Sitting, waiting for Jonny to come to the phone. I should’ve expected it from this self-confessed carologist and all-round car nutter, after-all, he was running late after having been stuck in the Romanian mountains after being roped into being a navigator in a local mountain rally while filming Fifth Gear‘s series 2. Fair excuse, to be honest.
Jonny has been on Fifth Gear for the past 9 years becoming a well-loved oddball character on the show. Not the normal sort of car show presenter we have come to expect, Jonny tends to have a love for the different, quirky, and completely out of the ordinary, rather than the tried and tested route. From his first episode about a diesel Mercedes-Benz 300E running on fryer oil, to smashing through a quarry in a Dakar truck, he has always had an eye for the bizarre side of motoring.
And this has made Jonny a fan-favourite car journalist, who has helped establish Fifth Gear into what it has become. Jonny still holds the excitement and enthusiasm of a child for his job, and was ecstatic about the new season, which he says feature some great team tests – his personal favourite part of the show. “It is the only time the entire team is together the rest of the time we are off in other parts filming”, said the 36-year-old. When they are not drifting or racing some super-exotic through a beautiful mountain pass, the team delivers entertaining and though-provoking consumer advice – this for him is the foundation of the show the reason for it.
The love of Jonny’s life (excluding his wife and kids, of course) is his VW Beetle he has had since he was sixteen and fought to keep, and he makes no mistake of highlighting how important it is to him.
“I think if my house was burning down that would be the one possession I would save from the fire,” proclaimed the presenter. His ratty Dodge Charger he refuses to restore is also close to his heart, even in its rusty and dilapidated state.
The car enthusiast has even owned a Ford Perana Grenada at one point, one which he found out actually came from our very-own sunny shores and ended up in his possession halfway around the world. Jonny emphasised that it’s still the one car he would take over anything else to this day, and he has his eye on acquiring another one. “I have always wanted one and I think your South African readers will agree with me on that”.
On the topic of South Africa, Jonny also stated to me that he wants to make another trip back to the Republic. This time round to track down an MK1 Golf. A car which we have an abundance of, but one he has never owned. So, any of you out there with a model in good knick might tempt him into that trip.
However, Jonny’s life isn’t all about old cars. Leaning far away from those car guys stuck back in 19-who-knows-when harping on about the good-old days, Jonny is currently working on trying to build Europe’s fastest electric vehicle (EV), dubbed ‘Jonny’s Flux Capacitor’. An 800+Hp fully electric car stuffed into a barely known Enfield 8000 body from the 70s. The rather ridiculous looking car managed a mega 11:46 over the 400m – that is Porsche 911 Turbo-fast.
Asking him about what car he would have if money were not an object, I expected some rarity muscle car or some unique one-of-a-kind unicorn. “A Mercedes-Benz G-Wagon”, he said confidently to my perplexed silence. Nothing fancy or modified, just a standard run-of-the-mill version. Jonny remarked: “having had a chance to drive one the build quality is sublime and the way it rides is fantastic.” When comparing it to the Land Rover Defender, something quite popular amongst us South Africans, Jonny was not pleased. “Every time you take a drive in one you have to get your spin replaced,” he said in a joking manner.
Jonny is one of the most interesting car-nutters I have met. With a true love for wheels, no matter what size or shape they are, Jonny is a real lover of all things fast. Catch all his and the team’s antics in the latest season of Fifth Gear this October on History Channel. Did I mention that Tiff and Vicki had a little trip to South Africa?
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