With much of the country working remotely and generally avoiding going outside for much activity, we asked around the virtual Automobile office to get a list of the shows you should definitely watch when you’ve had enough of the daily news.
It’s true, gasp: not all of us here at Automobile spend a lot of our time absorbing automotive entertainment outside of work hours. Totally understandable, right? It’s healthy to have varied interests. On the other hand, a lot of us—perhaps a disturbing number of us—do spend entirely too much of our free time watching other people do what we do all day long.
All of which is a roundabout way of saying: we make a lot of automotive entertainment. And we watch a lot, too. So, here’s our list of the shows you can stream now on MotorTrend that keep us coming back for more, even when we’re already up to our necks in it—a list that, if you watch it all, should definitely keep you busy for at least the next few weeks of cloistered nights.
Ed Tahaney, news editor
I like watching this show only because I’ve been down plenty of dangerous roads myself. These roads include the Valley of the Three Rivers dirt roads of Peru—scary stuff. Also, the salt flats of Uyuni, Bolivia, are just amazing to look at, and I can’t wait to go back there again. This show is the next best thing, for now.
“Vegas Rat Rods”
Steve Darnell and the Welder Up crew can transform a pile of junk into a rat rod in days. I’ve only seen a couple of episodes but there are a few dozen I still need to check out.
This show is hilarious, and the father-son team of Orange County Choppers build some really slick-looking customized machines. And that’s Orange County in New York, not the O.C. in California. Good times.
“James May’s Cars of the People”
I’d watch anything Mr. May is in, and his latest show travels the globe to discover the history of classics from the Fiat Cinquecento to the Model T.
Conner Golden, staff editor
“Chasing Classic Cars”
Part of the reason I fell in love with classic cars to begin with is the mystique of it all. I used to ride my bike around my neighborhood, ducking into alleys and backroads to hopefully catch a glimpse of something neat parked on blocks, and “Chasing Classic Cars” is essentially that, only taken to an entirely different level. The venerable Wayne Carini has hosted this for more than a decade now, ducking into barns and lifting up car covers in search of a rumored Duesenberg project or dusty mid-century Ferrari. I can’t get enough.
The less painful parts of this quarantine are the spans of time when I veg out, idly clicking away at a video game or reading one of the many novels I’ve neglected. For perfect background noise, an endless stream of Barrett-Jackson’s blockbuster auction sales is a necessity. The fast-talking auctioneer is perfect for zoning out, but be careful—you’ll be yanked from your reverie more than once by some car you find irresistible.
While you’re daydreaming from the comfy confines of your bed, flip over to “Dangerous Roads,” where a celebrity duo traverses some of the roughest and most treacherous stretches of road around the world. It’s a fresh take on a tired idea, and proves sipping ginger ale on your couch is hardly a human struggle.
You can’t go wrong with the classics. A longstanding mainstay of motoring television, “Wheeler Dealers” is an indulgence of smart mechanical demonstrations and savvy classic-car purchasing tips buoyed by hosts Mike Brewer and Ant Anstead. Clean, no-frills automotive entertainment at its best.
“Goblin Works Garage”
We’re so accustomed to loud, emotion-filled garage and custom-shop reality TV filled with ’57 Chevys, Mustangs, F100s, and Corvettes, so why not change the pace a bit? “Goblin Works Garage” is essentially the same formula, but with resto-modded Euro-centric classics that hot rod shops would never touch, like a Vauxhaull Viva and Ford Capri.
Aaron Gold, senior editor
It may be heading towards a cliché, but this is, bar none, the best car show ever made. Even when it’s bad, it’s good. I don’t care what the cars are; I just want to hear Clarkson, Hammond, and May each talk about why the other two are wrong. When you have time on your hands, it’s good fun to watch from the early series and see how the show, the jokes, and the hosts evolved. And who doesn’t love to watch cars sliding around a track?
“Top Gear: The Specials”
The “Top Gear” specials may comprise the most epic car television of all time. Here we get to see the hosts live the gearhead dream: Head out with your buddies and drive some bizarre cars in epic places—and because it’s the TG crew, much hilarity ensues. The specials have all the best elements of a buddy flick and a car show, raising “Top Gear’s” “ambitious but rubbish” mantra by an exponential degree.
I’ve always considered myself a pretty lousy mechanic, but watching “Wheeler Dealers” makes me feel like I can fix anything. “This tired old motor has low compression in two cylinders,” says Edd China. “No problem, I’ll just pop in a new set of piston rings.” And he does. Bonus 1: When Mike Brewer negotiates with a fellow Londoner using Cockney money slang. (“Bullseye, mate.” “Make it a pony and I’ll shake your hand. “) Bonus 2: When Mike buys a car too small for Edd to fit into, and Edd squeezes himself in anyway.
I have zero interest in motorcycles, especially over-wrought gaudy choppers, but I love this show and am equally fascinated by the fabrication and the family dysfunction. The fights fascinate me. Does that make me a bad person?
“Richard Hammond Meets Evel Knievel”
Like The Hamster, I’m fascinated by Evel Knievel, and like the Hamster, I’d probably annoy him just as much if I’d had the chance to meet him in person. This is a strange documentary; Hammond is great at history but maybe not so polished at interviewing boyhood heroes, and there’s a lot of that “Top Gear” try-and-fail spirit. It’s not always the most comfortable thing to watch, but well worth the time.
“How It’s Made: Dream Cars”
My favorite description of “How It’s Made” is “industrial porn.” The show takes you inside factories to see how things are made (duh), and I for one can’t get enough of it. MOTD has a series devoted especially to cars, showing how our favorite motors go together, whether built by hand or cranked through the assembly line.
“James May’s Cars of the People”
Imagine what “Top Gear” would be like if James May was given control for a day, and that’s “Cars of the People.” From the title, you’d expect a documentary about common cars through Captain Slow’s lens, and that enough is enough for me (May is my kind of pedantic). Actually, this was shot as a between-Top-Gear-series filler and it shows. Whether you’re a “Top Gear fan or a James May fan—or both, of course—this is right up your alley.
“Mythbusters Best of Cars”
“Mythbusters” is an old favorite of mine, and I love that MotorTrend has gathered a bunch of its car-related challenges all in one place. Warning: If car carnage bothers you, don’t watch FIA European Truck Racing. I’m not much of a racing fan, but I could watch FIA Truck Racing all day. I’m not sure what it is—perhaps it’s the seriousness with which the British announcers treat the whole thing contrasted with the pure absurdity of racing in heavily-modified diesel-powered big rigs, or maybe I just like the idea of rednecks with fancy accents. Whatever it is, this show has made me a fan of at least one kind of racing.
Rory Jurnecka, features editor
“Wheeler Dealers Dream Car”
We’ve enjoyed watching “Wheeler Dealers” for years, the show where Mike Brewer and various co-hosts have bought, fixed up, and flipped interesting but derelict cars for a profit. Now, Brewer has a new show called “Wheeler Dealers Dream Car.” The idea is this: an enthusiast has always wanted to buy his dream car, say a DeLorean DMC-12 which is from an actual episode. Brewer will take a vehicle said enthusiast does own to fix up and sell for a profit -hopefully enough profit to buy that dream car. Every episode is a fun ride that gets us thinking about the possibilities in our own garage.
It’s hard to believe “Roadkill” is in its ninth season now, but Freiburger and Finnegan just can’t help themselves. Their automotive antics are the stuff of legend: from supercharging a Chevy-swapped Jaguar XJ sedan in a parking lot to stuffing a turbocharged Ford 5.0-liter V-8 into a rusty Datsun 240z. The “Rotsun” even makes a return in the current season. If you haven’t seen any “Roadkill” episodes yet, you’d better stockpile plenty of popcorn. You’re 103 shows behind schedule.
“Long Road to Monterey”
Ever wonder what sort of preparation goes into the vehicles you see every year at the annual Monterey Car Week? “Long Road to Monterey” features The Creative Workshop where Jason Wenig and his team work hard to make sure their clients’ classic Lamborghinis, Porsches, Mustangs, and more are ready for the trip to the Monterey Peninsula in August.
“FIA World Rallycross Championship”
You waited all of the long, cold winter to get back to watching motorsports on television and were left disappointed as race series worldwide are put on hold. What to do? MotorTrend streams more than 50 different motorsports series from last year’s action and its guaranteed you haven’t seen some of these races before. One of our favorites is the FIA World Rallycross Championship, but you also won’t want to miss the British Truck Racing Association Championship where racers duke it out in race-prepped semi trucks. It’s every bit as crazy as it sounds.
“Salvage Hunters Classic Cars”
If you love classic cars and love a project even more, check out “Salvage Hunters Classic Cars.” Two English-based enthusiasts scour the continent for classics they can restore and resell, which of course is never as easy as it sounds. From Fiat 500s to Alfa Romeo Spiders, Volvo 850Rs to Range Rovers, Porsche 944s to Toyota MR2s, there are interesting cars in every episode and likely at least a couple you haven’t even heard of.
Nelson Ireson, executive editor
“Hot Rod Garage”
Lucky and Tony are two of the most entertaining guys to ever lift a wrench, and unlike so many grease-laden soap operas (grease operas?), this show is actually about the wrenching and the cars. If you want drama, look elsewhere in our catalog; if you want cool cars made from bad ideas, this is your show.
Steve Brulé, the general manager of Westech Perfomance Group, where the show does its dyno testing, is an incredible font of knowledge, and something of an engine whisperer. David Freiburger and Steve Dulcich complete the trio of “Engine Masters,” each making educated guesses about the results of the performance modifications tested each episode. The result is a deep well of comparisons between engine types, engine modifications, and more—enough to settle just about any forum argument the best way possible: with data.
I hope you like Steve Dulcich as much as I do, because I think he’s great, in addition to being armed with a wealth of knowledge about old American iron, especially anything Mopar. “Roadkill Garage’s” focus on Dulcich’s shop and the time he and Freiburger spend there making their assortment of oddball projects actually happen make this an easy favorite for a long stint on the couch.
“How It’s Made: Dream Cars”
Yes, it’s that “How It’s Made,” with Brookes Moore’s wonderful voice narrating it, only instead of cheese or pajamas, these episodes are all about awesome cars. While it’s not the most current—and it’s still very much focused on the industrial process of building the cars—the look it gives inside the production process provides a lot of insight into what goes into building modern car, and how complicated they are.
“Dirt Every Day”
Off-roading in ludicrous machines with Fred Williams and Dave Chappelle (no, not that Dave Chappelle)? Yes, sign me up. These guys not only demonstrate impressive fabrication skills, but also the willingness to apply them hurriedly to what is likely a terrible idea in the first place, then take it out on the trail or into the wilderness to see how it will break. Brilliant.
Mac Morrison, editor-in-chief
“Mike Brewer’s World of Cars”
If you know Mike Brewer from his years as one of the stars of the hit show “Wheeler Dealers,” then “Mike Brewer’s World of Cars” is an easy sell. Follow the affable Brewer as he travels around the world, looking for and finding some of the most interesting cars, people, places, and experiences that any gearhead will appreciate. It’s always a good time.
“NASCAR ALL IN: Battle for Daytona”
You don’t have to be a NASCAR fan, or really even a diehard racing fan at all, to find this new MotorTrend original exclusive absolutely fascinating. Rarely do you get to go behind the scenes and off the racetrack with drivers who make their living in one of the world’s most competitive professional series. This documentary series follows Richard Childress Racing drivers Austin Dillon and Tyler Reddick, and Go Fas Racing driver Corey LaJoie, as they and their teams let you in on what goes into preparing for and racing in the year’s biggest NASCAR event, the Daytona 500.
“Blink of an Eye”
Alright, this one isn’t a show, it’s a longform documentary. But following the story of former NASCAR driver and broadcaster Michael Waltrip as he strove to become a professional stock-car racer is a compelling human-interest story full of “I didn’t know that” moments. Add Waltrip’s relationship with the late Dale Earnhardt, right up until the moment The Intimidator was killed in the 2001 Daytona 500—a race Waltrip won—and it makes an already fascinating story that much more interesting.
Various Racing Series
With virtually every sports league on hiatus due to the global situation, the good news for motorsports fans who miss being able to watch any on-track action is that MotorTrend has a large library of racing series from around the world. So, login and get watching everything from Le Mans to the Blancpain GT Series to go-karts to the Porsche Carrera Cup to the Dakar Rally to Freestyle Motocross, and more.