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November 14th, 2007

Romolo Tavoni and Graham Gauld, taken in 2006 when Tavoni was 80 years of age. Note the label on the Scotch bottle in the foreground. It’s an Ecurie Ecosse label with their cars on it! Photo courtesy of Graham Gauld.

Graham Gauld has always been involved with motor sport and has authored six previous books, including biographies entitled Jim Clark at the Wheel; Jim Clark, Portrait of a Great Driver; Reg Parnell; and Why Finish Last. He was the founding editor of China Car, China’s first motoring magazine, and of the Historic Motor Racing magazine. Prancing Horse readers are familiar with his informative and interesting vignettes from the past in his column, “Gauld Mine.” Below is an exclusive interview with Graham.

You’ve had incredible experiences over your 50-year career in journalism. What’s the most important motorsport event, person or race you’ve covered or been involved in?

Probably the most important event was the least important in historical terms. It was the 1957 Modena Grand Prix when I visited Ferrari, Maserati, Stanguellini and OSCA. It opened my eyes firstly to the huge enthusiasm for racing in Italy even at a non-Championship level. It allowed me to see the fabulous V12 Maserati Grand Prix car being tested by Harry Schell, and it introduced me to some of the interesting Italian people involved with racing.

Did you know the Italian language before you went to Italy in ‘57?

Not a word, I used some very basic French. Today I can carry on a ragged conversation in Italian, sufficient to be reasonably understood and to understand.

What can you tell us about the Maserati Brothers?

There were only two left when I met them in 1957, Bindo Maserati and Ernesto Maserati. Sadly I had no Italian at the time and so I had no real conversation with them. They were very helpful, however and I have some interesting photographs taken in the factory at the time.

Graham Gauld caught up with one of the former Ecurie Ecosse Jaguar C-types at Lime Rock six years ago owned, at the time, by Tony Wang from New York. Photo courtesy of Graham Gauld.

Do you consider yourself a motorsport historian or a story teller?

I would like to think I am a motorsport historian but most of my friends see me as a story teller.

Jesse Alexander, Hans Tanner, Bernard Cahier, Denis Jenkinson were in Europe in the 50s. Did you know them, and if so, what were they like? Jenkinson in particular.

Funnily enough I knew all of them. Bernard Cahier I have known for fifty two years. Denis Jenkinson, what a star. He could be a grumpy so and so particularly if he loans you a photo and you then lose it as I know to my cost. But what a great guy. I remember telling him about this young Scot called Jim Clark and in fact not many people know that Jenkinson raced in the same team as Jim in the 750 Motor Club Relay Race at Silverstone around 1957. My last "appearance" with Denis was when I persuaded him to take part in a debate at the National Motor Museum in England. The question was " Who was the greatest racing driver the world has ever known." I persuaded Denis to do Ayrton Senna, Doug Nye chose Fangio, Alain de Cadenet chose Tazio Nuvolari and I had Jim Clark. Denis went on first and was as cryptic as usual, I then went on next, Doug was masterly on Fangio but de Cadenet, ever the actor, brought along a superb dummy figure of Nuvolari which he rested on his knee and charmed everyone present. As a result Denis was tossed out first, I was the second to go, Doug the third and de Cadenet won!

Those journalists get all the breaks! Graham learning a repair technique taken this year at the opening of the new Ferrari Training Center in Maranello. Photo courtesy of Graham Gauld.

Are there any motorsport events or people that have not been adequately documented that should be documented in a book?

An enormous number of events and people because one must remember that the books written immediately after the 1939-45 war and well into the 1950s were not particularly good historical records. Everyone writes about winners but we forget that without the rest of the drivers, there would be no race for the star to win. Every one of those have a story to tell and many of them have stories far more interesting than the often sanitized biographies of the "stars".

The automotive period from 1950-1970--only twenty years--is of great interest to many people. Is that because it was the time of our youths, or was there indeed something very special about those times?

I think the answer is simple. That twenty year period saw the greatest changes in the automobile and in particular automobile racing design and public interest in racing. Personally, I feel that there must have been an enormous amount of fascinating material from the 1920s and 1930s that we have lost because there was no vogue for publishers to publish in-depth books. The reason we have the interest in the '50s and '60s I think is because publishers today have allowed writers to delve much more deeply into the detail and the technical detail that was simply unpublishable before.

What is your favorite book and the book you couldn't live without?

Number 1 is to my mind one of the finest descriptions of the dawn of motor racing Ten Years Motors and Motor Racing by Charles Jarrott. The ten years are 1895 - 1905 and Jarrott was a regular competitor. His descriptions of those long distance events bring home what a bunch of mamby-pamby drivers we have today. These guys were big, brawny and tough and the descriptions of the Paris-Madrid event along brings home how appallingly dangerous it was back then.

I have a complete set of Automobile Quarterly, as one of my best friends was the late Griff Borgeson. To my mind L. Scott Bailey should be in every motoring hall of fame for creating a publication which has and will have considerable value to all historians of the automobile.

You’ve already written six books. What is your next book?

The next two to be published by Veloce Publishing in England are " Gentleman Jack" the story of Jack Sears, and " From the Fells to Ferrari" the biography of Cliff Allison who raced for Scuderia Ferrari before retiring and returning to his countryside roots to drive the local school bus !

At the moment I am writing the biography of Keith Schellenberg who is one of the traditional British adventurers and racing drivers. His many escapades include recovering a pioneer aircraft from the Sahara that had been lost for 40 years and captaining the British Bobsleigh team in the Olympic Games. A close friend of Fon de Portago, he inherited de Portago's Tour de France winning Ferrari after the Mille Miglia accident. A true Renaissance Man. The one after that is a long-term and very important one which is being kept under wraps for now.

You mention little about your first 20 years. Can you fill us in?

I was born in 1934, and I remember my fourth birthday on Jersey in the Channel Islands when the Munich crisis took place and finding a boat full of Germans and Brits trying to get back home before the War started. My most vivid memory was about a week into the war, standing on the roof of our house with my father hanging on to the chimney pots watching the Heinkels trying to bomb the Forth rail bridge and the Spitfires trying to shoot them down. I know the Germans did not hit the bridge but am pretty sure the Spitfires never shot down any of the Germans so I called it a draw.

I left school at sixteen and a half but thanks to a relative I was taken on by a Scottish daily newspaper, the Edinburgh Evening Dispatch as a junior reporter.

At 18 I had to leave the newspaper and do two years National Service in the Royal Air Force. I decided that in order to get on in journalism I had to specialize and that I would specialize in cars as I had plenty of contacts by then. I was posted to Belfast in Northern Ireland where in my spare time I helped a charming old man, Robert McCann, who was 80 years of age and single handedly produced Irish Motoring magazine every month. I wrote like mad for him as it was great experience. I came back to Scotland to work a the weekly magazine Motor World. Again my editor was in his 70s and so I virtually had to write the majority of the magazine, take the photos, lay out the pages and it gave me a work ethic I have been unable to throw off. Along the way, I was the first member of our family ever to own a motor car (1959) and my first four years in an automobile magazine I did not even have a car and covered events by getting lifts or using trains of buses!

Graham Gauld, centre, with his son Lance Gauld at the wheel of Barry Wood's Lister-Bristol at Silverstone 2006. On the left is Gauld's grand-daughter Nicola Gauld. Photo courtesy of Graham Gauld.

Tell us about living in the South of France and your family

Quiet, simple in a village of only 450 people. We try and blend in with the community I sing in two choirs - one of which specializes in French, Basque and Provencal folk songs and the other which is more highbrow and deals in Russian liturgical chants - an acquired taste. I could not afford to live in Britain any more and it is easy to eat simply and well here. I have three children. Lance Larch and Ashe. and seven grandchildren. Lance raced cars, Formula Ford until his kids arrived and then came back into racing thanks to a friend with a Lister-Bristol and a Shelby Mustang. One grandchild, Jay (18) is now a 4 handicap golfer and another, Alasdair (16) has started racing Barry Wood's Legend, the same car Lance raced for Barry.

If you could go back and do it all again, would you?

Yes, but I would like to be more of a writer than a storyteller. I would like the technical knowledge of Doug Nye, and the writing style of Mike Lawrence with a pinch of the whimsy of Leonard Setright.

Past Issues


Graham Gauld

Otto Linton

Giulio Ramponi Part 2

Giulio Ramponi Part 1

Curtis LeMay

Graham Robson Tells All

Jason Castriota, Pininfarina

Tom Tjaarda

Bob and Dennis Show

Ed Hugus, Obit

Joe Nastasi, Part II

Joe Nastasi, Part I

Tony Adriaensens

Otis Chandler Obit


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