John Weinthal, head of press and PR at the SMMT – Society of Motor Manufacturers & Traders – 1968-1984; Motoring Editor at Large the Pattaya Mail and the Chiang Mai Mail – 2004-2015.
Scion of three generations of lawyers, John Weinthal was born in Warialda, a small country town in New South Wales, Australia.
However cars – not the law – were his passion, and by the age of nine he was already driving the family conveyance, which did not go entirely unscathed.
John Weinthal 1940 – 2014
After boarding school in Sydney, he was packed off to read law at Armidale University. Realising law would be hard work he switched to journalism, joining The Courier Mail in Brisbane as a cadet. There, he learnt important journalistic skills such as boozing and smoking, and by the age of 23 was appointed motoring editor.
He took a six-month holiday in the UK, intending to return to Australia to marry and ‘settle down’, but after 10 months his fiancée Raye paid her own way to England.
A trip to the 1967 Geneva motor show with Dr. Iain Corness introduced him to Alpine snow and the Reliant Motor Company, and he returned to London to handle its PR. Fifteen months later, he joined the Society of Motor Manufacturers & Traders for two months to help with PR for the London Motor Show.
Eight months later he was head of press and PR at the SMMT. He stayed 16 years as confidante and speech writer to captains of the UK car industry, and attended most international motor shows in Europe, the USA and Japan.
After a slightly longer than intended interval, he and his wife Raye returned to Australia at the end of 1984, and he handled the PR for Toyota in Queensland for five years before reverting to writing and broadcasting.
His tally includes motoring writer of the year and best road test awards in Queensland, and for 10 years he was contributing editor on the world motor industry for Encyclopaedia Britannica Year Book. He lived in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia from 2004, and contributed to, among others, the Pattaya Mail and Chiang Mai Mail in Thailand.
John’s last words, written some years in advance, were:
“Hello. I died today.
“A good, mainly fun life: travel and some adventures. I loved life in the UK for 18 years and in Malaysia since 2004.
“My timing was almost always right from birth, through missing wars, entering journalism and writing, and living a life of cars and the auto industry.
“My declining years from age 71 have not been as much fun.
“My greatest privilege was knowing so many wonderful, achieving friends of all kinds. I loved all of you.”
John Raymond Weinthal: born Warialda March 3, 1940, died Kuala Lumpur January 13, 2015. He is survived by his wife Raye, son David, daughter Katharine and grandson Elijah, and good friend Alang Badeli who cared for him untiringly in his final years.