Vale John Haynes 1938-2019

By: Alex Affat, Unique Cars magazine

Vale John Haynes Vale John Haynes

Repair manual mogul and publishing pioneer spawned a generation of at-home mechanics

John Haynes, the founder of Haynes Publishing Group, succumbed to a short illness at the age of 80 last Friday February 8.

Haynes, and his countless editions of Haynes Manuals, assisted millions of people worldwide in repairing their own cars at home.  

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Born in modern day Sri Lanka to British parents on March 25 1938, Haynes developed an early appreciation for the motor car; and returned to England with his brother where they both attended a boarding school in Kent.

Haynes convinced his housemaster to let him ditch Rugby practice in order to wrench on his home-built Austin 7.


Once completed, Haynes placed a classifieds listing to sell his completed Austin 7 "Special", turning a fair profit out of a staggering 150 enquiries.

This gave him the idea to write a book, outlining the steps in order to help others build one themselves. His first publication, ‘Building a 750 Special’, boasted a limited run of 250 copies and sold out completely in just ten days.

After graduation, Haynes enlisted in the RAF to fulfil his compulsory National Service. A fellow service member purchased a less-than-pristine "Bugeye" Sprite, and Haynes agreed to help him tear it down and rebuild it.


Haynes quickly realised that factory service manuals were not written for the at-home wrencher and identified a stark gap in the market for such a resource. He quickly purchased a camera and documented in detail, the teardown and rebuild of the Austin-Healey Sprite. This was the very first Haynes Manual, with an initial run of 3000 copies, it sold out in less than 90 days.

Haynes Publishing went on to become an empire; going public on the London Stock Exchange in 1979, and spawning branches in England, Europe and California.

To date, Haynes has published more than 200 million manuals globally, covering a vast array of cars and motorbikes, to more novel ‘how-to’ manuals regarding babies and teenagers, pies along with fictional repair manual for vehicles like the Millennium Falcon.


In 1985, John founded the Hayes International Motor Museum, out of 30 cars from his personal collection. The museum remains an official educational charitable trust, and today boasts more than 400 vehicles in its inventory. It greets 125,000 visitors each year, and in 2014 was named "Museum of the Year" by the International Historic Motoring Awards; an honour shared by bastions such as the Mercedes-Benz Museum and the Petersen Automotive Museum.

In 1995, Haynes was inducted into the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire for his Services to publishing. He stepped down as Chairman from Haynes Publishing shortly after the firm’s 50th anniversary in 2010, but remained in an advisory role. He also served as Chairman of Trustees at the Haynes International Motor Museum where he had the reputation for personally greeting visitors and gladly posing for requested photo opportunities.


The scope of John Hayne’s legacy is great. The company he built culminated in a global empire, whose work touched millions of motorist from all corners of the globe, including a number of us here in the office.

Haynes is survived by his wife Annette, two sons, and five grandchildren.

From one ragtag bunch of motor-noters; Vale John, thank you for all of your work.


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