Clarkson on doors
As we know, there is a general feeling across the land that cars should slowly be removed from town centres and replaced with shrubs and children.
The whole sorry saga usually begins with a 20mph speed limit and the removal of all kerbstones so that the pavement and the road blend into one another. This way, the car driver is made to feel like a guest in the pedestrian's world. Rather than the other way around.
The idea is that eventually cars are removed from the scene altogether, and the streets will once again echo to the sound of ragamuffins playing football and Mums walking their babies in elegant old prams... and shops closing down for good because how are you supposed to get a fridge freezer home if you can't park outside?
This is the big problem. It sounds like a lovely idea, making towns actually look like the architect's sketches that are submitted to planning departments. But how do people get there, to shop and to work and to do business with one another? The simple answer is: they won't bother. So soon everyone will move out to the suburbs, where the car is allowed and you end up with a doughnut. A ring of wholesome goodness surrounding the square root of nothing at all. You end up with Detroit. Drugs, violence, murder, terror. The end of days.
Plainly, then, we must do everything in our power to stop the short-sighted fools from banning cars from town and city centres. And I think I have a plan.
When you are in a car, you are in a suit of armour. You are a medieval knight, and everyone on foot is a peasant. Instantly, then, there is animosity, jealousy and rage. You consider people on foot to be insects. They consider you to be a modern-day wheeled version of King Herod. This causes mutual loathing.
Furthermore, because you are in a suit of armour, you feel safe and protected. Which means you can give the bird to other people in their suits of armour. In your car, you hate pretty much everyone. And you are able to display that hatred with impunity.
This does not happen when you are on foot. If you are carved up while walking down the pavement, you don't launch into a tirade of abuse. Maybe you'll tut quietly, and raise a quizzical eyebrow. But that's about it.
When you are on a travelator at an airport and your path is blocked by two people standing chatting, you don't scream at them to get out of the way. You don't make horn noises. You do nothing. You wait, patiently. Or, if you are in a rush, you say, very politely, "Excuse me."
So, what we must do then is rethink car design. I realise, of course, that Nissan did this with the Micra. It was supposed to be cuddly and cute, as aggressive as the Little Tikes cars that clutter up every loft in the land. But it didn't really work. Because it was still a suit of armour. Only it was a suit of armour finished in pink with a gormless, grinning face.
What I suggest is much more radical. I suggest we put the driver among the people on foot. And that means doing away with armour plating altogether. Yup. We get rid of the body work.
You may recall in the TopGear trip across Botswana I removed the doors from my Lancia Beta Coupe while crossing the salt pans. The idea was that I'd put them back on when I reached dry land, but you know what? It was so uplifting to drive a car with no doors, I didn't bother.
Doors are massively overrated. Yes, they keep out the weather and the noise when you are travelling at speed, but they also isolate you from the world and its beauty.
There are a handful of cars that come with no windscreens and that's stupid. You always end up with a bee in your eye. But no doors? It's a beautiful, elegant solution.
BMW pioneered the idea with the wonderful Z1, but, for some extraordinary reason, gave up. Why? When you have no doors, it's amazing how friendly life becomes in a traffic jam. It's like being at a cocktail party. You talk to the chap or the chapess in the car next to you and when you shuffle forwards, you chat to someone else.
In a normal car, you would never dream of engaging a fellow motorist with a spot of light banter. But when you are there, and they're there too, right next to you, it is impolite not to talk. Having no doors on your car would make a traffic jam fun. It would make everyone happier. But I think we can go further still.
Recently, I was staying at what the brochure would call a ‘luxury resort' on an island between Australia and the Great Barrier Reef. And to get about, each of the guests was given a golf cart.
It's funny. Over the years, I have driven almost every car ever made, but because I am not given to freemasonry and I am not the President of America, I had never been in one of these electric tartan-trouser transporters. They always looked a bit foolish to me, if I'm honest. However...
Because you are so exposed in machines like this, I found in Australia it was possible to drive through the town as though you were a pedestrian. You were part of the crowd. A knight, in a nightie, if you will.
You may say, of course, that a golf cart is not much fun to drive once you leave the town centre and are back on the open road. But that's simply not the case. Because they are so slow, and made from what appears to be rubber, it is possible to deliberately ram other road users. For a laugh.
They will laugh too. Everyone finds it funny to deliberately crash a golf cart, and now that councils are banning people from bumping on the dodgems, they're about the only vehicles on sale in which crashing is part of the point.
My colleague from TopGear Australia, Shane Jacobson, would park his golf cart up a side street or in someone's drive and then lunge out and t-bone passing traffic. On purpose. It was fantastic. One minute you'd be trundling along, and the next, you'd be spinning wildly into the weeds having been rammed by a red-faced man.
Me? I found it was not necessary to ever apply the brakes. I simply ran into the back of the cart in front. This was especially amusing if the cart in front was being driven by James May.
Golf carts, then, are the future. They're cheap. They're open to the elements. And they are much more fun than even an Ariel Atom. Because if you crash in one of those, your head'll come off.
Best of all, though, golf carts turn motorists into people. Which, of course, is what we are.