A few weeks ago, I mentioned that while visiting Seville I treated myself to my first Spanish world car guide, Todo Los Coches del Mundo. My favourite section, at the back, features vehicles not imported into that market, such as the Japan-only Nissan Quacky Box. It was while looking through this that the reason why Iran hates the West came to me - the explanation for why they seem so intent on challenging us by funding Shia insurgents in Iraq and by developing their own nuclear capability.

Sure, everybody goes on about how, in 1953, we deposed the democratically elected Mohammed Mossadegh, at the behest of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (now know as BP) and replaced him with our weak-kneed puppet the Shah of Iran and his legendary and brutal secret police, the Savak. Or about how, in 1988, the USS Vincennes shot down an Iranian civilian airliner, killing 290 people.

Yet I reckon they hate us because they only have one kind of car (and it was this that I saw a photo of in my copy of Todo Los Coches del Mundo) - a bright yellow, locally made version of a 1960s British model, the Hillman Hunter, called the Paykan.

I was doing a TV show recently where the researchers looked at the huge amounts of bribery directed at certain Saudi princes in order to get them to buy exports from the British.

The princes were of course showered with the most expensive prostitutes to pander to their every perversion; they occupied free of charge the finest hotel suites; and they were bombarded with drink, expensive cars and yachts, trips to the races and opportunities to meet prominent British show business performers.

Yet at least these Saudi princes were buying some reasonable if second-rate gear, whereas even at the time, during perhaps the bleakest period in European car design, there were much better cars around than the Hillman Hunter, which could pretty much be described as the worst car in the West.

I found it hard to imagine what depths of depravity were offered to the Shah and his entourage in order for him to force this antiquated, ugly piece of junk on his long-suffering people. So, not knowing when I'd get this opportunity again, I set my staff of eager young women to the task of finding out what inducements the Rootes Group, owners of the Hillman Hunter, in concert with the British Establishment (who always have a hand in these things) proffered in order to secure the Paykan contract.

It took a great deal of time and effort for my researchers to come up with the nature of the bribe but in the end, through diligent work and contacts in the foreign press, they found out what everybody in Iran already knows; that in order for the Shah to purchase the production rights of the Hillman Hunter for a ridiculous sum he was permitted to ride the Duke of Edinburgh like a horse around Buckingham Palace for a half hour!

It is this terrible secret - that their former ruler could engage in something so degenerate - which each pious Iranian is reminded of every time they take a taxi or see their car parked in the garage, so it's no wonder they hate us.


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