Clarkson on: marketing
When I was growing up, in the dark and dismal days before Mr Sony invented his PlayStation and comedy on television centred around Mrs Slocombe's pussy, I used to enjoy nothing more than curling up at night with one of Enid Blyton's Famous Five books. The bits where Georgina got tied up were especially exciting.
They were wonderful stories and there's no reason why they wouldn't work today. Four kids and a dog called Timmy, staying with an eccentric uncle in a land of caves, smugglers and pre-pubescent bondage is as pertinent now as it was back then.
My eight-year-old daughter, however, can't quite get it. She read a few pages with the sort of rapt attention adults reserve for spam e-mail, decided that she didn't know what ginger beer was and went back to her stories about Bad Girls.
That's fine, of course. At least she's reading. But there's no point saving her Bad Girl books for her younger sister because, by the time she's old enough to read, there'll be something new.
This is marketing. Yes, Harry Potter is cool now, but the absolute last thing the Big They want is for parents to pass on the tapes and the books and the videos. There's no money to be made out of hand-me-downs. So Harry will be eaten and something bigger and better and more Beyblade-ish will come along.
I'd love to jump up and down about this and make a heartfelt call for a return to the old simpler days, but actually I don't care. Money is what oils the economy and if publishers want to keep the machine working by dreaming up an endless succession of stories, great. I mean, if we only had Dickens to read, no-one would read at all. Bob Cratchett? What a twat. If ever a man was born to drive a Nissan Micra, he's it.
That said, I do wish Porsche would stop inventing niches and developing marketing opportunities with their infernal 911.
I should state right now that I don't like 911s in the same way that I don't like marzipan, Lisa Riley, America, traffic news on the radio, the M6, flies, people who say ‘off of', Radio One, motorbikes, Ken Livingstone's adenoids, bores... the list is endless really. And that's fine.
These are my opinions. You may wish to try them on if you like, as you would a suit, and you may decide that you don't like them. And that's fine too. Money makes the world go round, but individualism is what makes it interesting.
So you may adore the 911 and I respect you for that. I accept your argument that it is the only supercar which you can use every day and that the enormous traction offered by putting the engine in the back easily outweighs a certain trickiness beyond the limit.
I agree with you that the 911 Turbo is an immense car and that, for the money, nothing gets anywhere close. But I simply don't like it and I'd never, ever have one, even if it were served on a bed of swan by Kristen Scott Thomas herself.
"I do wish Porsche would stop inventing niches and developing marketing opportunities with their infernal 911"
What I especially don't like about the 911, though, is not the arse-enginedness of it, or the fact that the driver seems to sit too far forwards. I prefer a long bonnet, in the same way that I would prefer to have a big penis than a big arse.
No, what I really don't like is the way that Porsche so very obviously milk one car. They're like Golden Earring endlessly touring with their one hit single. Or Jo Brand, who has made a living from describing a Tampax in 3,000 different ways.
We've got the Carrera 2 for those who want a 911, no questions asked. Then we've got the Carrera 4 for those who want a 911 but have plenty of questions about their own driving ability. Good, so that's a Carrera for everyone then.
Then there's the Turbo, which is a Carrera 4 for those who want to arrive at their destination before they set off, and the GT2 which has two turbos and is for people who want to arrive at their destination before they even thought about going there.
And we mustn't forget the new GT3 - not to be confused with the old GT3, of course - which is a lightweight, lowered, hard-riding track-day car that can be ordered with a rollcage, bucket seats and six-point seatbelts.
There's plenty of choice here. If you want to go from 0 to 60 in five seconds, get a Carrera 2. If you want to do it in 4.9, get the Carrera 4. If you fancy the idea of doing it in 4.5, the GT3 is your answer and if you want to take it down to 4.2, go for the turbo. If you want to do it in 4.1, however, you must have the GT2.
But what if you want to do 0 to 60 in 4.95 seconds? Well, don't worry. Porsche has thought of you too, and come up with the C4S which is a Carrera 4 fitted with the turbo's body and brakes but not the spoilers.
I spent a few days with the C4S this month and must admit it made me feel a bit Cheshire. People would point and say: "Is that a turbo?" To which I'd have to say: "Er, no. It's just made to look like one. And would you like to see my fake Rolex while we're chatting?"
Given the choice, I'd take the Carrera 4, which is £3,000 cheaper and a tiny bit faster. Except, of course, I wouldn't. I'd have the 2 because the whole point of having a 911 is telling people what you drive. In which case, you may as well buy the cheapest.
You must remember, at this point, that I'm talking about the 996 - not the 993, 911 or even the 964, which was both a 964 and a 911 also.
Confused? Well, that's before we get to the thorny question of whether to go for a convertible, a Targa with a glass roof or the straight coupe.
This brings me back to Harry Potter. What we have here is one bespectacled little boy who fights the forces of evil in an endless selection of different ways. Everyone knows that when JK Rowling finishes the fifth book, she'll hang up her juices and let someone else pick up the baton.
I think that's what's happening with Porsche. They've tried every conceivable trick in the rear-engined book, and now they've decided to move on to the Cayenne.
I'm very much looking forward, in 40 years' time, to driving the two-wheel-drive, low rider, desert-raid convertible version.
This article was first published in 2003.