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A chat with Tom Ford

Cars People Culture

Want to know what happens behind the scenes at Top Gear? We did, so Danni asked Tom 'Wookie' Ford.

As car enthusiasts, we all know what Top Gear is, but do we have any idea what goes on behind the scenes? Well, we didn’t, so we thought we’d have a chat with Tom Ford, one of the presenters on Top Gear US to get an insight into what happens.

Danni Bagnall:  Thanks for your time, Tom, we know you’re a busy chap. For our readers that don’t know, who exactly is Tom Ford?

Tom Ford: Tom Ford? He’s a fashion designer/screenwriter/director/producer/general genius who found fame as the creative director of Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent back in the ‘90s. Got a penchant for a black blazer/white shirt combo, and these days does a mean line in aftershave, perfume and sunglasses as well as his own fashion label. He’s minted, handsome, teeth-grindingly talented and innately stylish.

That’s not me, though.

I’m the ‘other’ Tom Ford. The one people refer to as ‘Wookie’. A motoring journalist, ghetto engineer, writer and, now and again, telly maker. Not stylish, never minted, though I do – I’m reliably informed – smell nice. I’m kind of a Happy Shopper adventurer – you’ll usually find me somewhere in the world looking slightly confused, in an inappropriate car and possibly on fire. Everywhere I go, fire tends to make an appearance. I am the bane of risk assessment form-fillers the world over.

Tom wookie Ford

Following that response, I don’t think we’re too fussed about the latter Tom Ford.

DB: Anyway, how did you get into doing what you do?

TF: That’s easy; the three things I love more than anything else is writing, cars and seeing new stuff. I started off making tea in the offices of CAR Magazine – after a stint doing work experience at TopGear Magazine, weirdly enough – and realising that a motoring journalist gets to travel to places and write about cars. Basically, my triple threat. I worked hard at my writing and knowledge, got reasonably good at it, and started to do stuff other people didn’t/wouldn’t. Somewhere along the line I got roped into doing some TV presenting on Channel 5’s ‘Fifth Gear’, did that for a bit, and the rest is history. I’ve always maintained my journalism (currently the associate editor of TG Mag in the UK), but have written scripts for US and UK shows, produced series in the US and presented a few. Currently, I’m one of the hosts of the new iteration of TopGear America. Like the cheap, more beardy job swap replacement for Matt LeBlanc. My first love will always be the adventure writing though. There is literally nothing else like it – and I’ve been absolutely privileged to do some amazing things. Oh, and managed to stay alive while doing it.


DB: What’s it like working on Top Gear US?

TF: Hectic, and with less budget than the UK version. The best bit is that the three of us (me, NHRA Top Fuel world champ Antron Brown and Hollywood A-lister and general acting genius William Fichtner) really do get on ridiculously well. We shouldn’t, if you compare us on paper, but (honestly) they’re pretty much all I could have asked for as co-hosts: very different to me, but with passion and humour. We have laughed a lot on set. Mainly at Bill’s obsession with a) his hair and b) classic MOPAR and Antron’s inability to talk without thanking his sponsors. Love those guys… Not like that, of course.

DB: Are there any clear differences in American car culture and the UK’s?

TF: The usual, really. Cars in the US are built for a different kind of infrastructure, so they make way more sense in the US – especially the older ones. No point complaining that a Raptor is too big for Twickenham when it was designed for Texas. But there’s also less inhibition in the US – if you drive a supercar here (UK), people think you’re a show-off and want to put you down. In the USA, they look at it as the embodiment of the American Dream and figure that it’s a good thing someone made it. The USA is also less sarcastic and generally more positive. Which comes as a shock to someone who treats sarcasm his main conversational tactic.

DB: What’s next on the agenda for you?

TF: In the next few weeks I’ll be crossing the Namib desert in Africa in a truck I designed and built for Mitsubishi. It’s called Project Swarm and has an actual aeroplane wing on the rear. Then it’s promo for the new TG America series – which premieres July 30th on BBC America – then see if the show is popular enough to get another series. After that, who knows? But there’ll probably be fire in there somewhere.