When opportunity and passion collide: the journey to IAM RoadSmart

Blog post posted on 17/11/20 |

My passion for cars and motorbikes started at a very young age and has been heavily influenced by my father who is ex-military and slightly obsessive about his cars. He’s the only person I know who would remove the wheels to clean the inside alloy as well as the outside!

My dad first brought IAM RoadSmart to my attention. His experience of the then Institute of Advanced Motorists began after his employers paid for him to take the test and qualify as an advanced driver, even giving him a £20 bounty for passing, which was a good incentive at the time. He saw advanced driving as a way to increase his enjoyment of performance driving, as well as giving him the chance to make a positive contribution towards road safety. To this day, he is a huge advocate of all that IAM RoadSmart offers.

Dad loved driving and so I spent my early years in various Jaguar cars including XJ6s, XJ8s and finally his absolute pride and joy - a beautiful black with cream leather 1998 308 XJR. Father and son days were always thrilling, fun and full of adventure.

Having therefore become accustomed to luxury and performance motoring from childhood, my first car when I bought it was very humble by comparison. My little 850cc VW Polo with a vinyl roof was far from my 80’s desire to own a much cooler Ford Fiesta XR2 – nevertheless, it served me well as I started my driving career.

My dad always made it very clear to me that cars were to be enjoyed, but that motorcycles were far too dangerous, in his opinion. I disagreed and bought myself a brand-new Yamaha DT125 on my 19th birthday.

Dad’s response was to make sure that I rode safely, wore the proper kit, had lessons and learned the right skills. To ‘up the ante’ I bought a Suzuki GSX750F the day I passed my test and immediately started to plan a solo road trip to the South of France.

With my love of cars and bikes, it made sense to seek work in the motor industry, where two and four-wheeled vehicles were available to ride, drive and enjoy. So, I started my career in vehicle financing, moving shortly afterwards into dealerships. This is where I would have benefited from advanced driving skills earlier in my life to be honest, as some of these vehicles didn’t quite get returned in the same condition that I received them!

Around the same time as my automotive career was burgeoning, I was introduced to The Cystic Fibrosis Holiday Fund (CFHF) and asked to become a volunteer. The charity provides residential respite holidays for groups of young people and their families struggling to cope with this genetic disorder.

My role with the CFHF was to make sure the kids had a great time and enjoyed themselves. The life expectancy of CF sufferers at the time was early 20s. It soon became my mission to help these awesome kids get the most out of the time available to them, something which has grown over the years into a passion for supporting youth development through volunteer work. Some 30 years later, I’m still involved with the CFHF and have been a trustee for the last seven years.

Meanwhile in my professional career I progressed up the ladder into leadership roles within automotive heavy hitters such as Daimler Chrysler, Inchcape Group & Europcar International. These roles allowed me to learn a huge amount about cars, road safety and driver education.

My boyhood dream of owning a classic sports car could therefore become a reality, and my L&R RAM AC Cobra 5.8 V8 has been with me for the last 18 years. Rowdy, raucous, open to the elements and a challenge to drive, it’s a brilliant bridge between two and four-wheeled travelling and I love it still.

Bikes too have brought an immense feeling of freedom to my life and I have spent many an hour riding – through rain or shine, on and off-road.

Remember my dad’s pride and joy? Well, I struck lucky when he agreed I could buy his immaculate XJR from him. I ran this classic trouble-free motor as my daily runabout for six years. I loved it dearly and was heartbroken when the head gasket finally blew and we had to part company a few years ago.

My business and youth development passions came together when in 2018 I set up a business with my 18-year-old daughter, Olivia. Her event catering business is a growing success, despite COVID-19. It’s been one of the most rewarding parts of my career and I have loved the time we’ve spent together. I am so proud of how Olivia has developed and grown in maturity and confidence.

I’m now delighted to pass the reins of our business to her and join IAM RoadSmart as Sales & Marketing Director. As a passionate driver and rider, I look forward to using my experience and expertise in inspiring a younger generation to access the undeniable benefits, and pleasures, of advanced driving and riding.

James Hall is IAM RoadSmart’s Director of Sales and Marketing.