Posted on 24 February 2015
Our very dear friend and mentor, Ronnie ‘Steady’ Barker sadly passed away on Sunday, January 25th at the age of 94. A renowned motoring journalist, he was a dear friend who helped us enormously in the early stages of setting up Thornley Kelham, and will be greatly missed.
'Steady' was one of the UK's leading and most respected motoring journalists, columnists and writers in a career which spanned six decades. Starting at The Autocar in the 1950s and the CAR during the 1970s and '80s, he went on to have a very distinguished writing career. Over his lifetime, he amassed an unsurpassable amount of knowledge of the motoring world which he loved to share with his sparkling wit. His enthusiasm was infectious and his expertise unique. He enjoyed nothing more than sharing a few glasses of red wine and regaling his audience with hilarious anecdotes about everyone he knew in the car world - which was everyone!
He was drawn to engines and cars from a very young age. In 1937, between Stowe School and a London electrical college, he found himself on a gap year in Garmisch, the only Englishman staying with four boys, two of them nephews of Goring. He managed to get out just before Hitler walked into Austria. Steady spent much of the war as an RAF mechanic and then went on to work on V-bombers and the Bristol Britannia. At the time, he had a 1920 Napier 40/50 which he used to transport parts for English Electric Lightnings. Motoring journalists Gordon Wilkins and Pater Garnier came to see the Napier as well other cars he had at the time, and suggested he come and work with them at The Autocar magazine. As a trial, he wrote an article about the extraordinary parallels between cars and people - 'how they both coughed and spat if they had the wrong food'. Within a week, he had the job! Steady was eventually made joint Assistant Editor but didn't like the idea of lots of meetings so in 1966 went to work in the US as a freelance, which is what he remained for the rest of his career.
True to form - and never one to shy away from an adventure, - he wing-walked on his 70th, 80th and 90th birthday!
He was a great friend and raconteur who helped us in the early days with sound advice and a huge amount of encouragement. Over his lifetime, he got through an eclectic collection of cars, some of which are now in Simon and Wayne's possession. His spirit lives on in everything we do and he will be greatly missed.
‘I first met with Steady Barker in the late 1980s and he quickly became a great friend. I spent a lot of time with him, helping him finish the rebuild of his V16 Cadillac and other cars, such as a 1924 Dodge Doctors Coupe. We often attended light car and VSCC events together too, trying and often failing to keep out of trouble!
Steady was always keen to see striving individuals and was very instrumental in my decision to start my own business alongside Simon. As such, he helped enormously, both with moral support and introducing contacts who would later become good, long-term clients of ours. In the latter years, we restored together a Lancia Ardea which I still have and use regularly in the summer months.
Steady will be sorely missed, not just by me but by all that knew him, both around the workshop and at our weekly pint at the local pub’.
- Wayne Kelham