Jeremy Clarkson

Jeremy Clarkson

Clarkson on: coupes

The X Files is a hugely popular televisual feast but I've never understood the appeal. I tuned in last night and this ginger woman was handcuffed to another woman who had a carrot sticking out of her neck.

Then there's the motorway central reservation. I don't understand that either. Why is it always chock full of shoes? Hubcaps and fag packets I can fathom. But shoes? How do they get off your feet, out of the footwell and out of the car? It just isn't possible.

Maybe we're looking at a road rage thing here. Perhaps it's the throwing weapon of choice for today's over-heated motorist. But what would cause you to take such umbrage at another motorist travelling at 70mph in the other direction that you would actually remove a shoe, wind down your window and hurl it at him?

In the time it takes time to do that, the offending guy is gone. And halfway through the process of un-doing your laces, you'd calm down and remember you're on your way to lunch with a new client. And that he might find it a little odd if you walk into his office in stockinged feet.

Have a look the next time you're crawling down the outside lane of a motorway. The central reservation is a veritable Clarks factory. And there's no rational explanation. So when that ginger woman gets herself freed from the woman with a vegetable in her throat, she should get herself over here pronto. Along with that pouffy bloke who never tucks his shirt in.

While they're at it, they can work something else out - coupes. I know they are basically saloons in pretty dresses, and make no sense at all on paper. But I understand their appeal.

I've owned several - two Sciroccos, an Alfa GTV, a Honda CRX and a BMW CSL - and I can tell you that the lack of rear headroom is a small price to pay for their knicker-snapping appeal. You can't get a head in the back but you can get head, if you see what I mean.

"I’ve owned several coupes and I can tell you the lack of rear headroom is a small price to pay for their knicker-snapping appeal"

However, I do not understand why some coupes make the grade and others do not. Everyone knows, for instance, that the Corrado was as tasty as an East End prize fighter with the looks of a Benetti super-yacht. The four-cylinder was good, but the VR6 was about as close as you could get to Ferraridom without buying a Ferrari. And what happened? You all went to the pub instead.

Then there's the Calibra which, dynamically speaking, is some way behind the Corrado. And yet sales of the Vauxhall are still quite good.

Last year, I was vox-popping people in a transport cafe, asking them which car they'd buy if they won the lottery and one bloke said: "A Calibra Turbo". Not a Ferrari. Not a Bentley. Not even a Range Rover.

And definitely not a Ford Probe. Here's another perfectly reasonable car that just didn't sell, though this time I suspect I know why. People who buy coupes tend to know a bit about cars, so they know that in the USA a Ford Probe costs £4.50. In Britain, it was seen as a cheap car with a big price tag.

But there is no logical reason why the Honda CRX didn't sell and the Toyota MR2 did. It is weird that the Volvo 480 was a success and the Porsche 968 Club Sport was not. And now, wading into all this confusion comes the Ford Puma. I haven't driven one yet, but I understand it's a little cracker - fast, frugal, fun to drive and striking.

I'm led to believe that it is a better car than the Vauxhall Tigra, and that the Renault Megane is left in its wake too, but history has shown this to be irrelevant. All that money spent on reincarnating Steve McQueen makes no difference either.

When it comes to coupes, no-one knows whether a car will be successful or not and that's odd. I can't think of an excuse so I suspect it may have something to do with the Moon.

We know its gravitational pull causes the rather weighty Pacific ocean to move about so there is no reason to suspect that it can't affect the inside of our heads. Maybe when it's full, we really do behave strangely, throwing our shoes out of the window and taking up golf and choosing to buy a Volvo 480 instead of a Porsche 968.

Maybe the success of Ford's multi-million dollar investment in new edge design rests with the world's natural satellite. Or maybe it depends on whether people can say ‘Ford' and ‘sexy' in the same sentence.


Jeremy Clarkson, Column

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