With the arrival of a new season of Top Gear and all the media coverage it has received, I couldn’t help but cast my mind back to the cars that have been the most important in shaping my knowledge and love of them from when I was a little girl.
Ever since I can remember, I have always loved cars. I’m not sure exactly where my enthusiasm came from, but I imagine it was the combination of my dad’s love of Formula 1 and rally driving, an obsession I had with James Bond, and having the opportunity to watch stunt drivers at their best in a live show when I was in Disneyland. When Top Trumps came back into fashion in the early noughties, I had the Supercars pack and would always pray to have the McLaren F1 LM in my stack for the joy of reading ‘Gumball Factor- 99%’! I never really thought of cars as a passion; I simply took my interest for granted. But as I grew up I realised that I have many memories, from childhood through to University, that have involved incredible cars. So here is a brief history of those which have shaped my taste and passion, all of which I have loved to love.
Multiple World Rally Championship winner, I fell in love with this chunky, colourfully eye-catching number when I was still in Primary School. So much was my desire to have my very own Impreza that my parents bought me a remote control version which I covered in rally stickers, including one reading ‘Mills’ in the window. I have only ever seen one in ‘real life’ parked up outside a pub in Cardiff, so bright against the greyness of a concrete-covered street in a Welsh winter that it almost seemed unreal. Truly a great car.
Maybe a bit surprising to have this car on a list alongside the iconic DB5, but for my younger self, this was the car that defined James Bond in all its excessive style. Compare the S1 used in The Spy Who Loved Me to the most recent model and it looks like any other first-generation sports car of its time. But this particular S1 has a twist. Specially made for Bond, it is the star of one of the most iconic moments in the franchise’ history. During a chase scene, in which Bond drives the car into the sea, it suddenly transforms into a submarine complete with propellers and water-friendly weapons to ward off enemies. Totally over the top, but what is a Bond car without a little excess?
Red Bull RB3
Say what you like about McLaren and Mercedes; for me, the RB3 was the car that reignited my love of Formula 1 after a temporary lapse upon the first retirement of Michael Schumacher. My alliances shifted to my new favourite driver, Mark Webber, who drove this very car. I found myself open to the idea of looking further afield than the likes of Ferrari, and enjoyed watching a team and a car develop over time. On top of this, it was designed by University of Southampton alumni Adrian Newey. Another reason to be proud to include this car on my list!
Aston Martin DB5
This car really needs no introduction. Timelessly cool, sleek, and stylish enough to excite an audience in Skyfall nearly fifty years after its first appearance in Goldfinger. With a top speed of 145 mph, this car has endured decades of change to remain an example of true car royalty.
Any Top Gear fan will remember this car speeding down the 5.5-mile stretch at the Volkswagen test track at 267 mph. This car is fierce, powerful and extravagant without becoming a mid-life crisis. It was dynamic and roundly shaped. Bypassing the jagged tendencies of so many other supercars in favour of a curved streamlined body, it looked like it belonged in the 21st century and not a sci-fi fantasy. It’s a low growling feat of modern engineering.
It’s funny how a means of transport can become such a passion throughout one’s life, but these cars are a means of remembering times in my garden driving my own mini Subaru, and Saturday afternoons watching old Bond films, longing to drive supercars through country lanes just like the eponymous hero. Cars may be able to take you from point A to point B, but their purpose and importance goes far beyond lonely commutes and quick shopping trips. They are a part of the fabric which makes up our ideas of glamour and escapism.