John Haynes, he of the Haynes Repair Manuals, passed away on Friday, Feb. 8, after a short illness. The man's contribution to the world of professional and amateur mechanics, as well as The Dismal Swamp known as the "project vehicle," cannot be overstated. His manuals have sold more than 200 million copies since the first instruction guide for an Austin Healey "Bugeye" Sprite appeared in 1966.
His first tussle with publishing came in his teens. Sent to boarding school in Kent, England, the company obituary says, he "convinced his House Master to allow him to miss rugby and ... [convert] an Austin 7 into a more lightweight sporty Austin 7 'Special.'" His classified ad to sell the car got so much attention that he made a booklet called Building a 750 Special that explained how to build the car. The first 250 copies sold out in 10 days.
While posted in Aden in the RAF in the 1960s, a fellow airman asked Haynes to help rebuild a Bugeye Sprite. It didn't take long for Haynes to realize that the factory manual wasn't written for the hobbyist wrench, so Haynes bought a camera and photographed the teardown and rebuild. Then he wrote his first manual, full of photos and expanded diagrams, and got it published in 1966. This time, the first print run of 3,000 copies sold out in under 90 days.
I recently rejoined the Haynes fraternity myself. At the moment, I spend an unexpectedly huge amount of time getting filthy underneath a 1994 Toyota Land Cruiser I'll be driving from L.A. to Tierra del Fuego. I wanted a project truck, I bought The Manhattan Project. Not having done this kind of work since the 1980s, I'd bought the Toyota factory shop manual to assist. As Haynes had done 55 years ago, I quickly realized the FSM listed about one out of every 10 steps I needed explained. But instead of needing to create my own repair book, a few clicks and "Buy Now" got Haynes' dark blue illustrated repair bible to my doorstep in 48 hours.
The manuals' success lead to branching out beyond traditional vehicles, publishing manuals on the space shuttle, the Large Hadron Collider, the Millennium Falcon, and the U.S.S. Enterprise among others. Then the company branched out beyond man-made objects, publishing manuals on bees, babies, body transformations, women, and more.
Thirteen years after that first book in 1966, the Haynes Publishing Group went public on the London Stock Exchange. In 1985, Haynes founded the International Motor Museum in Somerset, England, that now has more than 400 cars in its collection. On top of the 200 million sales, Haynes was awarded an honorary degree from the Open University, and the Order of the British Empire (OBE) for services to publishing.
Haynes was 80 years old. He is survived his wife, Annette, his brother and sister, two sons, and five grandchildren.