Jeremy Clarkson

Jeremy Clarkson

Clarkson on: the MGF

At a major league party, there are certain rules you won't find in any book of etiquette. And the most important one is this: when called upon to move into the dining room for dinner, never arrive at the table first because you will have no control over who sits next to you.

And don't get in there last either because when there's only one space left, you can be assured that the people on either side of it will be ghastly.

Unless you pay attention to these simple rules you could find yourself sandwiched between a footballer and a vegetarian. Or a homosexual and a lay preacher. Or a caravanner and a socialist. There are any number of shiversome combinations but the absolute worst is finding yourself between two members of the MG Owners' Club.

For a kick-off they will have beards, bits of which will fall in your soup. And because they like fresh air, they are likely to be vegetarians. This means you'll be told, at length, about the plight of dewy-eyed veal calves and baby foxes with pointy ears and snuggly tails... and chicken feathers stuck to their rabid fangs. By the time their nut cutlet is served, the subject will have turned to their horrid cars.

Now, you and I know the old MG was a gutless bucket of rust which leaked every time it rained, broke down every time it was cold and overheated every time the sun put his hat on. It turned with the agility of a charging rhino, stopped with the panache of a supertanker and drank leaded fuel as though it had a Chevy V8 under the bonnet.

However, our bearded friends don't see it quite like this. These people actually enjoy the frequent break-downs because it gives them an excuse to get under the damn thing.

And then, in the pub that night, they can talk liberally about exactly what went wrong and precisely how they fixed it. To you and I a track rod end is very probably the dullest thing in the world but to MG Man it is a steel deity, an almost religious icon, an automotive Fabergé egg.

"MG man can talk about a track rod end for two hours without repetition or hesitation"

MG man can talk about a track rod end for two hours without repetition or hesitation. And the only reason he stops after two hours is because you've shot him. MG fanatics are the people that give all car enthusiasts a bad name. These days you only need mention that you like cars - meaning that you'd buy a Ferrari if you won the lottery - and the person you're talking to will run away screaming.

They'll recall a conversation they once had about track rod ends and they will assume that you're about to do the same, that you are a member of CAMRA and that you only drink beer if it has some mud in it.

For this reason, I am concerned about the new MG. If you can be labelled an anorak for simply liking cars, can you begin to imagine how you will be spurned if you walk into the pub brandishing an MG key ring?

Other people at the bar will conclude that you have a '70s Midget in the car park and that you're about to regale them with the interesting tale of how you adjusted the timing that morning. They will all feign illness or urgent appointments so they can get out.

Except, of course, for the landlord, who'll be stuck. His only escape is suicide. He may even impale himself on his hand pump levers and die horribly without even realising that, in fact, you have a new MG.

I don't doubt that this is a wonderful car, what with its clever engine, cleverly arranged between the axles. It is lovely to look at, too, and those white dials make what's an ordinary interior look a bit special.

I feel sure that the hood won't leak and that, mechanically, the MGF will be as bulletproof as your fridge. And though no journalist has driven it yet - contrary to what many would have you believe - I don't doubt that it will handle tidily and be fast.

And it's British - which automatically makes it better than the Barchetta and the Speeder and the MX-5 and the SLK and the Z3 and all the other roadsters that are due to be launched in the coming months.

The trouble is, though, that if you do buy one of the new foreign convertibles, you will be perceived as someone whose feet are loose and whose fancy is free. But if you go, instead, for anything with an MG badge on the bonnet, people will think you are a git.

 

Jeremy Clarkson, Column

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