Since his first stint on BBC’s long-running program Top Gear, and more recently on Amazon Prime Video’s The Grand Tour, Jeremy Clarkson has made a name for himself as a car critic and a mouthpiece for boorish man-children everywhere. Never one to let political correctness get in the way of a punchline, he saves his most ruthless one-liners for bad cars that deserved to be taken down.
Try to watch an old clip of Top Gear on YouTube and not laugh out loud. At one point, it was watched by an estimated audience of 350 million viewers worldwide. Whatever you think of Clarkson, he and his co-hosts James May and Richard Hammond, have done more to make cars entertaining and exciting than anyone else. Jerry Seinfeld and Jay Leno have nothing on this British trio.
We spoke with Jeremy Clarkson ahead of the Season 3 premiere of The Grand Tour.
What exactly is it that you and your co-hosts do on The Grand Tour?
We argue and bicker. Occasionally, one of us will drive around a corner a little bit too quickly while shouting. It’s very popular all over the world. I’ve no idea why hundreds of millions of people have tuned in to watch three fat middle-aged Englishmen bickering and arguing and falling over. I don’t know why, but people do like it. I’m very lucky.
Can you describe your two co-hosts to people who’ve never met them?
James May is like a human being, to look at, in some ways, but not really one. And Richard Hammond is like a human being, only much smaller. He’s Tom Cruise height, although not as good-looking and less able to hang on to the side of an airplane.
I heard you spend a lot of time on the scripts for The Grand Tour, refining them, perfecting them.
I do, yes. That’s my job, my contribution to this operation, to fuss over every last semicolon, every last nuance, every last eyebrow.
Autonomous cars: friend or foe?
Totally irrelevant. It’ll never happen. They haven’t yet made a robot that can fetch my slippers so how on Earth are they going to make a robot that can drive me home across London? Not in our lifetime is that going to happen.
Electric cars: Are they the future?
I’ve got no problem with electric cars, but, I mean, that won’t work either. The U.K. in particular, and most countries, don’t have anything like the capacity necessary to charge electric cars up every night. But if hydrogen fuel cells come, that’s a great idea.
Cities are getting more crowded. Should cars share the road with bicycles and kick-scooters and e-bikes and whatever else?
Bicycles are fine. Children’s toys is what they are. The mayor of London creates idiotic lanes for them not to come into contact with cars. It’s nuts. Now we have to pay, as of June, £25 a day to drive into London if your car is sort of old and smoky. What it does is it prices the poor off the roads. I can afford to go in with my Range Rover, but you can’t if you’re poor.
What’s in your garage right now?
I’ve got a new Range Rover and a really old Range Rover. I’ve also got a few cars from the show which I’ve kept. From this season, we had an Alfa Romeo GTV6, which I’ve always adored. We made a car a couple seasons ago called the Excellent. It was a Land Rover with a Mercedes body on it. And I kept a Jeep which we drove across Colombia, from the next season. I also have a Mercedes 600 Grosser, which is a fabulous car. But really, I’m an old bore these days and tend to just waft about in Range Rovers.
Do you live in the countryside?
I do. I have a farm in the Cotswolds [in England] which is lovely. You’d call it tiny, but over here it’s enormous. Let’s just put it this way: I’m no threat to the Alberta wheat farmers. They don’t have to lie awake at night going, what’s Jeremy Clarkson growing?
Which car do wish you hadn’t sold?
The one I really regret selling was a BMW 3.0 CSL. I bought it for £3,000 and sold it for £2,800. They’re now worth … a lot, but it’s not just the monetary value, it was such a great car.
How’s the old Range Rover?
I’m just hosing money into keeping that thing going, but it’s worth it.
You can drive any supercar you like on any given day. Why do you have a garage full of old cars?
New cars tend to blur into one another. They’re just 14 feet of car. You buy them like wallpaper. Whereas an old car will have a personality for sure. We’re all in agreement on the show that old cars are terrible – noisy, unreliable, drafty and don’t have air conditioning and the steering is heavy and they ride badly and they’re not particularly fast – but a lot of them do look extremely lovely, and that I think is the appeal: rarity and loveliness.
Brexit, were you leave or remain?
Very much remain.
What effect do you think the decision to leave will have on the British car industry?
I have absolutely no idea, and the terrifying thing is, nobody does. There’s not a single person alive who has the first idea what the effect on anything or anybody is going to be.
You’re 58 years old. How much longer do you want to keep doing this show?
Let me just rephrase that question. How long do I want to keep travelling the world at somebody else’s expense and be paid a fortune to do what I absolutely love doing? Yeah, that’s an easy one to answer: as long as possible, as long as my knees hold out. The only downside is Hammond and May, but it’s a small price to pay.
This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.
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