Haynes International Motor Museum set to re-open as sophisticated £5m visitor attraction

John Haynes's manuals have sold more than 200 million copies. Simon Usborne meets the motor man at his classic car museum in Somerset ahead of the re-opening

Three days a week, John Haynes meets his family for lunch in the modest cafeteria at what is in effect an enormous garage. Visitors who pass by as he tucks into the same three courses each time (soup of the day, chicken salad, vanilla ice cream with cream on the side) would have no reason to suspect that he owns all 450 cars inside, one of which is worth more than £6m.

“This is my sad story,” Haynes' wife of 50 years, Annette, jokes during the chicken course (it turns out that she's a big car nut, too, and owns a Jaguar E-Type among others). “I sit here and think of all the exotic holidays I could have had. Instead of which he goes out and spends it all on cars.”

Haynes, as generations of aspiring mechanics will know, is the man who taught the world how to change its oil and check its spark plugs. Since his first service and repair manuals appeared almost 50 years ago, with their characteristic illustrations of stripped-down motors, he has sold more than 200 million copies in 15 languages.

Now, as his oldest son, John “J” Haynes, 46, steers a company with annual revenues of £30m into a challenging new era of YouTube how-to videos and DIY-unfriendly cars, Haynes senior, 76, is enjoying the fruits of his labour. An old Morris Oxford was his first vintage acquisition but several cars were soon scattered across the Somerset-Dorset border, where the family business is based. In 1985, he stuck 33 of them in a disused sawmill in Sparkford near Yeovil and called it a museum.

Next week, the Haynes family will gather again for a rather grander occasion than today's lunch at the re-launch of the Haynes International Motor Museum. Marc Haynes, John and Annette's second son, has led a £5m project to turn a series of large sheds into a sophisticated attraction designed to draw ever more visitors from the nearby A303 holiday route to the south-west.

His ice cream soon demolished, Haynes senior heads into the museum, which has remained open during the extensive works, to show off his favourite car. It gleams on a pedestal: a 1931 Duesenberg model J Derham Tourster. “It's a long time since I've done this,” he says as he hauls himself behind the wheel to be photographed. “You've heard the expression, it's a doozy? Well, this is where it comes from. Isn't she beautiful?”

The Doozy, a yellow version of which represented the elegant excess of its era in the recent film adaptation of the Great Gatsby, is one of only seven of its type to exist, and Haynes values it now at almost £6m. It sits among other classic American cars, including a Mustang that the family used in Los Angeles while setting up business in the US in the 1970s (the US still accounts for 75 per cent of manual sales). Its engine no longer roars, but the car, like many here, still hums with memories.

John Haynes sits on the wheel of the 1996 Ferrari model driven by Michael Schumacher. His son Marc (left) also raced cars in the Porsche Club (Russell Sach) John Haynes sits on the wheel of the 1996 Ferrari model driven by Michael Schumacher. His son Marc (left) also raced cars in the Porsche Club (Russell Sach)
Marc, who remembers a trip in the Mustang to Disneyland, is at his most nostalgic when he positions his wheelchair alongside his old Porsche 911 and a Ferrari 360. As Britain's first paraplegic car racer (he has never had full use of his legs) he used to compete in them using hand controls alongside able-bodied drivers.

The most evocative car for Haynes senior is an old Austin 7 near the entrance. He spent his early childhood in Ceylon, now Sri Lanka, where his family had a tea plantation. As a baby, he would “drive” with his plate while sitting in a highchair. Later, at a Kent boarding school in the 1950s, Haynes followed a trend for converting Austin 7s into stripped-down racers. Still in his teens, he used artistic and entrepreneurial talents to produce 250 booklets about the process to sell via a classified ad in a motoring magazine. “Damn me if they didn't sell out in about 10 days,” he says. “I knew I was on to something.”

The manuals business has survived several bumps in the road, diversifying recently to include guides to space stations and even babies. None of the family accepts that the need for them is dying, even when sales are challenging. “Electronically, things can be a bit difficult now but you've still got clutches to change and disc pads to renew,” Haynes senior says. His youngest son, Chris, 41, says that only the notion of tinkering has changed. “Back in the day, a man knew what a four-stroke engine was, now it's RAM and gigabytes and that kind of stuff,” he explains. “Things evolve.”

They do, too, in the museum, where Haynes' sons are encouraging him to buy fewer cars. They range now from a replica 1885 Benz Motorwagen – the first car of all – to a contemporary fleet of classics in the making. “It doesn't feel like going to a museum when I come here,” he says before driving away in his Lexus sports car. “I walk in and it feels like an extension of my home.”

Life and Style
Customers can get their caffeine fix on the move
food + drink
Life and Style
techCould new invention save millions in healthcare bills?
Sport
David Moyes gets soaked
sport Moyes becomes latest manager to take part in the ALS challenge
Voices
Mosul dam was retaken with the help of the US
voicesRobert Fisk: Barack Obama is following the jihadists’ script
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Flat out: Michael Flatley will return to the stage in his show Lord Of The Dance
danceMichael Flatley hits West End for last time alongside Team GB World champion Alice Upcott
News
Members and supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community walk with a rainbow flag during a rally in July
i100
Life and Style
Black Ivory Coffee is made using beans plucked from elephants' waste after ingested by the animals
food + drinkFirm says it has created the "rarest" coffee in the world
Arts and Entertainment
Loaded weapon: drugs have surprise side effects for Scarlett Johansson in Luc Besson’s ‘Lucy’
filmReview: Lucy, Luc Besson's complex thriller
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie T plays live in 2007 before going on hiatus from 2010
arts + entsSinger-songwriter will perform on the Festival Republic Stage
Life and Style
food + drinkThese simple recipes will have you refreshed within minutes
News
Jermain Defoe got loads of custard
i100
News
peoplePamela Anderson rejects ice bucket challenge because of ALS experiments on animals
Arts and Entertainment
tvExecutive says content is not 'without any purpose'
News
A cleaner prepares the red carpet for the opening night during the 59th International Cannes Film Festival May 17, 2006 in Cannes, France.
newsPowerful vacuum cleaners to be banned under EU regulations
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Data Insight Manager - Marketing

    £32000 - £35000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based o...

    Data Centre Engineer - Linux, Redhat, Solaris, SAN, Puppet

    £55000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A financial software vendor at the forefro...

    .NET Developer

    £600 per day: Harrington Starr: .NET Developer C#, WPF,BLL, MSMQ, SQL, GIT, SQ...

    Data Centre Engineer - Linux / Redhat / Solaris / Puppet / SAN

    £65000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A financial software vendor at the forefro...

    Day In a Page

    Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

    Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

    The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
    Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

    Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

    A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
    Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

    Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

    Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
    Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

    Nick Clegg the movie

    Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
    Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

    Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

    Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
    Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

    Waxing lyrical

    Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
    Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

    Revealed (to the minute)

    The precise time when impressionism was born
    From slow-roasted to sugar-cured: how to make the most of the British tomato season

    Make the most of British tomatoes

    The British crop is at its tastiest and most abundant. Sudi Pigott shares her favourite recipes
    10 best men's skincare products

    Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

    Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
    Malky Mackay allegations: Malky Mackay, Iain Moody and another grim day for English football

    Mackay, Moody and another grim day for English football

    The latest shocking claims do nothing to dispel the image that some in the game on these shores exist in a time warp, laments Sam Wallace
    La Liga analysis: Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

    Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

    Pete Jenson starts his preview of the Spanish season, which begins on Saturday, by explaining how Fifa’s transfer ban will affect the Catalans
    Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

    We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

    Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
    Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

    Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

    Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
    Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

    The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

    Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
    Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

    Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

    Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape