The unbearable lightness of being a motoring journo

The unbearable lightness of being a motoring journo

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I’ve been trying to get back into motor journalism but I can’t seem to find the energy. I spent seven years writing about cars for various publications and over four years co-presenting a TV show about them so you would think it would be easy for me to slip into the driving seat of some supercar, drive a thousand kilometers and knock off a 1000 word article full of superlatives like “epic’ “biblical’ and “awesome”. But it isn’t. And I’ve realised why. It’s because cars are actually rather boring things to write about.

There really isn’t much you can say is there? They either have a powerful engine or they don’t and there are either two pedals or three pedals and a manual or automatic gearbox. I suppose you can waffle on about the boot space and the interior finish and, believe me, when I say waffle on I mean waffle on. When we were shooting the TV series I did all my takes unscripted. Which meant that I had to make it up while the camera was rolling. What is there to say about the interior of most cars? Well, if you’re shooting a TV show quite a lot as it happens but none of it of the remotest importance. Which is why Jeremy Clarkson hardly ever drives anything mundane on Top Gear. If he did he also wouldn’t have anything to talk about.

I took a Bentley Flying Spur Speed down to Van Reenen recently and it was a sublime experience but only because I didn’t do any of the things a motoring journalist should really do when test driving a car like this. I certainly didn’t test the top speed because I knew I would get nicked. Besides, I reasoned, would Bentley lie to us about the performance of one of their cars? So I sat at a sedate 120km/h and listened to very loud music which I could have done just as easily in a bakkie.

Aston Martin have offered to lend me their DBS which is awfully kind of them but I can’t think what I would do with it if I got it, apart from become a poseur for a few days and visit all my ex girlfriends in their retirement homes. A combination of heavy traffic and bad roads would make it a nightmare to drive in town and there would be no point in driving it on the open road because there would be nobody to see me or share in the enjoyment of the engine noise.

A terrible confession is that cars were just as boring when I was writing and talking about them but I pretended they were interesting because I needed the fame and the money. Besides, what other job allows you to travel the world down the sharp end of an aircraft and stay in top hotels all expenses paid? So, with this in mind, I’m going to try one more time to find cars interesting. If it doesn’t work I think I’ll write a regular column about vacuum cleaners.

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