James May goes off-road to tell the story of the 4x4, conquering Mount Fuji and racing through the Mojave Desert to decide which is the ultimate people's 4x4.
Browse content similar to Episode 2. Check below for episodes and series from the same categories and more!
"If I'd asked people what they wanted," wrote Henry Ford,
"they would have said, 'Faster horses.'"
The coming of internal combustion relieved the horse and the donkey,
and the mule and the elephant, of their burdens.
And that was a good thing.
But these beasts still have something to teach us.
Because they're all equipped with a very intelligent 4x4 drive system.
A horse is rarely stuck.
An elephant doesn't generally spin off on a bend
and throw you into a ditch.
Valuable lessons, then, for the makers of the Cars Of The People.
'This week, the Cars Of The People engage all their wheels
'to go off-road and off the map.'
It's like having a brilliant butler.
'I meet Britain's fastest Uber driver...'
'..become a teenage mutant ninja...'
This thing goes like an absolute bastard.
'..and I have a race with a bunch of Americans...'
I can see their dust, actually, I can taste their dust.
'..who get their just deserts.'
But, first, something so horsey, it's practically Princess Anne.
MUSIC: Horse Of The Year Show Theme
This, with the best will in the world, is not a car of the people.
It is a fully-loaded, supercharged Range Rover.
It will cost you around £120,000.
It takes up more space than it really ought to.
And it will be chronically underused by the vast majority of its owners.
And that's a bit of a shame,
because this four-wheel drive marvel is no show pony.
It can do some truly remarkable stuff and, to be honest, it has to,
otherwise it isn't credible, it's just a designer handbag.
Holy mother of God! Look at that! Ha-ha!
It's sorting all that out for itself.
This thing really is bloody incredible.
I'm now going to drown it.
I know it's ridiculous, you're not going to do this.
It would be like going gardening in your best disco shoes.
But it's nice to know it can, isn't it?
This isn't a car of the people either.
It's a Lamborghini Aventador.
With a frankly unnecessary 700 horsepower
and a price for this particular one somewhere north of £300,000.
And, what many Lamborghini owners don't realise is
just how far you can bend the prescriptions of physics...
..if you take one of these things on a race track.
Again, if you couldn't do this,
it would just be a piece of designer tinsel, not a proper supercar.
Not that you would do this with your own Lambo. Not at that price.
"Hang on," you must be saying, "these cars are for the rich."
Footballers, fund managers, Saudi playboys
and Radio 2 DJs.
They're about as of-the-people as Marie Antoinette's bread bin.
But they are relevant to the story of the people's car.
It's reckoned by some that, by 2030,
half of all the affordable cars built will be a 4x4 of some sort
or, at the very least, inspired by the breed.
And why not? A tough, go-anywhere 4x4, more than any other car,
appeals to our innate desire for liberty,
to our human pioneering spirit, wherever we may be.
For the car truly to serve the people,
it must be ready to sally forth into territory as yet unformatted for it.
Go west, young man.
North, to the ice caps, into the Australian interior.
across the desert on the sun's anvil, as TE Lawrence put it.
Or, maybe up a slightly slippery woodland track,
with your mountain bike strapped to the roof. Whatever.
To explain how the 4x4 gave us this freedom,
we must, inevitably, go back to a time when we almost lost it forever.
As the lights went out all over Europe...
..the Allies faced a deadly race to out-think and out-invent the enemy.
The Brits had their radar
and their bouncing bombs.
The Russians, the mighty T34.
And the Americans? Well, they came up with this.
This, as I'm sure you know, is a World War II Willys Jeep.
Now, General Eisenhower said the three most significant instruments
in securing Allied victory were
the Douglas Dakota,
the landing craft and the Jeep.
I've just realised it may be the most significant car ever made.
There had been four-wheel drive army vehicles before this one.
There were four-wheel drive trucks in World War I.
And, believe it or not, before that,
people experimented with four-wheel drive traction engines.
But this was a new vehicle for a new role.
It was a fast, light reconnaissance car.
America knew that victory would depend on
a massive land invasion of Europe. If they could find it.
So, something like this was going to be necessary
for beach landings, special ops,
and for transporting John Wayne across really rough terrain!
Army chiefs called for a vehicle
that could carry a quarter-tonne payload,
with a wheelbase of not more than 80 inches.
But, most importantly, it should be four-wheel drive
to ensure that the gum and nylons got through!
Compared with the other stuff the US was secretly building...
..designing a little car from scratch might seem like a doddle.
There was, however, a catch.
The American military asked America's carmakers for proposals,
giving them just 11 days to submit their bids.
And then just seven weeks to build a prototype.
And just two-and-a-half months
to come up with 70 working vehicles for testing.
To put that into context,
it took VW three years to develop the latest Golf.
Over 130 US manufacturers were invited to pitch for the job.
But carmakers American Bantam were the only ones to deliver.
Here it is, the so-called Blitz Buggy.
And it does look a bit like a Jeep.
The problem was, American Bantam couldn't produce them
in the numbers required.
So, the American Government gave their drawings to Willys and Ford,
who fiddled with them a bit.
Eventually, it was Willys who won the contract, largely because
they had their excellent Go Devil engine and three-speed gearbox.
But what really made the Willys Jeep stand out
was its astounding all-terrain performance.
A special gearbox allowed you to transfer into extra-low gear
to tackle the toughest conditions.
Even in 2015, you can sort of see why the Willys version was
so popular with the military authorities.
It has excellent low-down torque characteristics.
The sort of thing people talk about in their 3 series diesel BMWs.
Anyway, over 600,000 Jeeps were produced during the war
by Willys and under licence by Ford.
While we're at it, we may as well get to the bottom of the Jeep name.
A lot of people imagine that it's a reduction of GP,
for general purpose, but I'm afraid, actually, this isn't true.
GP only appears on the Ford versions,
and it's part of an internal coding system
where G means government contract,
and P is a code letter meaning a wheelbase of 80 inches.
A more likely origin is Eugene The Jeep,
a strange animal from the Popeye cartoons.
Popeye's Jeep was small, with wide-spaced eyes,
and who would always do his master's bidding.
A bit like Michael Gove!
So, sorry about that. But, if it's any consolation,
Princess Anne really did own a Reliant Scimitar.
..when the Allied invasion of Europe began,
the Jeep would instantly prove its worth.
-Patton plunged towards Germany, 400 miles away,
with extraordinarily successful results.
From the Normandy beach heads across France and into the Low Countries,
forward patrols in Jeeps would often lead the way
in liberating the people from the evils of Fascism.
'Soon, it was the turn of the Italian city of Bologna,
'named after the famous sauce.'
What's rather disappointing about this exercise is that there aren't
thousands and thousands of young women throwing flowers at me.
Which, I'm pretty sure, would have happened first time around.
Shame, because I'm convinced this vintage Willys
is capable of liberating the city all over again.
Unusually for a restored old car,
and very unusually by the standards of this programme,
this thing works absolutely perfectly.
Bologna was liberated on the 21st April 1945.
And we don't know this for certain, but it seems likely that
the very first Allied vehicle that the locals saw
entering the Piazza Maggiore where I'm standing now was a Willys jeep.
It had proved the worth of a light, compact, all-terrain car.
It really had played a major role in saving the world.
But now it would start another war.
Willys Jeeps were now scattered around the globe
like army surplus combat trousers in a student house.
And they would become an inspiration.
One of those left-over Jeeps made it to the Welsh holiday home
of a man named Maurice Wilks
who happened to be the chief designer of the Rover car company.
Post-war, Rover were in a bit of a tight spot.
And Wilks was looking to build a simple, rugged 4x4 vehicle
using readily available materials,
to keep the company ticking over while the economy recovered
and people started buying proper cars again.
Wilks' first effort was based around his old Jeep chassis
and had a strange central steering wheel.
But, pretty soon, it had turned into this.
The Series 1 Land Rover.
It is powered by a 50-horsepower, 1.6-litre engine
from the Rover P3.
And it has a transfer gearbox, just like the Jeep.
But it is permanent four-wheel drive, which people loved.
There is none of that upstart American Jeep left
but it is no surprise really that the wheel base is
exactly the same at 80 inches.
Or that the four-wheel drive system works in roughly the same way.
To spread the word about their great little 4x4,
Land Rover would lend vehicles and spares to spotty students
planning overland expeditions.
-In some places,
it was easier to force a way through the virgin bush,
rather than try battling forward up the rain-eroded trail.
JAMES HUMS THE TUNE TO BORN FREE
Something like that!
# Born free... #
# As free as the wind blows. #
Soon, Land Rover held an impressive clutch of records,
and orders flowed in from all manner of customer in all walks of life.
-The Land Rover.
A tough, chunky, cheeky, versatile vehicle
with an unlimited capacity for hard work.
This Land Rover was actually originally supplied to the Army.
It was one of the earliest batches they bought.
I don't know if you watched Trumpton when you were younger, like I did,
but there was a song in it about the humpity-bumpity army truck,
and that's what this is.
# Driving along in an army truck In a humpity-bumpity army truck. #
It is largely bare metal on the inside.
There's not much padding in the seats.
There are a lot of sharp edges.
If there's one thing a British soldier really enjoys,
it's being uncomfortable!
Soon, Land Rover would bring discomfort
to multitudes the world over,
and Britain's sturdy workhorse would gain
an almost legendary reputation.
The Land Rover may be one of the worthiest things
that Britain has ever created.
It's as commendable as the Dimbleby brothers.
Whenever life is distressed,
a Land Rover is always on hand to save the day.
Mending telegraph poles, rescuing endangered species,
recovering cars, delivering medical supplies,
resupplying remote weather stations with Spam, keeping the peace.
The Queen has one and is greatly amused by it, apparently.
But let's not forget the people in all of this.
It is estimated that the first car ever seen
by one-third of the world's population is a Land Rover.
And that's a lot of potential customers.
Land Rover had the remains of empire as a ready market.
It had Britain's record in vehicle exporting,
and it had a car that represented salvation
and everything that was good about Britain.
Land Rover should have cleaned up.
And, as an Englishman, this is quite difficult because,
well, it's a bit like saying Melton Mowbray are crap at pies,
but Land Rover got their butts kicked.
In the ancient Shinto tradition,
this is where Konohana, the daughter of the mountain god,
gave birth amidst volcanic fires.
And, 65 years ago, this mystic place would bear witness to the rebirth
of a slumbering Japanese giant.
This is the road leading up to Mount Fuji, a Japanese icon.
And this car I'm driving is another one.
Now, this is a model from 1980. But, for the moment I'm in 1951
and reliving the work of the Toyota test driver Ichiro Taira
who drove up the side of the famous mountain
in pursuit of a new altitude record.
JAPANESE TV NEWSREEL
He made it all the way to the sixth stage of the Mount Fuji ascent,
that's 2,500 metres.
That was further up the mountain than any car had ever been before.
Ichiro's pioneering drive, however, would deliver far more
than a mere altitude record.
It would turn a company on the brink of ruin
into the greatest car firm in history.
If the post-war world was bad for Rover,
it was disastrous for Toyota.
Toyota had been established in 1911 as a weaving company
and a maker of powered looms.
In the 1930s, they branched out, rather cautiously,
into car and truck making.
Now, World War II was excellent news.
That meant loads of orders for trucks.
But, come the defeat, Toyota was seriously short of work.
By 1950, what is now the world's most successful carmaker
was on the verge of collapse.
In that year, Toyota, still discouraged by the occupying forces
from making passenger cars,
produced just 300 trucks, like this one.
And they suffered the first and only strike in their history.
It lasted for two months.
What could save Toyota?
Well, perhaps ironically, it was the occupying Americans,
and, in a roundabout way, the Jeep.
Cue another timely armed conflict -
the Korean War of 1950. MACHINEGUN FIRE
The Americans rushed to the aid of the South and needed trucks fast,
and since the US ran Japan, they gave Toyota the job.
Or pachinko, which is what they actually play in Japan.
There now comes another twist,
because the occupying American forces were so depleted
by the events that had taken place in Korea,
unarmed Japan suddenly felt very vulnerable,
so a limited re-armament programme was permitted,
including, critically, the provision of 1,000 four-wheel drive vehicles
to the NPR - the National Police Reserve -
essentially, Japan's Territorials.
Toyota swiftly came up with this - the BJ Jeep prototype.
It was bigger than the original,
produced more power and used an all-new drive system,
but, despite all this, the police,
who'd been forced to walk everywhere since 1945,
seemed poised to commission copies of the Willys Jeep
from Toyota's rivals, Mitsubishi.
Until, that is,
the heroic Ichiro-san went up the mountain...
..after which the NPR placed an order for 289 Toyotas,
making it their preferred off-roader.
Toyota's new Jeep division was soon ready to
offer a BJ to the world.
There was, however, a problem -
and not just childish sniggering over the name.
The term "Jeep" was a US trademark.
Technical director Hanji Umehara thought long and hard about it,
and this is what he said.
"In England we had a competitor Land Rover.
"I had to come up with a name for our car that would make it sound
"no less dignified than those of our competitors,
"and that's why I decided to call it Land Cruiser."
So, there you go,
and some people think the Japanese just copy everything.
So, Toyota should have been the underdog,
except that the Land Cruiser brought with it
Toyota's new approach to carmaking.
Almost certainly, one of the things that made the Toyota Land Cruiser
so triumphant was that the Land Rover stemmed from a time when
a bit of nipple-greasing or the occasional axle-rebuild
was all part and parcel of owning an expedition vehicle.
The Land Cruiser was an early fruit of a more modern philosophy -
one that said that the car should be spot-on by the time
it reached the end of the production line
and should remain as dependable as your penknife.
By 1957, four in every ten vehicles exported from Japan
were Land Cruisers, and soon they were ousting the Land Rover
from its markets in the former British Empire and beyond.
Now, this might come as bit of a shock, especially if you're British,
but I'm afraid, in the real world of vital off-roading,
most of the planet was conquered by Toyota.
Australia, which you would expect to be a sort of heavily-barricaded
last redoubt of Land Rover loyalty,
is in fact a Toyota Land Cruiser fiefdom,
and, as one Australian put it to me,
"If you want to go into the outback, take a Land Rover,
"but if you want to come out again, make sure it's a Land Cruiser."
And I hate having to say that.
So, that would appear to be a crushing victory for Toyota.
Well, not quite.
Remember the great multitudes of saddle-sore Land Rover users?
Their prayers, and those of the beleaguered Rover company,
were about to be answered.
Land Rover's response, in 1970, was this - the first Range Rover.
Still a very pukka off-roader,
but now with modern coil-springs, disc brakes,
a hefty V8 engine and a luxurious interior.
Music: Layla by Derek And The Dominoes
Rover's great new hope was born in an era that gave us
polyester loon pants, Carry On Camping and overblown guitar solos.
As a result, the distinctly classy Range Rover
came as a welcome surprise for early '70s Britain.
When I say "luxurious", that's all relative, of course.
Given what was to come, this Series 1 Rangey still feels
incredibly basic and hosed-down.
It is literally hosed-down - the seats are made of vinyl
and so is the upholstery on that central tunnel,
and you can actually come in here with a hose pipe.
I just made the classic off-road error and left my thumb
inside the steering wheel... HE GROANS
..but we'll overlook that.
# Let's make the best of the situation
# Before I finally go insane... #
And it was, and is, a genuinely very capable all-terrain vehicle.
The first one, in fact, to cross both bits of the Americas
in one go - including the Darien Gap.
MUSIC: Theme from The Avengers by Laurie Johnson
The go-anywhere derring-do was still there -
but the new Range Rover was subtly aimed at
a whole new class of customer.
It wasn't necessarily someone who looked like
David Bellamy with a bad hangover.
It could be people who looked more like Purdey from The Avengers.
That wasn't going to do any damage, was it?
Perhaps more importantly, you could drive it into the town
without looking like some mad relation
who'd escaped from Mudfordshire.
The Range Rover looked cool...
..and the world agreed.
Britain had a stylish hero to thwart her foreign commercial foes,
and with each increasingly luxurious model,
more and more well-heeled customers would fall under its spell.
The Range Rover would soon allow the beleaguered Brummies,
still reeling from the success of their challenger from Japan,
to conquer quite possibly the most inhospitable place on Earth -
CHEERING AND APPLAUSE
With 1.8 million sales worldwide,
the Range Rover brand, like Bond, is a global icon,
but, unlike 007,
its handlers have often sent it on underwhelming missions.
And "go anywhere" means just that -
Go shopping, go visiting,
go to work and go to school.
A far cry, then,
from the war-winning remit of its distant American ancestor.
The Range Rover, across all its generations,
has always been a fabulously capable off-roader,
and yet, in reality, it has turned into a luxury car.
Some posh airlines ferry their first-class passengers
to the airport in Range Rovers.
How absurd is that?
But despite its "Chelsea tractor" reputation,
the Range Rover remains a deeply significant car -
the world's first 4x4 to make that difficult leap
from tough utilitarianism
to high-performance, high-quality desirability.
And do you remember what I was saying earlier,
about how, by 2030, half of the affordable cars in the world
would be inspired by the off-road breed?
Well, if any one car could be said to have triggered that trend,
it was surely the Range Rover.
The original Ranger Rover's upmarket appeal would leave
the redesigned Land Cruiser looking like something from CBeebies.
But if Toyota had been snubbed by the toffs,
they would be welcomed with open arms by an altogether rougher crowd.
This is the Hilux -
most people, though, know it simply as the Toyota pick-up truck.
This one is from 1992 and it's done 250,000 miles.
Ideal, really, for farmers, builders,
or anybody looking for a scrap.
The launch of the Hilux in 1968 coincided with
a new form of conflict being waged across the Third World.
The age of the insurgent was upon us, and for lawless rebel armies,
the sturdy yet adaptable Hilux rapidly became indispensable.
Soon, wherever there was trouble,
you were bound to spot a lurking Toyota.
Did you know, the Toyota pick-up has been so successful as an ad-hoc
military vehicle, that there's been a whole war named after it?
The Toyota War of 1987 saw 400 Hilux pick-ups from the Army of Chad
nimbly take on and rout Colonel Gaddafi's forces,
including 100 Russian battle tanks.
MUSIC: Fight The Power by Public Enemy
French officers working with the Chadians called it one of
the most spectacular defeats suffered by an army this century.
Bad news for the Colonel,
but great for Toyota's regional sales figures.
Toyota just make pick-up trucks.
They're not trying to decide
who should be in control of the Middle East.
That's up to the bloke in the back with the half-timbered machinegun.
That's as maybe, but today, Hilux and Land Cruisers are hanging out
with none other than James Bond's worst enemies.
Cue raised eyebrows everywhere.
# Fight the power... #
You'd think that everything that we've just seen
would do very Toyota's reputation a great deal of harm,
but not a bit of it.
In some ways, it's the best advert they've ever had,
because, let's be honest,
you don't mount the heavy weapons of insurgency on anything that
isn't absolutely dependable, do you?
So if this is good enough for that lot,
then it's probably good enough for you.
Despite all this controversy,
the Hilux is now in its eighth generation
and is Europe's bestselling pick-up.
In all its guises, worldwide, it's sold over 16 million.
You'd think that sales figures like that would make it untouchable.
Nah, hang on.
That ain't even a hill of beans.
This is a Ford F-series pick-up truck.
Specifically, it is the current F-150 King Ranch FX4.
Top of the heap.
IN AMERICAN ACCENT: Awesome.
The F-series family of trucks, across 13 generations,
has been America's bestselling vehicle -
and I mean vehicle - that's all types, not just trucks -
for a phenomenal 33 years.
Total production of the F-150?
35 million vehicles.
It wouldn't be true to say that the pick-up is as old as the car
itself, but it's not far off,
because the very first one was made by Ford on the chassis of a Model T,
So the idea does actually belong to Ford,
but, more importantly, the idea, and everything it stands for,
belongs to America.
The pick-up truck is exactly what you'd expect this
pioneering and prospecting bunch to come up with.
You sit in the cab at the front, protected from the elements,
from rattlesnakes and accusations of redneckery,
but, then, in the back, you can chuck pretty much anything.
There are no restrictions because of the roof,
like there are on something like a Range Rover,
so it could be building materials, guns, dead bodies, slabs of beer,
General Stonewall Jackson,
and wandering, hitch-hiking blues singers.
I may have romanticised it a bit at the end,
but you know what I mean - anything goes in.
This blue-collar hero comes with true off-road credentials.
A 3.5-litre, 365-horsepower V6,
four-wheel drive, Hillbilly Descent Control,
and a built-in banjo soundtrack.
All that and a luxury interior too.
But what makes it a people's champion is the price.
Entry-level F-150s start at just 26,000.
That's about £17,000.
How do they do that?
I mean, it's partly because they build one every 58 seconds.
They have three shifts building them,
the factory never stops,
and these pick-up trucks are so popular that
if you work for Ford in management,
you can't have one as a company car,
because they can't spare one to give you.
and it's a truck.
The F-150 is so cheap that the average American can buy one
and still afford to eat properly.
-That looks divine.
Seriously, though, it does make a huge amount of sense.
More sense than a lot of things in America -
like the breakfast menu, for example,
or the four-way intersection.
And like its rivals from Europe and Japan,
it's turned into a sort of luxury statement of belief,
but, at its heart, it remains resolutely American.
It's American like a five-egg omelette
with cheese and extra cheese and a strawberry on top.
As perhaps the icon of all things American,
it is fitting that US culture
reaches its undisputed high water mark
at the wheel of a pick-up.
Ladies and gentlemen,
monster truck racing in E minor.
CHOIR SINGS AND ORCHESTRA PLAYS
CHEERING AND APPLAUSE
ENGINE REVS AND TRUCK THUDS
Let's be honest, though -
a hillbilly circus is not a true test of a 4x4's worth.
This place, however, is.
The Mojave Desert, Nevada -
50,000 square miles of desolation.
A wasteland hostile to man... MACHINE BEEPS
..and our machine.
So, to recap, here we are, 70-plus years on
from the global invasion by Willys Jeep,
and we have here three of the most recognisable, most representative
manifestations of our desire to be able to go anywhere in the car.
We have the redneck American,
the Japanese insurgent,
and the repressed but still rather dapper Englishman,
and what follows now is not a race.
It's a televisual celebration of three great interpretations
of the all-terrain vehicle.
It's an epic off-road run from here,
in the middle of the Mojave Desert...
and it will finish here, 25 miles away,
on this small side-street in front of the Sphinx
and the Great Pyramid of Cheops, in Egypt, Las Vegas.
Having said that, those two blokes with the Ford are from Ford...
..and the two blokes with the Toyota are from Toyota...
..and Melpomene, the Greek Muse of tragic drama,
has allowed me the honour of representing the British Midlands,
so, in a way, it is a race. All right?
Are we ready? Let's go.
The teams can take whichever route they want.
I've cunningly chosen an old trail that
Ford and Toyota have overlooked.
Go, go, go. Tally-ho, tally-ho.
Whoa, that's good.
Avoid that rock.
Nobody else can be going this fast, surely.
-I'd like you to watch those jagged rocks.
-Yeah, I'll call them out.
Rock to the left.
One of the casualties of the switch from the Range Rover from
a mud-plugging vehicle to a fashion accessory is that
the wheels are big - they're 21 inches on this -
and the tyres are very low-profile, so the most likely problem
we'll have, to be honest, is a puncture.
Over in the Land Cruiser,
Mike and Paul don't fancy my chances.
Did you see those buzzards circling?
Buzzards circling - that's some type of foreshadowing of death.
You notice it was circling James in the Range Rover.
-You noticed that?
-I did notice that.
-I wonder how the English taste?
A bit gamey.
'Gamey? I'm not even sweaty.'
It's 121 degrees Fahrenheit outside,
but not in here,
cos this is luxury off-roading.
Bloody hell, it's quite quick.
But if I'm staying well chilled,
the mysterious desert appears to be doing strange things to Team Ford.
So, Joe, you know they have the Loch Ness Monster in...
in Sweden? And...
Is this that crazy jackalope story?
It is that. Yeah, you know what?
They say that it's true, you know,
and if you think about it -
a body of an antelope and the head of a rabbit.
Perfect environment for this, you know?
I've got to tell you, I'm going to be disappointed
if we don't see a jackalope on this trip.
'Well, there's no chance of that...
'..but while John and Joe might be
'falling down a giant rabbit hole of superstition,
'I've come up against an all-too-real obstacle
'that even a Range Rover can't conquer.'
Well, I thought that was a bit too good to be true.
Will it go through there?
'It's a dead end.
'Good job the others don't think it's a race.'
MUSIC: Isla De Encanta by Pixies
Look at that torque!
God, I love that torque!
Nothing but torque - it puts you back in the seat!
There you go. Beautiful. Good line. Good line. Good line.
# Hermanita ven conmigo... #
It really is amazing how these vehicles have progressed
from being very rugged and very primitive
-to very rugged and very sophisticated.
An hour into the race,
with the sun glaring down like a vengeful Aztec god...
I've gone across country to try and hit a trail
that actually leads somewhere.
I know this doesn't look very dramatic on your screens,
but, trust me, it is. It's nerve-racking.
There is a bit of a bush in the way
but I think the bush is going to have to buy the farm.
I think I've done that slightly wrong.
I'm going to try that way instead.
'It's a lot steeper than I'd hoped,
'but I owe it to the ghosts of those early Land Rover pioneers
'to at least give it a try.'
Right, now, for the terrifying, dizzying, vertiginous descent.
There's nothing else I can do,
except say it's been a pleasure to make television for you,
and I hope my replacement is as good. Here we go.
-- a word I can't say on the television.
Thank you, car.
I need to try and steer it left a bit,
otherwise I'm going to fall off the edge.
God, it's steep.
I'm almost there.
And I'm off.
MUSIC: Ace Of Spades (Motorhead) by Hayseed Dixie
Thank you, Birmingham!
The Rangey has earned its spurs,
but now I'm miles behind the others.
# You win some Lose some
# It's all the same to me... #
Up ahead, however,
the curse of the were-rabbit is about to strike.
# The pleasure is to play
# Don't make no difference what you say... #
Slight left, left, left, left, left.
Big rock, right. There you go. Whoa. Yeah.
# The ace of spaces All right... #
-Oh, I've got TPMS. The tyre - flat tyre in the back.
-Uh-oh, do we?
You know, Joe, I called out, "Rock on the right."
It must have been that jackalope
you've been telling me to look at on the left.
Well, no time to look for jackalopes. OK, let's get the tools.
Let's get the spare and get the heck out of here.
The wheel change has evened things up a bit,
but, way ahead,
Team Toyota have escaped the mountains to reach
the empty vastness of El Dorado Lake.
Once again, Japan can leave everyone for dust.
Here's where whatever skill you have comes in.
Feel free to start screaming at any moment.
Meanwhile, I tear through the foothills like a man
late for the Fortnum & Masons sale.
Give it the berries.
Find the grip. Find the grip.
It's done that by itself. Isn't that nice?
It's like having a brilliant butler.
Permission to say "Yee-ha"!
Keep going left. Keep going left.
You got it. Beautiful, beautiful.
Right, right, right, right, right. Wonderful.
-And here's the trail.
-Hey-hey, this is what I'm talking about.
-You're the man!
This trail on the far side of the lakebed leads directly to Vegas...
and the finish line.
One team, one dream.
I wonder where the other guys are.
I don't know. I think they're stuck back on the dry lakebed.
This is the fastest stuck you'll ever see.
MUSIC: Can't Go Back by Primal Scream
I can see their dust.
Actually, I can taste their dust.
I'm hauling in your asses, truck boys!
Here I come.
510 horsepower versus 370-something. I've got them.
He may have 500 horses, but we've got massaging seats.
I might have lassoed the rednecks,
but there's no sign of the Land Cruiser.
MUSIC: Low Rider by War
So, I think, just up over this hill.
-There it is!
Do you see what I see? Civilisation.
-That's what I'm talking about.
And I see Vegas on the horizon.
# All my friends know the low rider... #
Oh, honestly, that's like coming in from outside, in bare feet,
and walking on the carpet again.
Hey, hey, there it is - the Las Vegas sign.
There it is.
We went through some of the toughest parts of the desert
and we're cruising in Las Vegas in a vehicle that feels like a limousine.
I tell you what,
I'm pretty impressed with this beast, right here.
And I'm proud of the Midlands.
They've rescued me from the desert without a sweat...
..but have they beaten Japan and America?
I'm curious to see where I've come in this, cos I'm pretty sure
I'm ahead of the Ford, unless they've done something very sneaky,
but I don't know what happened to the Toyota.
I haven't seen it all day.
MUSIC: Theme from True Romance by Hans Zimmer
-I'm not seeing anyone.
-I don't see anybody here.
-First place, baby!
That's enough baby talk.
It's not as if they've won a race.
Thank you for taking part. I'm sick of off-roading.
It's like an affront to tarmac. It's like going outside
and cooking on a barbecue when you've got a perfectly good oven
in the house. What's the point?
Anyway, look, here's a stroke of luck.
It's that Lamborghini I won earlier on, on the roulette.
Yes! See you.
MUSIC: Stayin' Alive by Bee Gees
I mean, I like the Range Rover, I like the Toyota as well,
and I like the big, brash Ford,
but I really like the Lamborghini.
And I'm sure you've worked out the connection already -
it's all-wheel drive.
# Somebody help me, yeah... #
'The Lamborghini Aventador is just an extreme example of the benefits
'that all-wheel drive brings to strictly on-road cars,
'and I love it.'
It's the jackpot.
But the all-wheel drive road car almost didn't happen at all,
were it not for a single extraordinary breakthrough
and a single extraordinary vehicle.
This is the car that kick-started
the on-road, all-wheel drive revolution.
This is the Audi Quattro -
the "Ur-Quattro" as it's known amongst aficionados.
A bit of brake.
And you will have guessed that I'm in the rally version,
and this is Dave Higgins, who is a pro rallyist...
'Unfortunately for my coccyx...'
Ow! '..the story of this on-road revolution
'has a very off-road start.'
At the time, most car engineers thought that four-wheel drive
would be too heavy, too clunky and actually too fragile
to use in a performance car - especially a rally car,
but one man at Audi thought differently.
What had always held back the production of
a four-wheel drive road car was the heavy and clunky transfer gearbox,
which had changed little since the days of Willys Jeep,
but, when in 1978, rallying authorities opened up a new class
for four-wheel drive cars,
Audi engineer Jorgen Bensinger went back to the drawing board.
His design - a lightweight, hollow prop shaft,
driving a central differential -
did away with the heavy transfer box
and proved that four-wheel drive
was possible for all road cars. ENGINE REVS
Audi had come up with a fantastic four-wheel drive system
that definitely wasn't clunky,
definitely wasn't heavy and certainly wasn't in any way fragile.
It was as reliable as Angela Merkel's haircut.
And when this agile 420hp beast entered competitive racing,
the rallying world didn't know what had hit it.
For six years, the Quattro ruled supreme.
Rally legends Hanna Mikkola, Stig Blomqvist,
Oz Clarke, Michele Mouton and Walter Rohrl
won 23 world heats, bringing back four world titles between them.
Their dominance only ended
when the Group B rallying class was abolished altogether,
following a number of accidents.
This is the Quattro that went on sale as a road car in 1980.
The engine is a 2.1 litre turbo-charged five-cylinder.
Remember when they were all the rage?
And it delivers 200hp.
The Audi did work.
It gave you grip, it gave you security.
That is why, when an emergency happens in Ashes to Ashes,
DCI Gene Hunt doesn't say, "To the 911!" or, "To the Golf!"
He says, "To the Quattro!"
If you were a debonair man-about-town
with a girlfriend from a Hot Gossip tribute act,
you'd buy into the dream too.
# Imagination... #
Hang the hefty price tag, this was top quality German engineering.
But there was more to it than that.
There was the provenance that came with driving
the conquering hero of the rally world.
There was the quality, there was the reliability.
And there was the kudos of being able to stand in the pub
and say to your mates,
"My high-performance road car has four-wheel drive."
Because nobody else's did,
and when it rained, which it would obviously, as we were in Britain,
it made a difference.
Despite its well-earned credentials,
the Quattro remained pricey, exclusive and rare -
only 11,000 were sold.
What we really wanted was an affordable people's champion.
Something a bit more... down on da street.
So, how about this?
It is an original first edition Subaru Impreza WRX STi.
Japanese market edition.
It has a 2.0 turbo-charged engine and four-wheel drive,
and gold wheels, and by reputation, it is for yobbos.
So, what I thought I'd do is drive it from here in Nagoya
to a very famous local road, the Suzuka Skyline, very, very popular
because of its winding curves, with local Japanese...
MUSIC: Omen by The Prodigy
The chilling squawk of an Impreza turbo's wastegate
is the sort of sound that sends women and children running
for the sanctuary of doorways.
If you imagine the camera in our car is your rear view mirror,
then this is how you're probably used to seeing Subaru Impreza WRXs.
In Britain, at least, it is the calling card of the hooligan.
But is that fair?
The Impreza gained its bad boy reputation
burning up multiplex car parks in Essex and the like.
Crowds would gather in their hundreds
in the hope of catching an STi.
STi stands for Subaru Technica International.
WRX, by the way, originally stood for World Rally Experimental.
And, like the Quattro, rallying turned the Impreza into a legend.
In 1995, British motorsport company Prodrive tweaked it
for the World Rally Championship and it won, three years on the trot!
And that activity spawned this,
the version you could buy in the showrooms, the WRX,
and suddenly everyone wanted to be Colin McRae.
And so do I!
This thing goes like an absolute bastard!
Yes, a dark blue Subaru Impreza with gold wheels
strikes fear and horror into the hearts of right-thinking people,
but hang on a minute, because I like gold wheels.
In fact, I have them on my car. And there's something else.
This car combines an intelligent and effective four-wheel drive system
with superb engineering provenance
and a first-class competition pedigree.
That sounds like a right load of old twaddle, and it possibly is,
but if I said those words and then attached them to a name like Porsche
you'd think, "Hmm, yeah!"
So, let's not have any of this "yob's car" nonsense.
This is a thing of excellence.
Right, let's start giving this car the credit it deserves.
At the heart of the Scooby-Doo
is a flat-four, two-litre turbo-charged engine, giving 280HP.
And this neat engine layout
leaves room for a perfectly balanced four-wheel drive system.
And the advantage of symmetrical four-wheel drive,
Subaru owners will tell you, is that it will pretty much anticipate
what the grip is for each wheel,
rather than having to wait for a wheel to start slipping,
and then sorting it out.
It's a largely mechanical system
and, by modern standards, I suppose it'd be considered quite dated,
but it does work.
It works an absolute treat.
It's a very, very lively car.
It changes direction like a local councillor.
# You better make way cos I'm coming through
# In my late '92 Betty blue
# Subaru... #
I'm not going to claim that the WRX STi was ever a cheap car,
but when this one was out in 1996,
it cost £17,500,
and that was £5,000 less than an Escort Cosworth.
And I think this is cooler.
This doesn't feel like an old car.
I mean, it's 20 years old, this thing.
It's absolutely as tight as a drum and it still feels good.
Grip, grip, grip, grip, power out of the bend.
No problem whatsoever.
Why haven't I got one of these? They're fantastic!
It's got gold wheels!
This, I think, is a deeply significant car.
In the '60s and '70s, style and exclusivity
were democratised by the Ford Mustang and the Capri.
In the '80s, sports-car performance was democratised by the hot-hatch.
In the '90s, genuine competition-bred,
all-wheel drive systems
were democratised by the likes of the Subaru Impreza.
It really is genuinely a great car,
spoiled only by slightly dubious head furniture.
Actually, I'd quite like to finish there,
but I think we can get even more of-the-people than this.
Almost an hour ago, I said that all this stuff,
Willys Jeep, Range Rovers,
the jackalope, rally cars,
and hooning about in a Subaru,
was relevant to the cars of the people.
And it all is.
Without these safe and sure-footed cars,
we, the people, would not have conquered adversity,
developed new technology,
brought help to the needy and affordable joy to the masses.
But, if it's the truly affordable and dependable
people's champion you're looking for,
I could have saved you all that trouble and just taken you here.
It all comes together in this. It's a perfectly normal car.
It's also a bit of an off-roader,
the ghosts of the Jeep and the rally cars,
and the all-wheel drive supercars,
there's a little bit of them in this.
The original Fiat Panda 4x4.
I hope you're not disappointed, because you shouldn't be.
It definitely qualifies as a people's car.
It will take a family, just, it's cheap to run and easy to maintain.
It's as much car as it needs to be, and no more.
But never mind all that worthy old rubbish.
My own research, gained from travelling around Europe
over the years, suggests
that least half the vineyards of France and Italy
wouldn't be able to function without the services of
a rather battered old Panda 4x4.
Which is ironic really, isn't it?
Because the two things we know don't mix are alcohol and cars.
So I've come up with an idea.
I don't know what sort of car you've got, but it almost certainly
owes a debt somewhere to one of the great cars of the people.
Which is a marvellous thing, isn't it?
So, here's the deal.
You drive, I'll have a drink.
James May goes off-road to tell the story of how the 4x4 conquered the world. From the wartime jeep to the global struggle between Land Rover and Land Cruiser, the white-knuckle world of rallying and boy racers, plus James conquers Mount Fuji and races through the sun-scorched Mojave Desert to decide which is the ultimate people's 4x4.