Some say he was created in a laboratory, when a scientist accidentally mixed fuel vapour with Castrol GTX. Others say he was smuggled into The Sunday Times in a Reva G-Wiz. The truth is that Jeremy was hired from Performance Car magazine, where he had found an editor who would pay him to race round the Nürburgring, take TVRs to the limit and pour forth his views on any subject underneath the sun.
“His writing was hugely popular very quickly,” says Jesse Crosse, who hired Clarkson in his mid-twenties after reading one of his features that had been sent in. “It stood out because it was funny. It hasn’t really changed, although he has. When he arrived, he was very youthful, young and boyish-looking.
“We used to meet in a pub every month and go through his ideas, which were always brilliant, but I learnt pretty quickly that I needed to get the company’s legal team to look through his stories every time. People did get enraged by a few of the subjects he wrote about.”
In 1988 Crosse and Clarkson went for the same job — as a presenter on the old version of Top Gear. “Clearly history shows that the right person got the job,” says Crosse. But it was always something I had been keen on, and I had a lot of ideas to make car shows more exciting. Obviously Jeremy’s gone on and done that.”
Five years later Jeremy made the leap to national newspapers, signing up to write for The Sunday Times.
In the following pages are his highlights from two decades of championing great cars and berating bus lanes, parking wardens and the Vauxhall Vectra. We start with his very first article.