Sussex Motoring: Peter James
IN HIS latest series of crime novels, best-selling author Peter James uses Brighton and Hove as the backdrop. This shouldn't come as shock to anyone who knows Peter. He was born in the city, lives just outside Lewes and is an out-and-out Sussexphi...
IN HIS latest series of crime novels, best-selling author Peter James uses Brighton and Hove as the backdrop. This shouldn't come as shock to anyone who knows Peter. He was born in the city, lives just outside Lewes and is an out-and-out Sussexphile. In his own words he's also 'a complete petrolhead'. We sent Danny Cobbs to find out more about his love of the combustion engine...
When did you first fall in love with cars?Ever since I can remember I've always loved cars. When I was three I let the handbrake off my dad's Standard Vanguard and it rolled into a duck pond.
So was that your first crash?It was, but I don't consider it to be. My first proper crash, involving other people, was when I was about five and rolled over in a go-kart at Peter Pan's Playground. Now, that was a proper crash with blood and everything.
Has it always been cars? I think it's anything that can go fast. Years ago I took my PPL (Private Pilot's Licence) but stopped flying because I felt I would never go through all my pre-flight and end up killing myself. I did own a Mitchell B25 bomber which I flew in just once. It makes you realise how comfortable modern planes are.
What was your first car?After passing my driving test at 17, on the second attempt, I brought a 1929 Rolls-Royce hearse. A mate and I were going to drive around Europe in it, that was until my mother saw it and had ten fits. My parents offered to buy the car I really wanted, an MGA, if I got rid of the hearse. That was in 1967 when I was 18. I managed to get two endorsements for high-speed offences. My father thought a Mini Cooper S would slow me down, so the MGA was traded in for one. Dad really didn't realise what the Cooper S was - he only found out when I was away and opened my post to find I was being summonsed for racing on a public highway, not once but twice. The judge called me 'a dangerous young hooligan that the public should be protected from'. He was right. I got banned for 18 months. In three years I lost three good friends in car crashes and that really sobered me up.
How many cars have you owned?Loads. I really can't remember them all. Maybe 40 or 50 and I can't say they've all been trouble free. The worst car I ever owned was a Triumph Stag in British racing green. It was always blowing-up whenever you tried to go anywhere. I loved my first Mini Cooper S, but my third Aston Martin, the Vanquish I bought new in 2004, was the one I'll always remember. It was sent back to the factory 20 times for different reasons, but I didn't care because it had such a soul I ended up forgiving it. I really loved that car.
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Is there a car you would have liked to have owned?A Ferrari 599 is presently on my shopping list, but the Ferrari 250 GTO was the most stunning car ever made and the one car I'd love to have in my garage.
What do you drive at the moment? I've got a Bentley GT and unlike the Aston this car actually has some boot space. There's nothing more embarrassing than turning up outside a swish hotel with all your belongings inside a Tesco carrier bag because that's all you could fit into the boot. At least with the Bentley you can get a reasonable amount of luggage in. More importantly, I want to feel like it's my birthday every time I get into a car and this Bentley keeps on delivering that feeling.
Do you ever take public transport?I have the house in Sussex and a place in London so I'm constantly travelling between the two, but I wouldn't dream of taking the train. The odd occasion I have, they've run late and always smell. I afford myself the luxury of a driver so I can work on my laptop. I pay him by the hour and it works out about the same cost as paying British Rail, or whoever they are these days...
Peter James's WebsiteThe official site of Peter James, best-selling British novelist and film producer.