Clarkson on: women
There was a strange letter in last month’s magazine. It was from a 21-year-old girl who couldn’t understand why her love affair with cars was such a turn-off for men.
Well, trust me on this love, it’s not a turn off for me. There is nothing to warm the cockles of my tumescence more than the sight of a girl in a serious car. Emma Parker-Bowles, for instance, has a Mitsubishi Evo VIII and the thought of that, honestly, keeps me awake at night.
Just yesterday I saw a middle-aged housewife in rural clothes screaming down the M40 in a Lotus Elise. I nearly grew a third leg. And when I heard that Kate Moss had bought an old pagoda roof Mercedes SL, I had to go for a lie down.
We men have learned over the last few years that it’s a good idea to be in touch with our feminine side. If we cry in films, eat lots of salad and read Victorian poetry, it makes us more attractive. But there’s a flip side to that argument. Women can boost the magnetism of their pheromones by getting in touch with their male side. This would mean not changing gear until they hit the redline and fancying lap dancers.
My wife is so completely in touch with her male side, I’m surprised she hasn’t actually grown a scrotum. This is a woman who uses the C-word as early as possible at dinner parties to save time. Guests that shudder aren’t worth talking to, and those that don’t are worthy of further bottom sniffing.
This is a woman who’s just spent three weeks rallying her Elise around the Atlas mountains in Morocco with a girlfriend. Although that said, they missed out on the ultimate prize because one night, instead of handing in their time card, they went for a swim.
This is a woman who once said she couldn’t see the point of cars with less than 200bhp, who won’t drive my Mercedes because it’s an automatic and who loathes any car that has even a hint of pliability in the suspension. She thinks an Aerial Atom is too soft and an Evo FQ340, too slow.
When our third child was born, I suggested that her BMW Z1 might not be the most practical car and that she might require more seats. So she went out and bought a Caterham Seven as well. It wasn’t quite what I had in mind.
Then came the Elise, which arrived, and after a short test drive, was sent straight back to Lotus to have a louder exhaust fitted.
And now she’s bought a Land Rover.
“My wife is so completely in touch with her male side, I’m surprised she hasn’t actually grown a scrotum”
Being mean, I tried first of all to veto the idea on the basis that she already owns two off-road go-karts, the Lotus, a Focus, a Volvo XC90 and a motorbike. When this didn’t work, I tried to convince her that Land Rovers are ugly and crude and that it would just be an expensive eyesore sitting in the yard.
I had in my mind’s eye a long-wheelbase, skinny tyred pickup truck with a corrugated-iron cover and the engine from a 19th century water pump. And in a list of things I wanted to buy, this would come in at about 9,450. I’d rather have gone on Strictly Come Dancing.
She smiled the smile of a woman who wasn’t listening and two days later came home with quite the most remarkable vehicle I’ve ever seen.
It’s an F-registered, left-hand-drive Land Rover 90 diesel which means it’s old, and so slow it can’t climb any sort of hill. That’s bad, but according to the vendor it has seen service with the Swiss Army which is good. It means it won’t have seen any action at all and the engine will have been turned off at all the red traffic lights.
What’s better is that all the military paraphernalia is still in place. That means camouflage paintwork, downward pointing lights that can’t be seen by aircraft, four 20ft aerials, a mine prodder, an engine air-intake above the windscreen and best of all... a gun. Yes. My wife is now so in tune with her masculinity, she’s bought a sodding tank.
To give it even more playground cred, its metal roof can be unbolted and removed completely, it has super-dark tinted windows and it sits on the widest, chunkiest off-road tyres BF Goodrich have ever produced. This thing, I kid you not, makes Lara Croft’s Land Rover look like a Suzuki Vitara. It makes Norman Schwarzkopf’s Hummer look like a Nissan Micra. It is butch, and them some.
Unfortunately, there are some drawbacks, chief among which is that, despite the seven seats, it cannot be used for transporting children because there are no seatbelts and the interior is stuffed to overflowing with razor sharp military protuberances that would sever a seven-year-old’s head in even the gentlest of accidents.
Nor will it be much cop at transporting fence posts and Christmas trees, partly because it’s a short-wheelbase 90 and partly because the back’s already full of camo nets, ammo boxes and chemical warfare suits.
Then there’s the driving experience. I’d love to tell you all about this, but I made such a fuss about not getting the damn thing in the first place, my wife hasn’t bothered putting me on the insurance. Still, I was taken out in it the other night and simply couldn’t believe how loud and crude it was. Nor could I believe how long it took us to do three miles.
That old diesel engine really did manage to make mountains out of molehills, turning even the most Dutch piece of level ground into a sheer rock face that required another gear change to keep moving. I think we hit 40 once. I know we arrived at the party an hour late, feeling like we’d just done an SAS assault course.
“Great, isn’t it?” said my wife.
I suppose I quite like the radio which, with those enormous aerials could almost certainly be used to eavesdrop on operations in the Gulf. Actually, you could probably use it to monitor the progress of the Voyager space probe which left our solar system last month.
And I am interested in the piece which is an SA-80 that’s been converted to fire... actually, I don’t what know it’s been converted to fire. But I do suspect traffic wardens would think twice about ticketing a car that has a machine gun clipped to the dashboard.
What I love most of all, though, is that I don’t have to drive it. If I did, people would see me coming and think, ‘what kind of saddo would ever choose to tool around in a quasi-military Land Rover?’ A man in a car like this looks, at best, preposterous, and at worst, like a murderer.
But a girl in a car like this looks like she’s descended from the gods. A girl in a road-going tank is even more sexy than one in nothing at all.
This article was first published in January 2005.