There’s a new series of Top Gear coming soon. It’s the programme that will never die, if only because of all the money that must be rolling in from its syndication abroad and all the international offshoots.
And, if I’m honest, I’ll probably make the mistake of watching an episode or two. But there are a bunch of far better shows about cars out there.
I’m an odd eco-worrier, in that I love cars. The designs, the mechanics, the cultures that have built up around them or use them as a form of expression. The sorts of things that Top Gear, mostly, ignores.
The Speedhunters website- set up as a promotional companion to the Need For Speed franchise- covers a wide range of car cultures through blog posts and photo galleries. For the other stuff, I’ve found a few cool online video channels.
Motortrend is a channel that grew out of YouTube videos. It is home to dozens of syndicated shows from other sources- all car related, of course- but it’s the originals that are the real draw.
Roadkill is the original. Friends Mike Finnegan and David Freiburger travel the USA, trying to get old cars up and running again, quite often rescuing them from scrapyards or having to cut them out of shrubbery. Then they attempt to drive the bangers to an arranged meet up or event. Of course, they don’t always get there.
I know this sounds like so many of Top Gear’s challenges, but there’s a big difference. Finnegan and Freiburger are competent mechanics (and bodgers, when necessary), and they genuinely want to succeed, rather than simply build up to a scripted failure. And they’re not farting around in supercars with their tame racing driver in tow. Their failures are fun and funny, and their successes all the more impressive.
Roadkill gave rise to a bunch of other programmes. Dirt Every Day can be thought of as Roadkill off-road, with excitable puppy Fred Williamson rescuing or hacking up four wheel drives to take rock crawling, trail driving or mud plugging. Roadkill Garage sees Frieburger teaming up with scarecrow genius Steve Dulcich for budget engine swaps, performance upgrades and crazy conversions. Hotrod Garage is a tidier version of Roadkill Garage, with cuddly duo Tony Angelo and Lucky Costa delivering everyman performance. There’s now a two wheeled take on the Roadkill formula- Throttle Out- which is only three episodes in so far, but shows promise.
Subscription to the channel is only £5.99 a month, and its worth it for the originals alone. But if you’re in the US, or use VPN, there’s all the syndicated stuff, and lots of motorsport, as well. Highly recommended.
YouTube is a good place to go for interesting hobbyist motoring content. The Motortrend family started there, before striking out on its own, and it is home to some others. Mighty Car Mods is my current favourite. Presented by Aussie mates Marty and Moog, it follows their adventures and misadventures in souping up cars. They’re big fans of Japanese motors, regularly taking trips to the land of the rising sun to pick up ‘nuggets’ or sample the delights of drifting and other car subcultures. They’re passionate and enthusiastic, but don’t take themselves too seriously, and episodes have fine soundtracks courtesy of Moog.
Much more British, right down to the obligatory cups of tea, packs of digestives, and oily overalls, is Project Binky. The project is a long term production, as Bad Obsession Motorsports (two guys in a garage) shoehorn a four wheel drive system into an original Mini. Episodes are sporadic, turning up when enough progress has been made to merit an update. This is an involved build, as you might guess, but it’s delightful to watch sheets of two mil aluminium bent, cut and welded into all sorts of components. The bit where we get to see the car up and running is still a way off, but it should be worth it.
So, I’ll probably fold, and watch some of the new Top Gear, but I’ll go back to the internet if I want to get some interesting car TV.