Life in cars
Tanner Foust Rallycross racer, stunt driver and former TG USA host talks us through his car history
When I was 9 to 13, I lived up in Scotland. We had a 1977 VW bus and an early Eighties Fiesta. My mom was a teacher at a military base. It was an 18-mile drive, but part of it was on private land, so she would let me drive that section starting from around 10.
The bus was a perfect learning car as you can sit on the edge of the seat and the pedals go straight down into the floor, so even I could reach. When you put it in gear, it was a long stick, it would always go back to where it started from, so you could never cheat to see which gear you were in. I moved back to the States when I was 13. All my siblings got their licence and I had to wait three brutal years – the longest of my life.
The car that I learned in was a 1985 white Honda Civic in the boxy era. It was manual, it did slide around pretty good, it was fun to flick through the corners. So I took the test in that car. We were moving from California to Virginia the day after my 16th birthday, so I had gone through the whole California training, which is six months of simulator training and six months of driver instruction, which school provided. It’s not like how it is now where everyone has a private instructor – it was the woodshop teacher. He had three fingers on one hand and two on the other, and he had no fear at all.
So, then the pressure was on because we were all leaving the next day. If you failed your driver test you’d have to wait two weeks to take it again, so I would’ve had to start all over in Virginia, which would’ve been a disaster. I studied the hell out of that and ended up getting a licence and moved to Virginia, where the roads are epic.
It was convenient for me to drive to school, so we got a car that I could use: a 1983 Honda Civic Wagon. S*** brown. It was the slowest car I had. I had to turn the aircon off to take off away from traffic lights. I ended up having, to date, the biggest crash I’ve had on the street in that car. I rolled it seven times when I was 18. It was a fastback when we were done with it. The roads in Virginia are rollercoaster roads; they are epic, but unforgiving.
I got a job teaching ice driving so had to spend every day sideways in the winters. The very first new car that I purchased was the first Mitsubishi Evo that came to the US, the Evo 8. I loved that car – it was the greatest mountain car in the snow, I used it on the ice track... such a fun car.
I ended up selling that Evo to a friend who turned it into a drift car, who later sold it to Mattel to build into a stunt car in the Hot Wheels loop stunt, and I drove it in that loop. It was a great story, but it seemed too coincidental: like, this was the first car I ever bought new and maybe I was going to die in it? But we survived.
For TopGear we shot a show in Utah where my car was a 991 Porsche GT3. I fell in love with that car; it’s just an incredible machine. I’d always been a Porsche fan. The car that turned me into a car guy was my dad’s old 912E, which I now own. So I found a GT3 and I bought that, and it’s something that’s just for the sake of how it sounds and feels and drives, not for the investment. It’s just something I really look forward to driving.