Jeremy Clarkson is the world’s foremost authority on cars. His global popularity can be mostly attributed to the success of Top Gear, and more recently The Grand Tour. But where did his insane love of cars begin? Which vehicle was responsible for turning Clarkson into the world’s biggest petrolhead?
You might be surprised to hear that it was the humble Ford Cortina – a car his parents always drove and which later became his first car.
“Always Ford Cortinas,” Clarkson says. “That’s why I bought a Ford Cortina, I didn’t know there were other cars. I was raised in a Ford Cortina, only ever went anywhere in a Ford Cortina so I thought I better buy a Ford Cortina then.”
His example was a 1969 Ford Cortina 1600E. “I got it in 1977. I just loved that thing, extra (spotlights) on the front … extra brake lights, fur-lined doors, race seats. I went to town on it”.
Clarkson later sold the car but was eventually reunited with it with help from a British TV show.
“It had been destroyed by this imbecile,” Clarkson says through gritted teeth. “It was rusted away. I’ve never wanted to lean across a table more and plant one on him. Do you have any idea how much love and attention I lavished on that thing, and you’ve just let moss grow in it?”
Clarkson also laments his 1986 Alfa Romeo GTV6, which he describes as being both “the best and the worst car I owned”.
“It simply never worked but I loved it to death,” Clarkson says. “It was like a really badly behaved dog.”
Clarkson has probably driven more cars than anyone else in the world – and while his current dream car is the McLaren P1, you might be surprised to hear that his current daily driver is a Volkswagen Golf GTI.
“I do have a VW Golf GTI. This is my first one,” Clarkson says. “I had VW Sciroccos back in the day. And I always thought it was an itch that needed scratching to own a Golf GTI. It does everything, that thing. It’s cheaper than the Golf R and you spend less time explaining to people what it is.”
In a shocking reversal of opinion, Clarkson also skipped the 6-speed manual and optioned the automatic dual-clutch gearbox with “flappy paddles” instead.
“I’m mostly in London and I can’t be arsed to change gear,” he explains. “I just leave it in automatic and potter around London and nobody notices you except for traffic wardens.”
Between London traffic jams, Clarkson and co-presenters James May and Richard Hammond are putting the finishing touches on the second season of The Grand Tour which, for now, will remain on streaming service Amazon Prime Video.