06 December 2006

The Chelsea Tractor 1941-2006

A Chelsea tractor in its unnatural environmentThis morning middle-class mums across West London eager to drop their youngest off at prep school before making the dash to Harvey Nicks for coffee and a natter - not to mention the vast majority of automobile-owning North Americans and Jeremy Clarkson - were united in mourning the untimely death of the Chelsea Tractor, "4x4", "SUV" or "4WD", the powerful beasts that once roamed roads across the globe and which, for many, came to epitomise strength, versatility and total disregard for the environment.

First sighted in the wild in the early 1940s and known at the time as "Jeeps", Chelsea Tractors were initially seen by the vast majority as untameable creatures, always given to scrambling up hillsides and along twisting jungle paths and frequently involved in scenes of battle, whether they be in Central Europe in the dying days of the Second World War or outside Loretta Switt's trailer in M*A*S*H that time Alan Alda accidentally drove over her foot.

Some of the first attempts to tame the Jeep were made in Britain. A careful programme of cross-breeding resulted in the production of the "Land Rover", a sturdy (if usually slow) creature which spent its time skittering up mountainsides and down into valleys from the Scottish Highlands to the Cornish Coast, usually with a sheep or two in the back and often a lonely shepherd in a mounting state of excitement in the front.

By the late 1960s and early 70s, the rugged 4x4s had become a familiar sight across the countryside, with some of the braver individuals even being sighted on the outskirts of towns and cities. A confident furture for the species seemed certain. But then came the oil crisis of 1973. With their favourite food stuff (top grade petroleum) growing scarce, many predicted the powerful, if sometimes ungainly, animals could go the way of the Dodo. However, thanks to careful nurturing, they were able to survive in isolated rural pockets, living off a diet of red diesel and the odd drop of four-star.

A young jeep takes its first stepsWith the species' very survival under threat, top scientists at car manufacturers in America, Europe and Japan began selective breeding programmes. By the mid 1980's these programmes had borne fruit and the first Chelsea Tractors were able to be released into a new, safe environment - the city. Soon Chelsea Tractors were swarming over smog-filled traffic routes in urban centres the world over, braving hazards from speed bumps up to 5 centimetres high all the way to potholes up to 2 centimetres deep in their quest to carry little Julian from the front drive to soccer practice.

With the explosion of the species it could not be long before predators began to gather. Soon groups of environmental activists, teenagers eager for a cause and politicians eager to sweep up the green vote were seen gathering near the Chelsea Tractors' watering holes (or, as the locals know them "petrol" or "gas" "stations") and sniffing the air, before passing out due to all the fumes. Before long they took to setting up traps for the turbo-powered behemoths in the form of congestion charges and poisoning their food supply with green taxes.

By the mid-noughties, the Chelsea Tractor began to vanish from our streets. By the end there were only a few, unreliable sightings of the creatures - sometimes outside the palatial crib of an LA rapper, sometimes making the weary journey to Knightsbridge for the sales.

The Chelsea Tractor will be buried under a mountain of high petrol prices and increased environmental awareness. It is survived by an increasing number of erratic cyclists, scooters, bendy buses, the Smart car and trees.

1 Comment:

Keysmike said...


I loved your post on Chelsea Tractors. Brilliantly funny, expertly-crafted and - of course - splendidly on-message!

I'd like to add a link to your site from mine, if that's OK with you.

My (much more modest) blog is: keysmike.blogspot.com

Keep up the great work.

Mike Wilding