Please tell me that I’ve not turned into a petrol-head, but I seem to be spending an inordinate amount of time talking about cars recently – and here I go again. I’d like to say first that I never knowingly watch Top Gear and cannot stand the reactionary ranting of the terribly unfunny Jeremy Clarkson (made even more foul now I know he’s a neighbour and friend of the Camerons…). What’s more, at the other end of the political spectrum, I have to for once disagree with Billy Bragg when he sings
‘It doesn't matter the colour of the car, But what goes on beneath the bonnet’
Frankly it’s the opposite – I don’t care about the workings of greasy pistons and oily axles, it’s the finish of the paint, the polish of the chrome and the sleekness of the wings that does it for me every time. White walls and walnut dashboard. Style over substance. It is, quite honestly, the mod in me….
So, after dropping Tin Two at university at the weekend I got caught up in a traffic jam, not normally a good thing but on this occasion it was a traffic jam coming out of Goodwood racing circuit and hundreds of the cars on both sides of the road were classic fifties and sixties sports cars, polished, shining and out for the sheer hell of showing off. There were MGs, Jags, Austin Healeys and more – some so obscure that I hadn’t a clue, but all of them were extremely pleasing to the eye and I’m sure there wasn’t an Astra or Mondeo driver on the road who wouldn’t have sold his or her soul to swap. If they wouldn’t then it would be purely because they had no soul to start with.
I wasn’t in the MG sadly – I felt invisible.
As the traffic jam started to break up I found myself behind and then alongside a wonderful green and cream E-Type Jaguar. I know all the theories about bonnet length and male inadequacy but surely this is one of the more gorgeous pieces of British engineering and more than that, it screams 1960s from it’s very core. Every band that could afford it seems to have had a photo shoot in one of these, George Harrison owned one, the coolest film stars drove them and – by way of trivia, it’s the only British car to have made it into a sixties surf/hot rod song – it’s the ill-fated XJS mentioned in Jan and Dean’s ‘Dead Man’s Curve’. Then there’s ‘Danger Diabolik’ – a very cool/camp (take your pick) Italian spy film very much in the modernist groove – think Barbarella or Modesty Blaise, whose eponymous hero drives a jet black E Type. Even Fender tried to trade on a bit of the car’s cool, as if they didn’t think that they could match up.
And the unifying factor with all these cars – every driver looked like they were enjoying the drive and everyone they passed smiled. That’s got to make it worth keeping them going. I doubt that in fifty years time a 2009 Ford Focus or even a modern Jag is going to have the same effect.
Now if you want to waste hours - I discovered this new site today the Internet Movie Car Database - now if you think us music geeks are, well, geeky, you should have a look at this - car geeks (sorry, enthusiasts) who have logged every scene that they come across featuring a car and then identified it.... I spent a good deal of time today looking at where all the cars I've owned have featured in films....once you start you won't stop, sorry !
And here's the appropriate music from Boys Wonder turned pretend sixties hipsters on Acid Jazz...