“My wife and I had just learned we were going to have a baby, so I’d swapped my much-loved Fiat Barchetta for a four-seater, a ratty old Porsche 911 SC that was permanently in danger of exploding. But I drove it to meet Jeremy [Clarkson] and Andy Wilman, the TG producer. They saw it and thought I was, well, real.
“I did my stuff with Jeremy and then it was time to go, so I told them I’d better head back to ’Nam, which was my word for Cheltenham. They thought that was funny. In fact, they reckon it’s the reason I got the job.”
And now for Hammond on…
Friendship with May and Clarkson
“We’re friends, of course. If we spent any more time together, we’d have to start living in the same house. Of course, we argue sometimes, but everyone argues. We argue in the programme. That’s part of it. But we’re in touch. I was talking to James this morning, just before you arrived. My ambition is to be barred from his pub in Wiltshire.”
Goals for the next five years
“I want The Smallest Cog to be bigger. I want our restored cars to be requested at the best car shows for their quality. I want these shelves in my office to be covered with ‘best in show’ awards. Most of all, I want to be doing what I’m doing now, being part of it all.”
Fixing catastrophic TV damage “overnight”
“There’s no mystery. We do it ourselves. We just stay up all night… Actually, it’s a mixture. We have crew, of course, but we also have to muck in at times. I once welded a Subaru wishbone back into a fit state on my own. But as for ‘overnight, we built a bridge’, you can draw your own conclusion.”
His own cars
“My daily is a Ford Ranger Wildtrak. I’ve got a Porsche 911 GTS convertible, an old-shape Land Rover 110 breathed on by Bowler, a Subaru WRX STi I drove on The Grand Tour, plus a couple of other Grand Tour cars I can’t talk about.
“I’ve got a ’62 E-Type OTS convertible and another ’62 E coupé in bits that needs a full restoration. There’s the ’67 Ford Mustang GT 390, too – and, of course, there are the bikes. Quite a lot of those. I enjoy the freedom.”