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Clarkson on: niche cars
Well it’s been a lovely, long hot
summer and frankly, right now is a good time to be British. The economy is
booming. House prices are back where they belong and unemployment is at its
lowest levels since 1981.
By pulling all the right faces and
not actually doing anything firstname.lastname@example.org seems to be popular and even
when his fat sidekick, John Prescott, made some silly noises about two-car
families, they were drowned out by reports that half-a-million people had
bought a new set of wheels in August.
The trouble is, of course, that
columns like this thrive on bad news. I need to stand on a rake or fall in a
vat of sheep excrement for there to be something to write about each month.
Good news, frankly, is dull.
I haven’t even had the privilege of
driving any spectacularly awful cars in recent weeks. There was the Toyota
Corolla, of course, which is motorised mud but it’s not ‘bad’ by any means. And the same
goes for Saab’s 9-5 on which you light the blue touchpaper and then hang around
- nothing at all exciting will happen. In a world of ceremonial fireworks, this
new Swede is a damp sparkler.
And anyway, this dreary twosome are
more than outweighed by some of the most exciting stuff we’ve seen in years.
There’s the Puma, of course, and the new 911. But what can I say about that?
It’s very reliable? Whoa Jezza - incisive stuff.
In the spring we were treated to an
onslaught of new convertibles like the SLK and the Boxster and now they’re
tickling our erogenous zones again with a welter of coupes. Alfa has announced
that it will be importing the 220bhp, six-speed three-litre GTV, but it’ll find
life tough out there as it competes with the Mercedes CLK, the Peugeot 406 and
of course, that rocketship Volvo C70.
“I need to stand on a rake or fall in a vat of sheep excrement for there to be something to write about each month”
The next big deal will be the
advent of the serious niche car. There’s the Land Rover Freelander of course -
a car that’s making our nanny almost moist with anticipation. Then there’s the
BMW Z3 coupe, the VW Beetle and the Audi TT. I’m starting to swell just thinking
Obviously, what’s happening here is
that platform sharing is starting to pay dividends. If you can bolt any body
onto any chassis, you can make new cars more quickly and cheaply than ever
before. In the past Ford could never have given us a Ka, a Fiesta and a Puma,
but seeing as they’re basically the same, nowadays, they can.
And this means more choice for you
and I which makes the game of picking your ideal five-car garage harder than
Obviously, I’m a fifth of the way
there because already I have a 355. But in La-La Land, it would be a
Berlinetta, and not a GTS. This would leave space for my convertible to be a
big fat barge of a car - and that leads me straight to the door of the Mercedes
Also, now that I’ve started to
shoot anything that
moves, I’ll need a
four-wheel-drive, and much as I respect the Land Cruiser and the Grand
Cherokee, I’d have to
have a Range Rover. It would come in new ‘Autobiography’ trim where you get to
select whatever colour and interior appointments take your fancy. I’d demand
wood from that 2,000 year-old tree in California - just to annoy the Americans
- and then I’d fit TV screens in the back of the front headrests.
These will be visible to following
traffic to make for all sorts of fun as I drive up and down the motorway with Debbie
Does Dallas on the video.
As far as an everyday car is
concerned, I’d have the new Jaguar XJR V8 for all the reasons I outlined last
month, which leaves me with the need for a family estate car.
I’ve considered, obviously, the
Volvo V70 T5 and its V8 rival from BMW. The Mercedes 300E is a contender too
but I’ve decided the kids should walk, and that dogs don’t really need to go on
My final car would be one of the
100 Nissan Skylines. I don’t care that it got trounced in our Nurburgring
feature last month or that it failed to do well in this month’s handling test.
We need cars like this
because, pretty soon, email@example.com will stop pulling faces and let
Fatty Prescott loose. Time is running out. Winter is almost upon us. For God’s
sake, get out there and live.