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I Know You Got Soul

Machines with that certain something

Jeremy Clarkson

Japanese cars all built by huge firms trying to make money. European car firms all started by visionaries. Lotus started by Colin Chapman, who liked things light and frothy. Or Jaguar, by William Lyons, who liked comfort and speed at a low, low price. Or Enzo Ferrari, who just wanted to build race cars. I grew up lusting for an E Type, but few kids today will have the same emotion looking at modern offerings.

AK47 is a crap design - it's heavy (10lbs is a lot to haul on a march) and makes a warning click when select 'single shot'. But it's simplicity is the key. In a competition to find the least complicated machine ever made, it would tie in first place with the mousetrap. You can put it through all kinds of trouble, you can bury it in a swamp for 6 months and it will still work. Plus you can buy a used one for 3 quid in an Afghan bazaar. So the boy soldiers you see in Africa can basically buy one out of their pocket money.

1915 the Germans started using Zeppelins to bomb England. But they were so hard to navigate that they were usually miles off course. One Zeppelin commander reported that he'd wrecked Birmingham, but it turned out that he'd spent the night bombing Arras in northern France. For a while, the Brits were convinced the Germans were deliberately bombing fields to kill livestock.

They didn't even succeed as terror machines. On the first London raid, people crowded onto rooftops for a better view.

Supermarine, the Spitfire company, was founded by Noel Pemberton-Billing. In 1913 he decided to learn to fly, by he was impatient. He bet a friend £500 that he could get his aviator's licence, not in a day, but before breakfast. And he won.

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