Haynes Manual creator John Haynes dies at 80

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Entrepreneur John Haynes, who founded the Haynes Publishing Group and created the iconic Haynes Manual guidebooks for repairing vehicles of every description, died February 8 due to illness. He was 80.

A lifelong auto aficionado, Haynes used his love of cars and publishing to create a vast library of repair manuals that countless mechanics have relied upon to keep their cars running. The manuals are so ubiquitous that their frequent instruction “installation is reverse of removal” is a common joke. You’d be hard pressed to find a mechanic who hasn’t had at least one dog-eared, grease-stained Haynes manual in the garage.

“John was a kind, generous, loving, and devoted husband, brother, father, and grandfather who will be missed enormously… also by the many people that use his manuals and benefit from his reassuring guiding hand as they repair and maintain their cars and motorbikes,” the company wrote on its website.

Haynes, born March 25, 1938 in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), developed a passion for cars early on. As a child he loved to join his father, who managed a tea plantation, for rides in the family’s Morris 8 saloon. The family moved to the UK when John was 12, and while attending boarding school with his brother, David, John convinced his house master to allow him to skip rugby so he could spend his time converting an Austin 7 into a lighter, sportier Austin 7 Special. Haynes eventually sold the car at a sizeable profit and used the money to produce a booklet showing other enthusiasts how to make the same Austin conversion. He printed 250 copies of Building A ‘750’ Special and sold them all within 10 days.

John Harold Haynes black and white photo
John Harold Haynes Haynes

After graduating from boarding school, Haynes joined the Royal Air Force and worked in logistics, an experience that taught him valuable business management skills and enabled him to pursue his passions for motor racing and publishing. He developed and raced several cars, including the Elva Courier displayed in the Haynes International Motor Museum in Sparkford, Somerset.

In 1965, Haynes helped an air force colleague rebuild an Austin Healey Frogeye Sprite and quickly realized that the factory manual was not at all intended to help the average car owner. So he bought a camera and documented the process of dismantling and rebuilding the engine, creating the first Haynes manual to provide step-by-step descriptions, photo sequences and diagrams to simplify the process. Haynes published his first manual in 1966; the initial run of 3000 sold out in less than three months. The company has since sold more than 200 million manuals covering everything from that little Sprite to the Red Bull RB 7 and even the Millenium Falcon.

Haynes’ publishing success financed a vast collection of cars, which allowed him to open the Haynes International Motor Museum in 1985. “The appreciation people felt for (John’s) contribution was most visible on an almost daily basis at the Museum’s Café 750,” the Haynes’ website says. “While enjoying lunch John was regularly approached by visitors, who would invariably be greeted with his infectious warmth and engaging, enthusiastic boyish smile. He was always happy to oblige fellow enthusiasts with photographs, engage in conversation, and share his passion for cars.”

Haynes is survived by his wife, Annette; his brother, David, and sister, Mary; his two sons, J. and Chris, and their wives; and five grandchildren.

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