Jeremy Clarkson

Jeremy Clarkson

Clarkson on: Big Foot

After a million or so years doing nothing, man really seemed to be coming along in the last hundred or so. He motorised his wheels, sprouted wings, went to the moon and, best of all, he invented the fax.

But in the last 20 years it all seems to have stopped. Where's the follow-up to Concorde? When are we off to Mars? What comes after rock 'n' roll?

I blame miniaturisation. Clever people have stopped inventing things and started making what we've already got, smaller. When I had a hi-fi system in the '70s, it was a massive, teak thing with an arm like something from the Tyneside docks. But today, you need tweezers to hit the buttons and Jodrell Bank to see the read-outs.

Then there are cameras. I saw a guy in the States last month with a device that was actually lighter than air. Had he dropped it, it would have floated, which is perhaps a good thing, but honestly, you can't beat my Nikon which needs its own team of baggage handlers at airports.

And then there's Kate Moss.

Well look. I like big breasts, a big amount of food on my plate and I'd much rather watch Terminator 2 at the cinema than on video. I also like big cars, a point rammed home this month when I drove Big Foot.

First of all, its nine-litre V8 gets through alcohol at the rate of five gallons for every 300 yards. This is good stuff. This is 29 gallons to the mile and that makes it by far the least economical vehicle in the world.

It's fast too. No-one has ever done any performance tests but having done a full-bore, full-power standing start, I can report that we are talking 0 to 60 in about four seconds.

"Its nine-litre V8 gets through alcohol at the rate of five gallons for every 300 yards"

This is impressive in any car but it's especially noteworthy in something that has tyres that are over six feet tall. To get in, you climb up through the chassis, emerging into the cockpit through a trapdoor in the perspex floor. Everything about the pick-up truck body perched up there on the top is fake. It's just a plastic facsimile of a real Ford F150 - not even the doors open.

There's just one, centrally mounted seat with a full, five-point racing harness and about 2,500 dials in front. There are warning lights too, each of which was carefully identified by my tutor before I was allowed to set off. But I didn't listen to a word he said.

Nor did I pay attention when he talked me though the gearbox. It's an auto but, though there's no clutch, you do have to pull the lever back each time you want to shift up. And that was the problem: pull is the wrong word. You are supposed to wrench it back, as I'd soon discover.

With the lecture over and my neck brace in place, the instructor was disappearing through the trap door when he turned and said: "Have you ever driven a fast car before?" I told him I'd driven a Diablo and he left, wearing a peculiar smile on his face.

To fire that mid-mounted towerblock of an engine, you just hit a big rubber knob and then thank God you're wearing a helmet. It is loud like a hovering Harrier and when you hit the throttle it sends your vision all wobbly.

About one second into what felt like an interstellar -voyage, various dials and the noise suggested a gearchange might not be such a bad idea, so I eased the lever back. Nothing happened. The revs kept on building, so I tried again. Nothing, except this time, a selection of warning lights came on.

By now I was in a temper so I yanked the lever back and the truck just seemed to explode forward. This could catch a Diablo and run over it.

And even though it was on wet grass, it seemed to ‘dig and grip' pretty well. I never did find out how well, though, because by then I was struggling for third and may have hit first instead. I was in Vermont but people in Gibraltar heard the bang.

They gave me another five minutes before the people from Ford hit their remote shut down button and the engine died. I was going to give them hell but decided to run away instead when I noticed the rev counter telltale said I'd taken the £100,000, nine-litre motor to 10,000 rpm.

I didn't stop running until I was in Chicago, where I decided that Big Feet (is that the plural?) are wasted at exhibitions, jumping over saloon cars. We should use them for trips into town. I'm about to move to Chipping Norton where, I'm sure, it'll go down a storm.

 

Jeremy Clarkson, Column

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