Eoin Young, Autocar’s longest-standing contributor of the modern era, died last night in New Zealand, close to where he was born 75 years ago.
A brilliant, self-taught journalist, he will be best remembered for his gossipy, fearlessly written column, Straight From The Grid (later simply From The Grid and then Eoin Young's Diary), that mainly discussed motorsport but covered all things motoring.
Such was its popularity that we published it for 31 years from 1967. At one stage it also appeared in seven other publications around the world, which gave its author a worldwide notoriety and influence few can attain.
Born in 1939, Eoin Spence Young started work as a bank clerk in Timaru, in New Zealand’s South Island, and soon began writing motor sport stories for his local paper, the Timaru Herald, as a hobby.
He became friendly with a talented local club driver, Bruce McLaren, and when McLaren won New Zealand’s 'Driver to Europe' scholarship, Young stayed in touch by ghosting his columns in New Zealand publications.
In 1961 he travelled to Europe to follow the motorsport circus himself, returning with his new friends to New Zealand at the end of that year for the Tasman Series and expecting to stay.
But an offer from Bruce McLaren to move back to Europe as his secretary changed everything, and Young spent the next four decades in Europe, first working for Bruce McLaren (he was a founder director of Bruce McLaren Motor Racing Ltd), then running his own company, Motormedia. For a while he was the Elf-Tyrrell PR man, famous among F1 journalists as the man who invented press hospitality.
A lover of the good life, Young was a sporadic Autocar feature writer in later years, majoring on stories that required fine cars to be taken to nice places around Europe. His lunchtime interviews with famous people – which invoked the name of his favourite Surrey pub, the Barley Mow in East Horsley – were always packed with entertainment and insight. The magazine lost something important when they ceased.