JEREMY Clarkson has beaten Hollywood legend Steve McQueen and three iterations of James Bond to take the title of screen’s greatest automotive icon.
The Sunday Times Driving columnist, farmer and presenter of The Grand Tour has been a mainstay on British television for over 20 years. When he presented Top Gear, it was the most popular show on BBC Two and the most watched factual television series… in the world.
Steve McQueen, star of silver-screen classics such as The Great Escape and Bullitt (although some would argue that the star of the latter was a ‘68 Mustang Fastback), came second to Clarkson. The Hollywood heartthrob was nicknamed the “King of Cool”, which Clarkson — some might say — isn’t.
The survey, by Hyundai, involved 2,000 Brits and gave Clarkson’s co-host Richard Hammond a podium position. James May, ever the slowest of the trio, came sixth, separated from the podium by Vin Diesel and Sir Sean Connery. There’s a sentence we never thought we’d publish.
Three James Bond actors made the list: Connery in fifth, incumbent 007 Daniel Craig in eighth and Roger Moore in ninth.
Bond’s Aston Martin DB5, which is set to return in the newest instalment of the series (the release of which has been delayed due to coronavirus), was voted the greatest movie car ahead of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (which was a V6 Ford, in case you were wondering) and the DeLorean from Back to the Future. That reflects well on Ian Fleming, who wrote Chitty Chitty Bang Bang as well as the James Bond series, though for the nerds out there, Bond drove a Bentley in the original books.
Perhaps reflecting the current age, the list is rounded out by stars of the Fast and Furious movies: Vin Diesel in fourth, the late Paul Walker in seventh and Jason Statham (also star of The Transporter series) just in the points at tenth.
The best car film was voted to be The Italian Job — the Michael Caine version, of course, not the 2003 remake starring Mark Wahlberg. The car chase through (and out of) Turin at the end of the 1969 classic was also voted to be the greatest in film history, no doubt adding to the chagrin of Steve McQueen fans. Naturally, it’s one we picked in our own Top 10 Greatest Car Chases list back in 2012.
The Italian Job is also the most watched automotive film since the coronavirus lockdown came into effect, says Hyundai. Not surprising — is there a purer form of escapism than the vision of a Lamborghini Miura driving through the Italian mountains to the dulcet tones of Matt Monro?
The appearance of The Grand Tour trio in the list, as well as the fact that Top Gear was voted the best automotive TV show, no doubt points to some of the most famous moments in recent British TV history — a host of amphibious cars, racing the Bugatti Veyron against a jet fighter, driving the Peel P50 around the BBC studios. Add this to an impressive list of dramatic specials — Vietnam, Bolivia and the North Pole to name a few — and it’s not hard to see why.
Clarkson before McQueen, though? We love him, but …