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My life in cars: John Newman

Brit singer/songwriter on his love for rallying and his tendency for tinkering

I’m a ridiculously bad petrolhead and have been since I was about six. When I was young, one of my best friends sadly lost his dad and his guardian became the local scrap man who lived at the end of his lane. That meant we had unlimited supplies of banged up cars and lots of land. So, the first car we’d find that was no longer road legal, we’d paint stripes all over it and thrash it round a field.

I used to sketch cars and build things in my little shed at home too - my mum even bought me a welder for my eighth birthday. I was reading one of my old school reports the other day and it said “Where do you want to be in 10 years?” I’d put “I want to run my own custom car garage.”

I had a little Honda CR80, though, and when I was 16 years old I got caught by the Police doing wheelies up and down the road. They wanted to set an example of me, so I got six points on my licence when it became active. 

After that, I moved to Leeds and fell out of love with cars for a bit. Two of my best friends were killed in an accident just as I moved away. So, with me not being able to get a licence, and then that happening, I was deterred from driving and just focused on my music for a bit. 

It wasn’t until I was 22 years old when the urge to drive started creeping back in and I finally passed my test. I already had an album out by then, though, and had three number ones, so my first car was a Mercedes E63 AMG. That was pretty mental.

When I decided it was time for a change I got a BMW M6. It was cool, but I didn’t feel like it marked up to the Mercedes.

While I had the M6 I started expanding my collection quite a bit. First, I bought an AC Cobra-style kit car. I’ve still got it. It’s beautiful and runs a Corvette engine, which is ridiculously brilliant. It was basically built as a car that was meant to be sat in a garage and polished every day, though. I drove it once and the whole driveshaft fell off. It’s now had a complete overhaul and is an absolute monster. I’m not one for leaving cars in the garage.

Around that time, I also got a Ferrari California T. They invited me to Maranello to spec it. It was amazing, I’d dreamed of owning a Ferrari as a kid so I drove it home and parked it outside the house where I grew up as a kid – that was a pretty beautiful moment.

I’ve now swapped the California for a Portofino. The California was a bit of a compromise – in fact, it wasn’t good at all. I feel like with the Portofino they went back to basics. It feels like you’re driving a proper Ferrari.

At one point I did get a bit bored of cars with loud exhausts and stiff suspension, so I got a Jaguar XJ L to replace the M6 as my daily driver. Since then, I’ve swapped the Jag for a V8-engined Range Rover Sport. It’s a lovely thing.

My favourite car, though, is my rally car. It all started when I did a song with Sigala. We both grew up driving around fields and I’d been doing loads of off-roading on a bike, so we decided to go for it.

Anyway, when I first got behind the wheel of the instructors’ Ford Escort it was very, very quick. I was so into it that I went out and bought a road-going Subaru Impreza, and on my weekends off I converted it to rally-spec. I absolutely love it. Howling through the woods in that is one of the best feelings in the world.


John’s dream three-car garage

Ford GT
The new Ford GT is my dream car. I want one so badly. It’s so beautiful. 

Bugatti Chiron
I’d love to try a Bugatti, just to see what that speed is like.

Ford Capri Mk3
The Capri might not be a brilliant car but it’s just really cool. My mum had one when I was growing up.

Main image: Josh Lipworth

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