Ronald 'Steady' Barker 1920-2015: an obituary by Steve Cropley

Published: 28 January 2015

► Obituary for a CAR magazine legend
► Steady Barker was a star columnist
► Former editor Steve Cropley pays tribute

Ronald 'Steady' Barker was a columnist and writer at CAR magazine through the 1970s and 1980s. He died at the weekend, aged 94. Here former CAR editor Steve Cropley, a friend and neighbour of Barker's and now editor-in-chief of Autocar, remembers his legacy.

Meeting Steady Barker always made you feel good. He was outgoing, he was funny, he was enormously creative and he was forever drawing on a mountain of motoring experiences that seemed greater than one bloke could possibly have amassed in just one lifetime. 

I first met him in 1980 when dispatched from the CAR offices to collect an Audi Quattro coupe he'd been driving. Before letting me leave he insisted I sat in the passenger's seat while he demonstrated the amazing traction of cars with on-road four-wheel drive.

His technique was to park the car with its inside two wheels on a grass verge and the outside pair on bitumen, rev the five-cylinder engine to howling point and dump the clutch. The force of my bonce hitting the headrest proved the point.

Ronald 'Steady Barker' remembered

Steady loved life, and achieved far more than most, but what I loved about him was that his instincts were entirely egalitarian. I remember him telling one of my sons, required by a primary school project to discover 'whether young people showed enough respect for their elders,' explaining that respect was something you had to earn at any age. 'There's nothing special about old people,' he told Thomas, aged eight. 'They're just old...'

At times like this people talk with sadness and regret, as if the span of the departed had been cut ruthlessly short. But Steady Barker achieved far more than most. He even managed to live a little longer than his friend the Mini suspension pioneer Alex Moulton, with whom he had a like-dislike relationship for half a century.

His main ambition in later life was to outlast Moulton, and he managed it by just over two years. I'm sure the pair are getting back to bickering contentedly right now, somewhere in the great hereafter.

Leave your memories of Steady Barker and his output at CAR magazine in the comments below.

By Steve Cropley

Australian, opinion-former, editor of CAR magazine 1981-86

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