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August 22, 2019
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A Life Awheel - The ‘auto’ biography of W de Forte

A Life Awheel - The ‘auto’ biography of W de Forte

By Richard Skelton
About the Author

23.2x15.5cm • 288 pages • 5 pictures

ISBN: 978-1-845848-44-6

£ 14.99 Postage + P&P (eBook prices vary, and delivery is free)

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• The autobiography of the extraordinary motoring journalist
• A wonderful whimsical narrative, carrying us briskly through a century of motoring and motorcycling history
• The forthright opinions and considered reflections of a key journalistic figure and veritable motoring sage
• An engrossing, insightful book about the inestimable joy of motoring
• A discursive narrative woven around hundreds of humorous anecdotes which together carry the reader joyously back through time
• Historic motor cars and motorcycles, both iconic and everyday, are central to fascinating stories and period diary extracts
• Written with brio, and more than a dash of period journalistic argot. Jam-packed with fascinating historical information
• A brisk read; nostalgic, humorous, positive, and light – but with hidden depths to be appreciated by the knowledgeable automotive enthusiast and connoisseur
• A fun book about classic cars and motoring from a truly unique point of view
• A century of British life – in village, town, across England, and the world beyond – brought back to life through wonderful characters and places, and seen through the particular prism of a unique motoring life


A veteran motoring journalist’s extraordinary life, told through delightfully eccentric stories and charming diary extract. This unique book is packed with fascinating stories about classic cars and motorcycles, set in a bygone world, and properly fixed in time.


Born in Shropshire soon after the end of the First World War, venerable motoring writer W de Forte has driven everything from his grandfather's first Daimler, to modern-day supercars … ridden everything from vertiginous Victorian penny farthings, to high velocity twenty-first century superbikes … travelled everywhere from the permafrost of the Arctic Circle to the baking sands of the Baja Peninsula … and met everyone from Tazio Nuvolari to Valentino Rossi.
W de Forte enjoyed an eventful career as a top-level journalist, spanning 75 years, during which time he tested many thousands of cars and reported on countless automotive events around the world. This made him uniquely qualified to comment on all aspects of classic and vintage motoring and motorcycling.
Relatively undimmed by age and ague, even in his mid-90s, de Forte had no plans to retire, but, in early 2011, a high-speed prang while testing a wayward Rudge Ulster at a racing circuit in Belgium brought him up with a jolt, both literally and metaphorically. After recuperating in hospital, he settled down to write his long-awaited and much requested autobiography.
This unique and insightful book is the result. Packed with fascinating stories about classic cars and motorcycles, A Life Awheel – the ‘Auto’ Biography of W de Forte is an account of an extraordinary motoring life, and the story of motoring in the 20th century.

Independent Reviews

… both original and enjoyable ... the stories he tell are historically accurate, giving readers a completely different view of motoring history.
Classic Driver

…the author has seamlessly blended together fact and fiction and this book is a jolly good nostalgic read, full of amazing historical facts of interest to all with a mechanical bent and social history students of any age.
Antique and Collectors Trader

The whole tome is a love letter to automobiles, and finishing the book makes you feel happy and ready to get behind the wheel.
The News Wheel

It’s beautifully written and very funny, making it a great, inexpensive read for motoring enthusiasts of any age.
Auto Express

…quite impossible to put aside ... the perfect book to take on holiday ... treat yourself
Motor Cycling Club

…this is a novel way of providing information on a very eclectic collection of vehicles which will appeal to those who normally find non-fiction a little dry, while at the same time those who are historians may find this volume equally entertaining.
Norm Mort

…sure, it’s a work of fiction but an amusing one all the same.

Autobiography of Skelton’s fictional aristocratic journalist Wilberforce de Forte. Unique, rambling and eccentric.
Classic Cars

Additional Information

Wilberforce de Forte was born shortly after the end of the First World War, in the village of Bales, Shropshire, where he still lives. He is the son of Gordon Bennett Cup car racer Basil de Forte, and the grandson of Sir Cecil de Forte, a gentleman farmer who owned the first car in the county.

As a young man, de Forte established himself as a successful independent motoring writer, working for a number of specialist automotive periodicals. During the Second World War, de Forte served with distinction throughout Europe in the Army Transport Corps, and he continued to write whenever his duties allowed.

Subsequently, de Forte travelled the world as a motoring journalist, and his outpourings continued unabated until a high speed prang while testing a wayward Rudge Ulster, in 2011, brought him up with a jolt.

Once back home in Bales, he removed himself to his study on a semi-permanent basis, wherein he started work on an autobiographical memoir, a work much requested over very many years, and now eagerly anticipated by friends and motoring historians alike.

This is a vividly nostalgic book about classic and vintage cars and motorcycles, and an important work of social history.

Reading W de Forte is the closest thing to a time machine for petrol-heads of all stripes.


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