Jeremy Clarkson

Jeremy Clarkson

Clarkson on: the Rover 200

I'm sorry about this but I rarely concern myself with the plight of elderly drivers. In fact, they annoy me.

As many of you will have gathered by now, I have moved to the countryside - which is all very lovely and autumnal and so on.

But, frankly, too many of the drivers round here wear hats. Nissan Sunnys kangaroo out of side turnings and trundle along at 40, irrespective of road conditions, weather or the 20-mile tailback they've created.

Mind you, I was delighted yesterday when a car that had held me up for 15 miles trundled into a village, still doing 40, and was zapped by a Gatso.

When I finally got past, I noticed the driver was several hundred years old. I knew this because his suit was finished in a colour that was not brown, or green or grey, but a peculiar blend of all three. It was, for want of a better word, ‘old' colour.

Anyway, I hope they take his licence away and confiscate his car because it is antisocial to drive at 40 on the open road and stupid to drive at 40 in villages. I think it would be a good idea, too, if he were forced to write to his local newspaper, saying that, behind the wheel, old people are not as good as young people.

Car manufacturers, certainly, have realised this. Ponder this. What is the single biggest advance in car safety in living memory?

Seatbelts? Crumple zones? Anti-lock brakes? Nope. Airbags? Heavens, no. Anti-submarining seats? No.

I'll tell you. The biggest advance in car safety is... the Rover 200.

Here's the thing. Take yourself back to the '80s and already BMW, Audi, SEAT, VW, Porsche, Daihatsu and pretty well every car maker under the sun were targeting young people with their designs and their advertising.

But, still, a handful of manufacturers were out there, plodding away with their wheeled tartan rugs. Volvo for instance. No-one under 78 would buy a 300, or a 200 or, especially, a 700. But then came the 850, and then the T5. In a flash, Volvo was in the BTCC, and T5s were on the TV driving over gorges and racing through hurricanes. Volvo was out at the disco with a sock in its underpants, chatting up teenagers.

"I’ll tell you. The biggest advance in car safety is… the Rover 200"

Nissan, too, was trying the same trick. Having made a great deal of money selling crap cars to over-80s, they launched the Micra at a younger audience. Unshaven stunt men were taking it to work.

There was a clear message here for the older buyer: ‘Got a pension book? Stuff off.'

Old people were being squeezed left and right. But, like there's always one pub in town that will serve the under-18s, there's always one car maker who'll welcome the over-80s.

Step forward Rover, with your traditional values and your chrome kickplates. Modern though the 600 may be, it still has that look of classic, understated, elegance. And why change the 800, when it's so right for the retired GP from Carlisle?

But then, without so much as a by your leave, along comes the 200, led into battle by a 135mph VTi flying machine. As pretty as Renault's Megane Coupe, and fun to hustle as well, it was very obviously quite wrong for the whist drive brigade.

For heaven's sake; most that I've seen are in vibrant purple, which doesn't go with ‘old' colour at all.

And it was advertised by a git in a Paul Smith suit who lives in a warehouse and has a fit bird. The only concession to traditional values came right at the end of the ad when he tucked into a biscuit.

The ad cost £750,000, much of which went to Sting who did the soundtrack. But old people don't know who Sting is. I'm talking about people so old they think The Police are who you talk to when you forget to slow down in villages.

The message, however, is most certainly not in a bottle. Rover has gone the way of SEAT and Nissan and Volvo and all the others.

Since the 200 came along, old people have lost the last pub in town. They're going to have to make do with the cars they have now. Which, in the not-too-distant future, will break down and disintegrate.

They will then have to use the bus and Britain's reputation as a safe country to drive in will be enhanced.

The Rover 200 is, without doubt, the greatest contribution to road safety since Sir Robert Mark.

 

Jeremy Clarkson, Column

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