Documentary exploring how cars have been presented on television over time, from classic magazine shows of the 1960s like Wheelbase to more aspirational programmes like Top Gear.
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Start your engines, sit back and enjoy the ride for a journey through British onscreen motoring.
Cars are the ultimate consumerist item. They're shiny, big, fast, they make exciting, sexy noises.
You hear a car, see a car, feel a car. That is what really gets some people going.
Oh, ho ho ho!
A good car show, in my book, will contain cars - aspirational cars -
and just good, honest entertainment.
-People who are very enthusiastic about cars like to think if they invest enough
in a model that is as sexy or classy or sophisticated as they aspire to be, it will reflect nicely on them.
Listen to that!
The car show is a road trip encompassing TV motor shows like Wheelbase of the '60s...
Welcome to our 250th edition.
..to the popular entertainment of Top Gear now,
stopping to refuel at Fifth Gear, before going off-road with adventurous car show spin-offs
-like Stars In Fast Cars.
-It just works!
-And don't forget popular drama, where the car is often the real hero.
-Come on, please!
The Trotters' Reliant Robin.
Bergerac's classy Triumph Roadster.
And James Bond's Aston martin. Each a symbol of their owner's class and aspirations.
Every TV motor show tells us something of the hopes of our times.
One show in particular, with three presenters and a weekly hour of high-jinks,
has fully encompassed this. And it changed the very nature of the car show.
It's such an interesting mix.
You wouldn't naturally find those three people sharing space in life.
Cars brought them together. Three very different characters and they're entertaining to watch.
Sometimes I really don't want to laugh and I can't help myself.
-I was asleep!
Back here on the throne! Clarkson, it's not funny!
Clarkson, you infantile pillock! You're tidying that up.
Clarkson, May and Hammond.
If they're not best friends, they fooled us every week. Hilarious.
-I quite liked that.
-I like it!
-The Ferrari is made by craftsmen.
-This is made by two fat blokes in Kentucky.
-Called Bud and Bob.
-This plastic comes from the same plastic they use to make newsreaders over here.
-Same colour as well.
I think it's quite a macho programme,
but so many women I know watch it.
There's a fantastic appeal.
The presenters of Top Gear give us the show to define our times -
sleek, bold and built for speed.
Showcasing the bold Jeremy Clarkson,
the sedate James May
and the charm of Richard Hammond,
Top Gear is a boys' own adventure designed for thrills.
It's a car show, but not as we once knew it.
It's a grand feeling to get into your car, knowing that the country is yours and you can go where you like
without using up too much personal energy. Only a car gives you this.
Back in the early '60s, the TV motor show was in its infancy,
but our love affair with the car was flourishing.
The car industry was building British cars for British men,
as in TV shows like Mainly For Men.
Hello and welcome to Mainly For Men. This is a programme, fellas, just for you.
Mainly For Men offered a very limited take on sexual equality.
With hindsight, it may have misjudged the car-buying market.
The presenter's motoring advice did not set the rubber burning.
We've had a few ideas sent in. I'll bring them to your notice.
The first one deals with that inconsiderate driver who comes up with his headlights at full beam,
Although Mainly For Men stalled, car manufacturing thrived. The boxy, functional pre-war cars gave way
to an unparalleled surge in technological and design innovation in the '50s and '60s.
Big cars for big aspirations, like the Ford Zephyr, made Middle England look like mid-town America.
The successful advertising of the day proved there was a growing audience for the car show.
Ford again sets the fashion with the three graces -
the new Zodiac, the new Zephyr
-and the new Consort.
-Glamorised on film and TV,
the car was increasingly seen as an object of desire. The advertising industry took full advantage.
The three things that expanded advertising significantly
from its humble origins in the '50s and '60s were the advent
of commercial television, when suddenly in addition to press advertising
and outdoor posters in radio and cinema, we suddenly had television.
Expenditure on products increased massively.
You don't believe it, do you? Wait until you step inside the Morris Mini Minor. There's room for four.
And so much parcel space. Everything stows away neatly and easily. Four happy people in a big little car.
ITV have never managed to establish a motoring programme of any note.
During the 1960s, there were no car commercials on TV at all
due to a very convenient arrangement between the manufacturers
who got together over a gin and tonic at the Society of Motor Manufacturers annual shindig, no doubt,
and said, "Commercial television. We should cut back on expenses by none of us advertising."
So all through the '60s there was barely a car ad at all.
I've already told you why 300,000 people have bought Datsuns.
This time I want to show you their new economy cars.
The Japanese came along. I think Datsun was the first brand on TV.
The new Cherry. Not just one car, but a whole range of exciting models to suit all kinds of people.
The housewife, the family man, sportsman, everybody. The young and not so young.
So everybody else had to advertise on television and that dramatically increased the money being spent.
The car you always promised yourself.
Once again, Ford leads the way with a car that is totally new, exciting, different from anything else.
In the '70s, car advertising was targeted directly at men.
-The idea of selling cars to women had barely progressed from this...
-A sun visor and vanity mirror.
So handy for powdering your nose or keeping it from getting sunburnt.
No need to disturb your handbag or exasperate your husband.
It was assumed by advertisers, perhaps rightly in the '60s and '70s,
that women generally didn't buy cars.
It was probably a social attitude amongst a lot of men that fillies shouldn't be allowed in a car!
Stick them in the back. Or let them ride tandem on a bicycle at weekends.
That "mainly for men" attitude may have been alive, but it didn't go unchallenged.
..to take the children to school or to drive round to the shops.
The car helps her to get through her daily routine quicker, leaving more time for enjoyment.
It puts the country swimming pool within her reach...
In the '60s and '70s, Wheelbase, the BBC's flagship motor series, delivered motoring news
and glamorous locations to an ever-growing audience.
# Here she comes, make way
# It's the lady from Lamborghini... #
Wheelbase was the first TV programme committed to motoring.
Its popularity was a significant sign of British productivity and creativity in the motoring world
-and became a benchmark in the evolution of the car show.
-We ought to model our cars
on those of the Americans? God forbid!
Although revolutionary in its day, Wheelbase did not set cars racing against jet fighters,
but it did show them being thrown off buildings - all in the interest of public safety.
If you drive at 60mph and hit something, it's exactly the same as driving off a 10-storey building.
And it will get you to exactly the same place.
Wheelbase, as a magazine show, was very much a journal of record.
Somebody described it in the Guardian as "dry and dutiful"
and it could be relied upon every single week to deliver that week's chunk of motoring news
in a very straight way.
They were clearly relying on the fact that all the interest would come from the cars on screen.
This is the Citroen SM with a Maserati engine
ready for production only two years after they signed their agreement...
Despite its magazine format and reviews of the industry's rapidly developing fleet of vehicles,
Wheelbase failed to cater for the British desire for the quirky and unusual.
If an Englishman's home is his castle, his car is like his shed,
but a very well-appointed shed, a little place to escape into his own manly world,
think his own manly thoughts and pick his nose in privacy.
Ha ha! Poop poop!
Eccentric drivers and odd motoring challenges have a pedigree in British television.
I think the quintessential British driving experience has to be, in some way,
eccentrically charming and unusual. I think the template was set by Toad of Toad Hall,
in country lanes with his goggles and his driving hat, honking on his horn.
It was continued by the likes of Inspector Morse in his Mark II Jag or Bergerac in his Triumph Roadster.
There has to be an elegance, a grace, and something slightly different about the English driving experience.
Audiences brought up on motor shows like Wheelbase began to see the car dominate television.
No self-respecting British cop show would be without a distinctive set of wheels.
Z Cars in the '60s showcased the Ford Zephyr.
A decade later, The Sweeney was the British car maker's dream,
highlighting the macho appeal of the villain's choice of transport - the Jaguar Mark II.
The Sweeney, they have their cars, and again Ford are happy to supply those,
but that was very much part of the posit of the show. The detectives don't drive.
They have a specially-trained driver and he does all the driving.
People say, "Regan drives a Granada." He doesn't at all. He's driven in those cars.
And they're very representative of the kinds of cars the police had.
Routine saloons that the police force could buy in bulk and issue to people.
A slightly faster one for the more senior guy. A slower Cortina for the lesser detective.
Very representative of the cars they had at the time.
Ashes To Ashes is the latest in a long line of cop shows to showcase iconic cars. Flashy and fast,
they eye-catching Audi Quattro is the driving force in this popular drama.
In Ashes To Ashes, the car has got a bit more preposterous
because in 1981 an Audi Quattro would have been something...
a sort of "broker with a bonus" type car.
I don't think it was attainable by any kind of detective.
Right. Let's fire up the Quattro.
So, you know, they're making it up, really.
They've looked at 1981 and said, "What was the key car of 1981?" It was undoubtedly the Audi Quattro.
It was the first car with a turbo-charged engine and four-wheel drive in a sporty package.
It won rallies and was the kind of pin-up of its day.
This is a full sensory hallucination.
When I was growing up, the world of rallying was set alight by the Audi Quattro,
so I love anything to do with the '80s and the Quattro is iconic,
so I was thrilled to bits, so excited, on the edge of my sofa, waiting for the show to start.
-'It was fantastic.'
-We'll go the long way. I'm not scratching this baby.
To understand the ingredients of the car show,
we need to understand the passion for cars on the silver screen.
I'm a massive Bond fan.
I have the full Bond collection on DVD in the silver attache case.
I think, though, just one car really stands out for me
and that's the Aston Martin DB5, which has now starred in quite a few shows.
-Where's my Bentley?
-It's had its day.
-It's never let me down.
M's orders, 007. You'll be using this Aston Martin DB5, with modifications.
James Bond - why can't he just stick to the classic Aston Martin that we all love and remember?
It's only appeared in a couple of films, but the classic one
is the silver one with the special little shield that flipped out,
which I thought was next to useless.
Q had invented that shield as if it was going to save his life,
but to be honest it was a joke. If a team of skiers with machine guns are chasing after you,
that poxy little shield won't offer much protection. I think Q was losing it even back then,
but it's the ultimate James Bond car.
But it isn't always about big engines and ejector seats.
British cars have frequently been curiosities. The Trotters' Reliant Robin humorously captured
the entrepreneurial flavour of the '80s.
Only Fools And Horses was a show where the downbeatness of it was absolutely crucial
to everything that the stories hung off. And in terms of the independent British tradesman,
you don't get much more downbeat than a plastic, three-wheeled van.
It's got an 850cc engine, you only have to pay motorcycle rates of taxation on it,
it's made of glass-reinforced plastic
and therefore isn't going to rust.
If you're running a business on a shoestring, everything is about minimum fixed costs
and maximum profit. A Reliant makes a lot of sense.
-Be careful where you dump that.
-Ha ha ha. Funny(!) I'm laughing.
'Once we got into the '90s,'
you still had iconic cars, but they were always there not to be part of the action,
but to say something charming about the protagonist,
the classic example being Morse in his Jag. You never saw Morse in many high-speed chases.
He never leapt behind the car to fire bullets at a suspect.
It was just trying to say something - he was quirky, he was eccentric, interesting.
Which is ironic, really, because most police are the biggest dullards!
The same could not be said for the motor car. It injected speed, drama and thrills into our lives,
all courtesy of the small screen, but it also allowed us to fondly remember quieter times.
Now here is a splendid creature - Fanny.
So much like a person it's quite uncanny.
No ride in Fanny could ever be tame.
But what the motor show has captured throughout the decades is our fascination and affection for cars.
I think the Brits have the most extraordinary love affair with cars.
I mean, there's 33 million cars on the road. We're a little island.
There isn't space. You can't park the damn things, you can't go over a few miles an hour cos there's cameras...
Yet we spend the most extraordinary amount of money on something that we can't really utilise.
# There is nothing unorthodox about a little tin box
# About a little tin box... #
What I particularly love about driving is making a car go out of control,
but being fully in control behind the wheel myself. So I love sliding the back end of a car out
and doing doughnuts and burning rubber. I loved doing that stuff.
In the early days of motoring, you were happy just to be on the move and things were pretty basic.
Modern technology has satisfied our desire for speed with cars with impressive horse power and handling.
But what we really want to achieve with our cars can only truly be experienced by television presenters
-in car shows.
-I've done it!
-This insatiable need for speed
was something TV was quick to recognise in the early days
in the motor show and the public information films of the day.
You get a nice, orderly queue of traffic...
and then always some road hog tries to jump it.
It's enough to give you blood pressure.
off the roads.
And make our...roads...safe.
By the 1970s, we were hooked on cars. The BBC were keen to find a motor show to capture this spirit.
After over 10 years' faithful service, Wheelbase was sent to the scrap yard.
In 1978, a sleeker model was unveiled - Top Gear.
Noel Edmonds and Angela Rippon were the first hosts, presiding over a worthy mix of items
and features packed with essential information...on wing mirrors.
There's a mirror on the left wing, the central mirror and again a mirror here on the right wing,
which means that I really do have 365 degrees vision.
Most of it was filmed outside. They certainly didn't have a studio.
They would have an introductory bit and then, within the 30-minute format of the show,
the extent of the show, they would probably divide that into four, maybe five items.
And it would have been horribly well-balanced.
If there was a thing on a performance car, then there would be something on road safety.
This is the Datsun one-hand system, but I'm just not sure which hand you use.
You really can't do it with one hand and it's a very tight pull.
I hope that wouldn't put anybody off actually putting that seatbelt on. I'm very much for seatbelts.
What I liked about the older Top Gear, first and foremost,
was we were in the GTi period I'm talking about, in the '80s, lots of hatchbacks...
How about this for a sporty looking car? The Renault Gordini. It's known in France as the Alpine,
but Chrysler have already got that name in the UK. Gordini is a very famous name in French sport.
This car, in Group 2 form, won this year's Monte Carlo rally.
No boy racer type could buy a brand-new hatchback. You were buying second-hand cars.
And it was just thrilling to see something you were going to buy in four years' time
for the first time. That was my theory. They were going to show us the new GTi,
which I'll be able to buy second-hand in 4-5 years' time.
A really fun little car. You get 110mph out of it if you want.
If you're around the urban area, they reckon 26 to the gallon. That would be the low.
Their constant speed figure, a constant speed of 56mph,
will give you somewhere in the region of 50mpg.
So you seem to get the best of both worlds.
Car shows have definitely improved for the better. I have seen some olden time Top Gear ones
where they took a full five minutes to show you how to pull the bonnet release lever, get out,
walk round, lift up the bonnet, have a look inside,
talk about the engine in detail... Now we just point to the bonnet and go, "Under there you've got..."
Oh, brilliant! It's got one.
It was definitely more about the cars and giving information about the cars
rather than going on a "crazy" road trip where cars were incidental to the story.
If we just roll back that carpet, there's a small handle here that we can pull up,
give it a good old push, pull that back
and we've converted that into a child seat for two kids.
It was motoring in its broadest and, I think, blandest sense.
Again, there was nothing else, so if you didn't like that it was read a car magazine.
After regular services and upgrades,
the transformation of the BBC's luxury motor show Top Gear began, in earnest, in the mid '80s,
introducing a new crop of presenters - Tiff Needell, Quentin Willson and Jeremy Clarkson.
-A number of directions there, Tiff!
-Their new style of presenting emphasised the excitement
-and vicarious thrill of watching grown men driving fast cars at death-defying speeds...
..capturing the mood and satisfying the expectations of the time.
Although Top Gear was top gun among motoring programmes in the late '90s,
a new show was snapping at their heels. Shiny and new, Driven rolled off the production line
and into our homes in 1998.
Driven broke new ground completely.
Driven was three presenters - Mike, Jason and me.
Jason was replaced with Jason.
And what we did was we took three cars and did a group test and put them up against each other,
putting them through different tests. Nobody else did this at the time.
A bit like What Car? magazine on TV.
-Hello and welcome to a new series of Driven.
-We're going to be testing our applicants on driveability...
-Cost of ownership.
The team just before I joined was Mike Brewer, Penny Mallory
and Jason Barlow. Jason Barlow was looking like, and subsequently did, he would go over to Top Gear.
So there was a hole there.
'96 British Spider Champion, '97 third in the British Touring Cars...
Whoa, whoa, whoa!
-Should we give him a go?
We instantly, as a little unit, had the best time of our lives.
Instantly clicked. That cliched word of chemistry. It all worked.
-Can you present?
-Yeah. This is Driven.
With presenters like Brewer, Penny Mallory and Jason Plato,
Driven's style and humour posed a serious threat to Top Gear's popularity.
Tonight, the first TV drive of the sensational Lotus Exige.
Items like the car comparisons made Driven a hit. It had its sights set on a young and trendy audience.
Lifestyle is an important marketing buzz word these days.
In Alfa Romeo's case, they hope discerning car buyers will buy a sport wagon.
The kind of people that place much less importance on loading ability and more emphasis on looks.
Driven, it seemed was fast closing in on Top Gear.
The one thing that really made Driven resonate with the viewers - we just had fun.
It was genuine laughter in the cars, genuine banter.
You can see a lot with those!
None of it was scripted. We knew what the tests were and how we needed to conduct them,
but everything was off the cuff.
-Here we go. Hold on, boys!
-I'm going to be late for school!
-Come on, little girl!
-Absolutely bags and bags of space!
We broke the rules and we produced something that people would stop me and say,
"I hate car programmes, but I always watch Driven." They constantly said that.
As people say about Top Gear now. It became an entertainment show.
It didn't matter if you weren't interested about cars.
You didn't mind watching because it would make you laugh.
Yeah, baby! There's something for you for being such a good girl.
And here's something for you.
Now go and get yourself something nice to wear tonight.
I bet you cats want to know the secret of my success. I'll show you how to cut fuel bills in half!
We'd do real-life tests and these would change if we were testing a Ferrari or a hatchback.
If it was a Ferrari, it would score on desirability and driveability,
but would score down on its practicality.
Now it's decision time - marks out of 25 for driveability, desirability, practicality
and cost of ownership.
Throughout the series, we had a running total and the winner was awarded a prize.
So who takes the Driven 100 title this week?
Given the choice between three cars that do pretty much the same thing, we'll go for one that looks good
rather than one that costs half as much. The very desirable Audi A2 may be this week's winner,
but we were very surprised and impressed by the little Agila.
We rewrote the car show book.
And, ever since, people have been tearing pages out of that manual,
which we can only take as flattery.
If you want to copy it, that's because it was so good.
While Driven briefly flourished, Top Gear, after 21 years in pole position,
found its place on the starting grid less assured. Jeremy Clarkson left the show in 1999
to pursue solo projects. In a bid to broaden its appeal,
racing driver Vicki Butler Henderson was introduced.
'Ever since I was a tiny tomboy, I've loved to play with my toys in the mud.
'Well, most of them anyway. See you later, Ted.'
Top Gear were looking for a girl who could drive. They asked me to go for a screen test,
which I did. I had no idea about TV!
I knew how to write and race cars.
That's all I did.
I got given the job, so the first item I did for Top Gear was
to go and race at Brands Hatch, which was great. It was something I'd been doing since I was 12.
I'm as nervous as I am excited, which I think can't be too bad.
The one thing that I found quite odd was having to talk whilst racing in the car,
because I had onboard cameras.
Come on, Vic! Go! Go! We've done it.
OK. Time to go, go, go!
No motor show in history had ever done this.
-Oh, no! He's getting away from me! No!
But despite the team's best efforts, in 2001 the BBC announced that Top Gear would come off air
-for a full service and overhaul.
-Eat my jet fumes!
While Top Gear was being remodelled, Channel Five were hard at work on their car show.
Fifth Gear was launched in April, 2002.
Well, when the presenters got their phone call saying there was to be no more Top Gear,
within about three or four days a lovely man called Dan Chambers at Channel Five rang us all up
and said, "I love what you do. Will you come over to Five
"and make a car show and we'll call it Fifth Gear?" We said, "Lovely."
Tonight we're looking at life from the other side...
The new show featured Tiff Needell and Vicki Butler Henderson,
later joined by Driven presenter and racing driver Jason Plato.
Tiff Needell was on Fifth Gear. I like Tiff. I've always liked Tiff.
He's a very likeable guy.
And he's a great driver. He has ultimate respect and what he says is almost gospel.
They have rebuilt the five-litre V8s to produce 520 horse power
and with loads of torque way down low, you've got a really wide road band to work with.
He's like Jools Holland of the car game.
Well, Fifth Gear prides itself on being slightly more...
in tune with real car enthusiasts.
They give proper reviews and talk more about the serious experience of driving a car.
More of a useful buyer's guide.
I can get Labradors in the back, wellies, coats, everything. A nice little feature, this.
-If you haven't got a full load of shopping, just secure it in here.
The thing with Fifth Gear is that we do give a lot more information to people trying to buy a car.
So we're a bit more... A bit more user friendly.
Ah, but they had some fun, too.
Perhaps one of my favourite Fifth Gear moments was teaching my mum how to drive.
Now my mum will only do about 40mph.
How fast do you usually go in the Range Rover, Mum?
-Do you like it when it goes sideways?
I tried to teach her to drive on a racing circuit in a Lamborghini.
-That's it, baby, go on. Go on.
-Is that it?
Ah! My mum's driving a Lamborghini!
It was hilarious.
But the most amazing thing was lap after lap of me going on about how she should steer better
or change gear here, throttle there.
She got quicker each lap and I'm really proud of her.
-I'm so proud of you!
-Fifth Gear may have thought it was cruising,
but Top Gear wasn't off road for long. Jeremy Clarkson was soon back on the revamped show.
Thank you! Hello!
James May, too, joined the leading line-up
and Richard Hammond was introduced as the third member. The pressure was all on Fifth Gear.
It was pretty hard actually to make a car show alongside Top Gear
because no matter what we try to create, they'd always got cars before us or...
A bigger bang. It was very successful, but it was difficult to keep everyone motivated.
"Come on. We're making a good show." Yes, we don't have their budget or nowhere like it.
No, we don't have the clout of being able to get a car like that like maybe perhaps Jeremy can.
No, we don't have Jeremy's wit and style on a script
or the populace hanging on every word he says.
-You are being so obnoxious!
-You're calling me obnoxious?!
Truly capturing the zeitgeist, the new-look Top Gear added elements of entertainment and chat.
Alongside A Star In a Reasonably-Priced Car...
..they added a mysterious driving force.
He's called The Stig.
And he's off! A little bit of wheelspin there.
He's heading to the first corner.
There should be just enough down force to get him round. Look at the speed he's going.
It offered the type of road challenge you could only ever see on a car show.
I won! I beat a man on roller skates!
In time, the presenters would become more famous than the cars they reviewed.
When the current format of Top Gear - I watched that first programme -
it was so shaky, it was embarrassing.
I was holding the cushion thinking, "Oh, man. Please make this stop."
Because it was a real shaky programme. It's safe to say the first three or four were pretty rubbish.
..the presenters and the production crew, who I know have worked together for an awfully long time,
they had a vision of how emotive motoring and cars are to people
and they knew that's what they were trying to tap into. And now it is just superb.
This, though, is a Boxster S, which has a 3.2-litre engine. This is much more like it.
You're not saying, "It's got four doors and an engine!"
We're not being treated like complete dunces. We're being entertained
and they're tapping into that whole... Racing their cars up and down a track.
My God! God Almighty!
-You can forget Enzo's! This is in a different league!
-They've got the right idea
without being dull, so the current Top Gear now is just fantastic.
-This is excellent!
-Why don't all cars have no doors?
Just as Top Gear had evolved, the advertising of cars had undergone radical transformation.
The 1970s and early '80s had been about selling speed, power, prestige and notions of freedom.
Up until about 10 years ago, all car advertising was aimed squarely
at a very traditional blokey, macho driver,
obsessed with speed and power.
The kind of driver you could imagine whizzing down the M1 in a pair of tight jeans,
steering with his knees while he changed to another Status Quo album, drenched in Brut aftershave.
For many, the antithesis of the Brut-drenched petrol head ad
was the iconic and, for some, liberating Volkswagen commercial.
In the late '80s, I think, there was the advert for the brand-new Mark II Volkswagen Golf GTi
and it starred a model, I think Paula Hamilton...
# Everyone is going through changes No one knows... #
She came out of a flat in this big, furry coat holding the keys to her car.
She had stilletos on, she dropped the coat, held onto the keys to her car...
# Love must always change to sorrow... #
A sassy, sexy, independent lady in a super hot car.
I wanted to be her.
But for advertising executives like Rory Sutherland, commercials like this are a good example
of how a clever play on basic instincts sells cars.
Most small cars are actually bought, new at least, by people in their 50s, 60s and 70s.
User imagery almost invariably depicts girls of about 25.
There's a good reason for that. You can more easily sell cars to 70-year-olds using 25-year-old girls
than to 25-year-old girls using the imagery of 70-year-olds.
You may be looking for a car that's small and practical.
I loved those Nicole/Papa ads. I loved the story.
But you still want a car that feels luxurious.
I got a phone call saying would I, as an emergency, fly to Provence
because Renault were filming a new set of ads for the new Clio
and Nicole and Papa, who by this time were fairly established on TV,
Nicole had smashed up a car and they needed somebody to step in and do the driving for her.
I thought, "How fantastic!" It was eight days in Provence
and I did Nicole and Papa.
I have this legacy now - that's me.
Now rumour has it that the creative team who devised the Papa/Nicole Renault Clio campaign
were stuck for ideas until one evening they found themselves, for some reason,
watching a pornographic movie in which a young woman was making love to a gentleman
whose face was obscured
and when it was finally revealed, she exclaimed, "Papa!" And he responded, "Nicole!"
The creative team concerned found this so hilarious, they worked that into their ad campaign for Renault.
They didn't think it would take off. Renault loved it. They never knew the porno connotations
and it became an iconic campaign.
The lurid rumour mill aside, the series of Renault Clio television commercials proved so successful
it was a top British seller of the '90s. Motor shows and stylish advertising have kept the car
in the public imagination. In the '80s and '90s, successful advertisers like Lord Tim Bell
knew that to sell the dream they had to live that dream. Bell had a thing for Ferraris.
The thing you have to remember about this period of time is that
we wanted to have an impact. We wanted people to talk about us.
We wanted people to talk about the agency, whether it was me running Saatchi's or others.
We wanted to be the talk of the town so we did things that drew attention to ourselves.
I was famous for the fact that I used to go by car from 80 Charlotte Street
to L'Etoile restaurant which was about 150 yards away.
There was a perfectly good reason. I normally went on somewhere after lunch
and I couldn't go having drunk a couple of bottle of wines,
but the industry got a reputation for being about lushing and lascivious lifestyles.
I think it was massively exaggerated and it was eminently preferable
to the unutterably boring existence that it's become now.
Since the invention of the wheel, the desire has been to build bigger, sleeker, faster vehicles.
Somehow it's difficult to imagine people looking at this kind of thing in the year 2000
-and saying, "Do look at that marvellous old car."
-Film, television and advertising have conspired
to make the car an object of desire. Throughout the decades, the Motor Show has been there
to mark the annual shifts.
New this year at the Motor Show is the Morris Mini Minor with its engine across the frame.
The new Austin Seven is its twin sister.
When I worked on car magazines, before I was on telly,
any motor show - Geneva, Frankfurt, London, Birmingham -
was a very special, exciting time
because it was the real glitzy, showbiz side to motoring.
Welcome to the NEC. If you think the Lionel Blair Dancers have nothing to do with motor cars,
you're completely wrong. Motor Show '80 is about solid entertainment.
Car companies then spent millions of pounds on their stand.
They had all the most beautiful models on it and it was just a really...
A bit of escapism in a way from the usual side of motoring that I saw.
The thrill of the open road and a hearty rock ballad was once enough to sell cars.
As consumers became more sophisticated, advertisers needed a more subtle approach.
Greater emphasis was placed on the ethereal qualities of the car and less on engine size and speed.
Advertisements, like the car show, had to keep in step with the times.
I think car advertising has completely changed.
Long gone are the days of the windy road through Tuscany, the rock track,
which is basically a moving brochure. People have already seen that.
Capri gives you what you want.
What does the brand stand for? What is the brand about?
That really is brands... The brands that understand that and are successful.
Here's a little song for anyone who's ever hated.
In the key of grrrr.
Now the new trend in a lot of car marketing
is to emphasise the environmental credentials of cars.
Who knows? In 10 years' time we might all be driving cars that are electronically powered
or powered by water or our own sense of smug self-satisfaction.
# We'd like to know why it is so... #
In the pursuit of green credentials, car manufacturers and advertisers have gone to exceptional lengths
to create iconic imagery to sell their vehicles.
Finally, the car advertisers realised they were selling dreams to all drivers,
not just the alpha male.
When you actually consider that
something like 80-85% of every car purchased in this country
has the decision-making influenced from a woman,
what does she care about power to weight ratio? She doesn't understand it. And that's not in a sexist way.
I'm part of the crowd.
It's not relevant. What's relevant is does it look good, does it sound good, how practical is it?
There should just be great, fantastic cars that look good, sound good
and drive brilliantly
that women love and men love.
While car advertisements were showing less attitude, that can't be said for presenters of car shows.
In the last decade, the opinions and personalities of the onscreen talent
-began to outshine the cars.
-Why do you need a sun roof in a car that's got air conditioning?
Answer me that, preferably before my skull cracks open.
Ow! Ooh! Ow! Ow! Ah!
Oh, that's better.
There is a very large constituency of people in this country
who feel that Clarkson embodies something more
than just a car show.
It's a kind of an attitude.
Look at the amount of books he manages to sell. It's a grumpy attitude towards modern Britain.
How many more opportunities are there for you to get a lot of money from phone lines...
where people vote on things?
We only do the phone lines so that the audience can vote.
-You can do an illegal immigrant one.
-People compete for a British passport.
-Are you serious?
-No, I might do it.
-It's fantastic. It's yours.
His acolytes would rather it was still the 1970s where you could be casually racist and homophobic.
His style of presenting is very opinionated, very outspoken...
Buying this car for its dynamic ability is like buying a porn film for its plot.
Designed to make you go, "Wrong. Don't agree. Hate you." Or, "Love you." There's extremes.
The mainstream car show is ever evolving to reflect the tastes of the time.
Jeremy Clarkson set the trend for a new type of show based on gimmicks and fast chat.
You are what you drive.
But the BBC had always been keen to road test new shows.
I'm Trevor Nelson. You're watching Panic Mechanics.
Panic Mechanics mixed the reality TV format with the more traditional elements of the car show.
Two teams, grease monkeys, who, em...
..start with £2,000.
Two grand and two days to redesign your cars.
I come out...and I give these two teams a challenge.
Time for me to break up the party with the challenge.
Team A...and Team B...
I need you to build me an MPV of some sort. In the next two days.
I wonder what car you need to convert.
Your car is an Austin Mini.
"Oh, my God!" And then, basically, they go through certain tasks,
'get an alternator or a clutch or extra money!'
Each barrel hit means a five-second penalty. The fastest time wins.
The prize is a supercharger which could seriously increase the pulling power of their Mini.
It was a crazy show. Very cold. Done in Pebble Mill, Birmingham.
But it was fascinating to watch.
A lot of axle grinding going on. I had a leather coat and pretended I knew what was going on.
-Where are these from?
-A Japanese double decker bus.
-A double decker bus.
'I'd be like, "So what are you doing?"'
And he'd go into some spiel and I'd go, "Right, right."
Thinking, "It stinks in here! Get me out of here!" I just wanted to see the finished product!
'But it was fun.' Three, two, one, go!
But in the race for popularity, it was the ever-impressive Top Gear
that kept the car show in the fast lane.
In its slipstream, there was space for Stars In Fast Cars.
Stars In Fast Cars came directly
from Top Gear because Top Gear did a show
for Sports Relief. They do their Stars In Reasonably-Priced Cars.
They did an offshoot called Stars In Fast Cars and it was made into a series.
I was asked to do it, present it, and I quite happily said yes.
Hello and welcome to half an hour of uncensored, unadulterated fun.
Sometimes a car wasn't used.
Sometimes it would be an armchair with a motor in it going round a car track,
which is tenuous, but a lot of popular entertainment is these days.
Yeah, I got a phone call. "We know you like cars." Yeah!
"We've got a show called Stars In Fast Cars." Brilliant! Racing round a track?
"Well, every show's slightly different." Do I get to drive a fast car?
Like a Ferrari? "You might." I'm like, "I'm in! I'm in! Where do I sign?"
I did get to drive a Ferrari. The problem was that it was attached to a bath
full of water with ducks in it.
I'm like, "I want to floor this Ferrari. What are you doing?
"I can't be on TV driving a Ferrari with...
"a solid roll-top bath full of water and rubber ducks. That's not cool at all."
I took it seriously for a while, then I just...floored it!
He's going for a land speed record for a bath! Fantastically childish behaviour! Just what we like.
Right, OK... I didn't mean to do that.
'I got knocked out.' Is there water left in it?
So it was used in a comical fashion, definitely in a self-effacing fashion.
It was taking motoring, taking cars and just having a bit of a laugh.
There we go! There we go!
The winner is Goldie! He's sold records, appeared in Bond films and is dousing us with plonk!
To see Goldie firing, catapulting a car into a massive, moving coconut shy...
For one, you think, "My goodness. I'm getting paid for this."
Two, "Did that just happen?" Three, "This will appear on TV!"
Stars in Fast Cars played on celebrity and took car shows from the sublime to the ridiculous.
Here we go. It's Will Mellor. He wanted speed and excitement, but how's he going to cope?
Come on, Will!
Having experimented with the design of the basic car show,
the BBC's Top Model, with a regular audience of close to eight million, remains Top Gear.
It's just a very, very polished entertainment show.
It's not really a car show any more.
But I don't think that matters.
Fifth Gear does information-based real car stuff,
with a little bit of humour and some entertainment.
Top Gear is just a show you can watch if you have no interest in cars. That's pretty cool, I think.
And so, at precisely 11 minutes past 8 in the morning, the race began.
-They look like ramblers.
'We now had 25 minutes to get into town, find the station and catch our first train.'
Motoring shows used to be about the cars themselves.
Graham Hill cut his racing teeth on a car like this. The new version has been tidied up a great deal.
Inside, by this pressed plastic moulding of a fascia panel...
Brilliantly, Top Gear have discovered a way of opening up the appeal
beyond just nerdish car enthusiasts to just people who appreciate the sense of humour of Clarkson
and his cohorts. It's obviously more of a magazine show for people with a certain sense of humour
and attitude to life.
Someone told me that actually the majority of viewers are now female, viewers of Top Gear.
Stand up. Let's have a look at your backside.
-It's got a thing on it.
-What do we think? Facing this way.
-Needs a bit of work!
-Smacked! It's like being Max Mosley!
I've been hearing from The Stig. He says you are one of the most talented people we've ever had.
-Are you looking at me?
-Yes, you. And you're one of the most stubborn.
-I don't like being told what to do.
-He said left. You went right and said, "It's the same thing."
-It sort of isn't.
-He kept bossing me around. I hate that!
-I liked it!
Maybe it just does a bit of everything. It has comedy and entertainment, it has travel -
As the sun set, we headed for the campsite.
So it's got all those elements and it's got sexy cars.
It's kind of got everything, hasn't it?
Price-wise or, firstly, power-wise, I should say...
In the early '60s, Wheelbase gave the British public a good grounding on what to buy and what not to buy.
Old Top Gear played its part in updating for the audience a glittering array of new vehicles
with helpful tips.
With Panic Mechanics, the car show ventured into the arena of reality TV.
While shows like Driven and Fifth Gear set a challenge,
Top Gear responded...
..and still leads the way.
Cars bring out the most extraordinary things in people. The car is a representation of a person.
You might drive an old banger and that represents you. Your mind's on other stuff.
But you might have something fast and flashy, an ostentatious status symbol, and that's who you are.
So the car can represent you without you even having to say or do anything.
Subtitles by Subtext for Red Bee Media Ltd - 2009
Email [email protected]
Documentary which explores the ways that cars have been presented on television in the motoring programmes that have tapped into our collective subconscious.
It looks at the classic motoring magazine shows of the 1960s and 70s like Wheelbase, which showcased some of the world's latest innovations and spawned the next generation of programming such as the original Top Gear with Angela Rippon and Noel Edmonds.
The film investigates how more recent motoring programmes changed to accommodate society's view of the car. The new Top Gear and shows such as Panic Mechanics and Stars in Fast Cars reflect a shift away from the traditional car review show towards a more topical, aspirational and spectacular viewing experience.