Wednesday, 27 January 2016

James May is proof you don't need explosions to make great car TV

ABOUT A YEAR ago I had confirmation of something most car nuts suspect. Given the choice of a quiet evening, your local pub and any of the former Top Gear trio to go for a drink with, chances are you’d pick James May.

It was at a press conference in London where he was announcing a display bringing together his favourite pioneering automobiles, but being a busy TV presenter he had time to field just two questions from the assembled journalists. I can’t recall what the first question was but I definitely remember holding my hand up like a teacher’s pet with the second on the tip of my tongue – if he was going to do it again in ten years’ time, would his choices have changed?

I was looking forward to hearing him contemplate whether the car industry had stopped belting game-changing cars, but instead his PR man picked someone who genuinely asked ‘Did you get back from Argentina alright?’

There was a brief awkward silence at the stupidity of the question, but the Top Gear presenter who’d clearly made it back Buenos Aires just fine just smiled politely and gave a thoughtful intelligent answer that took the mickey out of Jeremy Clarkson. More often than not he’s motoring’s voice of reason.

That’s why seeing his Cars of the People back on the air last Sunday was such a breath of fresh air, particularly at a time when the tabloids are photographing every car Chris Evans gets in or out of.

Given he’d rounded off the last series by neatly supposing the ultimate car of the people is the Volkswagen Golf I had been wondering what ground hadn’t already been covered, but last Sunday’s episode was a genuinely fascinating bit of social history, exploring how Japan had swiped the car market from right under America’s nose. The journey with three Detroit car experts discussing the city’s downfall from a Ford Mustang II was genuinely educational stuff.

Best of all was the gentle ribbing of the car usually fĂȘted as everything wrong with our own car industry. James could have done with the Austin Allegro what he did with the 2CV in the last series – pummelled it with machine gun fire, in the name of TV entertainment – but he didn’t.

Cars of the People is proof you can make great motoring telly without massive egos and explosions – which is why I’ll definitely tuning in for this Sunday’s episode. I’m glad James made it back from Argentina alright.


  1. Beautiful cars, I love stuff like this. Thanks for the post!

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