Jeremy Clarkson

Jeremy Clarkson

Clarkson on: individuality

So anyway, I was at the National Television Awards the other night, watching, with increasingly bewilderment, as an endless stream of people I'd never heard of went on stage to get their gongs.

At one point, I popped out for a cigarette and when I came back, some dizzy bird from Casualty had fainted and on the stage in her place were two New York firemen, surrounded by a bunch of shouty teenagers dressed from neck to navel in bits of dental floss.

Do you know who won the award for being the most popular entertainer? Well it was two people who needed step ladders to reach the microphone. They were called Ant and Lard.

And the best entertainment programme turned out to be My Kind of Music, which I've never seen. All I know is that it's hosted by a man who woke up one morning to find a dead homosexual in his swimming pool.

I'd gone expecting David Attenborough to make a dignified speech accepting an award for making the best factual programme. Or maybe that chap who made Elizabeth. But no. The best factual programme, as voted by the viewing audience, was in fact Big Brother.

And Big Brother, to my certain knowledge, contained no facts at all, except that the Welsh woman liked blinking.

Trouble is, the rest of the audience shrieked like howler monkeys throughout the entire evening. When something called Hear'Say was summoned to the stage, the woman in front of me who looked like a bouncy castle in a doily, very nearly exploded.

"I’m sorry, Honda, but if I want sit up and beg styling, I’ll buy a chest of drawers" 

So obviously it's me that's out of step. It's me that's living in a surreal world, not them. I'm the odd man out.

I'm starting to worry that I'm marching to a different tune in the world of cars as well.

Take the Honda S2000 as a prime example. When I first heard about it, I thought that at last someone was designing a car with me in mind. It'd have a VTEC engine that would rev to umpty four million. It'd be made from aluminium so it would be light. It'd be a rear-wheel-drive convertible. It'd be a Mazda MX-5, basically, with a daring right hook.

I found myself salivating with excitement and then bugger me, the damn thing burst on to the market with a horrible digital dash and a windscreen which was almost completely perpendicular to the bonnet. Well I'm sorry, Honda, but if I want sit up and beg styling, I'll buy a chest of drawers.

It's much the same story with Ferrari's 360. This should have been a development of the 355, which means it should have been better than perfect. But in reality, it has an idiotic grin and a twitchy rear end. And while there's more power, there's more weight too, so the bhp per tonne figure remains the same.

And now, of course, we have the Aston Martin Vanquish. With its flyaway Norwegian chassis to which the feather-light body is glued, it should have been a genuine featherweight. But somehow, it weighs even more than the old DB7 Vantage.

Never mind, it's not like the odd ounce here or there would be much of a problem for that wonderful six-litre Duratec motor. You could fit the damn thing to a house and still do 0 to 60 in less than 10 seconds.

So yes, I was waiting with an outstretched chequebook for this, the mightiest, most powerful and most advanced Aston ever.

And when I turned it on, I damn nearly signed up, there and then. The noise is thunderous but not in a rumbly, V8 Vantage sort of way. No, it's more like the sharp crack you get when the lightning is right overhead, except in a Vanquish, it just keeps coming.

I was sitting in a traffic jam at one point,  blipping the throttle and watching the nearby windows rattle when out of an organic wheat juice shop came the sort of man who you just know grinds his own pot-pourri and knits his wife underwear out of hemp. He banged on the window and, with a look of pure hate, said: "Do you mind".

Since I didn't, I just kept on blipping.

And let's not forget the styling, shall we. A Vanquish isn't pretty like a DB7, but my word, it has presence. Think of it as a sort of wheeled Vinnie Jones; smart, clean, now and just under the skin, utterly violent.

In every way, this is my kind of car. But then they went and ruined it by fitting one of those stupid F1-style manual gearboxes with paddle shifters and an electronic clutch.

It doesn't work on a 360 and it really doesn't work on a Vanquish. Go for a full bore start and all you'll get is clouds of blue smoke pouring through the bonnet air vents. Trickle it round town and as the clutch starts to die, the whole back end catches epilepsy.

This then is a car that won't go fast, or slowly and even at medium speeds, you have to put up with the most horrendously jerky up-changes. Three-point turns take a week, and heaven help you if you're on the phone when you need to select neutral.

So what about the new Volkswagen supercar then? 600bhp. 217mph. 0 to 60 in 3.5 seconds. A W12 engine. Pretty Ital styling. My kinda car, except I'm not going to spend £120,000 on a Volkswagen.

Really and truly, I can find something I don't like on nearly every car but then, in the way that Parkinson brought some normality to the National Television Awards by being voted best chat show host, I found the Noble.

It's exactly what I want. Which probably means it'll be a total flop.

 

Jeremy Clarkson, Column

What do you think?

This service is provided by Disqus and is subject to their privacy policy and terms of use. Please read Top Gear's code of conduct (link below) before posting.