I imagine like most of the answers to this, it’s family. My dad worked at an army base where they fixed trucks and tanks and Stalwarts and Land Rovers and I still remember the heady smell of the sheds they kept the tanks in.
A fuel company held a ‘Build A Car’ competition for students at Dad’s work, and the Toleman F2 team had a car on display. We got a window sticker.
We’d spend summer weekend evenings watching banger racing and, on Saturday lunchtimes, turned round the TV to face the dining table so we could watch Will Gollop’s 6R4 over lunch. I’d be allowed to stay up late to catch RAC Rally Reports and hearing Propaganda’s ‘Duel’ still makes me nostalgic.
My cousin grass-track raced Minis and in our loft I’d pretend I did the same, with Scalextric 1275 GTs. My uncle worked at a Renault garage and once had a Fuego. A Fuego! On a big family holiday, we were in the back listening to Madness’s I Like Driving In My Car and he’d honk the horn at the end of each chorus line.
In the 1950s my granddad designed and built an electric trike called the Pixie, so the mad old bugger thought Sinclair’s C5 was basically his idea and bought one. We adopted it when he could longer manhandle it into the lift to his flat. One of my mates or I would drive it, another would run behind it hanging onto the back, and the driver would try to shake the runner loose.
I learnt about differentials and four-wheel drive from a Tamiya radio-controlled car but, by then, I really wanted to be a car designer. The pictures in a university prospectus showed someone sculpting a clay model during an Automotive Engineering degree, so I signed up.
It turned out to be four years of maths and physics, during which time I never so much as saw a clay model. So I spent a lot of time reading articles by John Barker and Jeremy Clarkson. When I graduated, I lined up a job at a plastics company, but first took a summer job as a picture researcher on a magazine called The Express World Car Guide.
Two weeks in, the boss asked if I’d like to work for a car mag full time. I thought about it for at least two seconds, and twenty-three years later, I’m still doing it.