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Obituary: Stuart Bladon – prolific and influential motoring writer

ONE of the country’s most prolific and widely read writers, journalist and author Stuart Bladon of Milford, has died at the age of 89.

John Stuart Murray Bladon spent a lifetime passing on his immense knowledge gained while seeing the world with his hands at the wheel of a multitude of machines throughout the peak of the age of the internal combustion engine’s mobility revolution.

He was one of the longest serving members of the Guild of Motoring Writers. Its current chair, Richard Aucock, described him as a “unique, charming and peerless motoring writer”.

Stuart in his Rolls-Royce
Stuart in his Rolls-Royce

Guild officer Andrew Charman said: “Stuart was elected to the guild in 1965 before we even had a numbering system for members. After this was introduced he remained proud to carry the membership number 1.

“He was without doubt one of the characters of the guild and served as chair in 1977.”

Stuart’s son Bruce told the Guild: “Stuart Bladon was a motoring journalist who devoted his life to an enthusiasm for cars.”

He added: “He had had a heart condition since 2005 and had also become hard of hearing. However, he remained alert and able right until the end. On the afternoon of his last day he drove his Audi A3 convertible over 60 miles, in sub-zero conditions, without complaint or incident.”

Stuart’s journalism career began in 1955 when, following National Service and education at Malvern College and Kings University College, London, he joined the authoritative The Autocar magazine.

From then to 1981 as deputy editor, he conducted countless road tests in the UK and abroad – his findings influencing the car buying market.

Bruce said: “In those days The Autocar would test most production cars, including acceleration times, braking performance and top speed.”

Highlights of this quest for speed included the Jaguar E-Type which, when launched in 1962, claimed to be the first 150mph production car.

Stuart was sent to Belgium to test the car “with clear instructions not to come back until they had achieved 150mph”.

Perhaps the test he remembered most was the Lamborghini Miura, in Italy, one of the most revolutionary cars ever – the first mid-engined supercar. For many years the 172mph top speed was the official record at Autocar.

In 1981 Stuart left Autocar and set up business as a freelance motoring writer. His career continued unabated and he continued to test cars for many years, publishing articles right up until recent months.

He also published many books. For many years he was the editor of the Observer Book of Cars. Other titles included BMW, Range Rover Companion, Tackle Car Maintenance, and Great Marques.

In 2015 he published his autobiography, No Speed Limit, 60 years of Road Testing Classic Cars, in which he documented many of the adventures of these tests. In self-effacing style, each chapter is devoted to a different car rather than documenting the passages of Stuart’s life.

Outside the Guild of Motoring Writers he was also active in many other groups, notably the Caravan Writers Guild as he was a keen caravanner.

In 2009, on the spur of the moment he bought a 1979 Rolls-Royce Corniche convertible. This led him to join the Wessex Section of the Rolls Royce Enthusiasts Club and he went on to edit the section’s magazine, Torque.

He was also a founder member of the Southern Group of motoring writers.

Current Southern Group chair and Guild member Ian Robertson said of Stuart: “Stuart will be remembered for his tenacity, his passion and his loyalty and will be greatly missed by everyone that knew him well within the Southern Group.”

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