Car SOS returns on Valentine's Day, putting some romance and heart back into motoring with a love letter to classic cars.
The car restoration series, presented by master mechanic Fuzz Townshend (above left) and parts-blagger Tim Shaw (right), will be back on National Geographic with two new specials – Car SOS: 7 Day Challenge.
Joined by celebrity guests and fellow petrolheads Ross Kemp and Rick Wakeman, the presenters attempt to restore a beloved motor in just seven days with a live studio audience ready to see the final results.
When BT TV visited the boys at the British Motor Museum, the duo were putting the final touches on the restoration of a 1959 Series 2 Land Rover that had started its journey as a rusting wreck.
Motivating the dynamic duo as they take on the daring seven-day challenge is a the knowledge that the car is owned by Brian Phillips, who worked at Land Rover in the 1950s and helped build his own car as part of the production line.
After keeping the car in his family for 60 years, Brian had planned to restore the vehicle himself, but after he was diagnosed with cancer, was too weak to work on it and it was left languishing in his garage. Car SOS comes to the rescue, and by the end of the episode, even hardened petrolheads will be in tears.
We caught up with Tim, Fuzz and special guest Rick Wakeman on the set to discover some behind-the-scenes secrets from the new series.
1. Tim and Fuzz still get nervous before the big reveal
"To be honest, we s*** ourselves," laughs Tim, when asked about how they’re feeling just a few hours away from the big reveal.
"Five minutes from the end, Fuzz gives me a look as he hands the car back as if to say, ‘Ha, it’s up to you now mate. I’ve done my bit’."
Fuzz adds: "We only get one try at it. We have no idea how the person is going to react.
"The fear is that when you’ve knocked the dents out of these cars, that the mark on the Land Rover that this man got in 1959 when he accidentally lent against it, actually meant something to him as a memory."
Tim agreed: "People do bring these things up. The parts of the show that you don’t get to see are two minutes after it’s all been lovely, lovely and then they suddenly ask, ‘where has my spanner set gone from the back?’"
Opening up about the romantic side of the show, Tim added: "You can't not get caught up in it. It would be easy to say you develop a thick skin for these things, but cars bring people together.
"When you spend hundreds of hours rebuilding someone's car, you learn about someone, you meet their family and you really feel like you know the person. For a very small amount of time, Fuzz and I are additional members of the family.
"People do still text me from previous episodes. It's like ready-made friends."
Fuzz teases: "It's the only way Tim can get friends."
2. The love of classic cars never dims
"I think you look at the three or four biggest things that come into your life," explains Fuzz.
"You need a house to live in, you need your family and you have kids. And then after that it is probably a car. Having a classic car as a hobby is achievable, it’s something a whole family can enjoy and it’s also a social thing."
The quirky mechanic adds: "Cars are as much a fashion statement as a cut of jeans, a jacket or a haircut."
Tim jokes: "In my case, it’s a huge extension of my…"
"It's a massive, massive extension of your… personality," laughs Fuzz.
Tim puts the growing classic car community down to two factors. The first is the enthusiasm of the people.
"You go to a classic car show, you’ll never see a scrap, a fight or an argument. People just want to ask you questions," he explains.
"Even if you get an old banger that you think nobody else would collect, you will meet like-minded people who love that variety of vehicle."
The second reason is slightly more blunt.
"They pull mint birds," laughs Tim.
"If you go back to the real reason that people buy cars, I will maintain this to the day I die, you can always related it to a trigger moment in your life, when you look at the mirror, you’re 15 years old and you wonder, ‘How I do get a girlfriend?’ I know what girls like, they like nice cars."
Explaining the growing success of Car SOS, Fuzz believes it’s because the show doesn’t take itself too seriously.
"We have a smattering of the practical stuff, but it’s really about the people. It’s about the family and the connection between the cars and the person. And also, there’s a bit of messing about," says the mechanic.
"Is there?" says Tim, in mock shock.
"Yes Tim, that’s you," laughs Fuzz. "That stuff is something the kids love and it means we’ve got a show the whole family can sit down and watch.
"We're not just some blokes sat in a garage, sipping coffees, stroking our chins and debating which spanner to use."
3. Embarrassing bangers
The banter between the presenters means they are reluctant to admit to their own motoring horror stories from the past, but Fuzz does confess to one vehicle that got him plenty of attention.
“I have had one that people laughed at. A Reliant Scimitar SS1,” he admits.
“Kids would openly point at me and laugh. What’s that? But I liked it.”
Tim says: “I don’t think there’s such a thing as an embarrassing car. I love all cars. Apart from one.
“Which until the day I had a go in it was the ugliest thing – Fuzz had one – a Fiat Multipla. A bang ugly car. But then I had a go in Fuzz’s and I fell in love. It was such fun to drive and it also had the sticker, ‘If you think I’m ugly from behind, you should see my front’.
“I just thought it summed it up perfectly. So, there are no embarrassing cars.”
Special guest Rick Wakeman never got a banger that embarrassed his kids, but does confess to making some shocking purchases.
“To be honest, I’ve bought some cars and I’ve thought, what the bloody hell were you thinking? I bought Clark Gable’s 1957 Cadillac, which was huge,” says the prog rock legend.
“It weighed three tonnes and did two miles to the gallon. With the tank full, I could get about 100 miles if I was lucky. It was a monster. People would say, ‘What on earth is that?’
4. Rick Wakeman is obsessed with Car SOS
“I’d been on tour and my agent sent me an email about a TV programme,” explains the music star.
“’I wouldn’t normally get in touch, but it’s a car show and I know you’re a petrolhead’, he said. ‘The only problem is that you’ve only got one day off in December, and this is it. And you’ll have to fly in from Kiev, Ukraine where you are the day before’. I just thought, ah no, they’ll kill me. But out of interest I said, ‘what’s the programme?’
“And he’s not a car nut, so he just checked, ‘Erm, it’s called Car SOS’. I said, ‘I’ll book my flight. I’m not missing this for all the tea in China’.”
The self-confessed petrolhead explained: "I think I’ve seen most of the shows that they’ve done. Tim and Fuzz are perfect at the job and I was like a little pig in smelly stuff coming over to do this.
"Since 1966, I’ve owned over 200 cars and I could go through them all and give you a potted history of each one. Some complete rubbish. I wasn’t very good with part-exchanging, I couldn’t give them up. I still to this day, hate selling cars, I just adore cars."
Explaining his own romantic connection with four-wheeled vehicles, he adds: “Cars that I really love are 50s, 60s and 70s. That’s when I was growing up. And in that period, they were all very identifiable. A lot of them are still partially hand-built and they were like little works of art.
"You can see on this programme that a car for some families is the equivalent of a photograph. And Car SOS can bring those moments back to life for people. That’s quite romantic and I’m an old softie at heart, so I love it.”
Rick pinpoints the moment that he fell in love with cars to the day that his dad brought home the first family car.
"I was five. My parents didn’t have any money. My dad, where he worked, they were selling off the reps’ cars and he bought for £3 a 1938 Morris," he said.
“It was one of first cars on the road. It was jaw-dropping at the age of five. It was just phenomenal. I even remember the number plate. DNK 783. We used to call it Dinky-Doo.
“We took it on holidays. It used to take us 15 hours to get to Devon, topping it up with water, all the stops, but it was an adventure. I just started to look at every car after that and I became fanatical. Every Christmas was new dinky toys and the Observer Book of Cars. Everything car-related, I love it.”
5. Classic cars of the future is a hot debate on set
"Modern cars are crap aren’t they?" sighs Tim. "I'll be pleased I’m not around to see them become classics."
"Modern cars are the classic cars that will be owned by today's small children," argues Fuzz.
"I don't think there will be a scene in the future," replies Tim. A defiant Fuzz bets a tenner that there will be.
Tim smiles: "We’ll both be death by the time we find out."
Rick takes a different angle on the debate, arguing that modern cars can’t become classics because the technology simply won't allow it.
"Cars are made differently now. They're so reliant on computer technology, you'd just be replacing a computer in a vehicle with another computer. I don't think it would happen," he argues.
"The joys of the cars in the show is that they don’t have modern tech. You can just lift up the bonnet and see what’s fallen off or what’s broken. There might be a few specialist cars that turn into classics, but once you get past the 80s, you are on dicey ground."
The Car SOS Special: 7 Day Challenge premiere on Thursday 14th February at 8pm and Thursday February 21 at 8pm on National Geographic - BT TV Channel 317/373 HD.