Where's Noel going in that odd car?

Noel Edmonds passes on his passion for the Qpod to Ashley Hollebone
Click to follow
Indy Lifestyle Online

"Don't laugh!" says Noel Edmonds, chuckling, as he shows me into the vast garage where he keeps his latest, strange, bug-eyed invention, the Qpod car, marketed by the Unique Motor Company, which he chairs. Well, it was hard not smile. They make you smile, these Qpods, like a gaggle of four-wheeled Mr Blobbies. I can quite see the appeal of the Qpod, just as Edmonds did the moment he set eyes on one.

"Don't laugh!" says Noel Edmonds, chuckling, as he shows me into the vast garage where he keeps his latest, strange, bug-eyed invention, the Qpod car, marketed by the Unique Motor Company, which he chairs. Well, it was hard not smile. They make you smile, these Qpods, like a gaggle of four-wheeled Mr Blobbies. I can quite see the appeal of the Qpod, just as Edmonds did the moment he set eyes on one.

Showing me one in particular, he explains: "This was the first one I bought. I was driving along with my six-year-old daughter when we noticed these cars on a trailer, and I was so infatuated by their appearance that I bought one." So, Edmonds' Qpod, as we know it today, was actually an existing product, called the Fun-Tech.

After hooting around his grounds in the Fun-Tech, Edmonds realised its potential, and contacted the distributor for the UK in Honiton, Devon, near Edmonds' country estate. A deal was set up and, several factory visits later, the Unique Motor Company was born.

A French company called SECMA manufactures the Qpod in a village outside Lille: "I liked the way their business is run, a family-owned company, no robots assembling parts but an old-fashioned production line reminiscent of a black-and-white film of a Morris assembly line."

Each Qpod is built to order, and customers can choose their colour. In fact, Edmonds' daughter wants hers painted pink, which brings back memories for Edmonds. "I was driving along one day with my daughter in our new car, and she said, 'We're like two peas in a pod, Dad!'. That got me thinking - I couldn't call it the peapod, so I came up with the name Qpod."

There is a sense that, for Edmonds, owning his own car company is the fulfilment of an ultimate ambition. And Noel Edmonds certainly has form as a petrolhead. Before Mr Blobby and all that, there was Radio 1, of course, but also Top Gear. Indeed, Edmonds could be described as the original Jeremy Clarkson, having presented the BBC's flagship motoring show 25 years ago. He has raced and rallied, too, (he even entered a team into Le Mans in 1997). But a crash in the 1970s at Snetterton ended his racing career. "My brain wasn't in gear and I didn't warm the brakes up. I lost control on a bend going at 110mph. Iwent straight into the barriers, very hard indeed."

He still enjoys driving fast cars, though, including an Aston Martin DB9 and an original Ford GT40 from the late 1960s: "It's a car you have to really drive - if you're not hot and sweaty after 30 seconds, you're doing something wrong." Still, it's on the Qpod, and a new little roadster, called the QT, which looks a bit like a Smart roadster, that he is concentrating now.

After a bit of a briefing by Edmonds, I clambered into a Qpod. There is no steering-wheel, more of an aircraft- style yoke with a twist-grip throttle. I followed a dirt track into one of Edmonds' fields, which was cratered with deep muddy holes. At first, the steering felt heavy, but it got lighter with familiarity. Only six inches of steering control results in full lock, so the it's quite sensitive but accurate, sort of. It's no sports car, but, taking it on wet grass, I had fun power-sliding my way through Devon's finest mud.

As I became more confident, I decided to "give it large". I was very taken by the responsive way this little car's 340cc engine seemed to dial up speed on the gauge, which at one point read 40mph. Even more worryingly, the speedo goes all the way to 80mph. Edmonds assures me that 60mph is achievable on a proper road surface.

I've driven Ferraris, Astons, and plenty of other exotica, but the Qpod is the one that I'd have a laugh in. Edmonds hopes that there will be many more like me, and also commuters who want to exploit its potential as a city car. It's clear that he has invested a substantial amount into this venture. And as well as an acute business sense, he has retained his sense of humour: featured in the Unique Sales brochure is a Durex-liveried Qpod. So there we are, then - safe as well as fun.

Qpods start at £3,145 ( www.uniquemotorcompany.co.uk; 0870 6000087)

Search for used cars

Comments