James May has been in the game of motoring journalism for a long time, and during the early years of his career he got fired from Autocar, one of UK’s top magazines in the business.
The story of him losing his job in the magazine has been for years one of the most widely spread anecdotes in the business, but this is the first time we hear May himself talking in detail about how he managed to lose his job as production editor of Autocar back in 1992.
May was in charge of putting together the annual ‘Road Test Year Book’ for the magazine, which included 100 condensed reviews of the cars they tested that year all in one place. The Grand Tour presenter had to edit those reviews down to 150 words each, in order to fit four of them per spread in the magazine.
The task was pretty boring and took several months to complete according to May, so in order to make it less tedious he decided to put in a secret message. Each review started with a big capital letter, a drop cap as it’s called, and May edit them in such way that the initials would spell his message.
When punctuated, the message read: “So you think it’s really good, yeah? You should try making the bloody thing up; it’s a real pain in the arse.” The bosses of the magazine missed May’s little easter egg before it was printed; they only became aware of it when readers started calling in, thinking there might be a prize involved.
As it turned out, the big guns of the magazine didn’t share May’s humor and had him fired immediately after it was discovered.