James May

Paint dripping on a sports car

Lamb’ to the slaughter

Regular readers will know that I’m a great fan of inventing new games with my colleague, TV’s Richard Hammond. One of my favourites is called Airport Shopping Dare, and here’s how to play.

It’s really very simple. When you’re at a departure terminal with a chum and a few hours to kill, you will, inevitably, abandon every tenet of real manhood and end up walking around the shops together. Now you must spot something you think the other bloke could be persuaded to want and then, through subliminal psychological torture, force him to buy it. Nothing too elaborate, usually, just daft T-shirts, sunglasses, that sort of thing.

There really is no feeling more satisfying than being responsible for making a good mate look like a total pillock at his own expense. And I’m pretty good at it. My best result to date is cajoling Hammond into buying a pretty expensive wrist watch with the money he would be earning the following week from opening an orphanage or something. Soon after he got me back with a brown jacket that makes me look like a driving instructor.

But this week I’ve had my best game of Airport Shopping Dare ever. It wasn’t actually played in an airport, but a Lamborghini dealership, and this time I was with my other colleague, TV’s Jeremy Clarkson.

Now Clarkson has decided he rather likes the Gallardo Spyder. I rather like it too; the difference, though, is that he might consider chopping in his Ford GT for one. He certainly would, I decided, if I had anything to do with it.

And that bit wasn’t too difficult, because he clearly wanted one already. I could point out that his new book was selling very well (unlike mine) and that he had earned, both financially and morally, the right to a new Lambo. In fact, making him buy one was clearly a job for a Shopping Dare amateur.

So now the game took a new twist. Clearly, he didn’t need persuading to buy the car, but he would need to be steered, gently and subtly, into buying it in the right colour scheme. Orange, ideally, or that Seventies’ bathroom-suite blue they’re doing. Either of these would combine nicely with a neutral sort of leather. Cream, perhaps, or maybe plain old black.

Jeremy, however, got it into his head that the car would look right in dark green, black, or something called black/green. This he would combine with an interior in orange perforated leather.

“On the verge of acquiring the automotive medallion of gauche, JC’s worried about drawing too much attention to himself” 

And I know what he’s thinking of. He’s thinking of those Paul Smith brogues that are dark and accountanty on the outside, but lined in lime green – respectable and restrained at a casual glance, but revealing a sense of gay chromatic abandon to anyone who gets close enough to see inside. Or maybe it’s one of those dinner suits by Ted Baker – completely uniform in normal use, but revealing a tantalisingly enigmatic purple lining when removed.

But we’re talking about a Lamborghini here, and this isn’t how it’s going to come across, in my view. I think it’s going to be redolent of a banker who wears a grey suit with a ‘funny’ Simpsons tie. Or an information technology professional who wears a grey suit and has a sign above his desk saying ‘You don’t have to be mad to work here...’ and so on.

The whole point of a Lamborghini, as we’ve explained many times, is that you want one because you’re not interested in buying into racing heritage or thoroughbred provenance. That’s for Ferrari and Maserati owners. Lamborghini is a bit of an upstart, and you have to demonstrate that you realise as much. A black one suggests that you believe in it, which would be ridiculous. Lamborghinis are a bit vulgar and as such should be celebrated openly with something like the orange. Or that bathroom blue. But he just didn’t get it.

And this is what surprises me. JC is a self-styled champion of vulgarity. For example, I happen to know he has a very large TV set and electronic garden gates. He attends footballers’ parties and once boasted of going to London’s ‘biggest restaurant’. But here he is, on the verge of acquiring the automotive medallion of gauche, and he’s worried about drawing too much attention to himself.

But no worry, because, as with most posh car showrooms, the Lamborghini one provided a selection of painted metal strips and upholstered squares with which the discerning customer can experiment with colour combinations before signing the order form. Playing with these is a pretty good game in itself, and almost as much fun as trying on the frames in Specsavers.

So, out of interest, I tried the green/black paint with the orange leather. It was awful. It made me think of coffee mugs with ‘world’s greatest golfer’ written on them, or ‘amusing’ doorbell chimes. On the other hand, the orange paint with the creamy pale perforated leather looked like the colour scheme of a man who didn’t give a bull’s arse about what other people thought, and this, I decided, was what Jezza should have.

So I gathered them up and dived between him and the salesman, waving them around. But he snorted, and then continued talking to the dealer about the price of the cupholder option.

So I tried the bathroom-blue paintwork with a dark-blue plain leather, which looked utterly glorious. Again I approached the man with the Bang & Olufsen mobile, only to be dismissed because he was deep in conversation about service intervals.

In desperation, I even tried white paintwork with black leather. This time I found him discussing residual values. I really do think the man may have lost it entirely and turned into an executive.

This is the first time I’ve ever failed at this game with someone I know well. I have a recurring dream in which Jeremy is on fire and I have a fire extinguisher but can’t get the pin out. Even so, I can’t stand by and watch him buy the wrong Lamborghini.

So it’s over to you. Write to Jeremy at the Top Gear Magazine address. You don’t even need to include a letter. Just remember to mark your envelope, ‘James is right, as usual’.


James May, Column, Lamborghini, Gallardo, Jeremy Clarkson

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