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Common Tread

Remembered: John Harold Haynes OBE, creator of the Haynes manual

Feb 12, 2019

I’ve had a Haynes manual for every motorcycle I’ve ever owned, plus the occasional Clymer and a lot of factory service manuals. I buy them before I even have a problem.

The row of manuals on my shelf means I have somewhere to go for answers to motorcycling’s questions. How much fork oil do I need? What weight?  What’s the torque spec for that bolt? Which way does this alignment mark face? So much information is available online today, but no website I’ve seen has totally replaced the faithful, oily manuals in my garage. Let’s take a moment to remember the Haynes behind the manuals: an accomplished writer, mechanic, publisher, and entrepreneur. 

John Harold Haynes OBE passed away Friday at the age of 80. His creations, the Haynes Manual, the Haynes Publishing Group PLC and the Haynes International Motor Museum, continue his lifelong interest in vehicles. 

While still in school, Haynes was already working on cars and documenting his work. He published a booklet detailing his Austin 7 “Special” build once he finished, and it sold out in less than two weeks. Inspiration for his first full-size manual came later, during his time in the Royal Air Force. A friend asked him for help with a beat Austin Healey Sprite. As he dug into the car, Haynes was disappointed in the factory manual and decided to make his own, instead. His passions for motoring and art, combined with his logistics training from the RAF, resulted in the first Haynes manual back in 1966. The books went on to cover just about everything from the production automotive and powersports worlds, with 200 million Haynes manuals sold worldwide. Haynes was awarded an OBE for his contributions to publishing in 1995.

Haynes’ books encouraged us to do things for ourselves, to develop our mechanical aptitude, and to recognize the value of careful work. The books also gave amateur mechanics something like hope, a sense of agency in their own garages. If the mechanic in the photos can fix it, maybe the average reader can too.

In a way, I probably owe this job in the motorcycle industry to Haynes. The only motorcycles I could afford when I started riding were broken ones. But Haynes’ books showed me how to fix them, so I could ride them, and one day write about them. Here’s to Haynes and his manuals. 

The full obituary can be found here.