Currently reading: What 1980s car-loving celebrities thought of their cars
Peter Stringfellow, Rowan Atkinson, Ken Tyrrell, Gary Numan; we interviewed them all to ask about their daily drivers

In 1984, Autocar introduced a new column in which famous people of all kinds would discuss their motoring lives – often with surprising and amusing results.

First was actor Rowan Atkinson, who was three years into owning an Aston Martin Vantage. “They are very difficult cars to get to know – very, very British and old-fashioned. And for just that reason, I love them,” he said.

Having found fame with a comedy record about a motor, Alexei Sayle bought a Rover P5 Coupé: “I really wanted one in black, cos they look really evil. It’s got to be something British, hasn’t it? I would never buy a Porsche or anything – they’re crap. Well, the people who drive them are.”

Nightclub owner Peter Stringfellow was one – or rather he had been. Tired of exotica, he’d bought a pink Fiat 500 Gamine: “It’s so cute, but what a pig to drive!”

Enjoy full access to the complete Autocar archive at

By contrast, F1 commentator Murray Walker fancied a Porsche, specifically a 944 Turbo, while at the wheel of his Vauxhall Astra GTE. Still, “what I wanted was a motorcycle on four wheels and this is it. It is a sporty little device, fast enough to pass what I want to.”

Ken Tyrrell couldn’t have been more different, choosing a Ford Granada Estate, of which the boot was perfect for airport runs with his F1 team and its quietness ideal for listening to Test Match Special: “I’ve never had the urge to own a fast car since I stopped racing.”

Liberal Party leader David Steel MP loved classics and owned a 1961 Jaguar MkII: “I get a pleasure from driving a car so distinctive, and it is useful in that my constituents recognise me by my car…”

Novelist James Leasor had even more vintage taste: a rare Cord 810 roadster and an SS Jaguar 100 from the 1930s: “I suppose my love of extrovert cars comes from being brought up in an environment that was the very antithesis of what they represented.”

Unlike today’s luxury SUV-loving sportsmen, footballer Tony Cottee and rugby star Bill Beaumont had Fords. The young striker drove an Escort 1.6i Cabriolet (although he’d just won the Fiat Uno Young Player of the Year award) and the retired lock a Sierra XR 4x4, owing to the safety benefits of 4WD and ABS.

When not in his Tardis, Doctor Who travelled through time and space in a Sierra 4x4: “It handles even more predictably than [my old] Quattro,” said Peter Davidson.

Radio 1 DJ John Peel revelled in being a contrarian: “I was reading an editorial in a magazine on 4WD vehicles. They described the UMM Transcat as possibly the ugliest vehicle ever to be offered to the public, which whetted my appetite considerably. We’re very fond of it.”

Back to top

We had trouble getting pop star Gary Numan to actually talk about cars, having met him at the airfield where he kept his Harvard warbird (which he had sold a Ferrari boxer for), but finally learned ‘the only way to live’ was in a Corvette: a gift from his label to mark his first hit: “On a summer day with the roof open, it is almost as good as flying.”

The 1961 F1 champ Phil Hill had a big collection of mostly American beauties (although his daily was a Chrysler LeBaron) but incredibly no Ferraris: “I’d go crazy – and very likely to jail – if I owned a Ferrari in America. You can barely use a Testarossa here for its intended purpose in first gear, much less in fifth, without offending the police.”

Paul Smith had impulsively bought a Bristol 405: “It has great quality woven into the shape and a well-thought-out design. The cars I prefer and the clothes I design reflect a similar image. I love purity and lines that are unfussy.”

Duncan Simpson, who had been chief test pilot for the Harrier and Hawk jets, was equally demanding of his car: “My Rover comes a good way towards my ideal spec. Quality control has returned to the breed, which is very important, and the 827 SLi surely can hold its own against foreign competition.”

F1 legend turned airline owner Niki Lauda ran a 560 SE Coupé: “With the new 300bhp [V8], it is very quick. If I do need to belt it, there is enough under the bonnet to make it happen. My wife, who is British [erm, no she wasn’t…?], insists on running a Range Rover, a ridiculous vehicle in my opinion. It costs as much to drive as my Mercedes but [lacks] many of the features a Volkswagen has today.”

We finished in 1989 with comic creation Dame Edna Everage: “My Bruno Magli occasionally nudges the accelerator and the sedate little BMW [325i] that propels me around the crowded shopping centres of Europe turns into a demon."

What fun! Perhaps this is a feature that we should revive...

Add a comment…