Motoring art: Martin Tomlinson

| 31 Mar 2023
Classic & Sports Car – Motoring art: Martin Tomlinson

The treasured autograph book of popular automotive artist Martin Tomlinson has led him to create a series of paintings for a novel new publication.

“My dad gifted it on my eighth birthday in 1958,” he says.

“From the Kentish 100 Trophy at Brands Hatch that August, I was on a mission to get all the famous drivers to sign it.”

Classic & Sports Car – Motoring art: Martin Tomlinson

Martin Tomlinson began his autograph collection in 1958, at the age of just eight

From the first autograph he got, one Jack Brabham, Martin collected a wealth of stars over the following two decades: “Last year I showed my childhood treasure to author Andrew Marriott, and he had the idea of combining the autographs with a series of paintings. He agreed to write the words and I sorted the design.”

Martin set to work, and the resulting 16 paintings, plus pencil sketches, kept him busy all year.

Launched in October at the Royal Automobile Club’s Art of Motoring exhibition, the self-published paperback – entitled Joined up writing this time please – was bought by everyone who picked it up.

Classic & Sports Car – Motoring art: Martin Tomlinson

Phil Hill in his Ferrari 330TRI

Martin’s passion for motorsport enriches every page. The paintings are matched to autographs and memorabilia, and it’s all enhanced by stories of meeting his heroes.

“It was a different age; the drivers were so accessible,” he recalls. “In the early days I was star-struck and would respond with a “cor, thank you”, but in later years I’d have a chat.

“Bruce McLaren was a lovely man who always talked to me. Chris Amon was another great bloke, who opened up about the mistakes in his career.”

Classic & Sports Car – Motoring art: Martin Tomlinson
Classic & Sports Car – Motoring art: Martin Tomlinson

All of the sketches are original pieces, produced to accompany the names in Martin’s cherished autograph book

Over the decades Martin has seen some amazing races, but the 1970 BOAC 1000 at Brands Hatch stands out: “I went with my old man and grandad.

“It rained all day and we got soaked, but standing at Clearways and watching Pedro Rodríguez powersliding the 917 on every lap was amazing.”

Martin was drawing racing cars from an early age, but his teachers didn’t approve of the doodles over his schoolbooks.

Classic & Sports Car – Motoring art: Martin Tomlinson

Wolfgang von Trips in his Ferrari 156 ‘sharknose’

As a youngster he entered a painting competition with an ERA picture inspired by a visit to Crystal Palace: “I won the second prize of five shillings, which was five weeks’ pocket money then. It was the first time I got paid for my art.”

That creative talent eventually took him to art school but, after getting frustrated by the tutors, he left for an insurance job to help fund his racing ambitions: “I ran an Alexis Mk15 in Formula Ford in 1973-’74, but after getting married my life got serious.”

Bored by his insurance job, Martin then set up a successful design studio but continued to paint as hobby: “At meetings, my racing pal Peter Fisk would introduce me to drivers and I picked up a few commissions. I also exhibited at the early Coys International Historic Festivals.”

Classic & Sports Car – Motoring art: Martin Tomlinson

John Surtees’ Ferrari 312 in the ’66 Belgian GP

After turning 63, Martin retired from his design business to focus on painting.

“I started going to modern GT meetings with my portfolio,” he explains, “and made a point of catching the winners for commissions, but all that signwriting is a fiddly business. Painting my heroes for the book was such a welcome contrast.”

Martin’s favoured medium is gouache, which he has used his whole life: “It’s water-based and demands you work quickly. That keeps the painting fresh.”

‘Joined up writing this time please’ costs £25, via

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