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Modern Motor Magazine (Australia)


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#1 275 GTB-4

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Posted 16 February 2006 - 06:46

A friend of mine has acquired a complete early set of MM (called Motor originally??) all neatly bound. I had a quick scan of the volume for 1960 and was astounded at the level of Motor Sport reporting mixed in amongst the Skoda and Vauxhall Cresta road tests.

The main protagonist seemed to be a fella named Brian Hanarahan (or something similar)....I just kept saying goldmine of information when reading reports of GPs etc and one which showed a picture of SSM assisting in putting out a fire in a race car.

More to follow in the coming months..... :)

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#2 Gary Davies

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Posted 16 February 2006 - 07:05

And of course, we are privileged to have a former editor of Modern Motor in our midst.

And it was called MOTOR (or, at least MODERN MOTOR ) later, not earlier, iirc.

#3 275 GTB-4

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Posted 16 February 2006 - 09:55

Originally posted by Vanwall
And of course, we are privileged to have a former editor of Modern Motor in our midst.

And it was called MOTOR (or, at least MODERN MOTOR ) later, not earlier, iirc.


Yeah, sorry, poor staff work on my part, I think the early editions were called Motor....but everyone in Oz knows what I'm on about.

I assume you mean Barry Lake as the former Editor??...If that is the case, yes, priveledged...along with his work with Razor Bell putting out RCN one of the greatest ever Motor Sport publications IMHO :D

#4 Ray Bell

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Posted 16 February 2006 - 13:20

There was never such a combination at Racing Car News at all...

Modern Motor remained with no name change from the early fifties until, I think, the late nineties. Then it became Motor.

I think it's Bryan Hanrahan, but wouldn't swear to it. But much of the motor sport reporting came from David McKay.

#5 275 GTB-4

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Posted 17 February 2006 - 09:20

Originally posted by Ray Bell
There was never such a combination at Racing Car News at all...


All I was saying was that both Barry and Ray both wrote for RCN :wave:

#6 Barry Lake

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Posted 18 February 2006 - 00:19

The magazine was always "Modern MOTOR" from its inception in June 1954 until some time in the early 1990s when it was changed to MOTOR while David Robertson was editor.

There had been other occasions, earlier, when the "Modern" became smaller and "MOTOR" larger, at least at one time with a view to dropping the "Modern". But it never quite went away.

I was a reader of the magazine from issue number 2, later bought number 1 from a second-hand book and magazine store, so had a complete set from very early days.

As early as 1957, while still at school, I went to the magazine's office, then in Bridge Street, Sydney, to ask the founding editor, Jules Feldman, for a job. He said he would have loved to have been able to employ an extra, sorely needed, staff member, but did not have the budget.

When they did later employ a junior staff member, he was killed in a light aircraft crash while following a car trial for the magazine. There, but for the grace of God... and all that...

First stories I had published in Modern MOTOR (probably with no by-line) were on the Tasman Series races in 1972. I joined the staff as Associate Editor in 1979, long after I had forgotten that was what I had once wanted to do. I was about to start as editor of Overlander magazine, having been on Off Road Australia for two years and was happy with that deal - looking forward to more adventures in outback Australia and the east coast forests and mountains. But Wayne Cantell, with whom I had worked on ORA, was made editor of MM and he wanted me to go with him - eventually persuading me to do so.

I was given the title of Editor in 1981, from memory, though control was still held by a managing editor. About 1982 or 1983 I became Editor in fact as well as name, and remained as such until the end of the decade, during which time we had the highest audited figures in the magazine's history. We even overtook Wheels magazine in one audit - prompting a huge upgrade of that magazine to all-gloss paper, full colour, increased staff etc.

In 1990, thoroughly frazzled, I went freelance, although the majority of my work still went to Modern MOTOR, including comparison car tests, tyre comparison tests, and a regular column. Over the next 15 years my input gradually reduced until, by 2005, only my technical column continued.

The Wheels vs Modern MOTOR story is interesting. The former first appeared in May 1953, produced by Jules Feldman (Editor) and Colin Ryrie (Advertising) for K G Murray Publishing Company. Before the first year had been completed (the way I understand the story) Feldman and Ryrie realised the magazine was far more successful than they had imagined and that they had undersold themselves. When a request for a better deal was refused, they clandestinely created Modern MOTOR, leaving K G Murray's and launching the June 1954 issue of MM.

The two magazines have been intense rivals ever since. When I joined MM it was part of the Modern Magazines group which had grown from it, including such titles as Modern Boating, Modern Fishing etc, based in a former warehouse at Rushcutters Bay.

In 1979 K G Murray Publishing bought Modern Magazines and also (PM Publications?) next door, which published Overlander, but left them to operate as they were (but without any in-house management - which worked amazingly well) until 1981. At that time, we all were moved to K G Murray's in Clarence Street Sydney.

Within a year or two, Kerry Packer's Australian Consolidated Press bought K G Murray's. ACP in turn, on-sold some of the publications to Federal Publishing, the then quite recently created publishing arm of a large printing company in a near southern suburb of Sydney.

We at Modern MOTOR hoped we would go to Federal, partly to separate us once again from Wheels, partly because we thought ACP would be too serious an operation compared to the fun-loving life we had been leading.

In the end we went to ACP, as did Wheels. Fortunately, it turned out to be far better than we had hoped. The professionalism of the company made a lot of things easier, and we still had enough freedom to have a lot of fun - although there was no longer any motorcyle testing in the hallways and long lunch breaks (more than made up by working late) to play squash with the best looking young ladies in the company, as we did at Rushcutters Bay.

Rivalry between Wheels and Modern MOTOR was even greater when they were in the same company, the same building. And it continues to be so. In recent years, while Wheels has remained largely a general motoring magazine, MOTOR has headed for a 100 per cent performance car content.

In those early (1950s-1960s) issues, Bryan Hanrahan ("Hanrabags") - at the time, I think, motoring editor of The Sun in Melbourne - contributed many of the road tests, which were OK. He had no real grasp of motor sport at all, as proven by the dreadfully inaccurate captions in a little book of motor sport photos he was once asked to write.

But something motor sport historians often overlook is the fact that David McKay, then a current top-line racer himself, wrote Modern MOTOR's motor sport reports from 1955 and into the 1960s. These gave far greater insight into the nitty-gritty of big time motor racing in Australia in those halcyon days than any motor sport specialist magazine ever did.

I have a carefully bound (hand stitched) set of Modern MOTOR and also a set of loose magazines. While I was Editor, I searched for, and found, another full set in absolutely mint condition and had those hand-bound by the same German craftsman. In the late-1990s (a bit of history that had slipped my mind in the above story) MOTOR spent some years based in a suburban Melbourne office before being returned to ACP head office in Sydney. The bound copies were in a bookcase in a much-used hallway and, to my grief, some of them disappeared.

Modern MOTOR did not have a full set of its own issues when I first went there and again, now, as far as I know, no longer has a full record of its history.

But, as far as I can tell, no-one seems to care.

#7 Paul Newby

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Posted 20 February 2006 - 06:53

Interesting post Barry.

I used to be an avid reader through the 80's, but had to say that as ageneral rule I preferred Wheels. Having said that I enjoyed your writing as well as a young Michael Stahl and Jeff Hutchison's GP reports.

I believe Wayne Cantell was only 50 when he died! I heard that he was a bit of a wild man who liked to party - is this correct? Also another MM Editor Brian Woodward has long since departed. IIRC he had a heart attack whilst in the Editor's chair.

#8 David McKinney

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Posted 25 March 2006 - 11:28

Originally posted by 275 GTB-4
(BTW I have checked about copyright and believe there to be no impediment)

Did they say why not?

#9 275 GTB-4

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Posted 25 March 2006 - 11:48

Originally posted by David McKinney
Did they say why not?


I would prefer Mr Barry Lake to respond to that one thanks :up:

#10 Barry Lake

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Posted 26 March 2006 - 08:49

Originally posted by 275 GTB-4


I would prefer Mr Barry Lake to respond to that one thanks :up:




Huh????? :eek:

#11 275 GTB-4

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Posted 26 March 2006 - 12:44

Originally posted by Barry Lake
Huh????? :eek:


Barry, I'm not saying you are some sort of copyright arbiter in this case....just that I thought you had said that all the MM business no longer existed, therefore (noting that most of the authors are no longer with us), I have assumed that there is no one left to be concerned about copyright infringements.

If this assumption is incorrect - I will delete the post.

#12 Barry Lake

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Posted 29 March 2006 - 13:18

Modern MOTOR exists, as MOTOR, and is owned by Australian Consolidated Press, which therefore owns the copyright to all prior material in Modern MOTOR.

#13 275 GTB-4

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Posted 31 March 2006 - 13:07

Originally posted by Barry Lake
Modern MOTOR exists, as MOTOR, and is owned by Australian Consolidated Press, which therefore owns the copyright to all prior material in Modern MOTOR.


Tanks - done :)