Home / General / The Story Of How James May Got Fired Explains A Lot About James May

The Story Of How James May Got Fired Explains A Lot About James May

We all know James May from old Top Gear that ran from 2002 to 2015. He’s known as Captain Slow, generally screams out “Oh, Cock!” in certain periods of distress, and is most likely the one member of Top Gear to get rear ended by his mates.

But did you know James May before he was Captain Slow?james-may-childJames May in the early 80’s started out his journalist career working for the British magazine The Engineer. It’s a publication that collected technical articles and discussed inventions and patents. It proved to be a great resource for engineers for many years, though has since moved on to paperless pastures.

After his stint with The Engineer he moved on to Autocar where he worked as a sub-editor. It was here where his brilliance and subtle comedic genius we’ve become so accustomed to began to shine through. He was eventually fired from this job when his subtle prank was discovered by keen-eyed readers. The prank? An Acrostic, or a hidden message that’s spelled out by the first letter of every line. The victim? Autocar’s Road Test Year Book.

autocar-road-test-yearbookAt the end of the year, Autocar produces the “Road Test Year Book.” It’s a giant collection of car reviews throughout the year, which has been formatted into columns, and each article began with a large red letter. In a radio interview he admitted that the job of putting the spread together:

“was extremely boring and took several months.”

In the contentious edition, May put all the reviews together and tweaked them in a fashion that spelled out a large hidden message. When you put all of the columns next to each other and add in some punctuation it spelled out:



Clearly, the Autocar editors missed this joke and published the magazine, only to discover the prank when certain readers noticed it and phoned it in, thinking there was a prize to be won. May was later fired in 1992.

Everyone need not worry though, he managed to bounce back. Soon you’ll be able to catch him horsing around with Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond in The Grand Tour!


About Hansen

The engineer amongst the crew, Hansen once built a mini baja car with his bare hands. Hansen had the opportunity to join Honda’s R&D team in Ohio but chose the life of the east coast and the defense industry instead. A die hard auto enthusiast he religiously follows the auto industry and loves long walks in the auto shows.

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