THIS MONTH’S CLASSIC WHEELS STORY IS ONE OF THE MANY MEMORABLE YARNS BY ROMSEY QUINTS, THE MAGAZINE’S CURMUDGEONLY COLUMNIST AND SOMETIME FEATURE WRITER. AS MANY READERS EVENTUALLY DEDUCED, QUINTS WAS MERELY AN ALIAS FOR BILL TUCKEY, WHEELS EDITOR FROM 1963 TO 1968.
Over a long lunch just months before the 2010 stroke that tragically left him unable to write, Tuckey told me Romsey Quints was invented to create the impression that the staff of Wheels’ sister magazine Sports Car World went beyond just the editor. The Quints SCW column, Of Cars and Men, instantly developed a cult following among enthusiasts.
Irreverent, yet both serious and seriously humorous, Quints soon morphed across into Wheels, where, to protect his identity, he occasionally attacked Tuckey’s opinion on various new models. Tuckey, of course, would respond and so it went, to the huge amusement of the readers.
In the introduction to his 2013 book And the Revs Keep Rising, former Wheels staffer and Car magazine editor Mel Nichols wrote: “Wheels went into a golden period in 1963 under a wildly energetic editor called Bill Tuckey. Bill’s writing was fast-paced, passionate, witty and above all evocative […] Bill’s influence was profound.” Tuckey, “a writer of effortless, crushing ability”, poured all his skill into Quints.
This story, from the April 1977 issue, tells of our drive in a Jaguar XJ-S to Queensland for the wedding of Bill’s brother Noel (who, writing as George Ambrose, was the author of Wheels’ brilliant Dirty Wheels column). This feature could easily have been written by Tuckey as himself, but events – including setting a new record of 43 minutes for the 102km stretch between Grafton and Casino, and the Jag self-destructing by depositing its coolant on a servo forecourt – transformed it into an obvious candidate for the Quints treatment.
Quints, inventing words and memorable phrases and never afraid of delving into mystical language, threw it all into Long Day’s Journey. Years later, regular readers often reminded me of the story and Quints’ ability to spin a wonderfully inventive and always funny narrative.
Reading it again, I’m reminded that back then we accepted cruising at 140-150km/h as the norm on interstate jaunts and regularly saw 200km/h-plus when it was safe to do so. What the hell would Romsey make of today’s constricted driving climate? I think we know the answer.
A Dilambda in a Cave: The chance discovery of an Italian masterpiece, from the May 1972 issue.
THE sub-standard quality of Jaguar’s XJ-S was an issue from the time it first appeared in 1975.
Conceived as a grand tourer replacement for the E-Type sports car, the XJ-S was based on the XJ sedan platform. Electrical and overheating problems, and the cost of repairs, drove owners to despair in the early years. Initially sold only as a V12, Jaguar then launched the 3.6-litre AJ6 as an entry-level model in 1983. By the time the XJ-S was belatedly dropped in 1996, more than 115,400 had been built.
AUSTRALIA’S top vans; four cars for hard times – Leyland Moke, Daihatsu 550 Cab Van, Suzuki 540J, Mazda 1000 ute – compared; cheap transport challenge; Fiat Mirafiori tested; behind the wheel of the Swiss-made Monteverde Safari luxury SUV; Porsche 911 European road trip passes into the Land of the Midnight Sun; Honda Accord road test; Toyota’s mini-Mustang – the Celica liftback – arrives; Volvo’s fun-to-drive gymkhana
A small start-up called Apple Computer is incorporated. One of the founders sells out to the other two for $US800.
US scientists discover the rings around Uranus.
No, we’re not joking...
Porsche’s 928 – a V8-powered, front-engined, water-cooled ‘replacement’ for the 911 – makes its world debut at Geneva.