59 Poster

Australian Muscle Car - - Contents -

AMC now fea­tures a reg­u­lar dou­ble-sided poster. This time we salute Norm Beechey’s Monaro and John Goss Rac­ing’s stun­ning XB Fal­con GT. The No.1 song on 2UW charts in Oc­to­ber, 1975: Cap­tain & Ten­nille’s ‘Love will Keep us To­gether’.

Bill Tuckey has been called Aus­tralia’s great­est mo­tor­ing writer, but that la­bel doesn’t be­gin to cover all of his achieve­ments.

Do you re­mem­ber Rom­sey Quints? If you do, there’s a fair chance you also know that Bill Tuckey was his cre­ator, han­dler and spokesman. Quints was colourful, can­tan­ker­ous and com­pletely con­tent to raise hell and shine a spot­light on the strange and won­der­ful sto­ries in the world of mo­tor­ing and mo­tor rac­ing.

It’s the same for Tuckey, who was ev­ery­thing from a Bathurst racer and the man who tagged Ian Geoghegan as ‘Black Pete’ to a mag­a­zine edi­tor, pro­lific book writer, news­pa­per re­porter, tele­vi­sion pre­sen­ter, high-per­for­mance driver trainer and talk­back ra­dio star.

If you be­lieve Tuckey, and many did, he was on track to win the 1969 Hardie-Ferodo 500 at Bathurst, un­til his co-driver Sib Pe­tralia de­stroyed the en­gine in their Holden Monaro GTS350. Tuckey also claims credit for bap­tis­ing Al­lan Grice at Mount Panorama when the pair shared a Fiat 124.

All of this, and much much more, should have been cov­ered in minute de­tail when Tuckey sat down to write about his life. But bad health has cut short his writ­ing days and so Aus­tralian Mus­cle Car is tak­ing up the story.

It’s a trav­esty that so few words have been writ­ten about a bloke who has writ­ten mil­lions about what he has seen and done in a jam-packed life of tow­er­ing ad­ven­ture. There is not even a Wikipedia en­try for Wil­liam P. Tuckey.

It’s a yarn, the only word that fits, that be­gins when Tuckey was born in Lis­more on April 20, 1936. Other land­mark dates were his wed­ding to Mar­cie – a one-time rally driver – on July, 12, 1958, the ar­rival of their son Stu­art on July 16, 1959 and the birth of daugh­ter Elis­a­beth on July 31, 1965.

Tuckey first made his mark as a crime re­porter in Queens­land in the very early 1960s, be­fore

join­ing the Courier-Mail news­pa­per in Bris­bane. On the fateful day when the edi­tor called for vol­un­teers for the mo­tor­ing writer’s slot, Tuckey’s hand was the first one up.

It was an easy step from there to the edi­tor’s chair at Wheels mag­a­zine in Syd­ney and a ca­reer that made Tuckey a force of na­ture as a writer, edi­tor, talent spot­ter, pro­moter and more.

There were some downs with the many ups, but it’s hard to ar­gue when the end re­sult runs to 32 books, suc­cess­ful time in ev­ery­thing from ad­ver­tis­ing to tele­vi­sion and ra­dio, and cre­ation of the world’s first Car of the Year award. He loved to be the cen­tre of at­ten­tion, was a nat­u­ral leader, and a fe­ro­cious critic of cars he didn’t like and any­one who didn’t agree with him.

Mel Ni­chols, who fol­lowed Tuckey through the mo­tor­ing mill in Aus­tralia and went on to be­come a writer, edi­tor and pub­lisher in the UK, re­cently put him into per­spec­tive.

“Tuckey wasn’t just a writer whose copy flowed like lava. He crit­i­cised cars fe­ro­ciously. When he wrote that an im­por­tant new Holden had ‘sav­age power but drum brakes the size of boot pol­ish tins’, its maker, Gen­eral Mo­tors, black­balled Wheels. Tuckey didn’t re­lent.

“Even­tu­ally, Aus­tralian cars got de­cent brakes, sus­pen­sion and tyres that weren’t, as only he could put it, ‘dy­na­mite if a seag­ull peed on the road’.”

Peter Robin­son, who would go on to be­come the long­est serv­ing edi­tor of Wheels and Aus­tralia’s most re­spected mo­tor­ing jour­nal­ist, says that he was also in­spired by Bill Tuckey.

“Bill’s writ­ing style took putting the reader be­hind the wheel to a pre­vi­ously un­charted level. His writ­ing was evoca­tive and pas­sion­ate and beau­ti­fully in touch with con­tem­po­rary Aus­tralian cul­ture. He un­der­stood Aus­tralian writ­ing; he cre­ated word pic­tures that put things ef­fort­lessly into cul­tural con­text.”

There are far too many sto­ries for one story, but how about this?

“Did you know that in vol­ume one of Aus­tralian Mo­tor­ing Year 1982/83, Rom­sey Quints pre­dicted the Toy­ota Corolla would be the num­ber-one sell­ing car in Aus­tralia? It only took 31 years for the pre­dic­tion to be­come re­al­ity,” says Mike Breen, long-time Toy­ota Aus­tralia spokesman and a man with an eye on his­tory.

At this point it’s worth re­mem­ber­ing that Quints was mostly com­edy, with a twist. He could say and do things that were be­yond the reach of a reg­u­lar jour­nal­ist and Tuckey also used his al­ter ego to ex­plore a dif­fer­ent writ­ing style.

Sad to say, the roots of the Rom­sey Quints char­ac­ter are lost, but not the achieve­ments of a char­ac­ter who pre­ferred to go about his busi­ness dressed in a deer­stalker hat and a Sher­lock Holmes-style cape.

He tested ve­hi­cles as di­verse as a rac­ing Rover and a gi­ant Eu­clid earth­mover and railed against all sorts of per­ceived wrongs.

Tuckey once said he cre­ated Quints to give Wheels and Sports Car World an ex­tra by­line on the cheap, but it was a mas­ter­stroke.

While Quints was star­ring out on the flanks, Tuckey was mak­ing his own frontal as­sault.

McLaren supremo Ron Den­nis once said that his team made his­tory and jour­nal­ists only wrote about it, but Tuckey was one of the rare ex­cep­tions to this.

He set the stan­dard for mo­tor­ing jour­nal­ism in Aus­tralia, helped drive the Holden Dealer Team at a time when Gen­eral Mo­tors was of­fi­cially out of mo­tor rac­ing, and de­manded bet­ter lo­cal­ly­made cars. He was one of the pi­o­neers who headed to Ja­pan to in­ves­ti­gate its car in­dus­try in the 1960s, later also pack­ing his bags to see what was hap­pen­ing in Korea and China.

But he wasn’t per­fect, as he showed with an early test re­view of the Mini 850. “It pro­duces a pleas­ant chirp from the rear tyres on up­shifts,” Tuckey wrote.

He also had lots of hits with a few misses with his men­tor­ing and tu­tor­ing of sev­eral gen­er­a­tions of jour­nal­ists, from Rob Luck and Mac Dou­glas and John Smailes to Jim Laing-Peach, Wayne Web­ster and even my­self.

Peter Robin­son re­calls one story that shows the abil­ity of Tuckey. “I re­mem­ber, once, abus­ing Bill be­cause his Wheels col­umn was late. At the time, he was pub­lisher or edi­tor-in-chief, and his of­fice was one floor above Wheels.

59

There was drama with his next book, The Ul­ti­mate Ex­cite­ment in 1967, when Cus­toms of­fi­cials thought it was a porno­graphic pub­li­ca­tion.

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