It’s been a while since I’ve had a rant on these pages – what with work, life and travel keeping me pretty much fully occupied. But on Monday evening, I witnessed a car crash of such colossal proportions – and, more seriously, one which made us old car fans look so bad – that I couldn’t let the moment pass without a little gentle commenting.
Classic Car Rescue is Channel 5’s new flagship motoring programme. It occupies that all-important 8.00pm Monday evening slot, guaranteed to pull in the post-Coronation Street dads, channel-surfing after overdosing on soap suds. The programme’s mission statement would appear to be – to pick up a dilapidated classic car, restore it to a saleable condition and then see if it’s possible to make a profit at the end of it. All very laudable – and, as any reader of AROnline will know, we’re completely behind this concept of taking old cars and making the most of them… it’s the environmentally sound approach.
I suppose, had I read the TV channel’s PR blurb on the subject, I might have been less than keen to stay tuned on Monday evening. But the sight of two grown men on the hunt for a rusty old Ford (a Mustang in this instance), did have some resonance. Channel 5 says this: ‘Bernie Fineman and Mario Pacione restore shameful rust buckets to their former ‘classic car’ glory in this new six-part series. The fiery duo will restore a Jaguar E-type, a Mini Cooper, a Cadillac, a Ford Mustang, a Porsche 911 and an MGB. Working to a tight deadline and an even tighter budget, they scour scrapyards, wasteland and backyards to find bargain wrecks with great potential. Having found the cars, they then need to source the rare, original parts and piece together the vital organs of these sleeping beasts to re-create their classic beauty.’
I can’t comment about the first two or three programmes, as I did not see them (I was watching Nigellissima on BBC2, which is right up my street), but did end up being drawn into this week’s Mustang affair. However, as the programme wore-on, I found myself shouting at the television and getting increasingly annoyed by what I was seeing. I suppose I should have turned over at the point when the narrator started talking about muscle cars, then went to a Mustang reveal shot… and, as we all know, that’s a Pony car, not a muscle car.
But it went on in that vein. The car expert of the duo went to look at his first potential car, while the second one decided the best way to try and haggle with the seller was to insult him and be rude in the process. I don’t know about you guys, but haggling in life is absolutely fine – but there are ways of doing it well and rudeness is not one of them. The dynamic duo then decided to walk – or flounce – away, but this was a clear plot device.
Then they found another car, a project, which had already been primered. Tweedle-dum decided to buy the car (only after feigning surprise that there was no engine under the ‘hood’) and was delighted to find that this was a low-volume variant that came with some kind of heritage certificate. Remember that. This was a much nicer haggling experience as Tweedle-dee wasn’t there to play the angry negotiator. Thank God.
Cut to the workshop, and the proper examination of the ‘Stang. Again, mock horror as they find the sills are rotten (it’s a unibody, so actually welding on new ones is far simpler than on a monocoque) – did they not check? Of course they did. And when Tweedle-dee sees the car for the first time, he flies off the handle for buying a ‘wreck’, all very theatrical. Of course, said wreck is primed (with a ‘new’ dent in the door that’s appeared since we first saw it)…
In the end, the car gets fixed. There’s a wonderful moment when a windscreen is ‘dropped’ (thrown more like), which is amusing as it’s clearly not for the Mustang (good excuse to go to a scrapyard to find another from a car that’s been perched on top of a Volvo – in an empty yard). The first engine is seized, which means a trip back to the first seller to buy his ‘spare’ engine.
They then install the new engine (the wrong sort) into the unpainted engine bay. And it doesn’t run. The smoking distributor raises an angry laugh, too. Then finally, comes the bodywork. It’s dressed-up like an older car (negating that heritage certificate), and repainted a different colour. Sigh. All the way along, they’re making theatrical errors and, although they must think it makes great telly (it doesn’t) – what it does is make them look like prats. All that makes me sad and angry in equal measure. After all, junk TV like this reflects badly on the classic car movement as a whole.
It’s not even the errors they make that grate. It’s the premise of the show that gets to me. There’s no passion, no joy, no love of old cars. Just an underlying ambition to make a quick buck and jump on the classic car bandwagon. I think there are more shows in the series to come – but I’ll be back with Nigella next week. Hope you come to the same conclusion!
Is the Editor of the Parkers website and price guide, formerly editor of Classic Car Weekly, and launch editor/creator of Modern Classics magazine. Has contributed to various motoring titles including Octane, Practical Classics, Evo, Honest John, CAR magazine, Autocar, Pistonheads, Diesel Car, Practical Performance Car, Performance French Car, Car Mechanics, Jaguar World Monthly, MG Enthusiast, Modern MINI, Practical Classics, Fifth Gear Website, Radio 4, and the the Motoring Independent...
Likes 'conditionally challenged' motors and taking them on unfeasible adventures all across Europe.