GQ: Richard Hammond’s 10 Best American Cars

9:22:00 AM

Top Gear host Richard Hammond, has made it clear that he loves American cars, from owning his own 67 Mustang Fastback with a 390, to being the only one to buy a Pickup truck on the Top Gear Deep South road trip. Hammond's new show Crash Course for BBC America has "The Hamster" driving Tanks, Trucks, and Tractors around the USA. We have been big fans of the show here at mainly because we are such big fans of Richard from watching years of Top Gear UK.

Hammond sat down with GQ to discuss Crash Course as well as some of his favorite vehicles from the States. While cars like the 1969 Dodge Charger, 1968 Ford Mustang GT, and Corvette ZR1 are obvious picks, he also has the AMC Pacer on the list...

Richard Hammond's Crash Course airs Mondays at 10 on BBC America.

Check out the interview below:

GQ: For those who don't know, you have a serious "hardest-working man in show business" reputation going. Latest on your docket is this new show, Crash Course.
Richard Hammond: It's a new thing for me entirely. It's the first show I've done for the States, in the States, with an American crew, made for BBC America by BBC America. Which has been a real revelation, I've loved it.

GQ: And you're currently in California, shooting yet another show for the BBC.
Hammond: Yeah, for the BBC in the U.K., but it's brought me out here. [Laughs] A lot of work at the moment seems to be bringing me to the States, which doesn't bother me, because Americans are great to make TV with. They just get it. One day we needed to use an optometrist's place. So we just rang, there we are, and one welcomed us in, made us coffee. Sure, use it!
It was the same when I was making Crash Course. These were guys welcoming me into their workplace, doing their job every day, and here's this stupid irritating little Brit, wandering in and saying, "Hi, my name is Richard, will you teach me how to drive this tank?" and they were just totally welcoming, talked to me about what they do, and let me loose on their terrifying machines. Which wouldn't happen anywhere else in the world, really.

GQ: Americans do love being on TV.
Hammond: Yes, but I think Americans are also just natural-born communicators. They do it all the time. If you put Americans together, they just want to talk, and that doesn't happen in many other places. And that's great for someone like me, whose job is talking. So asking guys to talk me through their jobs – they were just so happy to do that, and as a result they're so good at communicating, and it makes it easy to make TV with them.

GQ: So on Top Gear, you are known as the show's "secret American"...
Hammond: [Laughs] I'm glad you picked up on that! It's something Jeremy and James [May] came up with, it just makes me laugh!

GQ: The show spends a good deal of time making fun of Americans and their cars. What are your personal feelings on us?
Hammond: I think it's fashionable in the U.K. to knock on America. It's a sort of caricature inversion. But I think people get it wrong. America as a whole is huge, there's an awful lot of it. But look at Americans, work and talk with them. But if you take away the size of the place, and think of it as just a country – we think they're the kookiest, funniest, sometimes conservative with a small C, sometimes craziest, most communicative, chatty, talkative, creative, occasionally mad and stupid nation on earth! We absolutely love and treasure them. But because of the size of the place, we naturally become overawed, we're made nervous by the size of that.
Now for a small guy, a small Brit, I'm used to that. I'm not easily bullied as a result. Big guys, particularly James and Jeremy, who are both well over six foot, they're used to being the big guys in the playground, they get intimidated by it and they lash out. Everybody's bigger than me, so I'm not scared.

Top Ten:

 1953 Chevrolet Corvette
"It's one of the most beautiful cars. I think it was one of the first proper two-seater sports cars made in America, and it still stops traffic. It's desperately beautiful."

1955 Chrysler C-300
"It's no secret, I love muscle cars. Because of the sense of humor! They're usually bright yellow or lime green, and it's all about fun. The 300 was the first one with a Hemi V8 in it, so it was in a way one of the first muscle cars. It's brutally handsome – not a subtle thing, but it looks what it is, big and powerful. I'd love one in my garage ... of course I'd never afford one."

1969 Dodge Charger
"I used to own one, it was lime green. The Dukes of Hazzard car, of course, but it's a strangely beautiful thing. Again, like America, if you ignore its size, it's has some fabulously subtle design details. Some of the lines are breathtaking. I sold mine, though, because it couldn't fit in most towns in Britain."

1968 Ford Mustang 390 GT
"I replaced my Charger with one of these. You have to have a pony car in there because they are so pretty, such an emblem. It rocked everybody's socks, and still does, and it puts a massive smile on my face whenever I take it out of my garage."

Pickup Trucks
"I love pickups, I really do. Either a Dodge Ram or an old '50s Ford or Chevy, because they are beautiful. My wife — if I'm ever feeling flush, I'm going to have to buy her one, because it's what she wants more than anything else in the world, a restored vintage pickup. She has a horse truck, a Land Rover, a diesel John Deere Gator, a Harley, a tractor, and she'd love to add a pickup. It's terrifying — what did I marry? [Laughs]"

AMC Pacer
"Every nation needs a terrible car. You need something comically and heroically bad. Britain had the Austin Maxi, which was a similarly shaped ordinary family shopping cart. The Pacer has that same slightly sagged look, it's pretty dire. I would love one, it's hilarious."

Striker Fire Truck
"It's the most powerful fire truck in the world — and typically, it's American. I asked the guy on the show, 'Does it have to look that cool?' And there was kind of a pause, because I don't think it does [laughs]. If you've got a bunch of drab, dreary people coming around the corner in a boring machine, you wouldn't be inspired to think you were safe. But if you see an American fire truck, it's chromed and beautiful and the guys look cool, and there's a sense of, 'I'll be okay, because I've got those superheroes raging around my city.' When a British fire truck goes by, you think, 'Oh... somebody's having a bad day.'"

 Jeep Wrangler
"I dismissed it at first; I thought it was going to be awful. But it's fabulous, and got me thinking about the Wrangler in general: It's a retro car and you could knock it for that, but you know what? It works, it's competent, it's efficient for its size. You can still take the doors and the roof off, and that still makes you feel good. And if a car can do that, who cares how fast it goes around a corner at the Nürburgring?"

Chevrolet Corvette ZR1
"I'm going to have to have two Corvettes. The ZR1 is a genuine, worldwide-competitive sports car, and it's staggering. It can stand up to the best from anywhere else. I like American cars, but you haven't made many sports cars. Supercars, muscle cars, yes, but the ZR1 is a true sports car. It's an amazing piece of kit."

"It's a range-extended electric vehicle, not a hybrid in the same sense as a Prius. It's a very clever, pragmatic approach. Hopefully hydrogen fuel cell cars will be the solution eventually, and if hybrids are just a stopgap, it is a much better one, and it looks glorious. It's got to look cool! Cars are costumes, we put them on to tell the world something about ourselves."

Source: GQ Head Over and Subscribe!
Photo: BBC America

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