Oh, to be like Clarkson

Credit: BBC Worldwide

Thankfully, the Brits are back. Top Gear‘s latest season started last week and I watched the latest episode last night with a grin on my face the entire time (something I just don’t do with the U.S. version). Not only am I slightly obsessed with the show (especially since I got to speak to my idol the Hamster a few years ago for an interview), but I’m also currently making my way through Clarkson’s books.

At the moment I’m reading Driven to Distraction. It’s a collection of Clarkson’s Sunday columns from 2006 to 2009. I’m not sure how long they actually are, but on my fancy new Kobo (yes, I’ve converted) they’re about 8-9 pages each. The ideal length for Clarkson to insult the entire world and talk about the car he’s driven that week.

After making my way through 49% of the book (according to my Kobo completion tracker), I can’t help but be amazed by Clarkson. After watching Top Gear for years, I know he’s got an “I can do what I please and everyone else can sod off” attitude, but I’d never really experienced it in bulk.

I’m amazed with the stuff he gets away with in his car review columns every time I start a new chapter. From insulting every politican in the UK to pinpointing races, cultures and lifestyles to mock, nothing is safe from Clarkson.

And I love it.

Some would say he takes things too far; he’s too harsh; he’s brazen and cocky and too full of himself and his abilities as a writer and driver — and to those people I say: “Sod off!” Clarkson is where he is today because of his brazen attitude and his no-bullshit reviews. He’s not afraid to tear apart a $500,000 car, and he’s not afraid to bitch about political movements that are supposed to better the planet, when really all they do is inconvenience the world.

I’ve brought this up before, but I’ll do it again; most auto journalists are afraid to say what they truly think about the cars they drive. We’re afraid of having our privileges stripped, afraid fo sullying our good names. And yet, we’re depriving the public of what they really need to know.

Yes, the Mazda2 really does have a twitchy gearbox, and yes it struggled horribly in the snow and it took the radio 10 minutes to heat up and turn on this morning (who knew that could happen?); and yes, the X5’s climate control is a disaster and we struggled with it all week long, not to mention the all-around cameras that were completely useless in the cold as well; and the Porsche Cockster’s (as Clarkson likes to call it) broken radio was the worst thing we’ve ever experienced as it would randomly turn on while we were driving blasting music or static or both at full volume — and yet the car only had a few thousand kilometers on it.

There have been a number of cars I truly haven’t liked. Bits and pieces that either didn’t function properly, broke or were just downright useless. And sometimes I’ll mention them, and sometimes I won’t.


Well, for starters, I’m not quite at the Clarkson level yet (shocking, I know). I’d like to think I could get away with it, but I learned my lesson already. And so I’ll keep plugging along, throwing in negatives here and there where I see fit in the hopes that one day I can openly bitch about the entire world and the cars I drive a la Clarkson.

I leave you then, oh faithful reader, with a short bio of Clarkson (that he undoubtedly wrote himself):

Jeremy has often been described as ‘the most influential man in motoring journalism’, mainly by himself. Estimates suggest that he is slightly over nine feet tall, owns 14,000 pairs of jeans and has destroyed almost 4.2 million tyres in his lifetime. He is best known for possessing a right foot apparently consisting of some sort of lead-based substance, for creating some of the most tortured similes ever committed to television, and for leaving the world’s longest pauses between two parts… of the same sentence. He has never taken public transport.

Drive on,
– M.

~ by drivingmsmiranda on January 31, 2011.

5 Responses to “Oh, to be like Clarkson”

  1. i’m so excited because netflix has a few seasons of top gear- only YOU could get me hooked on a car show! great post!

  2. Top Gear is undoubtedly one of my favourite shows (although we are forced to buy the “Americanized” versions on DVD – which you can clearly tell have been edited for content). Jeremy Clarkson says it like it is (with respect to cars and politics) and it’s refreshing and amusing at the same time. Yes, he makes people squirm but that’s part of his ‘charm’. Too bad more journalists aren’t as honest. Why some companies provide cars to Top Gear for testing when they know they’re going to be returned battered and bruised (and, perhaps, trashed verbally) is beyond me – but …. I’m glad they do!

  3. I’ve read is articles in the Toronto Star’s Wheels section, and I have to agree, they can be quite brutal (if not hilarious). I think journalists should be more critical of cars, because if we only see the good and none of the bad, then we only see part of the car.

  4. I have a little bit of a love / hate relationship with Clarkson.

    I like the fact that he is in a position where he can review a car completely honestly without worrying whether he’ll get another writing gig the next week or not. So, his reviews are truthful, sometimes brutal, but all the better for it and one would love it if all auto journos could be so candid.

    However, the show has been criticised for being misogynist, xenophobic and childish -I would say that these criticisms are fair. There is a certain cringe factor about these three middle aged men belting around in supercars and generally acting like a bunch of sugar fuelled teenagers offending all and sundry with – what is – cheap humour, sometimes going to the lowest common denominator.

    Sometimes it is easy to target a national stereotype or a perceived notion about a section of society but I think that is lazy writing. Maybe I am too liberal, but other motoring shows don’t feel the need to lower themselves to that level. These guys are smart enough to do that.

    Anyway – rant over!

  5. The thing I like most about Jeremy is that he doesn’t care one bit about practicality or other worldly issues that haunt us lesser mortals. And yet he can leave just about anyone speechless when he wants to, like he did with Boris Johnson on an episode of Top Gear.

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