Chris Goffey

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Chris Goffey
Chris Goffey.jpgGoffey competing in the Volkswagen G40 Cup.
Full Name Christopher Robert Goffey
Nationality Flaguk.png Great Britain
Birthday 17th October
Sex Male
Occupation Editor of Autocar (magazine)
Presenter of Wheels (TV series)
Presenter of Top Gear (1977 TV series)
Presenter of BBC Motor Show TV Specials
Presenter of Motor Week (UK)
On-screen debut Wheels: Series 1, Episode 1 (1980)
Final appearance Motor Week: Series 9, Episode 21 (2001)

Christopher Robert Goffey was a British automotive journalist and Guild of Motoring Writers member[1] who helped to present the original incarnation of BBC's Top Gear from its 5th series in 1981 through to its 37th series in 1997, appearing in over 177[2] episodes during that timeframe. He is also known for being the father of Supergrass drummer Danny Goffey.

Early life[edit | edit source]

Born in 1945 in Bury, Lancashire, Chris Goffey attended[3] Gibraltar Grammar School and Bishop Wordsworth School in Salisbury, before joining the world of automotive journalism in his late teens. In 1965, he would get his first job[4] at the Ruislip Northwood Post, before moving on to the Bucks Advertiser and the Slough Evening Mail. He would marry his wife and later Labour councillor Linda Nolan (not related[5] to Linda Nolan of Nolan Sisters fame) in 1969, who would birth two sons; Nic Goffey, who became a director[6] primarily known for music videos produced for bands such as The Chemical Brothers and Supergrass with business partner Dominic Hawley, and his younger brother Danny, born in 1974, who would become the drummer for the latter group.

Career[edit | edit source]

After approximately 6 - 7 years as an amateur writer, Goffey would turn professional in 1972 by joining Autocar as a member of its editorial team, as well as road testing the latest cars for the magazine. By 1975, he had been promoted to the role of News Editor, which he held until 1977 before departing for the journal Motor Trader, where he wrote for the publication until[7] 1980.

Thames TV & early Top Gear career[edit | edit source]

After 8 years as an exclusively print-based personality, Goffey would make his television debut on the 9th April, 1980, to present the very first episode of Thames' motoring programme Wheels, the less successful follow-up to its revolutionary 1970s programme Drive-In. Wheels would run for an initial series of 7[8] episodes from April until late May of that year, before returning for a second series in late 1981. Goffey would be absent from Top Gear's sixth series due to this, as he had debuted[9] for the BBC programme during its fifth series half a year earlier.

Beginning from 1982, Goffey would start to appear in the BBC's yearly motorshow coverage, debuting during what was the first[10] of only three BBC motor show specials to be aired live. Goffey would appear in 16 subsequent installments, including 2 which aired as part of Top Gear. He was a key figure during the Mike Smith and Noel Edmonds eras of the BBC's coverage, appearing in 11 of the 15 specials broadcast between 1986 and 1991.

For a brief period in the 1980s, Goffey was associated with rival network Channel 4, presenting and producing the sole[11][12] series of The Motor Show at the beginning of 1984 before returning a year later for Wheeltracks, which ran from April until June of 1985 as C4's first two[13] attempts to capitalise on Top Gear's viewing audience. However, these programmes fell through and by late 1985, Goffey was presenting full-time for Top Gear once more.

Rise to fame[edit | edit source]

In 1986, in the face of a changing programme, producer Jon Bentley would successfully convince[14] his higher-ups to present a segment between the two Italian "dream cars" of the era, the Ferrari Testarossa and Lamborghini Countach, which appeared in Series 15, Episode 10 of Top Gear as a 'tongue-in-cheek'[15] comparison presented by Goffey, who Bentley felt was the programme's enfant terrible of the era. As the programme was not yet particularly known for airing segments on faster cars as it would during the 1990s and subsequent decades, the pair would film an "apologetic" intro and conduct the review at the Bruntingthorpe aerodrome, shooting the footage on 16mm film cameras. That same year, Goffey would court controversy as he would slate the first diesel-engined Range Rover in favour of its petrol-engined antecedent, much to the chagrin of those who had helped to engineer it. In response, a team within Land Rover was set up[16] specifically to spite Goffey and the programme, and a car known as the 'Beaver Bullet' was built to allow the diesel Range Rover to go after many diesel and endurance-related records, of which it would claim 27.

Following the launch of The Independent newspaper in 1986, Chris Goffey would immediately choose to become its motoring page editor, in a role which he would hold until around 1988. In 1989, Goffey published a sole book[17] titled How To Buy a Good Used Car. Between Series 15 in 1986 and Series 21 in early 1989, Chris Goffey appeared in 52 of the 55 episodes broadcast during this time period as the show's second main presenter during the tenure of William Woollard. Along with Woollard, Sue Baker, and Frank Page, Goffey was an integral part of the 1980s Top Gear presenting team, and largely survived the programme's upheaval during the second half of the 1980s, which saw the departures of Baker and Page, followed by Woollard in 1991, along with the debut of new on-screen talent such as Tiff Needell, Beki Adam and Jeremy Clarkson. Clarkson in particular idolised Goffey, under whose subsequent tenure often saw Goffey share the most screentime of any presenter other than Clarkson, such as during Series 28 in 1992, Series 29 in 1993, and Series 33 in 1995.

Towards the end of the 1980s, Goffey would represent the 1910s and 1950s for Top Gear's Car of the Decade special which kicked off the programme's twentieth series, behind the wheel of the finalists for those respective decades; the Ford Model T and Citroën DS. For the occasion, Goffey would dress up in period-accurate clothing along with the other hosts.

Later career[edit | edit source]

As the 1990s progressed, Goffey's role on the show shrunk as more and more newer hosts joined the programme such as Quentin Willson and Michele Newman. His final normal car reviews were for the Peugeot 406 in October 1995, and the Jeep Grand Cherokee in March 1996. After this point, Goffey either presented pieces on limited-production cars such as the Buckingham V12, Ultima Spyder and Minari kit car, or pieces on automotive technology, sporting events and other assorted topics in a similar vein to Tony Mason.

In August 1996, Goffey paid a visit[18] to the Coys International Historic Festival at Silverstone to report on the event, which included an interview with Formula 1 driver John Watson. Also that Summer, he would participate in the very first Top Gear Live special, also at Silverstone, where he would partake in a race against several other Top Gear presenters in a specially-prepared SEAT Ibiza Cupra, finishing 2nd after being overtaken by Jeremy Clarkson near the end of the race. During that event, he would also take a ride in a Skoda Felicia rally car. His final review for the programme would be a piece on the retro-inspired Lea-Francis Ace of Spades along with a visit to the marque's factory, which aired in March 1997 as part of Series 37, Episode 10, which outside of archive footage was his only appearance that entire series. He would leave Top Gear in 1997, before signing a new television contract with rival network Granada for their Men & Motors digital station. His role on Top Gear would be replaced by female host Vicki Butler-Henderson.

Men & Motors[edit | edit source]

Goffey's first appearance under his new employers came in April of 1998, for Series 2, Episode 2 of its Top Gear competitor Motor Week, where he was tasked with presenting a review for the Audi A6 Avant. For the next several years, Goffey's duties on the programme differed little from those he had held previously on Top Gear, and would be one of the programme's main personalities alongside future Top Gear presenter Richard Hammond as well as Brendan Coogan. Along with this programme, Goffey's footage would be resampled in several of Men & Motors other programmes in order to maximise his screentime, such as Dream Deals and Car File, which continued to run throughout the early 2000s. He would step down from the programme in January 2002, presenting his final ever televised car review on the then-new Toyota Corolla a month earlier, with his last film for Motor Week being a tour of the MINI factory at Oxford, showing how the cars were manufactured.

Final appearances and later life[edit | edit source]

After his retirement from Motor Week, Chris Goffey would present 26 episodes of the shortlived game show Asking Price for Men & Motors until June of 2002. Goffey looks starkly different in these appearances, lacking his trademark goatee, looking visibly thinner and having a higher-pitched, frailer-sounding voice. It is not known if Goffey was absent from the final 15 episodes of Motor Week due to other obligations to the channel, or if Asking Price was created because Goffey was no longer able to present in his previous capacity due to an undisclosed illness or personal choice, though it is known that Goffey once suffered a broken neck as a result of a horseriding accident which did not debilitate him.

At the end of his career, Goffey would also write, direct and star in the television documentary Citroen: The French Connection, which released in either 2003[19] or 2004[20], as well as The Beetle Bug[21], where he was briefly re-united with fellow former Top Gear alumnus Steve Berry, before retiring from television for good in order to pursue a new career in local politics, joining Oxfordshire County Council in 2005. In the May 2007 issue of Top Gear Magazine, Jeremy Clarkson suggested that he would have liked Goffey to have returned to the programme, even for just a cameo appearance in the Reasonably-Priced Car, but politely declined each of these offers.

Jeremy Clarkson's dismissal from Top Gear[edit | edit source]

Main article: Jeremy Clarkson's dismissal from Top Gear
In March 2015, Goffey was one of the few major figures who publicly endorsed Clarkson following his fracas with Top Gear producer Oisin Tymon, claiming that the latter "made"[22] the show.

Selected filmography[edit | edit source]

Unabridged article: Filmography

Trivia[edit | edit source]

  • At 16 years, Chris Goffey holds the record for the longest continuous television career at one programme for a British television presenter (Top Gear), appearing in at least one episode every year from 1981 until 1997.
  • He bests Tiff Needell's 14-year run at the programme from 1987 - 2001, in addition to several 13-year long runs at Top Gear and Fifth Gear including those of Jeremy Clarkson & Richard Hammond (2002 - 2015), James May (2003 - 2016), and Vicki Butler-Henderson (2002 - 2015).
  • Retiring after a career which lasted for 31 years, Goffey equalled a record set by L.J.K. Setright in 1996 as the longest active British motoring journalist.
  • Until it was equalled and then surpassed by American journalist John Davis in 2004, Goffey also held the world record of longest verifiable[23] continuous television career as an automotive journalist, spanning from 1980 until 2003.
  • Though Chris would not appear on the revived format of Top Gear, his son, Supergrass drummer Danny Goffey, featured in the 2007 charity special Top Gear of the Pops.

References[edit | edit source]

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