Verdict on Clarkson

I agree with Jeremy Clarkson. He was in the North of Scotland last week. “Absolutely eyes-on-stalks beautiful. I drove along the coast road north of Ullapool, and never have I gone so slowly. Sometimes the views were so spectacular, I coasted to a halt and never even noticed. The sky was the colour of a Norwegian model’s eyes. Tendrils of cloud spilt over snow-capped mountains before being whipped into nothing by the wind.”

 Snow-capped peaks of the Cuillins on Skye from Morar. Eric Dymock picture last week.

Snow-capped peaks of the Cuillins on Skye from Morar. Eric Dymock picture last week.

Jeremy writes prettily. He had a Lancia Gamma Coupe and was so confident it would break down an AA patrol was in attendance.

When I went there with one it was new and I would probably have felt less serene had I known the power steering was connected to the left timing belt of the flat-four engine. Full lock could stress its hydraulics, which sometimes broke the timing belt leading valves to interfere with pistons. This wrecked engines comprehensively. Lancia had a bad time over warranty claims.

It never happened to me. I loved perfectly proportioned Pininfarinas. My press fleet Gamma was luxurious, Italianate red, and looked like a Ferrari. There was a throaty growl from the big 4-cylinder. It was superbly comfortable to enjoy the scenery that so enthused Jeremy. With 140 horsepower from 2½litres and Bosch L-Jetronic fuel injection it felt swift for the time, did 120mph with ease and 0-60 in under 10sec. Fuel consumption of about 23mpg was about average and at £11,900 the 2500IE was well equipped for up-market with electric windows, tinted glass and an electrically adjustable door mirror.  This was 38 years ago. You could still be impressed with Pininfarina logos on the upholstery and access to the rear helped by the front back-rests obediently folding as the seats automatically slid forwards.

 Slipway near Ardtoe. V-reg Lancia Gamma Eric Dymock picture. 1980-81.

Slipway near Ardtoe. V-reg Lancia Gamma Eric Dymock picture. 1980-81.

Handling was fine, the ride a bit turbulent and it leaned on corners. This was touring in the grandest style. Front wheel drive adhesion was good in the wet and it was commendably agile on northern twisting single track roads. Last week we visited my brother-in-law who lives there. He can leave home of a morning and not see another car in 40 minutes’ drive.

So Clarkson, on this one occasion, is absolutely right. “I will take no argument on the matter; this is by far the most beautiful place on Earth.”

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