Top Gear America host Jethro Bovingdon is best known to the viewers and readers of MotorTrend and Automobile for getting sideways in the most-exotic new cars. Although he’d be happy to own more than a few of them, his own collection runs a bit more classic.
“I haven’t owned loads, because I’ve always been doing this and I have free cars,” Bovingdon said. “I like driving all sorts of cars. I’m not super into awful cars, but if it’s awful cars doing fun stuff, I can live with it. And I’ve driven plenty of awful cars in my time.”
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Although he prefers paying professionals like his mechanic father and brother to work on his cars these days, Bovingdon is no stranger to getting his hands dirty.
“One of my first cars, actually, was a project car for a magazine,” he said. “And it was an E36 BMW M3 GT. And I foolishly, having never been to the Nürburgring, I decided to make a target eight-minute car. So I bought this M3, and I’d read that it’d done, like, an 8:23 or something, but when it was new. So I was like, well, we can probably get it down to eight minutes. And I spent the next two years trying to make it do eight minutes.
“The first attempt, I think, did 8:16, but I didn’t realize you had to cut out that little bit,” he recounts. “So let’s say it was an 8:12 or something. And then every time I went back after that I broke. But it was great. I mean, it had a roll cage, fully stripped. It was fun. And I loved that car. On one of the runs, it got stuck in fourth gear on the ’Ring. We put short gearing in it. So I had to drive it back from the Nürburbring to my home in Northamptonshire in fourth gear. So that was fun.”
Driving 500 miles from western Germany to southern England in a broken track car isn’t the only ill-advised road trip Bovingdon’s embarked on, either.
“I’ve got a 1972 Citroën DS,” he said. “D Super it is, actually, so I shouldn’t say it’s a DS. Which is my favorite, not just because it’s cool. But basically, when I was born my dad had a D Super. So the first car I ever went in, on the way back from the hospital, was a D Super. He had a white one.
“Then I bought mine in Greece. So I flew to Greece and then I jumped in a ferry from Greece to Brindisi in the bottom of Italy, picked up my dad and two brothers at the airport. They flew into Brindisi, and then we did, like, a three-day road trip home. We stopped the first night in Maranello, then we went over the Alps and stopped just in France. And then drove home. So that’s just mega. Like 1,500 miles in a car that probably hadn’t done 1,500 miles in, like, 20 years. And nothing broke. Literally nothing broke. We had to tighten up a door mirror, that was it.
“So I love it because of the history with my family. My dad had a couple of DS’s when I was younger, he’s got an SM now, and because the road trip was so cool,” he said.
While Bovingdon is willing to leave the Citroën stock, the modification bug has bit him hard as he continues to dump money into his Renault Clio 172 Trophy street and track toy. Also eating up his funds with modifications: his purple 911.
“I’ve got a Porsche 996,” he said, “which is basically a Carrera, the car that everyone says is terrible. But it was the first 911 I ever drove. In fact, the first one I ever rode in. And I was a real 911 cynic and then I rode in it and was, like, ‘Oh my God, this thing’s amazing.’ And then I drove it, and I was like, ‘Oh my God, this thing really is amazing.’ So I’ve got a 996, which is currently broken, which I adore, and no matter what anyone says, fantastic car. I love that thing.”
“I like driving all sorts of cars. I’m not super into awful cars, but if it’s awful cars doing fun stuff, I can live with it.” —Jethro Bovingdon
Maybe it’s because he gets to drive all the newest exotics for work, but given a sudden windfall, Bovingdon wouldn’t run out and buy the newest mid-engine wonder on the market, even if he somehow found room for it in his driveway. He would get something a bit newer than his other cars, though.
“Three cars I wish I could buy: Ferrari 458 Speciale, Porsche 997 GT3 RS 4.0 … and third one. Gosh, there’s so many good ones, aren’t there? I’ll say an American one, Ford GT, 2005. Not the new one. I love those.”
We could’ve talked to Bovingdon all day about the cars he’s owned and driven, but he had to run to the airport to go drive a McLaren Senna GTR on the Formula 1 track in Bahrain. Such is the life of a Top Gear America presenter who’s won his class twice at the 24 Hours of Nürburgring endurance race. The all-new series starring Bovingdon, Dax Shepard, and Rob Corddry debuts January 29, 2021, on the MotorTrend App.
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