Clarkson on: the end of it all
As a reader of Top Gear magazine, you are a foot soldier, part of a vast army of people whose communion wine has an octane rating and whose pew is made from Alcantara by Recaro. Unless of course you are reading this in a dentist's waiting room. In which case you are not a foot soldier. You have toothache, and you have my sympathy.
Let's be clear. I am not speaking now to people with toothache, or to those who have read Practical Caravanning and Dogs Today and are now ploughing through Top Gear magazine because it's that or the instructions on the vomit bag. I am speaking only to the army of genuine car lovers and the news is not good.
Of course, as is the way with all foot soldiers in all armies, you do not know the news is not good. And you will continue to not know until a dirty great missile lands on your car and blows it into the middle of next week. The fact is, though, that you are under attack. And you have no idea.
As a member of the Top Gear team, I get to see all the tell-tale signs. I see the press releases from the loony left. I get the Google alerts. I read the complaints sent to the BBC. So I know what's coming. And what's coming is the End of Days.
The number of people who dislike cars is very small. A few ramblers, some bods in Friends of the Earth, various people who run road safety charities. But they are noisy, and they are motivated. And unlike us who simply worship at the temple of speed, they make it their life's work to bring all that down. To burn our churches. And hang our leaders. And not stop until you, me and everyone we know is going to work on oxen. And what makes it so depressing is that there's absolutely nothing we can do about it.
I honestly can see a time when there are no supercars, and when the hybrid eco electric lentil you are allowed to drive to work every other day is governed by spy satellites to 20mph. And I don't see this coming in a hundred years. I see it in less than 20. Maybe 10.
"The number of people who dislike cars is very small. A few ramblers, Friends of the Earth and people who run road safety charities. But they’re noisy and motivated"
You may argue that this is nonsense and that Ferrari is in rude health at the moment. Absolutely. So is Bentley and so is Rolls-Royce. But that's because they are selling cars to people in Russia and the Middle East. That won't last.
The fact is that they simply can't stay in business without Europe, which is now fundamentally anti-car and America, which since the dawn of Barack Obama, is even more green than the lawn outside the White House. He wants to reduce greenhouse gases and because he's serious about that, the V8 will have to go. Not just in pick-up trucks and SUVs, but in Ferraris and Maseratis as well.
Run around all you like, but there is nothing you can do. Yes, a handful of sheikhs may keep Ferrari in business for the next few years, but eventually, without California and Cheshire - and with less dependence on the sheikhs for oil - all they'll be making down there in Maranello is branded aftershave and baseball caps.
It's not just market forces either. Now, if you drive a really expensive car around Britain's cities, you are very often subjected to a torrent of abuse from the hirsute and the stupid. They believe they have right on their side so they point with their bony, wizened fingers, and spit, and bang on your carbon-fibre roof. Only the other day, a taxi driver, normally the last resting place for the sensible, gave me a ton of what for, for driving a Range Rover. If this kind of thing gets worse, the number of people prepared to stick it out will dwindle to nought.
Seriously. When Henry VIII declared war on the Catholics, some continued to worship Johnny Pope, but after a few burnings, it quickly died out. Car love will go the same way.
And I haven't even got to the biggest problem of them all yet. The mothers of those who've been killed on the roads.
I am able to deal with anyone whose objection to speed and car use is environmental. They are talking utter claptrap and the figures back it up. Similarly, I am able to deal with cyclists. They are jealous. But it is impossible to make a coherent argument for unrestrained car use when you are face-to-face with a mum whose kid has been splattered all over a bus stop by some halfwit in a Corsa.
Boris Johnson, as is often the way, hit the nail rather beautifully on the head when writing in the Daily Telegraph recently. He explained that he often receives complaints about the number of traffic lights in London but says each one is the result of a campaign. And when that campaign has been led by someone whose child has been run over, it is extremely difficult for a local council to turn away and do nothing.
Yes. I can come here now and say that deaths on the road are inevitable and that building a
set of traffic lights or a footbridge on the site of each tragedy is utterly preposterous. But you try saying that to someone who is crying.
And so, combine the sobbing mothers, the stupid environmentalists, the jealous and the communistical and you end up with a small but powerful wave in the face of which we, the army, are powerless to do anything. Don't forget, the Boxing Day tsunami was not tall but it wiped out everything.
So there you are. One bereaved mum. One man with a beard. A splash of Al Gore and a curious new hatred for the rich and all I can say is this: get your order in now for the Aston Martin V12 Vantage. Because I can't see its like coming round again.
Since I was last here, Peter Wheeler, the charismatic former boss of TVR in Blackpool has died after a short illness.
Peter was credited, rightly so, with taking the company from a maker of kit cars to a full-on Northern thunderstorm in the world of high performance. A Griffith on full chat, through the Trough of Bowland... it was a magical experience.
It was much like Peter actually. Having made quite a lot of money from playing poker at university, he moved into North Sea technology where he made even more. Which he then invested in TVR. An endless succession of increasingly flamboyant cars resulted, until one day, he decided he'd had enough and sold out to a Russian business boy who effectively piloted the entire operation into a hillside.
I knew Peter quite well, not through cars but through shooting. He actually won awards for
his countryside husbandry and his shoot was brilliant. Most of the time, on most shoots, birds come from the same direction; not at Peter's they didn't. You had to be alert. Much like you had to be in one of his cars.
In between drives, he'd ferry his guests around in an armoured and tracked Volvo army toy, smoking and generally moaning about the Labour Party which he hated. And then we'd have a big lunch, smoke some more and then shoot some birds that had come from behind us, in the face.
I'll miss him, and my deepest sympathies go to his wife Vicky and their children. Who obviously will miss him a great deal more.