Clarkson’s current profile picture on Twitter
He drives what he wants, says what he wants, offends who he wants and gets paid more than $23 million a year to do so. He describes himself as the “most influential man in motoring journalism,” and he’s most likely right. Jeremy Clarkson has made an indelible mark on the world of automobiles, all because of a hardheaded passion nobody could sway.
Born in Doncaster, U.K. in 1960, “Jezzy,” as his fans call him, had a tendency to push the red line right away. While attending the Repton School alongside future Formula One engineer Adrian Newey, he was caught drinking, smoking and, as he once described, “making a general nuisance” of himself. Clarkson was expelled from the school, a private institution his parents could hardly afford to send him to until they created the first Paddington Bears. But the prestige of education and comfort of plush animals wasn’t enough for the natural motorhead. He needed some gears.
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(Jeremy Clarkson on his first Top Gear appearance)
“We start tonight with the highlight of my childhood,” he once began an episode of the BBC smash hit “Top Gear.” “It’s the Ladybird Book of Motorcars from 1963, and as you would imagine it’s full of rubbish, really. Just endless boring grey shapes, until you get to page 40, where you find the Maserati 3500 GT.” He continued, in his legendary tone. “Now this, for me, when I was little, was kind of like Jordan and Cameron Diaz. In a bath together. With a Lightning jet fighter. And lots of jelly.”
After being dismissed from Repton, Clarkson moved on to a sort-of apprenticeship, learning the craft of journalism while writing copy for the Rotherham Advertisor, until he began working as a travelling salesman for Paddington Bear toys. By 1984, he’d had enough of black buttoned eyes. Clarkson joined forces with journalist Jonathan Gill, and the Motoring Press Agency (MPA) came to life. The two made a life of reviewing road tested cars for newspapers and automotive magazines. The project gained enough recognition to land him a position writing for Performance Car, a U.K. based automotive magazine.
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(Clarkson in the Ariel Atom on ‘Top Gear’)
In 1988, his make-it-or-break-it offer came knocking. Now the most watched program on BBC 2 with adaptations found around the world, Clarkson officially became the host of “Top Gear.” As they say, the rest is history.
Though his commentary is unfettered, to say the least, and he makes no bones about his views of social and political issues, no matter how sensitive the topic, Clarkson’s show continues to thrive to this day. His columns regularly appear in The Sun, The Sunday Times, The Weekend Australian and The Toronto Star. He has published 14 books and directed documentaries about topics outside of the automotive world, including science, history and engineering. He’s appeared as a guest on a multitude of shows, and even hosted his own talk show, “Clarkson.”
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(Clarkson in the Pagani Zonda R)
Though he’s argued that nobody should take what he says seriously, it’s been difficult for many car manufacturers to take that advice. His scathing reviews have earned him more enemies than friends, and with words like these, it’s easy to see why. “In a list of the five most rubbish things in the world, I’d have America’s foreign policy at five. Aids at four. Iran’s nuclear program at three. Gordon Brown at two and Maserati’s gearbox at number one. It is that bad,” he once said on an episode of “Top Gear.” But, as a result of his lack of a filter, when he says something is good, his audience knows that it’s really, really good.
His love for cars powered him through life, overcoming an expulsion and resulting in seemingly limitless success. Love him or hate him, you have to respect his drive.
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(Clarkson now, in my favorite ‘Top Gear’ bit)
(Photo Credit: BBC & Twitter)