Jeremy Clarkson is the second-best motoring writer in Britain. For twenty years, he's been driving cars, writing about them and occasionally voicing his opinions about them on the BBC's Top Gear.
No one in the business is taller.
Here, he's collected his best car columns and stories in which he waxes lyrical on topics as useful and diverse as:
Since the advent of what the publishing industry calls new technology, it has become a great deal cheaper to produce the printed word. This is why one now needs the anatomical properties of Kali to read the Sunday Times, and why the shelves at your local newsagent's are groaning under the weight of perfect-bound, laminated forestry.
You may have wondered how the producers of Succesiful Cauliflower magazine make any money. The answer is, they don't, but seeing as it costs naff all to make it in the first place, nobody's complaining! Not so long ago, people bought their favourite magazine for a decent read on the bus. It would be stitched together from shoddy paper and when it was finished, it could be hung on a clip by the lavatory. Not any more.
Take Country Life. Full of ads for houses that no one can afford and no one wants; you don't read it, you arrange it on the coffee table as you would arrange a bunch of flowers. You may even feel the need to iron it occasionally.
It is not a magazine. It is a statement. It says that while you may live in a neo-Georgian semi with a purple up 'n' over garage door, you are fully conversant with the delights of hopelessly expensive manor houses in Oxfordshire.
Or Horse and Hound, with its nonsensical line, 'I freely admit that the best of my fun, I owe it to Horse and Hound.'
Nowadays, there are a million country-house and interior design glossies full of curtains which cost £8000 and would look stupid anywhere but Castle Howard. Two luminaries in this domain are Tatler and Harpers and Queen, which are read a bit, but only by the middle classes scouring 'Bystander' or 'Jennifer's Diary for photographs of their horrid, fully-dress-shirted friends.
But the best of all are the car magazines.
There was a time when they treated the car for what it was – a device which used a series of small explosions to move people around. But now, it is an art form. The days when you could get away with a front three-quarters shot taken in the office car park are gone.
Then there are the front covers. How many times has the Golf GTi lost its crown? To my certain knowledge, the Escort XR3 was the first to steal it, yet when the Peugeot 205 G TI came along a couple of years later, somehow, the Golf had got it back again. And therefore we read in 72-point bold that the GolfGTi had lost its crown again, this time to the 205 GTI. So the Vauxhall Astra, you might imagine, would have to pinch it from the 205; but no, at some point Peugeot had given it back to VW – who reluctantly had to hand it over again, this time to Vauxhall.
Then in no particular order it has been worn by the Peugeot 309 GTI, the Astra GTE I6v, the Escort RS Turbo, the Delta Integrale and the Corolla GTi. But for some extraordinary reason, the prized headgear never gets handed directly from one winner to the next. It always goes back to VW in between times. For now, it is being worn by the I6-valve Astra but you can bet your bottom dollar that VW will have it back in time to lose it to the new I6-valve Integrale.
The Quattro has been through a similar series of machinations. The Delta Integrale pinched its number one slot but had to give the crown back to Audi shortly afterwards because it was wearing the Golf's at the time. Audi held on to it for a bit but only a couple of months ago, relinquished it to Porsche's 91 I Carrera 4.
And aside from dispensing crowns on a weekly basis, headline writers have become obsessed with speed. 'WE DRIVE THE 220mph JAG THEY DARE NOT BUILD' is the latest game. Not to be outdone, a rival publication, you can be assured, will drive a 230-mph Jag that can't be built the very next week. And so on towards infinity perhaps. We smirk when we read that Freddie Starr ate someone's hamster, yet we are expected to believe that some scribbler has driven a Jaguar that no one has built at a speed that current tyre technology won't allow anyway.
I have driven a BMW 750iLat an indicated 156 mph on the autobahn and believe me, it is a bowel-loosening experience I do not wish to relive. Sure, I enjoy going quickly, but the notion of driving something like a Porsche 9II, which has been tuned by a foreign grease monkey, at the speed of sound in a Welsh valley, appals as much as it amuses.
The thing is that if you have a magazine on your coffee table that talks on its front cover about a car that hasn't been built doing 300 mph on the Milton Keynes ring road, visitors to your home will be impressed. If you leave motoring publications lying around which talk about how seatbelts save lives, those same visitors will drink their coffee very quickly and leave.
Business-speak impresses too. Honda have smashed Porsche 48 times and Toyota have bludgeoned BMW to death on a weekly basis for two years. And all this smashing and bludgeoning has resulted in every move a manufacturer makes being seen as utterly crucial. As in, 'ON THE LIMIT IN ROVER'S LIFE-ORDEATH MAESTRO'; or how about this recent gem: 'LOTUS'S MAKE-OR-BREAK ELAN.' Lotus are owned by General Motors, who are one of the world's biggest companies. Their R&D department is universally revered, with lucrative contracts from such financially secure outfits as the MoD.
The Elan, successful or otherwise, will neither make nor break the company. It might on the other hand pinch the GolfGTi's crown. Clarkson Decides.
For Ages: 18+ years old
Number Of Pages: 352
Published: August 2004
Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd
Country of Publication: GB
Dimensions (cm): 19.8 x 13.0 x 2.1
Weight (kg): 0.24
Edition Number: 1