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Blog: Do you have car envy?

Bentley Continental GT Motoring journalist Tim Barnes-Clay says he's treated differently by other road users depending on the car he's driving. What does your car say about you? 

I love cars.

In fact, I passed my driving test within a couple of months of my 17th birthday.

This was mainly so I could have some much needed independence, but also so I could sit behind the wheel without a "responsible driver" barking instructions at me.

My first motor was a tiny Fiat Panda and I thought I'd died and gone to heaven.

Defined by the car you drive

Forget modern-day motoring woes with all its talk of rising petrol and diesel prices and costly car insurance.

Back then, in my teenage mind my Fiat Panda was my mobile home - a place to be alone with girlfriends and my ultimate symbol of manliness.

But that's when I also became aware that a vehicle could define you in the eyes of others.

People would make judgments about me before I'd even stepped out of my metal box.

I initially discovered this when large cars would sit up my backside. I'd have the pedal to the metal, so it wasn't a speed issue.

I reckon it was because I was in a weak-looking car, so in some motorists' minds I had to be a feeble individual.

That was my take on it anyway - it happened too often to be paranoia alone.

Other people's perceptions

On the flip side, the views of my non-driving peers at college inflated my fragile ego.  Apparently I was "cool" because I drove.

It didn't matter that it was a diminutive Fiat I owned. It was a car and that was enough to elevate my previously pedestrian - in more ways than one - status.

But over the years I've noticed the continuing presumptions made about me by others depending on the car I'm driving.

Maybe I get to observe this more than most as a motoring journalist with the hard job of testing brand new cars every week. 

In fact, that's me pictured at the top of the article, road testing a Bentley Continental GT.

Yet, great though my job is, I have bets with myself about how I'll be treated every week.

No-one lets a BMW driver out

A black BMW 1-Series from the rearFor example, give me a BMW for seven days and I can guarantee you I'll rarely be let out of side roads at rush hour – unless it's by another German executive car driver.

Lend me a Vauxhall Astra and I'll be waved into the heaving mass of traffic, sometimes with a smile.

I can only suppose that I must be considered powerful and prosperous driving a new BMW, therefore I don’t deserve pity.

And perhaps my bland Vauxhall hatchback shouts out "family man trying to get home". Who knows?

Still, I never expected the police to have these preconceptions too. Truth be told, I've been pulled over a few times.

Don't get me wrong, I respect the law - but what gets me stopped? It's certainly not speeding, as I wouldn’t last very long as a motoring scribe if I drove dangerously.

Pulled over by police

The latest incident involved piloting one of the finest automobiles money can buy – a £225,000 Bentley Mulsanne.

Bentley MulsanneThis flagship of the luxury car brand only does a few miles to the gallon, so I made sure I wasn't heavy footed.

Yet I discovered the boys in blue still found me of great interest.

Apparently, having a shaved head, a goatee and wearing a hooded top isn't the done thing while driving a car fit for royalty.

Ah well, I guess the police were just doing their job. After all I could have stolen the car – and, let's face it, a Bentley is so utterly inconspicuous.

But I wonder, would I have been stopped togged up in a dinner suit?

Car like a 'set of clothes'

In effect a car is just like a set of clothes. "Wear" an insipid motor and you're likely to pass unnoticed through the highways and byways of Great Britain.

Sport a flashy set of wheels and you'll stand out in the crowd – and possibly get more attention that you bargained for.

But maybe that's the whole point.

After all, getting noticed is a combination of appearance, personality and perceived accomplishments – and a car can shout, or whisper, all of these things about you – apparently.

What do you think?

Are there motorists who will always rile you simply because of the car they drive?

Perhaps you're on the receiving end, and feel that you're treated differently by other motorists because of your motor?

We want to hear from you! You can share your views on the message board below.




Tim Barnes-Clay

Leon Poultney

Tim is an experienced motoring writer with a background in radio and TV journalism. He puts his pedal to the metal each week with his must-read car reviews.

Read more from Tim


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