You Should Really Watch James May’s Cars Of The People
Whatever your thoughts on the current episodes of The Grand Tour, it’s always a treat to find out that there’s more TopGear to watch. And while James May’s “Cars Of The People” is technically its own show, the cinematography, cars, writing, and presenting make them pretty much indistinguishable. Just without those other two crashing into things and getting pneumonia.
“Cars Of The People” is a three-part miniseries in which May examines the cars that have done the most to advance car culture and integrate automobiles into society to the degree they are now. In everything but name, it’s a three-hour TopGear segment about classic cars that might as well be “The Perfect Road Trip,” but for people who want more classics than just a pair of old Alfas.
In the first episode, May examines an automotive phenomenon that’s largely ignored in the modern day: how dictators got people their cars. Firstly and most importantly comes the VW Beetle, the maligned rear-engined Nazimobile that James mentions is technically a Porsche, since it was designed by Ferdinand himself but wasn’t manufactured by Volkswagen at the start. He also does what most are unwilling to do, and voluntarily subjects himself to a series of horrific USSR-mobiles in an attempt to find out which one is the worst (spoiler: it’s all of them). This show also devotes time to the Fiat 124 and, by extension, the Lada Riva, which is too terrible for me to waste breath on in this article.
In the second episode, James goes small, exploring the world of microcars like the space-age Peel Trident, which, despite its cute bubbly body, was thoroughly awful. There’s also a thorough examination of whether the Renault 4 is more bulletproof than the Citroen 2CV, and a race across Tokyo to deliver some noodles in a Daihatsu Copen and a Honda Super Cub. It makes sense when you’re watching it.
Finally, after spending so much time on cheap cars designed for the everyman, James takes a look at the luxury market, most notably the Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow, as well as the development of muscle cars that brought sportiness to the masses in the form of the Ford Mustang and Capri. There’s also an examination of the Bond Bug, which is apparently cool despite being very bad. He closes the series by announcing his choice for the greatest Car of the People–I won’t say what it is, but whatever you’re thinking, that probably isn’t it.
These aren’t all the episodes, but simply the three that come with the Amazon Prime subscription you use to watch The Grand Tour. There’s also an entire second series, but each show costs $2.99 to watch, so I haven’t seen them yet. I gather an Austin Allegro is involved, however. I’m not sure whether that warms me to it or not.