Car manual publisher and vehicle collector John Haynes has died in Britain aged 80. From the sixties, his booklets became sought worldwide by car-rebuilding enthusiasts for their self-explanatory diagrams and photos.
Haynes Publishing and his car museum announced on Monday that their founder had passed away peacefully late Friday after a short illness, leaving a legacy of 200 million manuals sold worldwide and a 400-car collection at Sparkford in Somerset, in England's southwest.
Born in Ceylon and educated in Britain, Haynes, then 15, skipped rugby at boarding school in 1956 to convert an Austin 7 into a sporty Austin 7 "Special."
"To lower the car I got the local smithy to heat up and flatten the springs [suspension]. It was a fairly primitive contraption, but it looked the part," said Haynes, who went on to sell it for 100 pounds (€114, $129) — six times the original's purchase price.
An "incredible" response to his schoolboy advertisement prompted him to write and illustrate a 48-page booklet on building Specials, run off on a stencil duplicator. Two more manuals followed while doing national service with Britain's Royal Air Force (RAF).
Posted in 1965 with the RAF to Aden, Yemen, Haynes was asked by a colleague to help rebuild a "Frogeye" Austin-Healey Sprite.
They realized that the factory manual was "not designed to help the average car owner." Instead, they used a camera to sequentially photograph its dismantling and reassembly, done inside the kitchen of Haynes apartment.
That sequencing combined with cut-away or exploded diagrams became the explanatory method of Haynes' manuals valued by hobby mechanics. The first 1966 "Frogeye" print run of 3,000 sold out in less than three months.
Share market listing
The venture, already launched in 1960 and its expansion into Europe, North America and Australia, culminated in Haynes Publishing Group floating on the London Stock Exchange in 1979.
To date, 200 million manuals — for 300 models of vehicle and 130 motorcycles — have been sold around the world, including America, reportedly in 15 languages, often going to used-car owners who could not afford high workshop labor charges.
Haynes Publishing also released manuals on military tanks and aircraft, musical instruments, and even how to model the USS Enterprise of fictional Star Trek fame, as well as vehicles in the animated television series Thomas the Tank Engine .
"In America, we were selling two manuals for every 911 [Porsche] on the road," Haynes told Britain's Daily Telegraph newspaper in 2002.
"Some people couldn't afford the car, so they bought the book in preparation for the day they might be able to afford one," Haynes said, who added his bestsellers were manuals for Minis, Ford Fiestas and Escorts and MGBs.
'No natural mechanic'
Asked what he would have done, if his manual venture had been a flop, Haynes replied: "I would have been a used-car salesman... but I'm no natural mechanic... At heart I'm an entrepreneur."
From 2010, Haynes retired as publishing house chairman but remained chairman of the 400-vehicle Sparksford museum that draws 125,000 visitors per year.
His son, also John Haynes, is chief executive officer of the Haynes Publishing Group.