come forward.

Fortunately I received 5 replies from former neighbours and even his son William, living in South America. Circa 1960 he published 'Motoring is my Business' currently doing a book search for it.

Anyone got any nuggets about the deerstalker hatted gentleman?



If you had lived a bit nearer than ten miles away Richie you might have heard him on his lawnmower some Summer evenings. He used it to go to his local pub, apparently on the basis that there was a law in place whereby the authorities were unable to do anything about it from a "drink-driving" perspective. I bet the pub's neighbours were thrilled when he went for a drink! :lol:

#5 Alan Cox

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Posted 02 May 2013 - 20:56

A splendid Eddie Whitham photo from the 1965 Gold Cup meeting at Oulton Park
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You might like to consider adding his book on 'Specials' to your library, Richie.

Edited by Alan Cox, 03 May 2013 - 08:16.


#6 arttidesco

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Posted 02 May 2013 - 21:05

You might like to consider adding his book on 'Specials' to your library, Richie. One copy currently available at a bargain price: http://www.amazon.co...B...8111&sr=8-2


Wow that went quick ! :eek:

#7 JtP1

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Posted 02 May 2013 - 21:19

A splendid Eddie Whitham photo from the 1965 Gold Cup meeting at Oulton Park
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You might like to consider adding his book on 'Specials' to your library, Richie. One copy currently available at a bargain price: http://www.amazon.co...B...8111&sr=8-2


Interestling that the works Lotus is still using Dunlop R6s as late as Sept. Possibly Clark didn't like R7s as he also used R6s to win at Nurburgring.

#8 elansprint72

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Posted 02 May 2013 - 21:59

He wrote the only book on the Lotus Elan which does not mention Ron Hickman! :|

#9 kayemod

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Posted 02 May 2013 - 22:20

He wrote the only book on the Lotus Elan which does not mention Ron Hickman! :|


That sounds like a good piece of work, mate!


#10 Alan Cox

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Posted 03 May 2013 - 08:16

Wow that went quick ! :eek:

It was only 1p, Ralph, so I ain't surprised

#11 Stephen W

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Posted 03 May 2013 - 08:58

John Bolster was a great builder of specials (Bloody Mary being just one). In the Hillclimb World there is the Bolster Trophy (a tantalus with two cut glass bottles one with Tomato Juice and the other with Gin) which is awarded periodically to the designer of a novel and successful Special.
My favourite story of Bolster concerns the retirement of a works Ferrari. The 'official' reason was "Electrical" however when Bolster reported the problem he said that the Ferrari retired due to electrical problems brought about when a piston exited the block and smashed the distributor.


#12 pete53

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Posted 03 May 2013 - 09:45

Some of you who are of the "right" age may recall that in the early/mid 60s Corgi Toys issued some accessories to accompany their racing car models - pits, timekeeper's box etc (all based on Silverstone buildings). They also produced sets of track officials, marshals and mechanics. In one of these sets was a figure who was quite obviously based on John Bolster. It sported a deer-stalker, portable radio set with aerial, sports jacket and a little moustache painted on.

I recall watching what I think was a UK non-championship F1 race on TV when poor old JB got a bit of a rather frosty reception during the course of one of his pit row reports. If the old memory serves me right Bob Anderson brought his car in with some unidentified malady. John thrust his mike into Bob's face to enquire what the problem was. A rather grim faced Bob's terse response was basically "how the hell should I know I've only just come in". End of interview!

#13 Alan Baker

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Posted 03 May 2013 - 09:57

I recall watching what I think was a UK non-championship F1 race on TV when poor old JB got a bit of a rather frosty reception during the course of one of his pit row reports. If the old memory serves me right Bob Anderson brought his car in with some unidentified malady. John thrust his mike into Bob's face to enquire what the problem was. A rather grim faced Bob's terse response was basically "how the hell should I know I've only just come in". End of interview!


Oulton Park Gold Cup 1966. Anderson brought his Brabham-Climax FPF into the pits, Bolster rushes up and asks "what is the matter with your car", Anderson replies simply "dunno yet!", Bolster says "well there you are he doesn't know what the problem is..... oh, I can see, the exhaust manifold has come loose". One of those snippets that has always stuck in my memory for some reason.

#14 ExFlagMan

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Posted 03 May 2013 - 09:58

I recall watching what I think was a UK non-championship F1 race on TV when poor old JB got a bit of a rather frosty reception during the course of one of his pit row reports. If the old memory serves me right Bob Anderson brought his car in with some unidentified malady. John thrust his mike into Bob's face to enquire what the problem was. A rather grim faced Bob's terse response was basically "how the hell should I know I've only just come in". End of interview!

Not quite as terse as when he did the same to Graham Hill - I seem to recall the reply was "It's *****d"

#15 AAGR

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Posted 03 May 2013 - 11:03

Maybe its rather a mercenary question but - was JVB of independent means, or did he have a profession that was never mentioned in his automotive writings ? For sure, I don't think he could have managed on his journalistic earnings alone ....

AAGR ?

#16 David McKinney

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Posted 03 May 2013 - 12:09

I suspect his position with Autosport was salaried, and he was no doubt paid by the BBC (and others?) for his work with the microphone

On the other hand, I do believe the family was fairly well off

#17 Odseybod

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Posted 03 May 2013 - 12:23

Have to add that his book on Specials is a very entertaining read - rediscovered it recently and only meant to dip into it, but found myself thoroughly hooked for several hours (helped no doubt by the fact that the voice of JVB seems integral to the printed words, which I suppose is as it should be).


#18 Vitesse2

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Posted 03 May 2013 - 14:20

A bit of digging reveals that JVB was registered at birth as John Vary Oldfield, almost certainly on the wrong side of the blanket as the result of an adulterous affair: his mother, Vary Cargill Oldfield (née Finley) was divorced by her barrister husband Frederick Biscoe Oldfield, citing one Richard Bolster as co-respondent. The hearing regarding the legitimacy of John's birth was held in camera, with the court finding that Mr Oldfield was not actually his father. The case dragged on for two years and the papers have only just been released in the National Archives as part of the 1912 - closed till 2013 batch. You can find the whole thing on Ancestry.

Vary Oldfield is described as "of independent means" in the 1911 census and her father simply as a "gentleman" on her wedding certificate. There also seems to be some connection to Burma, so maybe her family was in rubber or tea? Her estate was worth over £220000 when she died in 1958, so she was obviously still not short of a bob or two then!

#19 RogerFrench

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Posted 04 May 2013 - 15:46

JVB's last Prescott outing 1963, fettling Mary.
By my father's Box Brownie.

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#20 richie

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Posted 06 May 2013 - 21:09

Just bought John's autobiography Motoring is my Business from a book search and given a signed copy of The Upper Crust by a former garage owner nr Edenbridge who used to serve John Bolster. John's wife used to wind the starting handle of the Silver Ghost he owned due to his heart condition.

#21 RJE

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Posted 08 May 2013 - 08:26

During the 70s and 80s I often had reason to visit a wonderful old gentleman named Taffy Jones who ran a really excellent engine machine shop in Maidstone. I think because of the nature of the work I took him, he was always very interested in what I was doing and very friendly towards me. He was also always ready to talk about his past exploits. This was not always the case with other customers and I well remember him telling somebody to "S*d off while I'm talking to this lad here" much to my embarrassment and that of his son Richard who had to then deal with the poor man.

That aside, Taffy had worked with/for Bolster during the period that he had built Bloody Mary and various other specials. I recall him telling me of the time JB and his brother had decided on a plan to beat the chassis rails of their latest creation over a length of sawn wood. Having done this they found to their consternation that they could not get the wood out, so had go and get another length of wood and repeat the exercise for the other side. They then swore blind to all who asked that this had been the origianal intention and that the wood was there to add stiffness to the chassis.





#22 RTH

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Posted 08 May 2013 - 08:52

A bit of digging reveals that JVB was registered at birth as John Vary Oldfield, almost certainly on the wrong side of the blanket as the result of an adulterous affair: his mother, Vary Cargill Oldfield (née Finley) was divorced by her barrister husband Frederick Biscoe Oldfield, citing one Richard Bolster as co-respondent. The hearing regarding the legitimacy of John's birth was held in camera, with the court finding that Mr Oldfield was not actually his father. The case dragged on for two years and the papers have only just been released in the National Archives as part of the 1912 - closed till 2013 batch. You can find the whole thing on Ancestry.

Vary Oldfield is described as "of independent means" in the 1911 census and her father simply as a "gentleman" on her wedding certificate. There also seems to be some connection to Burma, so maybe her family was in rubber or tea? Her estate was worth over £220000 when she died in 1958, so she was obviously still not short of a bob or two then!



Now there is a whole other fascinating story there yet to be told then.

#23 RS2000

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Posted 08 May 2013 - 20:55

Marcus Chambers' autobiography "With a Little Bit of Luck" records his visits (whilst serving with Coastal Forces) to JB in Kent during WW2. It seems JB and his brother had more or less tossed a coin to decide who would fight and who would farm(a "reserved occupation") and JB ended up farming.

#24 richie

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Posted 14 August 2013 - 22:13

Marcus Chambers' autobiography "With a Little Bit of Luck" records his visits (whilst serving with Coastal Forces) to JB in Kent during WW2. It seems JB and his brother had more or less tossed a coin to decide who would fight and who would farm(a "reserved occupation") and JB ended up farming.



I tracked down John Bolster's son William to South America, several of his son's school friends but yet to reach John 3rd wife for more information.