Host of The Classic Car Show Quentin Willson reveals his dream wheels and reminisces about his first vehicle – a ‘hearing aid beige’ Mini.
You own loads of cars. Which one do you use every day?
The everyday car is a Range Rover, simply because it’s got room for all the kids [Mercedes, 24, Max, 15, and Mini, 10], all the dogs, all the stuff going down to the tip and going to Ikea. It’s safe and if it gets snowy, I can get out of everything. And it’s British, I like British cars and it’s made in the Midlands and I’m a Midlands boy [Willson grew up in Leicester and is now based in Stratford-Upon-Avon].
I’ve also got an electric car, a Citroën C-Zero which we use probably more than the Range Rover, because it’s small, it’s tiny and it costs me 2p a mile.
What was your first car?
An old Mini for £50, which I did up and sold for a profit. It was hearing aid beige. But needs must; for 50 quid what do you expect?
How many attempts did it take to pass your driving test?
I got it first time, no issues. It was a matter of honour. I had a Saturday job and earned lots of money to pay for as many driving lessons as I could, because if you had failed that test, well, I’m sorry, it’s not done.
Do you consider yourself a good driver?
I do. The fastest I’ve ever driven is 197 miles an hour in a McLaren F1 – not on the public road, I hasten to add. And I’ve never had any serious bangs or anything like that. But you stand next to racing drivers or you go out with Jodie [Kidd, Willson’s co-host on The Classic Car Show], and you do see that she has this balletic precision, it’s really, really good.
And I think confidence is a difficult thing, if you’re driving you mustn’t get over-confident.
Is there anything that winds you up about other drivers?
The driving standards in this country are going down the toilet, they really, really are. All of us when we travel any distances on major roads, see the most stunning breaches of any form of etiquette, people to whom indicators aren’t just a mystery, they’re a complete irrelevance.
And you think, ‘How has that person got a driving licence?’ You’re constantly driving defensively because you just wonder, ‘How can that person hurt me, because they clearly don’t know what they’re doing.’
So I’ve always been a campaigner for having more driving at school. I’m taking Mini up to a thing called Young Driver in Birmingham where she gets to drive a dual control car around with an instructor. It’s so good. Have all this stuff taught at school, before they go near the road. I’m really passionate about driving standards.
How often do you wash your Range Rover?
I’m a bit anal I’m sorry, Mini and I will take the jet wash to it most weekends and clean it, and all the other ones, because there’s an old Bentley, an old Rolls-Royce and an old Mini and three old Daimler Darts. And there’s a Ford Mustang convertible as well. It’s quite an illness really. The Willson garages are quite big.
What’s your dream car?
That’s a really difficult question to ask a bloke like me, I’m going to have you talking until next September. Jodie and I had this huge row, because I had this lovely old [Jaguar] Series 1 E-Type that I’d had for 10 years, I’d restored it beautifully, and it got too good to use. Jodie said ‘You’re so lucky’, then one day I rolled into the studio and said I’d sold the E-Type and she went ‘What!’ and she didn’t speak to me for hours. She was in a serious huff, ‘I cannot forgive you for selling that E-Type.’ If I had the choice now I would have an old 1964 AC Cobra. Or a Ferrari Superfast . . . it just goes on and on and on.
You’ve got some big names on The Classic Car Show.
They come to us. You don’t have to ask [them]! Jennifer Saunders, Steve Coogan, Tinie Tempah, David Gandy. These aren’t people that we are hiring and paying to do stuff, they are coming and saying, ‘I’d love to do something about classic cars’. Steve Coogan and I filmed something, it only took about 10 or 15 minutes, we spent nearly an hour and a half just yammering about cars. He’ll ring me up now and say, ‘What do you think about this?’ It’s the great, great leveller.
• The Classic Car Show airs on Thursday nights at 7pm on Channel 5.