Chris Rea on tour…
Here is the final part of the features on Chris Rea. A great article featuring him, written last year by Erin Baker for The Telegraph.
Singer-songwriter Chris Rea has had hits with Driving Home for Christmas, Road to Hell, Fool (If you think it’s over), Let’s Dance and countless others over a musical career spanning four decades.
He’s also an avid car collector, racing driver and mechanic, having spannered for the Jordan Formula One team, changing Eddie Irvine’s wheel during the 1995 Monaco Grand Prix.
Since being dogged by pancreatic cancer, Rea has branched out into painting, and making a film based on the life of his great hero, the Ferrari driver Wolfgang Von Trips, called La Passione. The film is now out on DVD from Jazzee Blue, alongside the soundtrack and unseen Von Trips footage, housed in a beautiful coffee-table book, available on Amazon.
Tell us about your first car
It was a 1968 Ford Anglia. I hand-painted it red… why do you think? Ferrari red. Took all the bumpers off, got a mechanic to make it with camber so the wheels were angled in.
How old were you when you first became interested in cars?
I was about 10 or 11. Such a long time ago.
What was your first crash?
The Ford Anglia. I was chasing a Mini across the Yorkshire Moors; I was 17. I went “off”, as they say. You didn’t get write-offs when your dad had an ice-cream factory; the ice-cream van mechanics would fix it. I passed my test in an ice-cream van – a 1,500-weight Commer ice-cream van. I passed then had to take the examiner to hospital; when I did the emergency stop, he was sitting on a Greco’s wafer biscuit tin in the van (best chocolate wafers in the world, by the way), and came off and landed on the heavy-duty battery. Had to have stitches down his leg.
Which cars do you own now?
A Caterham Seven 620, Fiat 500 Abarth and BMW X3 Alpina. Ferraris are lovely cars, but I just don’t want to be seen in them. The F12 I had was an unbelievably lovely car, but I can’t turn left at the bottom of my drive in one, coz I’d have to go through my village, and I’m not going through my village in a f**ing Ferrari; I’ve got daughters, family and I’m trying to be normal, you know? Going to the Indian in a Ferrari… I can’t bear all that.
Which car do you most regret selling?
A Lotus Cortina. Why did I sell it? I got offered a fortune, to be honest. It was unique; it was a Colin Chapman car. It came with a letter from Jim Clark telling his secretary to tell Colin to get stuffed, because Colin had put in a racing seat and Clark didn’t like it, so he asked for another seat, and Colin Chapman charged him £5-something for changing the seat, so Clark told him to get stuffed. I think that piece of paper had more value than the car. It was a 1963 car I think; one of the first A-frames.
What’s the worst car you’ve owned?
A Sixties Mini Cooper. Wherever that poor person is who’s got the car now, he’s doing a John Cleese coz the bloody thing won’t start. I got it taken away before someone took me away.
What’s your dream car?
The McLaren MP4-8 because that was an Ayrton Senna McLaren from one of my favourite years in motor racing. I was watching Senna in the MP4-8 at Donington [in the 1993 European Grand Prix, when Senna carved his way from fifth to first on the first lap in atrocious conditions]. I came home and had an imprint of chicken-wire fencing on my head. I was just feet away from his car when he got past Prost. I was crying; it was incredible. I was with [Eddie] Jordan at that point [as a mechanic]. He used to drive me nuts; he’d come into the recording studio, bang my drums, knock everything over.
What’s your biggest pet peeve when driving?
I’m currently under orders from my wife to try and change. She says: talk to yourself, you can’t change the world. But after 10 minutes, I’m knocking my head against the window. Everyone’s so f***ing stupid. What’s the point in flashing your lights if they don’t know what a flashing light means? They’re in their kitchen psychologically, not the car.
By; Erin Baker
Image; Eleanor Bentall
Featured image; Tom Pilston