Just the other day, St. Jeremy Clarkson the Punchy posted a picture of the first set of his new show with his former Top Gear co-starts, The Grand Tour. But the Amazon Prime show won’t hit our smart TVs for binging until fall. And since it’s hot enough to end all known life outside, we’re going to stay indoors until the leaves start changing. So how can we pass the time until the summerpocalypse ends and it’s safe to breathe uncooled air again? Other car shows. And the best ones are online.
So new new Top Gear was a bust. It was still beautifully shot and produced, but Chris Evans shouted us all into an annoyed stupor. He’s gone now, but Top Gear won’t be back until Someday, and you need to be entertained now. We’re here to help. We’ve picked out our five favorite Youtube car shows, and there’s enough material here to keep you awake until Halloween.
It’s hard to nail down what we love so much about Marty and Moog, a pair of Sidney-based mates who love to tastefully and functionally modify their cars. Could it be their hilarious, middle school level banter and horrible puns? The killer background music professional musician Moog produces himself, exclusively for the show? Perhaps it’s the awesome cars they choose to modify, many of which are widely unavailable here in the states. Or their simple, visual walkthroughs of modifications.
It’s likely, however, that our admiration for these hoons comes from their positive, down-to-earth, and helpful attitude. They’re not expert mechanics, so they don’t talk down to the audience or skip ahead to advanced terminology and theory. They’re just a couple of normal guys who like to work on cars. And they do it for cheap. A big focus of MCM is their budget hunting, so schmoes like us can know how to mod when money’s tight. The positive side effect is that we feel enabled to work on our own cars, rather than just bucket listing everything.
Throughout the years, Marty and Moog have done just about everything, from advanced turbo builds, reshells, and engine swaps, to simpler things like coilover suspension, seat replacement, exhaust, and even fire extinguisher mounts. They’ve dyno-tested mods for effectiveness, built throwaway joke cars, and have done several head-to-head competitions between them. They have a second channel, called MCMTV2, with outtakes, bonus content, and projects by their friends and frequent MCM costars, and their Facebook game is strong, with constant updates and a fun community. Watch MCM.
Let’s take an ancient Ford dump truck and shorten the frame until it’s as long as it is tall. No, it needs something else. Let’s take the engine out of the front and put another one, with a supercharger, in the back, backwards, and transfer the power to the ground through a speedboat V-drive. That should do it. Oh yeah. We forgot seatbelts. Roadkill is all about getting cheap, old, rusty cars and trucks and making them awesome again with more power. Everything is slapped together, spot-welded, and chopped up with the simple purpose of getting it out on the road and using it to melt tires.
Hosts Dave Freiburger and Mike Finnegan are both high-ups at Hot Rod magazine, and skilled technicians. They’ll spend an episode brainstorming insane ideas, like the one above, making a bunch of sparks until it happens, and giving each other crap. Freiburger is the extrovert, heart on his sleeve, laughing maniacally, and Finnegan the quiet one, knowingly smiling through his beard. Their chemistry is undeniable. And thanks to a huge Dodge sponsorship, their budget is pretty substantial. That’s how they can afford to shove a Hellcat engine into a rusted ’68 Charger, build an insane kart out of a C4 Corvette, and turn a stock car into a street “legal” Monte Carlo. If Mighty Car Mods shows us the stuff we can do, Roadkill shows us the stuff we wish we could do, but with the same “ain’t care” attitude.
Perhaps what we love most about Roadkill is that they really put their creations through their paces, and not just on the drag strip, as you might expect from such a ‘Merca-centric show. Autocrosses and road courses abound, and that’s always cool to see. Plus, Roadkill and MCM are big fans of each other and keep teasing a crossover episode.
First, RCR is not for kids. The anonymous hosts of the simply-produced, overnight success, Mr. Regular and The Roman, don’t skimp with the profanity and crude, sexual analogies when reviewing boring, cheap, normal cars from all decades. But that doesn’t mean they’re a couple of drooling idiots. In fact, they both mastered in English Literature. They use their keen ability to read a work as a template for reading a car. A car, of course, is a product of its environment, and RCR sweeps the dust off the lines between the design choices on the car and the time and place it was made.
This unique, automotive sociological lens separates RCR from just about every other car reviewer out there. Yes, Mr. Regular will discuss how a car accelerates and feels and handles, but he’ll also discuss why it was designed to behave that way, and what those decisions meant for the car. Of course, he often has the benefit of hindsight, and can surround a car with the media of its era to make his comparisons, but his points hold. This deep reading combined mixed with a scattering of funny voices blurting obscenities and stereotypical impressions is just the right amount of jarring.
Visually, RCR isn’t great. Most of the footage is shot from Mr. Regular’s head-mounted go-pro. The entire show is b-roll, dubbed over later with Regular’s documentarian voice. But you don’t care. You find yourself watching the visuals for the quick cuts of seemingly random imagery that may or may not illustrate his present point. Then you find yourself watching all of it and wanting Monday morning to roll around for the next installment.
If you’re new to Youtube car shows, your first exposure to Chris Harris was likely on the latest season of Top Gear, where he served as a peripheral host. He’ll carry on in that role, but he’s best known for his online offerings, first for his /DRIVE show, Chris Harris on Cars, then for his independent channel, Chris Harris on Cars, then for his Top Gear sidecar, Extra Gear. He also has a broadcast show coming up on BBC America called, predictably, Chris Harris on Cars.
A seasoned automotive writer, Harris can adequately explain how a car makes him feel like few reviewers can. He also seems to have enough clout and connections to get access to the most exotic, limited, and expensive supercars and hypercars on the planet, and tests them before anyone else. Nor does he tamely squeak them around a circuit. He scarcely makes a video in which he doesn’t at least try to get the most sophisticated engineering masterpieces as sideways as possible. He knows what we like. And he’s an accomplished racing driver, so he can report on how fast a car actually is, and not just on how fast it looks.
Chris’s giggling enthusiasm for all things related to horsepower is infectious, and watching him we know that if we can’t ever drive a LaFerrari (we can’t), at least we can appreciate the sheer, childish joy you’re supposed to feel when driving one, if you’re not too stuck up. Package all this together with Chris’s excellent production crew, and you have a body of content that’s infinitely watchable.
But as long as we’re talking about beautiful shots of beautiful cars, nothing tops Josh Clason’s incredible tribute to automotive feeling, Petrolicious. The format is simple. Find a unique, interesting, beautiful, well-maintained car and shoot it as B-roll for an interview with its owner. The owner narrates the story of the car, its restoration, its historical provenance, and how it makes him or her feel, and we get to see some cinematic footage of it overhead.
And somehow the format has held up for years. If you’re having a party with your car friends, and you want to put on a little video art in the background, you can loop Petrolicious videos without sound, because the visuals are perfect. And the videos would work just as well on the radio, with the owners’ stories over great music and plenty of exhaust noise. Combined, they’re just a lovely experience.
Though Petrolicious does have a slight tendency toward high-end, exotic classics, thanks in part to a temporary sponsorship by Ferrari, they also cover other classics, like a series one Land Rover and an original Honda CRX Si. Yet every vehicle featured is special, unique, or influential in some way. It’s a fascinating series, and we hope Josh and co. never quit.
Andy Sheehan is a blogger, aspiring novelist, and relentless hoon. He plans to will his 2002 Subaru WRX Wagon to his firstborn, plans his daily commute around the swoop of its roads, and doesn’t plan to ever buy an automatic. A cool-car omnipath, he loves the common Mustang or Chevelle, but hunts for the weird and wonderful Velorexes and Cosmos of the autoverse. And when he can afford a garage, he’s going to turn an MX-5 into a race car.