Since starting work at Porter Press International, the XK Club and E-type Club in July 2017, I have been involved in many different activities. I have proofread books; written and designed magazine pages for the XK Club, the E-type Club and the Midlands Automotive Club and done scriptwriting and editing for a film about the XK Club’s Round Britain Coastal Drive in aid of Prostate Cancer UK.
These varied tasks have immersed me in the world of classic car ownership with its associated stories and history. From tales of ‘barn-finds’ and restoration projects and seeing these beautiful cars in photographs and ‘in the flesh’, I drew the inspiration for a children’s book set in the past, during the production time of the oldest car we cover in the Clubs – the Jaguar XK 120.
I should explain that before I joined Porter Press, I spent nearly 20 years writing and editing national children’s magazines such as Thomas the Tank Engine and Peppa Pig. Writing for children was therefore something I had a lot of practise in. The idea grew and when discussions at the Club arose about how to involve the next generation in classic car ownership, publishing a children’s book seemed ideal. With the 70th anniversary of the Jaguar XK 120 on the horizon, and a major Club event – the XK70 Jaguar Festival – planned for June 2018, the idea to make its publication part of the celebrations was formed.
The late ’40s and early ’50s was of particular interest to me as a timeframe for the story because it ‘fits’ neatly with my own family history. Presenting an exciting adventure, set in that period, was a way of showing my son’s generation what childhood was like for their grandparents in a fun yet educative way. Many things that children take for granted these days were in their infancy at this time such as television, the mass production of motor vehicles, comics and household appliances. With Queen Elizabeth II’s Coronation and an expedition reaching the summit of Everest, there were also important historical moments which could be incorporated into the book.
The book tells the tale of nine-year-old Bill and the open-top Jaguar XK 120 which transports him back in time. It is set in the summer of 2018 – the 70th anniversary year of the launch of the Jaguar XK 120 at the London Motor Show. The XK takes Bill and his Grandpa to visit London in 1949 and 1952, and again on the June ’53 day of the Coronation. At a street party outside Grandpa’s boyhood home, Bill overhears a conversation between two spies which sends him on an adventure across London. Bill and Grandpa must solve the mystery and save the day - with some unusual four-wheeled help!
I was extremely lucky whilst writing the book to find the illustrator Robin Lawrie who had the perfect combination of children’s book illustration experience and enthusiasm for, and knowledge of, classic cars. His wonderful, evocative drawings have given so much to the atmosphere of the book.