England. July 2010. The MotoMan
crew is making the pilgrimage of pilgrimages to the center of the Commonwealth and the majority of its auto industry. Our whirlwind trip included Range Rover, Jaguar, Lotus, Morgan, Vauxhall and to top it all off: Goodwood Festival of Speed for a visit with the Supreme Leader of the Most Excellent Order of Gearheads, Lord March himself. That trip turned into the following films: Lotus Crown Jewels
with Matthew Becker, Design Inspiration
with Gerry McGovern, Makin' A Moggie
, Vauxhall Heritage Center
and of course: Up The Hill
. Now, while those were all incredible adventures, they couldn't hold a candle to my foolish timing and location planning that turned into a once in a lifetime experience.
So there we are in London visiting with Range Rover and Jaguar just after they held the worldwide launch for the then yet unveiled Evoque and an opportunity was on offer… but first, allow me to digress.
I was very fortunate to have lived in the second greatest city in the world, London, for three years. Truly one of the most exciting times of my life as I embraced all that it had to offer. Everything from having my name announced as I walked into the House of Lords to living in a country with one of the most avid group of gearheads on the planet. Think about it, these are the same people that redefined unreliability, spotty workmanship and the promise of being left stranded on the side of the road as ‘charm’. But one thing I never did was get into the whole ‘Royals’ thing. Yes, I was in the scrum for the Queen’s Golden Jubilee during the handover of her new Bentley and the Concord flyover but for me it was the history of the places in and around London that drew my interest. So when it came time to shoot a film on the 40th Anniversary of Range Rover, I had to include footage of some of the places I had seen from a distance but as a plebe, never got up close to.
Back to Summer 2010 and my grand plan: Car to car shots of Land Rover’s iconic Range Rover in front of the monuments I showed off as a resident to my visiting friends. One problem: If you have seen the show, then you know well that I am not a fan of other cars in our shots. Even in densely populated areas. I have been able to pull this stunt off from the streets of downtown LA to the RenCen in Detroit but this was different: This was London. Like New York, London never sleeps. Unlike New York, it naps. Mainly between 3 and 6 AM. That was our chance.
One of the folks at Jaguar Land Rover UK was kind enough to loan us her personal Range Rover Turbo Diesel so all we needed was a camera car. You know what they say, when in Rome . . . now our cameras have ridden on everything from a Lotus Elise to a Scion but it was high style on this occasion - a just released Jaguar XJ SuperSports. So off we went at 3:30 AM for a hopefully quiet London.
At first, we were aces high. Hyde Park. Check. Green Park. Check. St Paul’s Cathedral. Check. Not a car in sight as you see in the film. Then we arrived at Buck House – you know, Elizabeth Regina’s crib. It all looked promising. VERY few cars in the roundabout just in front of the gate. First attempt. Black Cab. Second Attempt. A public bus (and not even a faux double decker). Third attempt. A Moskovich! Seriously! There was no way I was going to display a symbol of royalty with a symbol Soviet Era medium technology.
Now, those of you familiar with London and the proximity of Buck House to the Prime Minister’s Residence and Offices, 10 Downing Street – simply ‘Number 10’ to Londoners, can see a problem here. Driving right behind the house of the third most powerful man in the world at an ungodly hour in two flashy cars with camera gear that could easily be mistaken for something far more threatening is not exactly the building blocks of MI6 or CIA super double secret agents.
Well, somewhere between that third and fourth lap behind Number 10 certainly did the trick. It was after lap five that we noticed an official looking car of sorts. Now people, I would like to point out that the US Government has some flaws but we definitely do the stealth/official looking car much better than the Brits. A bright Red BMW. Really?
As the former resident of the group, it didn’t take long for me to make the prudent call and abort the mission. Sadly, the Red BMW didn’t agree. As we drove down the embankment to my old hood the Red BMW followed along, at one point I thought we were in the clear, but as we got to the Tate Britain, we were done.
I’ve had traffic stops before but the litany of potential issues included:
- Two cars I didn’t own
- Camera gear hanging off one of them
- Multiple trips past the house of a man that ran a country to which I was no longer a tax payer
Something told me at this point I wouldn’t be making it to Goodwood that year . . . Up came the officer – let’s call him Nigel to protect the names of the innocent: “We know the cars are owned by Jaguar but what are you brain surgeons doing?’
There are moments in life where the outcome is of great importance and is directly related to how you handle yourself and more often than not you don’t know what is going to come out of your mouth until you have to start talking. So what did come out? The truth.
Now here is a bit of the story that will sound, as the Brits put it, like bollocks but is 100% true: We had a real life Playboy Playmate with us. I swear we did. Her name is Pilar Lastra and she is HOT! You can see for yourself here.
She, too, was in attendance for the Evoque launch the night before, had never been to London, had a flight the following afternoon and when she heard we were going to film in front of key London monuments asked to join us on our adventure.
So after I owned up to my stupidity to Officer Nigel, I pulled the old “Have you met Pilar’ and our temporarily resident Playboy Playmate and Deal or No Deal model went above and beyond, turned on her best Texas girl charm and in a short while we were fast friends, snapping pictures of the group and began to bond. And then it all came back to one thing: Cars.
You see: Both Officer Nigel and his partner are major car guys. Before too long I shared war stories of my time living just a mile from the very point we were standing, my beloved Elise 111S and our upcoming film schedule for the remainder of the trip.
And this is where the 'incredible' part of our trip happens. We accomplished in one hour what I couldn't do in three years as a psuedo subject of the Queen: An invite to Number 10 . . . at least the front door.
You see, Officer Nigel and his partner invited us to visit with them the following week after Goodwood to walk up to the place where David Cameron currently delivers his speeches to the world. And thanks to Playboy, two AMAZING members of the London’s Metropolitan Police Department and my own stupidity, the closing scene in Design Inspiration is my visit to Number 10.