James May Profile

He's the slow, sensible one from Top Gear - but James May is also a rebel at heart.

James May

If a pint of real ale was a person, and that person happened to be obsessed with second-hand cars, then that pint/person would be James May. But, while he's the first to admit his tastes would be dismissed as ancient by a dinosaur with a bus pass, he's also got a rebellious spirit. Deep, deep down. After all, there was that time he got fired from a magazine for being a very naughty boy.

The son of a priest, James May was born in Bristol and - true to fogeyish form - developed an interest in classical music at an early age. In fact he was a bit of a dab hand himself when it came to instruments, learning the flute, saxophone and piano, although nowadays he's a bit rubbish at the first two.

After university, James embarked on an array of exciting jobs, including filing clerk and er, bloke who assembles cardboard boxes in a factory. Finally realising he needed a proper job, he applied to a magazine for the position of sub-editor, despite not actually knowing what a sub-editor was. The magazine in question was The Engineer, a trade journal which was perfect for James as it was founded in 1856, like many of his ideals.

James's interest in motoring led to him hopping over to a car magazine, but his time there was cut short when, in 1992, he was fired for a little joke he played while very, very bored. He was editing a special supplement on cars, which consisted of several entries each beginning with a big red capital letter.

Striking a noble blow against the Establishment, James carefully edited the magazine so that, when the red letters were read in order, they spelt out a message saying that the magazine in question was boring and 'a pain in the arse'. Not one of his editors actually noticed this, but they found out when several readers - thinking they'd win a prize - wrote in saying they'd spotted the message.

Fortunately, James bounced back from getting the boot and became a freelancer, then turned up on breakfast telly some time later and was subsequently asked to present a Channel 4 motoring series. Proving a natural, he defected to the Beeb for Top Gear. Now he spends his days sandwiched between the short, trendy Hammond and the overbearing giant Clarkson, casually passing the time by being the butt of all their jokes.

He’s even gained himself the nickname Captain Slow for being the most cautious and sensible driver of the lot. Despite this he only passed his driving test the second time round, so clearly his slow and sensible approach doesn’t gel with everyone. His little sarky comments about journalists hasn't done his career on Grub Street any harm either, with a column in The Daily Telegraph and a gig writing for Top Gear magazine, not to mention having two books published.

James has a special fondness for classic, fat cat cars like Rolls Royces and Bentleys, but he also run-of-the-mill motors (he admits to suffering from a special fever that can only be satisfied by buying a second-hand Vauxhall). And if you're a girl with a crush on James, then it's worth knowing he likes "a dishevelled arty bird driving something like a knackered convertible. A nice girl in a crap car - it's the motoring equivalent of erotic naked mud-wrestling." Oh, and on the erotic note, James once infamously beat Gordon Ramsay in the F Word by eating more animal penises. His mother must be so proud.

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