IT WILL come as now surprise that car makers have paused delivery (and collection of) media test cars during the lockdown. This means that motoring journalists have been stuck with whatever was dropped off just before the government’s stay at home order was initiated in March.
For Jeremy Clarkson, this means a Vauxhall Corsa and a Mini Electric, both of which he has now written about, which in turn means no more car reviews from The Sunday Times’ most (in)famous car writer until the restrictions on movement are lifted. Cue disappointed sigh.
Every lockdown has a silver lining, however, and in this case it means we have an unspecified number of weeks in which Jeremy Clarkson will take us through his new life on Diddly Squat, his farm in Chipping Norton.
It’s a subject he (and recently girlfriend Lisa Hogan) has mentioned a number of occasions in The Sunday Times, and he was even asked to contribute to the recipe pages on the Sunday Times Magazine as a result of his newfound command of the culinary. However, this new series of columns will go into more detail ahead of the airing of I Bought the Farm, the docuseries Clarkson is creating for Amazon Prime Video.
Naturally, in the first of his articles we find that Farming 101 is all about a Lamborghini.
Car enthusiasts will know that Lamborghini started out as a tractor maker (manufacturing magnate Ferruccio Lamborghini was so disappointed with his experience as a Ferrari owner that he took on Enzo & co with his own car, so the story goes). What is perhaps less well known, and highlighted by Clarkson today, is that you can still buy Lamborghini tractors, albeit not ones produced by the supercar company — the tractor rights were sold back in the seventies, along with the name.
“Today they’re made in Germany but they still look Lambo-mad,” writes Clarkson, who turned his back on the tractor models recommended to him by other farmers to buy one. “If an Aventador were to make love to a spaceship, this is what you’d end up with.”
The result is huge, even by tractor standards, he admits: “Every single farmer type who’s seen it says the same thing. ‘That,’ they intone with a rural tug on the flat cap, ‘is too big.’ But in my mind tractors are like penises. They cannot be too big.”
His Lambo is so huge, in fact, that Clarkson had to build a new barn to house it in. And a new driveway, because it wouldn’t fit through the gates.
Operating it requires great care for more reasons that just its proportions, Jeremy has discovered — due to the amount of torque generated by its straight-six turbodiesel engine (775 lb ft), fitting machinery to the back is a risky business. “Not that I can attach anything to its rear end. It’s all heavy engineering back there and I just know that if I tried, you’d be reading about yet another farmer walking for four miles across his fields with his severed arm in a bag.”
Therefore, Clarkson has been forced to hire someone to do that for him. All this together means that the Lamborghini has ended up costing a little bit more than the £40,000 he initially paid for it. Probably enough to buy an actual Lamborghini.
Clarkson has often bemoaned how complicated cars have become but nothing could have prepared him for the intricacy of driving a Lamborghini tractor. “There are, I’m told, 48 gears forward and reverse. Happily, there are only two brake pedals and two throttles. But I did count 164 buttons before I opened the arm rest and found 24 more. None of them is labelled, which is a worry as all of them are designed to engage stuff that will tear off one of my arms.”
Clarkson is still getting used to the technological side of farming, then, just one aspect of a multi-faceted job that is perhaps chronically oversimplified by many. However, despite the tens of gears and hundreds of buttons (and by the sounds of it, as many crashes) there are simple pleasures, ones that may have been missing from the life of a man who travels around the world testing some of the most sophisticated tech money can buy.
“When I’m trundling along and the air-conditioning is on and there’s a constant dribble of socialism coming from Radio 4, I confess I start to understand why Forrest Gump was happy, after all his adventures, to end up on a tractor mowing the school football field.”
After decades of the fastest cars with the most power, there’s a pride in honest work. “It’s not nursing or doctoring, I understand that,” he says, “but growing bread and beer and vegetable oil is somehow a damn sight more rewarding than driving round corners while shouting.”
We do hope he returns to doing that soon, though.
To read Jeremy Clarkson’s musings on farming, Lamborghini and his new vocation, pick up an edition of today’s Sunday Times Magazine, or click here to read it at the Sunday Times Website.