Many of you will have met Charles Harbord or heard of him through his magazine – Cars for the Connoisseur. Charles was a great friend and staunch supporter of our touring activities. We were very sad to learn of his passing last month. Here is a tribute written by Nicholas Brimblecombe:
Charles Harbord – an appreciation of his professionalism
At first I wasn’t quite sure what to make of Cars for the Connoisseur and its natty proprietor/editor with his Harrovian drawl. It seemed such a quixotic enterprise to launch into a world already full of car magazines for all tastes and amidst many Clubs with their own newsletters. But then I didn’t yet have the measure of Charles and his determined persuasiveness to carve out exactly the niche he had foreseen and to reach an audience he knew well personally.
It is the prerogative of a certain sort of Englishman to appear to cruise effortlessly from one social event to the next and Charles was the perfect embodiment of this elegant mobility. However I know enough of these matters to be well aware that regularly to fill the pages of a well-crafted publication that appears promptly each month is not something achieved without considerable effort and self-discipline, but what made him exceptional was his real skill to do so without seeming to break sweat, as it were.
Needless to say, like many others, I soon found myself writing something for the publication and promising to do more, which sadly in my life didn’t really allow me to fulfil. Although Charles was a clever persuader and one often found oneself (willingly) providing hospitality, he was a generous and completely reliable journalist (which is not inevitably the case amongst this profession) who always remembered this and gave value and always supplied what he promised by way of coverage if ever requested to do so.
Cars for the Connoisseur remains unique in that its content and its appearance were completely resistant to the invasion of modern gimmicks and modishness, thank goodness. The Editor, as we came to know him, was above such shallow nonsense, even if he was aware of it at all. However he was right on the button in terms of his audience whom, one imagines, were all people who made up their own minds and also had generally wide experience of the matters contained within his pages each month.
Charles was well travelled and curious about other places and people. During the past decade we have passed many very enjoyable moments around the table together and shared many good bottles in attractive locations not far from the smell of Castrol R and the sound of thoroughbred sports and racing cars going about their business. He kept his eyes and ears open and had enviable access to the many sources he needed to put his articles together.
For whatever reasons, which one may never understand, even such a stimulating life and such a lovely family cannot have been totally proof, tragically, against allowing strains and stresses to intrude. At my last meeting with Charles in Pau last month when after, I am happy to say, a good lunch and with him puffing contentedly on a familiar cigar I told him how good the magazine had become these days. It gives me some consolation to recall his real happiness and enthusiasm at hearing this, as we discussed it. Of course I was not to know (and for what it is worth I felt that neither would he have been aware) this would be the last time we were to meet or speak together.
Charles, keep your foot down, we will do our best to carry on, but our world will never be quite the same without you there too. Thanks for all you have given us.