Nick Brooke Langham has very kindly sent me a nice tribute he’s written for his good friend Mike Key who sadly passed away on the 15th February 2021.

Images are copyright of Mike Key and Nick Brooke Langham

Who would have thought that in the late 1960s a TV engineer from Norfolk called Mike Key would go on to become this countries most renowned photographer for feature car shoots for magazines such as Hot Car, Custom Car, Hot Rod and Custom, Street Rodder, Street Machine, Volks World, Ultra VW, American Car World, Classic American and of course, grace the pages of Drag Racer.

Mike left school at 15, and started his employment in a large TV repair shop in Norwich. The job had been secured by his father and rather fortuitously, the shop had several keen photographers amongst its staff and Mike fancied trying his hand at this. At that time Mike had a girlfriend, a young lady called June and with her support he began to save money until he finally had enough to acquire a second hand Zenith 35mm camera. The support June was showing was set to be maintained over the next 50 years as their adventures had only just begun. Mike soon mastered the Zenith camera and then naturally he learnt the art of developing B&W film.

Workwise Mike moved onto a small family run repair business, which turned out to be (no pun intended) a key moment as the son of the owner had a Hot Rod, in the form of a chopped and channelled Austin. Mike was intrigued, and the fascination he felt, continued to grow, especially as the son had a group of friends who were all modifying old cars. Mike soon became hooked and joined their club the Cam Followers. In 1972 ‘The Cam Followers’ along with Mike and June were bound for Northamptonshire, and Santa Pod. The day trip was the catalyst that would forever change their lives. Witnessing first-hand cars burning out, and heading off down the quartermile had a profound effect on him, and he was set to return over and over again, with camera in hand. 

The images that Mike captured would not only grace drag racing publications, but wherever they appeared they would convey the excitement that was drag racing, and thereby contribute to the growth of the sport.

Away from the strip Hot Rodding had arrived, and Mike wanted to be more directly involved, so joined the newly formed National Street Rod Association and with the support of his now wife June, they set out to build their first of a long line of Hot Rods a T Bucket.
Over the next 50 years, they were to build an incredible 8 superb and highly detailed Hot Rods, with a Classic American Mustang and a Custom Corvette also thrown in for good measure. 
Mike retired at 65 but there was no sitting back for him, instead he completed the final car that rolled out of the Key garage, the holy grail of Hot Rodding a 1932 3 Window Coupe. Mike commenting, he couldn’t quite believe it had taken him nearly half a century to build and own one!
Mike and June enjoyed cruising that car, and as usual Mike would have his camera with him, still shooting features but this time for the NSRA Street Gasser magazine.
Over the last few years, Mike suffered problems with his health, but as usual there was one person who was always by his side, his best friend and wife – June. She took care of him, she was his rock, and along with their offspring Rachel and Matt, our thoughts and prayers are with them all now, at this time of great family loss with his passing.
Mike was an incredibly humble man, and a wonderful friend, those that knew him will miss him and mourn his passing. Rest in peace Mike and thank you for everything that you and your camera gave us.