Vale Bill Tuckey

Australian Muscle Car - - Muscle Sport -

It’s a trav­esty that, un­til Bill Tuckey’s pass­ing on May 7 aged 80, so few words had been writ­ten about a bloke who has writ­ten mil­lions about what he has seen and done in a jam­packed life of tow­er­ing ad­ven­ture. There is not even a Wikipedia en­try for Wil­liam P. Tuckey. Per­haps there will be now.

Tuckey was every­thing from a news­pa­per re­porter to mag­a­zine ed­i­tor, pro­lific book writer, tele­vi­sion pre­sen­ter, high-per­for­mance driver trainer and talk­back ra­dio star. He not only in­flu­enced sev­eral gen­er­a­tions of mo­tor­ing jour­nal­ists, it’s not over­stat­ing things to sug­gest he changed the mag­a­zine pub­lish­ing game.

As ed­i­tor of Wheels mag­a­zine, he ini­ti­ated the world’s very first Car of the Year award and in­tro­duced, to Aus­tralia at least, hard-hit­ting ve­hi­cle com­par­isons.

He was also a Bathurst racer, making three starts in the late 1960s, in­tro­duced Al­lan Grice to Mount Panorama, and was even an out­right con­tender in a Holden Monaro GTS 350.

These starts could eas­ily be over­looked as side­line ad­ven­tures in a packed life, but they gave Bill first-hand ex­pe­ri­ence from a race driver’s per­spec­tive. This en­abled him to bring the sub­ject mat­ter to life when, a decade later, he wrote the de­fin­i­tive his­tory of the Great Race.

Tuckey was born in Lis­more on April 20, 1936 and first made his mark as a crime re­porter in Queens­land in the very early 1960s, be­fore join­ing the Courier-Mail news­pa­per in Bris­bane. 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. 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, 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.

AMC read­ers’ thoughts from Face­book:

“This man should be con­sid­ered a na­tional trea­sure in mo­tor­sport jour­nal­ism. His un­par­al­lelled in­sight into our sport span­ning decades was in­fa­mous. I own his Bathurst an­nu­als and it’s sad to see this doyen pass away. RIP Bill.” – Daniel Bridge “La­conic and witty, with­out Bill’s sharp prose I would never have known what a ‘poof­teenth’ of a sec­ond meant.” – Michael Deal

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

Peter Robin­son, who would be­come the long­est serv­ing ed­i­tor of Wheels and Aus­tralia’s most re­spected mo­tor­ing jour­nal­ist, says he was also in­spired by 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.”

His al­ter ego Rom­sey Quints was a com­edy act with a twist. He could say and do things that were be­yond the reach of a reg­u­lar jour­nal­ist and Tuckey also used this de­vice to ex­plore a dif­fer­ent writ­ing style. Sadly, the roots of the 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.

Bill set the stan­dard for mo­tor­ing jour­nal­ism in Aus­tralia, helped drive the Holden Dealer Team via a spell at the Ge­orge Pat­ter­son ad­ver­tis­ing agency at a time when Gen­eral Mo­tors was of­fi­cially out of mo­tor rac­ing. He was one of the

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