Freelance Shite…

Posted: April 30, 2021 in Obscurities
Tags: , ,

In recent times I’ve been writing for a few ‘real magazines’ in addition to my primotipo fix.

It’s been an interesting learning exercise writing to a 2,500-3,000 word limit. That about maxxes things out in print-land, rather than my 5,000-11,000 word (FFS) rambling epics.

I’ve had no formal training in this journo caper as you would have worked out. But in the last couple of years I’ve been beaten into shape a bit by some great mentors/advocates/supporters in Tony Davis, John Smailes and Geoff Harris.

Editors Bruce Williams, Gordon Cruickshank, Jonathan Rishton and Steve Normoyle have been great in giving me a crack, the hardest bit in any new gig is getting a foot in the door.

Funnily enough, the first commission I bagged was with MotorSport- no harm in shooting for the top-end after-all!

Elfin T100 Clisby 1.5-litre V6

The timelines for the international publications are long though, my 7-page piece on the only All-Australian F1 car – the 1965 Elfin T100 Clisby 1.5-litre V6 appeared in the April 2021 issue, I wrote it last June.

It’s long gone from the United Kingdom shelves and probably still a month away from being in-store in Australia, and maybe elsewhere.

Given newsagents are now an endangered species, and that MS is carried by only a tiny number of that endangered species, you might want to buy one online, or even better, subscribe for a year see here; Subscribe to Motor Sport Magazine • All Access from £5/month

Its a ripper piece.

Car owner James Calder, and Clisby Project Engineer Kevin Drage became friends via the lengthy process. KD is the only one of three (together with designer Harold Clisby and machinist Alec Bailey) who built the engine still with us, “On the right side of the turf” as he amusingly puts it. So it’s chockers with first-hand stuff and a swag of photographs never printed before.

Auto Action is Australia’s Autosport.

The fifty year old fortnightly is last-man-standing in a market which for decades offered choice. Only AA survives and thrives. Subscription link here;

The timelines of AA, a 62-70 page news magazine, are much tighter than those of MotorSport or The Automobile. The production process might be of interest to you?

The absolute sub-edited, and approved by editor Williams, deadline is 9pm, every Monday fortnight in Oakleigh, Melbourne- much over that incurs financial penalties from the printer.

The design files go up the cloud-thingy to the printer in Windsor, 60km north-west of Sydney (they were under several metres of Hawkesbury River water a couple of issues ago). They print the magazine in the early hours of Tuesday morning.

Pallets of magazines are in the hands of the Liverpool, western Sydney, distribution house before lunch on Tuesday. They go onto trucks heading around this rather large country before the end of the day.

A couple of bundles of the mag are at AA HQ after lunch on Wednesday, and in the shops on the east-coast on Thursday morning – the South Island and the West receive it on Mondays.

I’m writing an historic, newsey column called Chronometric every other issue and features in every issue so keep an eye out- the historic content of Auto Action is now usually no less than 10-pages.

The Automobile is one of many successful magazines founded, or made by Australian automotive publishing giant, Douglas Blain.

My feature in the current, May issue, is about a topic I tripped over by accident.

Harold and Alan Cooper raced Ballots 2LS and 5/8LC in the twenties and thirties at Aspendale and Maroubra and all-points in between. Alan’s life of staggering excess was funded by his much older ‘man-friend’, in the polite yibba-yabba of the day.

It’s an eight-page, never before told story chockers with material and photographs from the archives of my partners in crime; Alistair McArthur, Brian Lear, Bob King, Stephen Dalton, Tony Johns and David Rapley- a team effort indeed.

In most of Australia your chances of buying The Automobile on a news-stand are five-eighths of bugger-all, so you might want to jump online;

Alan Cooper, Ballot 4.8-litre straight-eight 5/8LC ‘Indy’ at Maroubra in 1925, not long before it had a high-speed capsize

I can’t believe the paucity of newsagents in this country! While I have had my head up my bum creating content, and not buying too many magazines since 2014, news-agencies have dropped like flies in February. I had not realised how many have closed and how many have halved, or less, their size.

A small sample.

I live in trendo-funko inner-Melbs, Windsor. It’s a great place to live, there are spunk-muffins as far as the eye can see, if you like that sort of thing.

The best Chapel Street can muster is the standard pissant mum and dad pocket-shop size newsagent selling copies of the fascist-daily (Herald-Sun), Womens Weekly, bugger-all-else and a few corn-ball cards.

I’ve got no answers of course, questions are my strong-suit and post-event sagacity is a specialism.

The internet has a lot to answer for. It’s democratised the masses. We can all have our say. Even that primotipo dickhead hops-in-for-his-chop. Everyone expects everything for free.

For gods-sake support a couple of magazines, it doesn’t have to be the ones above, but buy a couple you like, coz if you don’t, very soon they won’t be there. Like newsagents.

  1. David Z says:

    Hi Mark,

    Fantastic, I enjoy reading all these motoring magazines & purchase as many as I can, I cannot wait to read your forthcoming articles,

    Well Done Mark, Keep Up The Fabulous Writing!

    Best Wishes,



  2. Gerry Larue says:

    I very much enjoyed your article on the Elfin-Clisby. Good to learn some more about the Clisby in particular. Sorry it was too slow to develop to be able to run more than a hand full of races (and no F1).

  3. McCarthy, Andrew says:

    Good stuff mark my subscription will be forthcoming

    Sent from my iPhone

  4. prn31 says:

    Hi Mark,

    As always an interesting insight into the world of a freelance motor noter. Something that I can very much relate to.

    As an avid reader or way too many car magazines and a frustrated motoring journalist I’ve always been interested in the art of automotive writing. Often I would get frustrated with poor or careless writing – too many clichés or maddening metaphors. Many articles would be compromised by poor research and/or lack of clarity.

    I had a desire to write the kind of historical feature articles that I would like to read – well researched, entertaining to read and full of first person quotes. Australian Muscle Car magazine often gets a poor wrap but it is full of well written historical features. A good friend was the editor and he gave me an opportunity to write for the magazine if I was good enough. Ten years later I’m still writing for the mag and I’ve been published in the pommy Classic and Sports Car and the sadly defunct (local) BMC Experience.

    I love doing it but it really is a labour of love. Yes, it’s great to get paid but I had would hate to work out my hourly rate, given the amount of time in researching, interviewing, transcribing tapes and then writing the feature article. I’m not about to give up my day job…


    PS: As a final aside, I’ve never bought The Automobile, probably because my go-to mag is Classic and Sports Car. I have every issue since they started back in 1982. That’s a lot of boxes…

    • markbisset says:

      Hi Paul,
      Yep, the whole process is creatively satisfying, coming up with a topic, researching it, writing then finessing, and finally seeing the result on the digital, better still, printed page.
      It does not bare thinking about the hourly rate, albeit the familiar can be knocked together quickly, the more obscure not so much!
      Writing to a word-limit is a discipline I struggle with! but I am forcibly getting there. primo is a different thing of course, I can crap on ad-nauseum!
      I have read few magazines in the last decade, so I don’t have much of an idea of the wheat and chaff either here or over yonder.
      AMC has been and is great. Normoyle is steering the content a smidge away from maxi-taxis exclusively towards some open-wheelers/drivers and sportscars which must be catching some new readers without offending the rusted-on V8-Taxi-Boganista.
      David Segal told me a couple of weeks ago writing features is the hardest thing of all, so we just have to stick at it, and every now and again will write a Zinger!
      I hope.

  5. graham64 says:

    Seeing the front cover of the “The Automobile” brought back some memories – up to the mid-2000s I had simultaneous subscriptions to “The Automobile”, “Classic & Sportscar”, “Collectible Automobile” and “Restored Cars”.

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