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Dave Crolla obituary

My friend Dave Crolla, who has died suddenly aged 62, had a capacity for mischief and plain-speaking that was matched only by his contribution to the world of automotive engineering. Despite prodigious academic achievements, his status had to be prised out of him by friends. When a group of his fellow musicians discovered his promotion at Leeds University, they produced T-shirts bearing his picture and the words: “If this man’s a professor my arse is a banana.”

It typified the down-to-earth and colourful language associated with this most genial of Yorkshiremen. Despite his northern bluntness, Dave was hospitable, inclusive and generous, giving everyone the chance to be themselves and to be heard. He was a man of action who arranged things and got things done, be it hiking, biking or busking.

An international authority on the ride, handling, safety, stability and braking of vehicles, he worked on the Bloodhound project to set a 1,000mph land speed record. While returning from one of the team’s meetings in Bristol, he was captured by a roadside camera. To avoid further points on his licence, the man involved in designing the fastest car in the world was forced to attend a speed awareness course. He later complained about having to listen to someone “boning on for hours” about the effects of speeding.

A talented bouzouki player, guitarist and singer, he pulled off the musical equivalent of sending coals to Newcastle – taking traditional Irish music to Ireland with his Bradford-based band the Wild Geese. It was a measure of Dave’s warmth and charisma that Matt Molloy, flautist with the Chieftains, flew over from Ireland to play at his funeral.

Dave was born in Bradford, where he attended St Bede’s grammar school. He won the Queen’s Scout award and was a member of the Great Britain Junior Olympic canoe team. After obtaining a first-class honours degree at Loughborough University, he worked in agricultural engineering research while studying for his PhD. He became a lecturer at Leeds, where he gained a prestigious higher doctorate and was made professor of automotive engineering in 1993. He worked there until 2005.

Dave was a fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering, wrote numerous books on his subject and was editor-in-chief of a forthcoming encyclopedia of automotive engineering. He was a visiting professor at the universities of Cranfield and Sunderland, a keen hiker and cyclist, and shared his time between his homes in West Yorkshire and the Yorkshire Dales. He died on the first day of a cycling tour of the West Country while passing through the Cheddar Gorge with a group of friends.

He is survived by his wife, Stephanie, whom he married in 1973, his daughters, Rachel and Rebecca, and granddaughter Heather. © 2011 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds