Blog: Same shit, different medium

Carole Nash Classic Insurance Specialists

r40_04zt_02As someone who is soon to join the clan of muttering rotters, more commonly known as the British motoring press, I am hoping that I will be able to commentate in a fair and impartial way, but importantly, trying to establish my own writing style. For me, one important aspect of my writing is to maintain the reader’s interest; whilst ensuring that what I have to say is is not simply a rehash of old ideas… The reader would soon see though that.

Or would they?

Without doubt, the best motoring journalist in the UK at the moment really has to be Jeremy Clarkson. For one, he’s right at the top of the tree – BBC’s TOP GEAR programme would not exist without him, and although much of what was the programme moved over to Channel Five, to become FIFTH GEAR, that does not count, because as far as I know, no-one apart from Tiff Needell’s mother actually watches it. No, Jeremy Clarkson left TOP GEAR, and with him, left the programme’s viewers.

But thankfully for the BBC, Jeremy Clarkson returned (after his slightly iffy foray into being a chatshow host), and he created a programme in his own image – spookily similar to a raft of annual Clarkson videos. Audiences loved it, and still do today, as I am sure its viewing figures will attest.

However, Clarkson does like to repeat himself. Maybe he wants to get the point across. Maybe he’s short on material (although I doubt that, given the programme’s talented team of writers), or just maybe he feels that if he says the same thing to enough people, they will begin to believe it.

Right now, he does seem to have it in for MG Rover. Not that some of what he says is amusing. However, how many times can he say the same thing before people begine to get bored of the joke?

Personally, I have always found his tirades amusing – not because of the content, but because of the delivery. But recently, it seems to me that the anti-MG Rover tirade has become a little too venomous, and a little to tedious for its repetitiveness. The latest and most heavy handed attack by Clarkson was delivered through the pages of The Sunday Times, and although the article was ostensibly a road test of the ZT 260 V8 (a car which he likes), he seemed to major on the historical baggage of the company as well as his personal view of what kind of people drive Rovers.

In fact, his “road test” read almost like the TOP GEAR script he read from when delivering his verdict on the same car a few months back.

Here are some “gems”:

The problem is that the line-up of cars on sale is now even older than the people who buy them. The 45, for instance, was launched when Rameses III was on the throne and the MGTF is still painted with woad.

What the…? So, the 45 is old – and it’s trendy to bemoan the fact, but it does not detract from the ZS version of the car being still a seriously impressive driving machine, and its suspension system is still more sophisticated than quite a few class rivals. Oh, and yeah, the MG TF is a re-engineered version of a car launched in 1995. Unlike the Mazda MX-5, which is a re-engineered version of a 1990 car…

“There’s even some speculation that the romantically handled Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation (SAIC) might buy Rover, though God knows why.”

Because SAIC gain access to the engineering division of MG Rover, which is still capable of producing some dynamically excellent cars. What does SAIC get from General Motors and Volkswagen? Existing cars – ones that will not be tailored for China. Would SAIC get an open door to Wolfsburg or Russelheim’s engineering departments? Of course not…

I’d steer clear (of the ZT) because I’d always have a nagging doubt about the future of Rover itself. I’d worry that my expensive new toy would be stripped of its warranty and service backup five minutes after I got it home“.

Even though it looks like the Chinese want to get deeper into bed with MG Rover? Commentators have been predicting the death of MG Rover since 2000, and yes, against all all odds, it is still with us. Instead of using your programme and newspaper columns to frighten the crap out of potential customers, why not give a little credit where it is due? There is some very innovative thinking going on at Longbridge right now, and one suspects that the hostility coming from certain areas of the press is causing the company’s drop in sales.

Mostly, though, the reason why I’d steer well clear is that all those imbeciles who used to wobble about the middle of the road in their enormous Volvos have now got Rovers. Whenever I’m stuck in a huge tailback on the way into Oxford, it’s always a 216 at the front, endlessly indicating right and never actually doing so“.

Oh dear – the cliche rears its head. Oxford’s people bought a lot of 216s when they were new, and I would hardly call (what was in its day, remember?) an innovatively engineered, powerful, aspirational hatchback, the favoured car of the pensioner today. Nope, Mister Clarkson, it seems to me that you notice bad driving in Rovers because it reinforces your own prejudices (which I am at a loss to understand where they have come from). Because. let’s face it, no bad drivers ever clamber behind the wheel of a BMW, Volvo, Mercedes-Benz, Audi, Saab, Vauxhall or Ford.

Come on, Jeremy, you can do better than this. Why not admit you like the car without attaching any silly conditionals? The guys at AUTOCAR, EVO and CAR magazine seem to disagree with you, and they know what they are talking about.

In fact, why not simply ignore Rover for a few months and let the company work on staying in business. I cannot believe for one minute that you want to see MG Rover closed up (you can’t hate us Brummies that much, can you?), and yet, such nonsense like that published in today’s Times is helping to move the company towards the unthinkable end game.

Perhaps there is a “Clarkson on Rover” book in the offing, and you need to get that last chapter finished…

Keith Adams

Keith Adams

Editor and creator AROnline at AROnline
Created www.austin-rover.co.uk in 2001 and built it up to become the world's foremost reference source for all things BMC, Leyland and Rover Group, before renaming it AROnline in 2007.

Is the Editor of the Parkers website and price guide, formerly editor of Classic Car Weekly, and launch editor/creator of Modern Classics magazine. Has contributed to various motoring titles including Octane, Practical Classics, Evo, Honest John, CAR magazine, Autocar, Pistonheads, Diesel Car, Practical Performance Car, Performance French Car, Car Mechanics, Jaguar World Monthly, MG Enthusiast, Modern MINI, Practical Classics, Fifth Gear Website, Radio 4, and the the Motoring Independent...

Likes 'conditionally challenged' motors and taking them on unfeasible adventures all across Europe.
Keith Adams

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