Top Gear editor-in-chief Jason Barlow is among the elite who are acting as judges on the new series. TV show sponsored by Adrian Flux, The Car Years.
Jason took his foot off the gas to take a few minutes to answer the questions posed by a classic car insurance experts at Adrian Flux.
What makes a luxury car?
Different people use different methods. For me, I’ve always enjoyed cars that represent the essence of design, so I can be as excited about an original Fiat Panda or Volkswagen Golf as I can be a Duesenberg Model J with a Figoni body or a Lamborghini Miura.
I have a Ferrari F355 and I have a W123 Mercedes 280 E saloon. They both make ‘fizz’ as far as I know, but for very different reasons.
The noise the F355 makes when you hit 4,000rpm in third or fourth gear is something. At Mercedes, I felt like I was in a Cold War-era espionage drama set in Berlin.
What noise do you hear when you turn on a familiar car?
It’s always a special moment. A lot depends on the type of engine you’re burning… internal combustion is an explosive process, and it’s enlightening to think about what’s going on while it’s happening.
I spent a week in a Mercedes SLR McLaren MSO recently, it has a direct exhaust and bypass valve. It made a strange noise. You can play music by adjusting the throttle pedal.
Are you lucky that your love of cars is your career?
I am very lucky. But I also like music and movies. It is important to have many interests. And I am very happy when all three pass. That’s one of the reasons I like it [the film] Bullittfor example, which is a lot of fun, obviously has an amazing car chase, and a great score by Lalo Schifrin.
I love David Bowie, The Beatles, and Stanley Kubrick as much as I love a Ferrari or a Porsche.
I have collected the best articles. Anyone who knows me can tell you that wherever I am in the world I will go in search of a vinyl store. Many people have been drawn along with me.
What is the best car you have ever driven?
I’ve always loved driving Porsche 911s, and have a soft spot for the 997 GT3. But maybe it’s the McLaren F1. The combination of Gordon Murray’s engineering monomania, Peter Stevens’s design, and the BMW V12 adds up to something that is as good as the legend says. They are expensive these days, however.
Can you identify a few of today’s factory cars that will be the classic cars of the future?
I remember thinking that the Lexus LFA was frighteningly good when I attended the event in 2010. F1-specification engine, carbon-fibre chassis, low-profile design… just look at what happens in the next few years.
I wish I could convince my banker to lend me the money to buy it when it’s new. And the BMW 1 M Coupe is really cool. Any limited edition Ferrari is a sure thing. Or the Black Series Mercedes.
How do you view electric vehicles?
The best EVs are already the best, although the technology still has a way to go, in terms of models, software integration, and architecture.
I’ve driven the new electric hypercars and the Rimac Nevera and Pininfarina Battista are the most appealing when it comes to that part of the equation.
But batteries and electric motors don’t have the same lifespan as internal combustion engines.
Do you see electricity being high in the future?
I worry that EVs are like big phones. Technology moves so fast that it can become redundant. That said, I think the BMW i3 and Honda E are future possibilities. And someone just paid $30k for the original iPhone to make it all work.
How do you feel about those who have replaced the customer’s engines with electronic equipment?
Name-dropping here: I spoke to David Beckham about this a few months ago. He is an investor in a company called Lunaz that recycles electric powertrains.
I understand the appeal of future proof we can find, and it works for me on other teams – and on other cars. But honestly, the engine is too important in any case for me to agree with the idea.
No one in their right mind would replace a Ferrari engine with an electric one, would they?
And it doesn’t have to be fancy. I recently drove an original Renault 5 with a retrofit electric powertrain thinking, “well, no one loses an 845cc engine in an early R5, do they?” I then drove one with the original engine and loved it.
Do you think older cars should be restored to factory original condition or are other modifications acceptable?
Originals are important, but cars with patina are often more desirable. I’m not particularly fond of restored cars, and I’ve driven many resto-mods and loved them.
The Cyan Racing Volvo P1800, Kimera 037, and Alfaholics GTA-R 290 are all great. And then there is the Singer, who does wonders. Rob Dickinson is an expert.
How long have you been driving?
I passed my exam on 8/8/88. The best day in the Chinese calendar, and for me. I passed the first time, I was ready for the road.
What kind of car do you drive?
As editor-in-chief of Top Gear and contributor to GQ, I have the opportunity to run the best of everything. The F355 and Mercedes are not driven as often as they should be. The family car is the Dacia Duster, which is very fun.
What kind of car would you like to drive?
I’ve been riding a Ferrari 250 GTO. I want to try it properly.
Wikipedia says you were named ‘Spectacle Wearer of the Year’ back in 2001 – how did that change your life?
Just a reminder that I need to update the Wikipedia entry! And as someone who has been dressing up for shows since she was three, and had to put up with her stupid comments as a child, I felt justified.