Richard Hammond's life story: ‘rags to riches’
IT was Richard Hammond's love of motorcycles that helped drive his love of cars after one horrifying incident as a young lad, long before he rose to TV stardom with Jeremy Clarkson and James May.
"I was in a band at the time and I needed a car to carry my bass amp, so I swapped my perfectly decent motorbike for a partially finished kit car called a Jago Jeep," says Hammond.
"I was driving to a gig in the middle of the night and half way up a mountain the whole gear lever assembly came out.
"So I stopped in the rain and I was bending down underneath the car to see if I could reattach it and, as I did, an abscess in my mouth burst. The car was dripping oil, I was dripping blood and I thought to myself, 'Yeah this is pretty s - t'. From that point on I vowed not to own a crap car."
Hammond's insight into blending car drama and humour started long before he was old enough to reach the pedals.
"Driving home one day, my dad put one of his fingers in one of the holes in the spokes in the sports steering wheel in our Ford Escort - and he couldn't get his finger out," says Hammond.
"So he had to drive all the way back home with a finger stuck in the steering wheel. Me and my two brothers thought it was spectacularly funny when he dislocated his finger by turning the steering wheel with his finger still in it."
Hammond was a rascal with his brothers, too.
"We had a Ford Anglia with a hole in the floor behind the driver's seat. I used to be able to see the road through this hole and I once dropped my younger brother's toy car through that hole and thought it was hilarious. He was broken-hearted," he says.
"I made the mistake of telling James May that story and he now believes me to be the devil because it's the nastiest thing he's ever heard."
The first new car Hammond ever drove was a Vauxhall Astra, which for most people would be underwhelming. But he loved it.
"I was working at BBC Radio in Cleveland at a tiny country town radio station. I was sent out to go and record a piece and given the keys to the brand new station car.
"I reckoned at the time I was the first member of the Hammond family to ever drive a new car probably ever. I didn't give any thought to the interview. I was more excited to be driving a brand-new car."
"For a while I just had bikes because I couldn't always afford to run a car and a bike," Hammond says. "My first reasonably good car was a VW Scirocco, although I wouldn't have bought it had I known Clarkson also owned them."
Is the banter real between the trio? "We don't wind each other up specifically to make good television. We wind each other up because we enjoy winding each other up whether we're on camera or in the office. We naturally irritate each other. I find them annoying, they find me annoying, we don't have to try."
Obligatory plug: Series Two of The Grand Tour is available to stream on Amazon Prime Video from 8 December, 2017.
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This reporter is on Twitter: @JoshuaDowling