How I fell in love with cars: Andrew Frankel

It is down to two people, or one person and one group of people to be precise. One infected me with the car bug, the others made sure the condition was terminal.

I was born diseased, it passing down the generation from my father. I’m not sure I ever met anyone who had it worse. A person less like the stereotypical accountant you could not imagine, yet he became one simply because it meant he’d get to drive between audits. He was not obsessed with cars, but possessed by them.

But here it gets tricky because the people who took my condition beyond all hope of salvation are not only known to me, they are my friends. For decades in this business they have been known as the Australian mafia, and in the 1970s and ‘80s a succession of them changed the face of motoring journalism.

Before the mafia turned up here, car magazines were in the main at best worthy, but far more often terminally dull products. Hate to plug the opposition though I do, more than 40 years ago Car magazine changed all that. Edited first by Mel Nichols in the 1970s, then our own Steve Cropley, then Gavin Green, Aussies all, it didn’t so much raise the standards of writing in motoring journalism as transform them. For the first time while you might be drawn to a story by the car that was its subject, you’d be held to the last line by the quality its words.

Back in those days it was fearless too: cars would be dismissed by single word sum ups like ‘yawn’, ‘frightful’, ‘embarassment’ and, my favourite reserved for the Moskvich 1500: ‘Aaargh!’. Single sentence dismissals included ‘Like a bad hangover’ (Simca 1100) and ‘Someone shoot it, please!’ (Triumph Spitfire).

I knew the exact day Car was published every month and if, for any reason, it wasn’t there when I sprinted to the newsagent, that day would be one without worth. If it were, I’d not wait to get home before devouring it, but instead sit on the pavement until I’d read at least one complete story, which would provide me with a fix sufficient until I got back to base.

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And then Nichols and Cropley came to Autocar, one just before, the other just after I joined. One helped me get my job, both helped me keep it. The debt is incalculable.