Sue Baker of The Observer was a pioneer for female automotive journalists | Vanessa Thorpe

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Sue Baker, the reporter who ignored all the signs that women didn’t understand cars, and who was the Observer‘s automotive correspondent for 13 years, died last week.

Long before Jeremy Clarkson and his band took the wheel of the BBC Motor Show, Baker was a presenter on Top of the lineappearing on over 100 episodes beginning in 1980. It was originally intended, she recalled, as an informative consumer magazine, simply letting viewers know “what new cars are coming to market and what what we think of it”.

Recommend six of the best convertibles for Observer readers in 1995, Baker’s last year in this newspaper, she left at a normal pace: “Some drivers have dirty habits. Over the past two weeks, I’ve witnessed smoking cigarette butts, chocolate bar wrappers, worn chewing gum caps, and even a banana peel thrown out of car and truck windows. . Driving a convertible in sweltering summer weather makes you a reluctant connoisseur of flying trash.

A career that also saw her start the Brands Hatch-based Motor Racing News Service continued with parts for Magazine Saga. When his death from motor neurone disease was announced, his admirer and friend Geraldine Herbert, auto editor for the Sunday Independent in Ireland hailed her as “a brilliant journalist” who “paved the way for women in a man’s world”. The Guild of Motoring Writers, of which Baker was vice president and past president, hailed her as “a trailblazer for women…in journalism,” while her family, including children Ian and Hannah and toddlers -children, Tom and George, said: “She had a life and a career that many would envy, but she did it all with such grace that she was admired and respected by all who knew her….. Thank you to everyone who has supported her over the past few years as she fought with MND.

Vanessa Thorpe is the arts and media correspondent for The Observer

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