If automobiles have managed to remain in the popular imagination in the age of gridlock and smartphones, much of the credit must go to a 58-year-old Englishman named Jeremy Clarkson. First on the BBC’s long-running show Top Gear, and now on Amazon Prime Video’s The Grand Tour, he and his two co-hosts travel the world behaving badly with cars. Think: Parts Unknown meets Jackass meets Fast & Furious. It sounds terrible. It should be terrible. And yet, it’s reliably great. As the third season of The Grand Tour is set to launch, we spoke to Jeremy Clarkson about the show, his driving fantasies, and his uncanny ability to offend just about anyone.
What’s in your garage right now?
I’ve kept a few cars from the show. From this season we had an Alfa Romeo GTV6, which I’ve always adored. I kept the car we made a couple seasons ago, called the Excellent. It was a Land Rover with a Mercedes body on it. And I kept a Jeep that we drove across Colombia. And I 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 — I’ve got a new one and a really old one.
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 £255,000 but it’s not just the monetary value — it was such a great car.
What effect do you think Brexit 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.
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?
Were cars cool when you were young?
I was talking about this with James May. In fact, we’ve ended the series with it, a lament to the mid-range Ford. One in three cars, when I was growing up in the U.K., was a Ford. One in 10 was a Cortina. Everybody had them. It was so cool. The coolest thing in the world was a 1600 E.
Is there any equivalent car now?
I don’t think anybody can get their knickers in a twist about an SUV, which is all anybody really buys these days. I mean, who cares? Literally, who cares? They’re just some car, wallpaper paste. It doesn’t have any appeal at all to kids or anyone.
You’re 58 now. 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.
If someone wants to take a road trip, where would you recommend?
Go across the Alps, go from sort of Lake Annecy [in France] and then go down, skirting Switzerland, because you don’t want to go in there if you can help it, and then go through France and up and over the Alps and into Italy, dropping down to Lake Como. You’ll see some of the best roads in the world. I’m not doing anything this weekend; I might do that.