John Haynes of Haynes Manuals Passes Away at 80

Patrick Everett Tadeo

Every car guy’s go-to book for do-it-yourself (DIY) car repairs is undoubtedly the Haynes Manual, of which there’s practically one for all mass-market cars ever manufactured–from a 1949 Jeep CJ to a 2018 Toyota RAV4. If you’re a proud owner of one and swear by it, then you’ll be saddened to know that John Hayes, founder of the aforementioned brand of books, has passed away at the age of 80 on February 8 “after a short illness.” The Haynes Manual’s Twitter account though only shared its founder’s passing yesterday, February 11.

The first Haynes Manual started in 1965 when a friend from the Royal Air Force (RAF), with which he once served, asked for his help to rebuild an Austin Healey ‘Frogeye’ Sprite. Upon realizing that the official factory manual would be of little help in rebuilding the car, Haynes meticulously captured on photo the step-by-step breakdown and rebuild of the car. As many Haynes Manual owners would know, it is this step-by-step photo sequence–followed years later by an accompanying illustrated exploded diagram that made the series of books popular for DIY mechanics. A year later, the first official Haynes Manual–for the Austin Healey Sprite, no less–was published. In less than three months, the first print run was supposedly sold out. To date, over 200 million Haynes Manuals have been sold around the world.

Haynes Manuals

The first, true ‘Haynes Manual’ though started when he was still a student at the Sutton Valence School in Kent in United Kingdom where he converted an Austin 7 into an Austin 7 Special. Prodded by his entrepreneurial spirit, Haynes sold the car, and after making a reasonable profit, put out an advertisement on how he modified it. Due to the immense interest the advertisement received, with over 150 replies reportedly, Haynes published ‘Building A ‘750’ Special’ which saw its first print run of 250 copies sold out in 10 days.

The success of the Haynes Manuals allowed Haynes to enjoy his passion for cars, becoming a prolific collector soon after. In 1985 he founded the Haynes International Motor Museum in Somerset as an Educational Charitable Trust, bequeathing his collection of 30 cars to the charity to be held for the benefit of the nation. John continued to support the museum charity throughout his life by donating cars and funding its growth. Thanks to his support, the museum now has on display more than 400 vehicles, and is enjoyed by over 125,000 people a year.

Haynes Manuals

In later years, the Haynes Manuals started to touch on science and science-fiction subjects as it showed the inner workings of the Apollo 13 and the International Space Station to the Millennium Falcon and Death Star of the Star Wars film franchise. Today’s Haynes Manuals even includes guides on how to play guitar to repairing an RAF Panavia Tornado.

“A true gentleman, and a kind and considerate man, John will be greatly missed not only by his family, friends and colleagues but 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 online obituary for Haynes on said. “The appreciation people felt for his contribution was most visible on an almost daily basis at the Museum’s Café 750. 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.”