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Obituary: John Haynes

Published 12 February 2019

John Haynes, the entrepreneur and creator of the Haynes Manual, has passed away after a short illness. Born in 1938 in Ceylon, he had a passion for cars and used to drive around his family's tea plantation with his father in their Morris 8 saloon.

At the age of 12 he moved to the UK with his brother David, to attend boarding school in Kent. It was at school that John’s flair for art and his entrepreneurial spirit developed and flourished. He persuaded his House Master to allow him to miss rugby and instead spend his time converting an Austin 7 into a lightweight sporty Austin 7 ‘Special’. 

John eventually sold the car, making a reasonable profit, and owing to the immense interest it received (more than 150 replies to the advert) he decided to produce a booklet showing other enthusiasts how he'd made it. He published a booklet entitled 'Building A ‘750’ Special’ - and the first print run of 250 copies sold out in ten days.

After leaving school John joined the Royal Air Force (RAF) to do his National Service, where he made many lifelong friends. During his time in the RAF his role in logistics taught him business management skills, while enabling him to pursue his passion for motor racing and publishing in his spare time. He successfully developed and competitively raced several race cars, including his Elva Courier, which is on display in the Haynes International Motor Museum.   

In the RAF, ‘Johnny’ met Annette, his wife to be. On his way to their wedding he stopped to buy Annette a secondhand IBM Proportional Space Type Writer as her wedding present. Although perhaps not the most romantic of gifts, Annette was delighted with his practical choice, setting the stage for a bright future together.

In 1965, John was posted to Aden and it was there that he created the first Haynes Manual. An RAF colleague had bought an Austin-Healey ‘Frogeye’ Sprite, which was in poor condition and he asked John to help him rebuild it. John agreed, and quickly realised that the official factory manual was not designed to help the average car owner. He bought a camera and captured the process of dismantling and rebuilding the engine. The use of step-by-step photo sequences linked to exploded diagrams became the trusted hallmark of Haynes Manuals. The first Haynes Manual, for the Austin-Healey Sprite, was published in 1966, and the first print run of 3000 sold out in under three months. To date, more than 200 million Haynes Manuals have been sold around the world.

The success of his publishing business, including expansion into Europe and North America, culminated in the Haynes Publishing Group PLC floating on the London Stock Exchange in 1979. In 1995 John was awarded an OBE for services to publishing, and in 2005 The Open University presented him with the honorary degree of Master of the University. His contribution to motoring was recognised by The Guild of Motoring Writers in 2014 when he was made a life member.

John’s publishing success meant that he was able to enjoy his passion for cars, and he became a prolific collector. In 1985 he founded the Haynes International Motor Museum in Sparkford, Somerset, as an Educational Charitable Trust, bequeathing his collection of 30 cars to the charity to be held for the benefit of the nation. John continued to support the museum charity throughout his life by donating cars and funding its growth, and thanks to his support the museum has grown and now displays more than 400 vehicles, and is enjoyed by more than 125,000 people a year. At the 2014 International Historic Motoring Awards the museum took home The Museum of the Year award.

Until 2010, John served as Chairman of the Haynes Publishing Group and then continued to play an active role as Founder Director. In this role he supported the executive team as they created a content, data and solutions business serving both drivers and professional mechanics. He combined this role with that of Chairman of Trustees of the Haynes International Motor Museum.

John was very much a family man and is survived by his wife Annette, brother David and sister Mary, his two sons; J and Chris, daughters-in-law; Valencia and Femke and his grandchildren; Augusta, Chrissie, Edward, Freya & Nicholas.  His middle son Marc sadly passed away in October 2016.  Annette contributed hugely to the success of the Haynes Publishing Group and she shares John’s lifelong passion for cars. She still serves as a much respected member of the Board of Trustees for the Museum.

A true gentleman, and a kind and considerate man, John will be greatly missed not only by his family, friends and colleagues but also by the many people that use his manuals, and benefit from his reassuring guiding hand as they repair and maintain their cars and motorbikes. The appreciation people felt for his contribution was most visible on an almost daily basis at the Museum’s Café 750. While enjoying lunch John was regularly approached by visitors, who would invariably be greeted with his infectious warmth and engaging, enthusiastic boyish smile.  He was always happy to oblige fellow enthusiasts with photographs, engage in conversation and share his passion for cars. 

He died peacefully, surrounded by family, on the evening of Friday 8th February, aged 80.


mattyg2012    on 16 February 2019

Ford Fiesta Mark 1 was my first manual. Invaluable. Thanks Mr Haynes.

Peter McGuire    on 17 February 2019

The bible for all driveway DIY mechanics.

nfield750    on 19 February 2019

"Assembly is the reverse of disassembly", I seem to remember!

Pauline Velarde    on 15 April 2023

Hi, I fully agree with you. Even if it increases the security of a front door, fence, or other barrier, I utilise my home nutone intercom to play music for my pets while I'm away and guests wait in the lobby. These can be linked to your door locks, allowing visitors to open doors remotely. Even if you don't answer the door, these technologies allow you to connect with visitors.

Pospits1    on 30 June 2023


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