Haynes Manual Founder Dies, Aged 80

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky
haynes manual founder dies aged 80

Even if you’re not mechanically minded enough to repair your own vehicle, your status as an automotive enthusiast has likely led to your encountering a Haynes Owner’s Workshop Manual at one point or another. Due the wealth of information available within, this author purchased one for nearly every out-of-warranty model to ever pass through his ownership.

While the internet stole some of Haynes’ thunder, its paperback manuals (and their digital equivalents) are still an important resource for at-home mechanics and D.I.Y. types. Unfortunately, while browsing around for materials on the first-generation Eagle Talon, the Haynes website informed us that its founder recently passed away.

According to his obituary, John Harold Haynes passed away surrounded by family members on Friday, February 8th, after contending with a short and unspecified illness.

Born on March 25th, 1938 in Sri Lanka, Haynes lived on tea plantation before moving to the United Kingdom to attend the Sutton Valence School in Kent. But it wasn’t long before his true calling surfaced. By 1959, he had finished converting an Austin 7 into a lightweight racer, documenting the process in his first book — Building A 750 Special.

From there, he joined the Royal Air Force and started an amateur racing career before meeting his wife. In 1965, John was posted to Aden, Yemen, and it was there he developed the first Haynes Manual. An RAF colleague who had just purchased a secondhand Austin-Healey Sprite asked John to help him rebuild it. Haynes agreed, but found the official factory manual lacking — the booklet was clearly not designed to help a typical car owner.

He then purchased a camera and documented the process of dismantling and rebuilding the engine, utilizing a step-by-step sequence that would eventually frame the cutaway diagrams found in later Haynes Manuals. The book, published in 1966, sold out in less than three months. By 1979, Haynes Publishing Group PLC had entered the London Stock Exchange and was already printing books for industry professionals and adding new models, including motorcycles, to its print catalog.

The year 1985 saw the establishment of the Haynes International Motor Museum. Initially, it served as a place to showcase its founder’s private collection. However, the obituary states that the museum grew to house over 400 separate vehicles and sees over 125,000 visitors each year.

By 1995, John was honored as a Commander of the Order of the British Empire for his service in the field of publishing. A decade later, the Open University presented him with the honorary master’s degree.

For the most part, Haynes Manuals are written by two authors and take the better part of a year to complete. Vehicles are purchased, disassembled, and documented using Haynes’ previously established methodology. While all models are eventually sold, the publisher typically retains the vehicle throughout the duration of the writing process to ensure it still functions correctly after being put back together. While not always the case, manufacturers frequently provide technical information to aid in the process.

Haynes Manuals are now published in 15 different languages and deal with nearly 500 distinct models, with over 200 million copies sold around the world (not counting digital editions). It’s an incredible legacy for a man who forever changed the automotive realm by arming regular people with knowledge.

[Image: Haynes Publishing Group]

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  • RHD RHD on Feb 13, 2019

    Very useful manuals. I'm surprised to know that Haynes owned Chilton and Clymer, which are greatly inferior products. Maybe they bought them out in order to monopolize the market? I have always bought a Haynes manual for each of my cars. They pay for themselves many times over. The manual for the Volvo was published in England, as they never made a version for the American market. It's a hardback, the only one on my Haynes bookshelf. Great article. We all owe John Harold Haynes a respectful tip of the hat and a moment of silence in his memory.

  • HaynesManuals HaynesManuals on Feb 15, 2019

    Thank you so much for the kind words and remembrances of John Haynes and the manuals he created. We just created this account specifically so we could pop in here and thank you in the comment section. We are sure that John never imagined what he was starting when he took apart that first Sprite and wrote the manual for it. We are still here in Sparkford, UK and Newbury Park, CA taking apart cars/trucks/motorcycles and writing books to help you fix them, the same way John did it way back in the 1950s. We love to see greasy and well used copies of our books, and hear your stories about them, so feel free to post picture or tag us on social media with #MyHaynes

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