Dr. Ian KuahEditor (Europe)
Some say he was born with a steering wheel in his hands. Others claim that he can make anything with wheels go fast, even a shopping trolley.
One of the first photos ever taken of Ian Kuah was of him in a pedal car at the tender age of two in his birthplace of Aberdeen, Scotland. Thus, the die was cast.
His parents returned to Singapore in 1966, but the Corgi and Dinky model cars and Airfix aeroplane kits kept coming on birthdays and at Christmas, further feeding his passion for cars and planes.
When he returned to the UK in 1978 to read architecture, it was also the opportunity to pursue more motoring related things. He passed the Institute of Advanced Motorists test in 1979, followed by the BSM High Performance Course under the legendary John Lyon.
After his post graduate studies in architecture, Ian found himself getting restless. The Jim Russell Racing School at Snetterton beckoned, followed by a stint in Formula Fords and then the Honda CRX Challenge. Part time race instructing at Goodwood Circuit was good for yet more track experience.
A news story in the then leading UK weekly title, Motor, on the forthcoming Golf Mk 2 snapped while on holiday in Germany, was Ian’s chance break into the UK motoring press.
Then a life-changing event took place when he saw an advertisement in a car magazine seeking a road tester for the UK’s first specialist high-end car magazine, Alternative Cars.
After a brief interview over a pie and a pint in a pub, the job was his on a salary far greater than the publisher, Peter Filby, had ever envisaged. The rest, as they say, is history.
Peter soon started a second magazine called GTS, which dealt with upcoming hot hatches like the Golf GTI and Escort XR3i, as well as the growing German tuning industry. Starting as Technical Editor, but quickly becoming Deputy Editor, Ian was in his element here.
GTS predated the famous UK titles, Performance Car and Fast Lane, which were the big corporate publishers eventual response. However, Filby was always short of funds, and had a habit of spending the money before he earned it. “I learnt to do so much with so little, that by the time Peter’s company folded, I could do anything with nothing!” Ian says of this early experience.
The freelance world in those days was not easy, but on the other hand, there was far less competition than today, and no Internet. Being a photographer as well as a test driver and writer was a distinct advantage, and editors lapped up the idea of getting the complete package from one person.
Established by this time as the specialist in the prestige, concept and tuner car field, IK was approached to author Dream Cars, a coffee table book for St. Michaels, (Marks & Spencer) in time for Christmas 1984. Dream Cars went on to sell 250,000 copies in four languages, and three more specialist car books followed in the ensuing years.
With a diploma in sales and marketing picked up along the way, Ian began to sell his unique skills to more and more titles all over the world. Also a hi-fi nut, Ian was the first UK journalist to cover high-end car audio, and ran the in-car entertainment column for Autocar in the mid-to-late 1980s.
By 1990, Ian was European Editor of several US magazines like Sportscar International and European Car, and a contributor to Road & Track. He was also read as far afield as China, Taiwan, Japan, Italy, New Zealand and South Africa.
As Technical Editor of World Sportscars in the UK, he was nominated for a Jet Media Excellence Award in 1990, the first time ever a road test feature made the cut.
Some years later, he was an early contributors to EVO, and is the longest standing contributor to the French tuning magazine, Option Auto, as well as the Japanese magazine Genroq.
Ian was the first Singaporean to drive an F1 car, and possibly also the first to exceed 200mph ()321.8km/h), when he clocked 207mph (333.1km/h) in a Mercedes SLR McLaren 722 during testing.
September 2013 will be the 30th anniversary of a fun career that dovetails several hobbies. “I feel like I am just getting warmed up,” he says
Last Updated: 12th July 2013
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