May gets in the driving seat for new series
Quite a lot has changed since James May’s first three-part series examining the social significance of affordable automobiles in the 20th century aired on BBC2. On its debut in August 2014, James May’s Cars of the People (Sunday, BBC2, 9pm) was originally plugged as a spin-off from Top Gear. But as May, and his two co-hosts Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond have subsequently gone onto other projects (including a new series for Amazon Video due out late this year), for well-publicised reasons, this is now all May's own work. And it’s good to see him back on the Beeb after his stint on documentary show Building Cars Live last year. The first series of Cars of the People was criticised in some circles, with some saying May’s ‘Jezza’ impressions, daft stunts and tongue-in-cheek borderline racism made it a bit too much like Top Gear. However, amongst all that familiarity, there was actually a rather enjoyable and richly researched series about the history of everyday cars. What’s refreshing about this programme is that the motors featured will never be tested on the likes of Top Gear. Why? Because none have a top speed of 200mph or a pice tag of £100,000. Indeed, for all the Veyron and Ferrari supercars and prototypes paraded on Top Gear, most viewers of that show will only ever drive runabouts and family cars. That’s all we need and the most we can afford. So here May continues to focus our sights on the sharp end of the car market, and celebrates the transport of the masses, the everyday cars that were created to get whole nations on the move. While some have been beloved motoring icons (the Mini and the VW Beetle), some have become objects of derision, like the Lada and Austin Allegro. May told driving.co.uk: “It has been an automotive riot, and a revealing one: weeks of travelling the world driving almost exclusively cr*p cars.” Tonight, May kicks off the new series with a look at how the car industry in Germany and Japan blossomed following the Second World War. Japanese car makers Honda, Toyota, Nissan, and Isuzu, and their German counterparts Volkswagan Mercedes, Porsche, Audi and BMW played their part in the countries becoming manufacturing giants that far outstripped the Allied nations that had just defeated them.
Behind the wheel James May presents the documentary