Ljk setright

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Last updated on July 24th, 2017 at 12:52 pm

A wonderful Telegraph obituary for LJK Setright, one of Britain’s finest:

Though fearless about voicing his frequently controversial opinions, at the core Setright was a private man who rarely volunteered much detail about his own life and activities. And although he greatly enjoyed communicating with readers en masse, he offered no one the slightest hope of individual contact. “It cannot be too widely known,” he used to say, “that Setright does not indulge in correspondence.” He was pleased to know that his opinions would be discussed, but was content that the discussion should proceed without him …

Those who knew Setright well enjoyed his eccentricities, such as his life-long love of Bristol cars, a rare and idiosyncratic marque which has its roots in the long-defunct British aircraft industry. He detested speed limits and drove notoriously fast, frightening his passengers, but seldom had accidents. He hated diesel trucks and cars, not least for the “filth” they dropped on the roads, endangering motorcyclists, and he also disliked environmental fads.

Setright wrote mainly about cars; I first read him in the 70s. That said, I only began to understand him in the late 80s. One more extract:

He peppered his writing with classical allusions, or quotations in Latin or Greek. He once wrote in blank verse about a Citroen. And when, quite recently, the editor of one of Britain’s best-known magazines suggested he “tone down” these flights of fancy to suit a more modern audience, his response was to submit a column entirely in Latin …

He was 74.

(Via Spartacus)

Posted by Tim B. on 09/18/2005 at 12:47 PM
    1. Ah, LKJ Setright. A fine columnist for Car Magazine, before it went all cheesy. He was one of the few sincere contrarians.

      Posted by James Waterton on 09/18 at 01:31 PM • permalink


    1. Damn, he was one of those people you always expected to be there, and now he’s gone. It’s a sad that we have lost such an eccentric, independent spirit. Now there is one less petrol head on this earth to resist the green lobby.

      Posted by John East on 09/18 at 02:41 PM • permalink


    1. I remember him from the late ‘70’s / early ‘80’s as the last-page columnist in Car and Driver.  I think his prose was a little impenetrable for us colonials (or at least this one), although I did enjoy his columns from time to time.  I do remember once thinking that it was a little odd to be reading a tribute to James Joyce in a car magazine.

      Posted by Pitts on 09/18 at 03:23 PM • permalink


    1. Sounds like a pompous bore…

      Posted by Honkie Hammer on 09/18 at 06:37 PM • permalink


    1. O/T

      I guess TB is a pre$$stitute.

      Posted by walterplinge on 09/18 at 08:28 PM • permalink


    1. That surname carries a heck of a lot of responsibility. And students, the exercise for today is what’s preferable: A pilot with poor eyesight or an air controller with poor eyesight.
      I’d put the short-sighted bugger in a plane.

      Posted by slatts on 09/18 at 09:35 PM • permalink


    1. Mum once went to a lecture where the lecturer had an interesting story about motoring in France while on holiday.

      It seems the old dude was driving a rented car through a remote area of French countryside when the car broke down. There was no one around, so he walked along the road until he came to a pub. But he couldn’t find anybody who spoke English, and he couldn’t speak a word of French.

      In desperation, he groped around in his mind until he remembered an old Latin phrase, which meant, “The wheels have fallen off my chariot.”

      He pronounced this phrase before the room. Suddenly, the eyes of an old priest sitting at a table lit up. He explained to everyone else the Australians predicament, and soon enough, his car was fixed.

      So there you have it; Latin and motoring do go together. Vale, Mr Setright.

      Posted by TimT on 09/18 at 10:10 PM • permalink


    1. Somewhere around here I have Setright’s history of BMW motorcycles. Got it at the same time I bought a BMW K-100, in 1985. Most reliable transportation I ever owned, rain or shine (we don’t do snow here, at least not often).

      This colonial enjoyed his writing quite a bit, but then I’m a technical writer and may be disqualified for judging anyone else’s books.

      Posted by steveH on 09/19 at 12:02 AM • permalink


    1. He led me to Bristols.

      Much earlier than I would have managed to without him. All decent car lovers eventually come to Bristols and I guess I will be mourning the passing of Tony Crook (The co-owner and “public face” of Bristol Cars) very soon.

      I remember an article he wrote postulating that the Lamborghini V12 was ghost designed by Honda. I doubted it, but it was a fine article all the same.

      Posted by James Hamilton on 09/19 at 12:32 AM • permalink


    1. I love Bristols too, mmmmm blubba blubba blubba…eh you mean you’re not talking cockney rhyming slang? Oh cars right…

      Posted by Harry Flashman on 09/19 at 01:25 AM • permalink


    1. I wasn’t discussing that sort of bristols, no, but I rememeber what the original Harry Flashman had to say.

      “She had the kind of poonts that you wanted to bury you face in and go ‘brrrrrrr’”. (please don’t block me, I’m quoting literature)

      Harry would have like the Bristol 407 – first of the cars with the Chrysler V8.

      Posted by James Hamilton on 09/19 at 01:48 AM • permalink


    1. slatts #6

      Most advanced countries do not allow pilots to wear glasses or contact lenses because of the possibility of them being lost/damaged in the event of violent manoeuvers being required. They may also interfere with emergency oxygen breathing equipment.

      Air traffic controllers are not considered to be subject to the same problems but they do have to carry replacement glasses etc while working.

      Posted by graboy on 09/19 at 05:47 AM • permalink


    1. Bronwyn Bishop’s maiden name was Setright.  It’s not a common name, maybe there’s a connection?

      Posted by IanMc on 09/19 at 07:03 AM • permalink


    1. Setright was a genius. I loved his articles in Bike magazine in the 1970s and ‘80s. An erudite eccentric and not a pompous bore at all. His columns stretched the reader rather than following the rule of ‘write for a reading age of 12’ (something which has dragged mainstream journalism down to writing for a reading age of 9) and were full of hilarious in-jokes for the well read. And if being well read is pompous, then guilty as charged.

      Well done, Setright, well done.

      — Nick

      Posted by The Thin Man Returns on 09/20 at 06:16 AM • permalink


    1. One of the very best writers, typical of the British: while indulging his life’s passion, he wrote brilliantly, slashing his way through all kinds of fads and expectations.

      Most of all, he made eminent sense in a sea of trade-inspired rubbish across several eras of motoring.

      Eloquent and intelligent, Setright’s writings were admired by anyone who came to read him.

      And 74 is too young. Far too young.

      Posted by ilibcc on 09/20 at 06:23 AM • permalink


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