Bryn Musslewhite is one of the early contributors at Speedhunters. He was also the first Speedhunter I’ve met. I had the opportunity to talk with him. We discussed his character, love for cars, music and tea.
– Where are you from?
– I was born in London, but grew up in the countryside of South West England, I’m now based in motorsport country, or 40mins south west of Silverstone!
– Tell me a cool story from/about Silverstone.
– My father used to race vintage MGs, from the 1930s. As a kid I can remember he and I going to race circuits all over the UK, and Silverstone was the one that stuck in my head, one of his old friends had a private box for his company that we used to play in as all the vintage car club races we were at didn’t have many people attending, so it was always free. It felt totally normal to just be left to run around the pits doing our own thing, there was a whole bunch of kids who I haven’t seen since that would be at all the same races. Having commentated there now many times makes it extra special.
– What are you working on at the moment?
– Typically I work on anywhere between five and ten different projects or tasks at a time. Last weekend I hosted the London Motor Film Festival, I have five or six stories worth of images loaded in to the back end of Speedhunters.com that need writing up, there are three commercial film projects for motor manufacturers that are in development as well. And this is actually the quietist I’ve been since January 2015, having been in the media industry since 1998 I have a great contact network and never know what the next phone call or email will offer, but I generally always say yes!
Things have a habit of stacking up so they’re just about possible, from delivering a major film project to then getting on a plane to produce a photoshoot that night, I can always just about get away with it. I also have a three project cars and a house build underway.
– One day I saw that somebody on Facebook suggested you to apply as a new Top Gear host. Have you considered it? What do you think in general, will the BBC be able to make it successful with Chris Evans?
– Yes of course I considered it, who wouldn’t? But I think what most people didn’t consider is they were applying for a completely new format of program. In their head they would visualize being stood where Clarkson, May or Hammond were, but the reality is a whole different way of doing things. The meteoric popularity of Top Gear with the three characters from the last 10yrs+ is directly linked to that team. I’ve heard a few rumours about what Chris Evans and the BBC have planned and he has a great history of success, so I genuinely hope it works out. Let’s face it, we need more car TV, right?
– How would you describe yourself?
– Happy. My father was a very successful man at what he did, but he never pressurised me to do anything and whenever I questioned his expectations he always replied, ‘Just be happy’. He died in the late 1990s, which had a profound effect and prompted me to take a passable art education and make something of myself. Since then I haven’t been paid a monthly wage and never gone hungry. So I’m adaptable too, in this era of specialisation it can sometimes be a handicap when you have a wide spread skill set, as people can’t relate to the variety of what I do. But I do it to keep everything interesting and so I can continue to learn new things.
– What did you study actually?
– When I was a kid I wanted to be a car designer, and I wrote to Ford when I was about 11. I got the most wonderful typed letter in reply, listing all the ways I could make it happen. The problem was I had a wondering eye and I could never commit to just one thing, so I did a general design course, followed up a graphic design course focusing on packaging and typography. I passed and it all went fine, but I very quickly realised that to work my way up through the industry would take years, and I wanted fun there and then.
– What inspires you?
– Having fun. As corny as it sounds, no matter how much money I earn, it will never be enough… Because islands in the Caribbean and a 1000 strong line up of custom built vehicles won’t come cheap. So I’ve learnt to enjoy the process of what I’m doing without an end goal. So the creativity of doing something new from building a barn to learning a new piece of software is what inspires me, discovering new music while completing a new process. That will see a smile on my face.
– Let me shake your hand on this, I’m supporting you completely on the logic that the process is more important than the goal. Let’s come back to your project cars: I know that you like old Volvos. I know that you have one. What are the other two? (for some reason Ford Cortina pops in my mind, any chance you have one of those?). When you say three, does it mean that there’s a fourth one in a garage being built? ;)
– I have my Volvo wagon project, that I’ve owned for almost exactly 14yrs. But long before I bought that I built a short wheel base beach buggy, I locked myself in a garage after my father died and finished off what had been a couple of years of work up until that point. It’s maiden voyage was a month after the funeral to a massive car festival… The clutch shattered and I ended up going in another Volvo estate! That’s been rebuilt a few times and like the Volvo has stayed in the garage because I never placed a proper value on it. So it didn’t matter if I kept it, as I figured it didn’t owe me anything.
The other projects I have at the moment are a Mk1 Cortina two door (well remembered, Gatebil ;)) that I drove back to the UK from Finland in 2013. It’s got a 1600cc 16v Ford Zetec engine, CBR900RR bike carbs, Megasquirt ECU, five speed box and disc brakes all round, That needed a whole load of welding from sills, to arches, floors etc. So that was all done and it needs some reassembly now but I have to store it 100 miles from my home, so it’s taking some time to get to it! I also have a 1995 Range Rover 300TDi Classic, which I’ve done a whole load of OEM stuff too. Then there’s a 1949 tractor, 60s dump truck plus a couple of pushbikes, mopeds and a monkey bike.
– What music do you listen to?
– I listen to all kinds of music, from classical to funk and soul, breakbeat, some types of metal, I really enjoy finding new tunes. People whose favourite kind of music is from their college/school years strike me as not having moved on. You have to keep on discovering, life is too short and you’re never going to see or hear it all, but you have to try.
– What for you is the most enjoyable part of being involved with cars?
– That’s probably the hardest question you could ask, but honestly I take something from every facet. I am fascinated by the history and echoes of what has been that you can get with an older car. The notes found under a drivers seat or the miles it’s covered long before you were even born maybe. But then taking a new car and wringing the last drop of grip or power from it is equally as good. I’m a massive fan of mid century design, so if it has to be one thing it would be the design story, which can be enjoyed from a viewers standpoint as much from the driving seat. That way I can enjoy cars I see on the internet, in a museum of ones I get to own and drive.
– Where does car photography stand for you? It’s quite a big part of your work at Speedhunters.
-Funnily enough I’ve started doing less and less photography over the last year or two as my production company gets busier. But that means I crave it more now, so when I have some time to do it I really relish it. Although the bulk of my photography is now for people like Jaguar Land Rover, at events or special features they need. So you may well have seen some of it without realising, maybe on their Instagram feed or Facebook page, social media is hugely important to manufacturers as they try and capture an audience that has left traditional media behind.
– How do you see Speedhunters portal in 5 years?
– Interesting one, it’s constantly evolved since I started working with the team four years ago. People have come and gone and I even ended up as Editor In Chief for eight months, but it meant too much desk time so I left that behind. Automotive media has changed so much in ten years, and Speedhunters has to keep mixing it up to stay fresh. We are incredibly fortunate to have EA Games bank rolling the project, so we have to look to them maybe, but right now more people are looking at the site than they ever have so something is working.
I guess what I’d like to see is a constant hunger from whoever is contributing, as the internet peels back the layers of culture all over the world and we can access fellow enthusiasts far easier than ever before, it’s the stories and hidden parts that we need to concentrate on. The standard of photography and writing that you can find for free is mindblowing, so for me, it’s finding the car park full of Grp 5 race cars in Switzerland or the collectors of Thailand, these are what I want to see. A seminal moment that I remember was in about 2005 when I first saw images of the Bosozoku cars in Japan. Now everybody knows what they are.
As humans with increased exposure we become desensitized, so the hit has to become greater. This will become increasingly harder and will help push quality up.
– What is your favourite memory from 2015?
– Haha, another tough one. This year really has been a good one, so I have an army of them lined up. From co-ordinating stunts in an underground car park whilst Ken Block watches to having the entire Grossglockner Pass in Austria to myself at daybreak! Again though, I’ll play fair and pin it down to a job I did in February in Spain. It was a last minute photo ad campaign that I produced for an agency in London, the manufacturer needed some images for the Geneva Motorshow and we needed to shoot their car in under a week somewhere near Barcelona, because that’s where it was.
First up I found the most incredible studio in a place called Sitges, it was designed by a gifted architect and built for a very talented err ‘adult’ photographer. On these types of shoot I act as a producer, so somebody else has to do the hard work when we get there. As such it was such a great space to hang out in and take care of things, both from a practical and aethestic point of view.
But that’s not the good part, that goes back to seeing some pictures on the internet maybe ten years ago or more, of a disused concrete banked race track called Sitges Terramar. I knew when we were on the ground in Spain that it couldn’t be far from where we were, and a few years previously Audi had made a film there so I also knew it was accessible. What I didn’t realise is that it was less than a five minute drive from the studio and the manager had learnt to drive there after arriving from the Philippines, so knew the owner well enough to pick up the phone!
Ten minutes later I was being driven around the steepest banked corners known to man at speed by the owner. As I sat there satisfying the hunger I’d had for that place since discovering it existed I was genuinely happy for everything I have.
– Why do you wake up in the morning?
– Because life is too short, I know not everybody believes that, but it works for me. Very rarely will I wake up at the same time two days in a row, and I’ve never been a morning person so it’s hard. But the thought of what I might be missing out on gets me going. Or knowing there’s a mountain to climb, image to find, challenge to overcome or fun to be had.
That and the cup of tea my wife makes. That always works!