But the full impact that the Top Gear presenter has had on school libraries can only now be revealed.
His book I Know You Got Soul has been ordered by nearly half the secondary schools in England, under a government scheme to get boys reading.
The book explores a list of machines, picked by Mr Clarkson and his editor one lunchtime "for emotional reasons, using our hearts rather than our heads", then jotted on a napkin.
The soulful machines include Concorde, the Zeppelin, the Hoover Dam and "all submarines", before ending with the Spitfire.
It has proved the runaway top choice of school librarians, with 1,409 copies ordered.
In the summer term, secondaries were given a list of 170 books, chosen to appeal to boys, and told they could order 20 titles.
Kathy Lemaire, chief executive of the School Library Association, which ran the scheme, said there were various reasons why Clarkson's book was so popular.
"It's non-fiction, it's an adult title - and it's cool to be seen with an adult book - also there's the Top Gear link, which makes it a bit sort of edgy," she said.
"It helped that it was also fairly high up the list we sent. I think some schools went through it and didn't get that far before they had chosen 20 they wanted.
"We know that 20 books is a drop in the ocean, but some librarians said they would use the list next time they were buying books."
The second most popular book was The Boys' Book: How to be Best at Everything by Guy MacDonald. Thriller writer James Patterson came third, with 933 copies of his novel Saving the World and Other Extreme Sports sent to libraries.
All the titles on the list were ordered, but some classics attracted little interest - perhaps because schools already had copies.
Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson was ordered by 70 schools and there were 88 orders each for Mark Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.
Extract from the Top Gear presenter's I Know You Got Soul
"The fact is that most machines are just a collection of wires and plastic. The computer, for instance, on which I've written this book has no more of a heart than a Toyota Corolla, which in turn is no more soulful than a Corby trouser press.
But some machines do have a soul. Sometimes, as is the case with Concorde and the AK-47, it's because they possess that most human of qualities, a flaw, and sometimes it's because they were born carrying the genetic fingerprint of a foolish and misguided inventor. Count Zeppelin springs to mind here."