WORLD-OBITS-L ArchivesArchiver > WORLD-OBITS > 2008-06 > 1212943758
From: "Peter McCrae" <>
Subject: [W-OBITS] LANGLEY: John William Frederick Langley 2008
Date: Sun, 8 Jun 2008 17:49:18 +0100
Last Updated: 8:50PM BST 05/06/2008
Telegraph motoring correspondent who put the first E-type Jaguar through its
John Langley, who has died aged 76, began his career as a Daily Telegraph
motoring reporter in 1961 by driving the first E-type Jaguar at 149 mph on
He had not long joined the paper when he was asked to take the wheel of the
world's most exciting car several weeks before its launch in Geneva.
Thirty-five years later he was still awed by the E-type's docility and
effortless speed, as well by as its reasonable price compared with foreign
"We were cruising very easily along the M1," Langley recalled, "when a clear
stretch of road gave me the chance to see what it could do. Within a few
seconds, the needle was nudging an indicated 149mph before a distant glimpse
of traffic made it advisable to lift off.
"Although I had driven a few fast cars before, I still remember being
startled at how quickly one catches up with slower traffic from such high
"By today's standards, the M1 that morning was half-empty, and it was of
course some time before the imposition of the blanket 70-mph speed limit. It
was said later that the test cars had been specially tweaked to go a bit
faster than the standard models, but I still regretted that I did not quite
On the way back to London the car's ability to leap past groups of cars and
lorries with a deep-throated growl in second or third gear, seemed, if
anything, even more impressive.
But, ever the professional, Langley pointed out that it had one real flaw -
the ponderously slow, if tough and reliable, four-speed gear-change, though
the power of the six-cylinder XK engine meant that this was not much of a
If Langley never experienced quite the same thrill again, he soldiered on to
serve as the paper's motoring correspondent for 33 years, filing daily news
stories, producing a weekly column and writing exactly what he felt about
the qualities of a new model or a particular motoring issue.
Sometimes accused by exasperated and harassed industry executives of not
beating the drum for Britain.
But he saw it as no part of his duties to write fulsomely of inadequate
products; rather, his job was to try to goad a sluggish industry into making
cars that could compete on design, style, performance and quality in world
John William Frederick Langley was born on February 17, 1932, in Southend,
Essex, the son of an estate agent, and educated at Hornchurch Grammar
School. He did not go to university because of ill health, and instead cut
his journalistic teeth on the Romford Times.
After becoming industrial correspondent for the Western Morning News, when
he drove a 1932 Morris Minor with a passenger seat that was not attached to
the floor, he moved to the News Chronicle in Manchester and Fleet Street
until it folded in 1961. In the same year he joined the Telegraph and
married his wife Margaret, with whom he was to have a son and a daughter.
Although motoring correspondents then enjoyed a central place in an industry
still regarded as glamorous, Langley was a dedicated countryman. As well as
being a keen fisherman, he bred ducks on his two acres near Edenbridge,
Kent, and was a leading light in the British Waterfowl Association. In 1996,
for editing Waterfowl, he received the rare Bonnet Memorial Award, named
after the breeder of the Welsh Harlequin duck.
The trophy also reflected Langley's work for the association's Save the
Village Pond campaign, sponsored by Ford in the Seventies, which resulted in
the clearing or recreating of 2,000 ponds. "Ponds were the filling stations
of the horse and carriage days," he said. "Today they are often the focal
point of many communities."
John Langley, who died on on April 28, enjoyed Fleet Street hostelries and
country pubs, particularly those which sold Hook Norton beer.
|[W-OBITS] LANGLEY: John William Frederick Langley 2008 by "Peter McCrae" <>|