Motoring PR – from typewriter to Driv-N car PC

I had to laugh when I saw the Geek In Disguise link to the car PC because yesterday, I saw a picture of the late 1960s Jensen Interceptor Director model – which featured an typewriter perched on a wooden board so that the executive could drive whilst his glamorous secretary “took a letter” from the passenger seat.

The idea for this car, launched at Harrods, came from the Good Relations PR team representing Jensen, including Gethin Bradley ( Honorary President) who wrote the foreword to a fabulous book  by .

This gives a glimpse into public relations in that era – the 3-day photoshoot around the Cotswolds, lots of young female “assistants” in short skirts, relaxing outside local hostelries, village fuel pumps, men in suits (chief engineer Kevin Beattie sporting a cravat) with celebrities and racing drivers of the time.

Only 40 years ago, but the black and white images evoke a bygone era of chums and less pressing deadlines.  I found an online report stating:

The Interceptor was also the subject of some publicity-minded activity engineered by the factory and their PR consultants, Good Relations. There was the Jon Bannenberg “Director” model (launched on the floor of Harrods, though there were no takers); the “Topic” car, commissioned by Topic magazine’s John Ball (who almost killed himself in it); and the “1000th Interceptor built”, actually the 971st, handed over to Jensen’s London dealer Pat Follett by Carl Duerr in a specially arranged media event.

The Jensen convertible later featured a Radio-Stereo cassette player-recorder with:

a microphone mounted under the steering column to allow the busy executive to dictate his thoughts while on the move. If this wasn’t exactly the Director model reborn, it was a neat and useful option, when it worked. The units were apparently prone to gremlin attack and often wound up as more ornamental than utile.

Clearly the forerunner to today’s more sophisticated in-car PC/communications kit.  A more creative, individualistic time?  Giles Chapman wrote in 2004:

The Interceptor quickly became the darling of the stockbroker belt, the preserve of middle-aged smoothies and pools winners. Jensen proved adept at product placement, loaning Interceptors to creaky showbiz and sporting stars who were likely to stoke interest on the golf courses of Wentworth and Palm Springs.

There was a real entrepreneurial feel to the creators of such cars and their public relations counsel in those days – as Richard Chang explained in the last week.  He cites Damian Harty:

The quintessential English sports car experience is having gracefully bumbled through a village, we come to the sign that says the village has ended, and we want to accelerate up to speed and start enjoying the flow of the roads. And that’s rolling on in fourth gear and the exhaust note comes up a bit. That’s what it’s all about – having an English sports car.

I could tell from photographs that was the experience of those involved in launching the Jensen cars too.  They don’t do PR like that anymore!

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Heather Yaxley

Heather Yaxley is passionate about PR - teaching the CIPR qualifications, lecturing part-time at Bournemouth University and running the Motor Industry Public Affairs Association (MIPAA). I'm undertaking a PhD looking at Career Strategies in PR. I love sharing ideas and knowledge - connecting news and views by blogging on public relations and educational developments, especially relating to accelerated and active learning. I'm also a published author, qualified trainer and experienced consultant.

3 thoughts on “Motoring PR – from typewriter to Driv-N car PC”

  1. And, of course, famous for being the vehicle of choice of Mad Max, who drove “the last of the V8 Interceptors.” (unless that was a description of what he did with it rather than what he drove…)

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