What’s on this week
Specialist motorsport memorabilia shops are rare. So Helensburgh – a coastal town 25 miles from Glasgow – may seem an unlikely location for an example of this rare breed. Yet there you’ll find Auch Aye, which opened earlier this year. Its location has a motorsport link, albeit an uncanny one: it’s on the street where Jackie Stewart met his wife Helen on a blind date.
John Black, who runs Auch Aye, has his own motorsport history. He attended Chirnside Primary School at the same time as Jim Clark. He had a racing career too, after moving to Vancouver in 1964. Black has, among other things, competed against Mike Hailwood on two wheels and against future Indycar racers Mike Hiss, Tom Gloy and Dennis Firestone.
He quit racing in 1975 and moved into motorsport retail. First he worked as a photojournalist at north-west American race meetings, primarily selling photos directly to drivers. So that his customers could browse the images whenever it was convenient, Black set up an awning in the centre of the paddock. With that came a temptation to diversify. “I started selling T-shirts, model cars, books,” he says.
And Black was in a fruitful place. “It was the golden era of sportscar racing in North America,” he continues. “All the British stars tended to come across and there was also Formula Atlantic. We had Keke Rosberg competing, Gilles Villeneuve was a star. I was mingling with these folk as they were developing their racecraft.”
That was particularly true of Rosberg, who took a shine to one particular
publication. “I got Autosport airmailed from London and he was immediately interested in buying it, because it reported what he’d been doing the week before,” Black says.
But as tracks started charging more for retail space, Black had to move his catalogue and contacts and switch over to mail order, facilitated by the internet. In 2000 he sold his business and enacted his long-time aim to return to Scotland. He moved to Helensburgh, where he’d lived before and briefly gone to school, to be near his father.
Recently a chance arose to get into retail again, for the first time in a shop. “There was a property available and I’d maintained contact with people,” Black explains.
“I’ve still got the interest.”
The breadth of those contacts is reflected in an impressive array of items for sale, including photos by Pete Lyons, who covered Formula 1 for Autosport in the 1970s, prints by Michael and Graham Turner, and Brumm and BBR model cars. Black also has many books including those rare and out of print – one framed Clark book, Life at Team Lotus by Peter Darley, is priced at £1500.
Black also showcases his wares in a newsagent in Duns, where The Jim Clark Room is being rebuilt to mark the 50th anniversary of his death. “People will still come to visit Duns looking for some memento of Jim Clark,” he says.
Black selects items to display in Helensburgh based on his reading of the Scottish market – and this also mostly relates to Clark. “People that are interested in buying something, it’s been motorsport fans – people who remember Jim Clark or knew about Jim Clark.
“There’s an ongoing fondness for the man. I can’t think of any other public personality who would generate that sort of enthusiasm 50 years after their death.”
There’s also Stewart interest, particularly since JYS is a local boy. But Black attracts clientele from far and wide – he’s had customers from Seattle and the Netherlands.
For the most part, he resists having an attachment to his items, but he does admit a fondness for one particular group.
“The Jim Clark photographs of Pete Lyons,” he says when asked to name a favourite. “They reflect their era. One of the photographs has Keith Duckworth who designed and built the Cosworth DFV. It’s also got Colin Chapman, his wife Hazel, and Jim Clark on it. That’s a very iconic image.”
“I CAN’T THINK OF ANY OTHER PERSON WHO GENERATES AS MUCH INTEREST 50 YEARS ON”
Jim Clark retains enduring popularity in the motorsport memorabilia firmament
Black’s shop revisits his paddock presence during 1970s and ’80s