Godspeed to the godfather of wrenching: John Haynes dies at 80
John Haynes, the godfather of wrenching, died last week at the age of 80. From his obituary: “John was a kind, generous, loving and devoted husband, brother, father and grandfather, who will be missed enormously.”
If the name sounds familiar, that's because John Haynes was the name behind the Haynes Manuals, which explained in excruciating detail the process of servicing and repairing the systems in many of our vehicles.
As an engineering geek who never made it through Calculus 2 in college, I remember seeing my first Haynes Manual in auto shop class in the mid '90s. I think it was for a Chevy Cavalier and we were using it to rebuild a dual-overhead cam four-cylinder motor. Mr. Ikeda, our squatty, funny shop teacher, made us promise that when we get our first car, we’d get “the manual.” I still remember having one for my 1980 Ford F-150 three-on-the-tree and at least one of my wish-it-was-a-Japanese-tuner Saturns.
Haynes was born in 1938 in Sri Lanka, then called Ceylon, and spent his childhood riding around in his father’s Morris 8 sedan. At 12 years old, he moved to the U.K. to attend boarding school. That was where he decided to skip rugby, preferring to spend time converting his Austin 7 into a lightweight Austin 7 Special. He found a ton of interest when he sold the car and decided to write a book covering his conversion process. According to his obit, Haynes sold the first print run of 250 copies in just 10 days.
He later joined the Royal Air Force, learning business management skills while wrenching and racing in his spare time. He met his future wife Annette, and in 1965 he wrote his first manual on the Austin-Healey Sprite. According to the Haynes site, to date more than 200 million copies have been sold around the world. He pioneered the step-by-step photos and exploded diagrams we enjoy today.
Haynes Publishing expanded into the rest of Europe and North America and joined the London Stock Exchange in 1979.
“In 1995 John was awarded an OBE for services to publishing, and in 2005 The Open University presented him with an honorary master's degree. His contribution to motoring was recognized by The Guild of Motoring Writers in 2014 when he was made a life member.”
He founded the Haynes International Motor Museum in Somerset, England, bequeathing his 30-car collection to it. The museum now houses more than 400 vehicles and gets more than 100,000 visitors per year. He continued as chairman of the Haynes Publishing Group until 2010.
Haynes is survived by his wife Annette, brother David and sister Mary; his two sons, J and Chris; daughters-in-law Valencia and Femke; and his grandchildren, Augusta, Chrissie, Edward, Freya and Nicholas.
From the obit: “A true gentleman, and a kind and considerate man, John will be greatly missed not only by his family, friends and colleagues but also by the many people that use his manuals, and benefit from his reassuring guiding hand as they repair and maintain their cars and motorbikes. The appreciation people felt for his contribution was most visible on an almost daily basis at the Museum’s Café 750. While enjoying lunch John was regularly approached by visitors, who would invariably be greeted with his infectious warmth and engaging, enthusiastic boyish smile. He was always happy to oblige fellow enthusiasts with photographs, engage in conversation and share his passion for cars.”