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Former Volvo Trucks press man John Dennis dies

  • 29 January 2013
  • By Steve Gray

John Dennis [pictured front centre], one of the doyens of commercial vehicle journalism, sadly died of heart failure on 24 January age 86.

John’s first connection with ‘road-transport’ journalism was as a cyclist – indeed, a racing cyclist. In international competition, as ‘rear gunner’, on tandems he broke the human pace flying start record in 1951 and it still stands today. During his cycling-racing career he wrote competition reports for the Daily Mail and Daily Mirror, and through these contacts he was appointed racing editor of Cycling, a Temple Press publication, subsequently becoming news editor of Commercial Motor. In 1962 Jim Slater, AEC’s finance director, brought him in as publicity manager and editor of the ACV Gazette.

When AEC was taken over by Leyland Motor Corporation in 1968, MD Donald Stokes moved him to Leyland’s Lancashire headquarters to direct the company’s public relations.

A devotee of truth and honesty in press activities, he often clashed with Stokes, and his frustrations led him to join haulier Jim McKelvie when the latter acquired the exclusive franchise for Volvo Trucks in the United Kingdom.

Back in London, John went from strength to strength, gaining a reputation for many innovative PR schemes. One of his most memorable events involved hiring a London Underground train, complete with bar, to take parties of journalists and operators to the Talk of the Town at the Hippodrome theatre. On another occasion at the Kelvin Hall Show, Ailsa/Volvo Truck gave all CV journalists a small pewter mug. It was only when they got together after to compare notes that they realised that every mug had the words ‘Journalist of the Year’ engraved on it!

Following his retirement in 1991, he revived annual get-togethers of former CM journalists at his home near Wokingham, with his wife Shelagh.

And his love of cycle racing persisted until 2007 through his organisation of race meetings in Reading.


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