The BIG Q&A with the stars of the show– Fuzz & Tim from Nat Geo’s Car S.O.S
The formula you need to remember at The British Show goes like this: Nat Geo + Fuzz & Tim = Car S.O.S. On the eve of thethe big event at Farnborough, our own Mike Rutherford caught up with the boys for a long chat about all things car-related.
M: Why is the British Motor Show such an important event?
F: Quite simply, it’s a show for everyone. It encompasses the old, the new… you’ve got old tech, you’ve got new tech, you’ve got new tech for old, you’ve got old tech for new… there’s something for all the family, and there are glamourous, glamourous people there, like Tim!
T: Do you know what? For me, what I love about the British Motor Show is it’s the only motor show in this country that I believe evolves. It is evolving with the automotive industry, and this is the only car show in the country that I am aware of that does that.
M: What did you love most about last year’s show?
F: I loved that I genuinely didn’t know what was in store before I arrived! You’ve got a few faces you know are going to be there, but in general, the set-up is different every year and that is a great thing. I also loved that I randomly met the mix engineer from the Beatles ‘Hey Jude’ sessions at last year’s show. I was absolutely made up that he was a Car S.O.S fan!
T: For me, I loved that there was such a diverse selection of people that we met, from rugby champions and international cricket stars to superfans of Car S.O.S who had come from all over the country to be there. All these people had one thing in common: their love for motors and automotive
products. The British Motor Show proves that you don’t have to be hard and fast or a petrol head to like cars.
M: Why are you returning to the event for another year?
T: The truth is, Fuzz and I are only ever going to inject ourselves into one motor show in the country; we have chosen the British Motor Show for all the reasons that make it different. I also like to see friends, family, people who watch Car S.O.S, and all the people who are into cars. These are the people who return each year and for me, I couldn’t go more than 12 months without going back to check out what everyone has been up to.
F: The British Motor Show is a forward-thinking show and that is why I am coming back. Yes, it encompasses things from the past, and we do a lot of things with cars from the past, but you’ve got a lot of new technology there… it’s important. The show looks at new technology such as alternative fuels, electric cars, hydrogen synthetic internal combustion fuels and stuff like that. It leaps forward so much more than the others. These people are not in it for the money, they are in it for the love of cars and the people visiting. They care.
F: It’s not just petrol heads, its hydrogen heads and lekky heads now Tim! T: Hydro heads!
M: What will you be doing on the show? What’s your role there this year?
T: We are lifting the lid on Car S.O.S! We have decided to delve deeper into the things that people never get to see when they watch the show. Usually from the minute the show ends – that’s it, viewers have to wait for another episode and don’t get to find out about what’s happening in between and behind-the-scenes. But we are lifting the lid on all that. All the sad, happy, fun, silly, and nail-biting stuff that happens behind the scenes is what we’ll be lifting the lid on, this year, for one year only at the British Motor Show!
M: What can people look forward to on the National Geographic Live Stage?
F: Some great cars that they have seen on Car S.O.S this last season and also from previous seasons. Oh, and Tim’s latest project: his van, his Mercedes van that he spent thousands of pounds on… just the window rubbers! The man is out of his mind!
T: Yes, I’ve bought this thing and I’ve rebuilt it as the official Car S.O.S ‘parts collection’ van which is going to make its debut at the British Motor Show! It’s a very rare right-hand drive 1960s Mercedes Van. Nobody knows what it is! The other thing that we are going to do is have some of the cars’
owners from Season 10 with us who will be talking with us on stage about the whole Car S.O.S experience.
F: Yes, that is right. We’ve got the Ford Escort RS 2000, the Opal Manta GT, Darren with the Vauxhall Cavalier – that is a big story, and of course the Citroen HY van.
M: What was the first car that you both owned?
F: The first car that I bought was a 1960s Ford Anglia which was advertised in my local paper, the Evening Mail, in 1980. It was for spares and repairs, no MOT, for £25. It was hanging! It went down the garden once and I pushed it back up to the garage at the top; it never turned a wheel again apart from behind the scrap wagon. But the scrap man came up, looked at me and said, ‘I’m not giving you any money for that, but I’ll take it away for you’.
T: My first car was a Karmann Ghia that I spotted on the way past a closed down garage. I got my grandparents to pull over, get out and haggle with these guys. I was 16 at the time so I couldn’t even drive but the plan was to rebuild it and get it on the road for when I was 17. I paid him £1,500 which was money I had saved up from working in Rumbelows.
M: How did you get into Mechanics and car renovations?
T: My parents brought me up in a house without a television. Instead I got an engine when I was 12, a Flat-four Beetle engine as a present from my father. He managed to get it for a couple of quid at a scrappers. I was always in love with cars, but it was right there and then that I got my hands on an engine and I didn’t look back. I’m sure one of the engines I builtwould’ve blown up and taken me with it. But nevertheless, that’s my story.
F: For me, I used to work in my cousin’s garage during school holidays from the age of 12 and then I did motor vehicle technology at school. My school was one of the only ones in the country that did that. I started an apprenticeship when I was 16, but I also used to do voluntary work at museums and stuff like that, so I was spannering at the age of 12 and I was getting paid for it not long after that, probably when I was 13.
M: Should more kids be encouraged to pick up a spanner and get tinkering with engines?
F: Yes, exactly like what happened to Tim, I think it’s great, being bought an engine. When I was a kid, I always wanted to find out what was inside my toys, what made them work. Often, once I’d found that out, they didn’t ever work again, but I knew next time how to take them apart, how to put them back together again and being able to do that, it’s quite empowering. It gives you loads of skills that you can use throughout life.
T: I fly into a rage at the idea of answering that question! The idea of living in a world where people don’t investigate the way things are made
anymore, if anyone wants to have a conversation with me about that then approach me at the British Motor Show and I’ll do that! Honestly, I’m so passionate about it. I completely agree with what Fuzz is saying, we live in a world now where people are averse to picking up a spanner or a screwdriver and having a look, that’s partially technology evolving. Like a new car, you pop the bonnet on a new car and you’re presented with another bonnet, just a plastic one that’s covering the engine and another one and another one. If you rip through all of that stuff, you’ll just find yourself an internal combustion engine. There are so many obstacles preventing young people and children from having a crack and that’s a real issue for me. So, yes, I absolutely agree with what Fuzz is saying, they should investigate the way things work.
M: You recently celebrated the 10th season of Car S.O.S. and your
100th makeover on National Geographic. But what have been your highlights from all of the seasons?
F: That’s a tough one! In the first series, we restored an old Austin 12/4. We did an oily rag job on it so it kept all its pattern and all of its history. I found out a couple of weeks ago that the owner of that car, Graham, has sadly passed away but apparently his son and daughter said that the car brought so much joy to him over that 10-year period since it was renovated on the show. It was immense, he just had the most brilliant time and of course the car stayed with the family, and they have been having a great time with it. I am just so glad we’ve been able to do things that have meant so much to people who really deserve it.
T: It’s the opportunity to give the cars back to lovely people and be there, to have a front row seat at the reveal when you’re doing something genuinely life changing. That for me is without a doubt on every single reveal the highlight of my life, let alone on Car S.O.S. I love those days; we both do and that’s a fact.
M: What do you think is the enduring appeal of Car S.O.S? Why does it do so well with audiences?
F: The answer is simple. It’s because really, it’s got nothing to do with cars, it’s all about people!
T: We both said the same thing at the same time! This is a show about people. And in a way, in an hour-long episode, it really reflects many of the emotions that we all go through in life over a long period. Whether it’s something sad, funny, entertaining, or joyous. This is rolled up into a one-hour show, so many emotions – it is a rollercoaster of a show.
M: What would be your dream car to renovate as part of the series? F: One of my own actually!
T: A Mercedes SR 300
F: I wouldn’t mind doing one of those old tanks, that would be ok.
T: I want to do something with gull wings. That’s just as cool as it gets.
F: You realise they are only doors; they don’t fly.
T: I know but they are just so cool, it was such a wonderful time when engineering was so free thinking.
F: I would love to do a bus but the chances of us getting to do a bus are pretty slim, we have done a fire engine and I reckon there’s a way of getting a bus done.
M: You recently did your first petrol to electric conversion on the show, what was that like and why was it so special?
F: I’d definitely like to do more petrol to EV conversions like this. I would like to do things that people might think are outrageous like a 1920s or 30s Rolls Royce. We could justifiably do that, we could say that Rolls Royce, their whole ethos was to make their cars smooth and silent and vibration free. There’s nothing that does that better than an electric motor!
T: For me it was exciting, but it was just like opening the lid and peering a little bit in. I like the idea of converting something away from being electric
into another form of drive. The idea of doing a biofuel, or something like that, now that would be fun, there are so many alternatives out there. The whole thing about alternative fuels or alternative sources, all that kind of thing, that’s something we’re keen on looking at – how we can use fuels that are entirely synthetic and have zero carbon footprint, or close to zero carbon footprint.
M: What is the future for classic cars as the world moves towards EVs?
F: Because there will be plenty of new fuels out there, this in a way is the end of one chapter for the internal combustion engine but the opening of new chapters for different fuels.
T: It doesn’t concern me, it used to, I used to be a part of the club of people who worried about ‘are we going to be able to continue to drive our classic cars that have petrol engines?’. Now, after speaking to a selection of different guys who are making these biofuels, the future will be possible. It is just going to be that perhaps you buy your fuel from a different location; you pour it in and its synthetic and it’s not damaging the environment. So the future is bright; the future is continuing to see classic cars on British roads that put smiles on people’s faces without damaging the environment.
M: What are the environmental benefits of renovating classic cars?
F: You’re keeping something old on the road. I drive a 93-year-old car as my second car and I mean as my second car; I go to the tip with it, I go to the shops in it, we go on days out in it. Now, it’s 93 years old – I could have a 2016 Skoda, not knocking Skoda or anything like that, but that car has a long way to go before it’s as green as my 1929 Austin.
T: I read an article the other day that said there are electric cars out there that take up to 35 years to become carbon neutral in terms of the carbon emissions from the manufacturing process. If you are driving a classic car its carbon neutral, it paid its dues a long, long time ago. Actually, depending on which way you want to crunch the numbers, classic cars have a better carbon emission rate than modern cars, even modern electric cars. So I will continue to drive a classic and then when it becomes more viable to fill it up with some other sort of biofuel then I know I will be the greenest person on the road.
M: Who have been some of the most stand-out contributors from the show over the last decade?
T: For me, the guy we gave the Golf, the Mark 1 GTI, back to, because that was back in the days of me really pushing people to the limit. It was nice because people didn’t know the show so we could pretend to be something different, or I could pretend to be something other than who I was. And it got to a point where he had his fist clenched to punch me and I got him right to the line and he almost swung at me. That’s one that I won’t forget!
F: For me, it has been everybody who’s car we have given back to them and if they have had a great big beaming smile on their face and I’ve seen a picture with them two months later or two years later with their car, down at a classic car meet or something like that then I’m happy. All of those guys and all of those women, absolutely brilliant. Enjoy your cars, enjoy what’s happened, we love doing it and we can do loads more.
M: The show’s an emotional rollercoaster ride for viewers. Does it leave you emotional when recording the show, hearing about the stories etc?
T: We often cry – real men cry as far as I’m concerned! Fuzz and I get emotional about this. We spend hundreds of hours working on somebody’s car we’ve never met and every hour we spend on that car is one more hour to getting closer to meeting the owner and one more hour getting excited about the idea of meeting them and showing them what you’ve done for them. So, they almost become a part of your family, you almost become obsessed with them because you don’t get to meet them until the end!
F: But when we get to the end, we get to see a real-life love story, whether it’s between a husband and wife, a son and a mother, or just friends. You get to see people saying, ‘you mean something to me, I did this for you’ and that’s great. What a brilliant thing to be able to witness. In effect, we have witnessed a hundred love stories over the past 10 seasons.
T: It is witnessed, we are not a part of it, they are the ones that have nominated, we’re just there; yes, we’ve done the work, but we don’t want a pat on the back for that, we are lucky to have front row seats as Fuzz said, in their personal love story.
M: What’s the response to the show from viewers around the world?
F: Well, we have to be on our best behaviour everywhere we go. I just spent a weekend in Ireland; I was playing a gig over the weekend and people were just coming up to me saying ‘Ah I love the show Fuzz, love the show! It’s amazing!’ No matter where I was, whether at a gig, a supermarket, a street, it didn’t matter; people were just coming up and loving the show and the same happened when I was in Spain the other month as well.
T: If I have to be somewhere that’s like an hour-long journey then I have to set off an hour and a half beforehand if I’m putting fuel in and stopping somewhere because Fuzz and I like to stop and have conversations with people. We respect everyone who takes the time out of their lives to watch the show. We have to appreciate that because if it wasn’t for people watching the show, what we do wouldn’t happen. So, we always go out of our way to have a long a conversation and I’m the one that they’re usually walking away from.
M: What words of wisdom do you have for any budding mechanics out there who might be having a go at renovating a car?
T: Fail fast, learn quick is what I’ve said before. Get it wrong! That’s how you learn, have a crack at it. If we got it right every time, there would be no need for mechanics or any professionals on any level – it’s a learning curve so enjoy it.
F: Yes, you will get it wrong but there is nothing wrong with that. I can tell you that in my first week out of the bus garage I had to do a job on a hydraulic accelerator and a cylinder change on this bus, it was an old bus and I loved working on it. What I had to do was use a pressurising system that blew the hydraulic fluid through this 30-foot-long pipe from the front to the back of the bus. But I didn’t put the cap on the top properly and it just blew brake fluid all over the front and of course, within a couple of hours, all of the paint had peeled off the inside of this bus. It went along for the next few months with hardly any paint on the inside of it and it looked a mess, and it was all my fault. But I made the mistake, I made lots more mistakes and I still make mistakes because unfortunately, one can’t know everything. But…just do it. Just get on with it. There’s no shame in it and if your car breaks down, then well at least you’ve given it one go, and have another try.
M: Is it true you leave some renovations for the owners to do themselves when you hand them back? And why do you do that?
F: I think Tim would love to give back cars with absolutely everything done, but then you’ve got to weigh up what a restoration is. Because if you renew everything, then you have wiped out all of the history. So that’s another
thing. But also, these cars are old, so you know we don’t want to take off that switch that has been operated by someone’s grandfather, you know sort of 50 years ago, that kind of thing. Unless we have to. So there are things we leave. We trust our luck in a way with some things, because we want as much of the original car to be there as possible. Yeah, sometimes things go wrong, so people will have to get their sleeves rolled up and do stuff. But that’s not a bad thing, that’s part of owning a classic car. It’s not about pulling a car straight out of a showroom, and you’re not expecting it to do three years without needing to have the bonnet opened.
T: Even though Fuzz has set me up to agree with him, I am actually going to disagree with him. I have taken on so many projects, and so many cars that I’ve restored, for me 80% is about the restoration and 20% is about driving it. There have been many things I’ve purposely overlooked replacing – and maybe Fuzz has interpreted that as ‘oh that’s nice, keep it original.’ The truth is, it’s not about originality so much to me. It’s more about leaving little jobs for people to tinker with. Because if you do every single last job, when you give them the car back, there is nothing they can do other than put it in the garage and polish it. Well, she or he had that classic car for a couple of reasons: one is to drive it, but also to repair it when things go wrong. So, I like to leave stuff for fettling. I don’t know if that’s just a northern word, but that’s what we call it!
M: What’s next for Car S.O.S on National Geographic? What lies ahead for you both and for the show?
F: Series 11 of Car S.O.S shows two men continuing to grow old on screen and hopefully does more of the same! We are making great times for the families involved and not just on the show, but for many years to come. That’s what it is for me and it goes beyond the period of filming each episode. It’s about knowing that those people are having a great time. Whether they are just going into their garage and sitting with their car or getting out there and getting amongst it. I just love the fact that although we aren’t giving them their lives back, we are giving them that extra boost in the passion side of their lives. They can get on with things and enjoy it rather than it being a thing sitting in the garage.
T: For me, I think Car S.O.S is now working on maxing-out it’s relationships that it’s forged with companies that at the beginning we’d have only ever wildly dreamt of getting access to. I think, yes, there will be some wonderful reveals, and more of the same. Even more deserving owners. But I think in terms of viewers, you are going to get to see some things that are eye-openers in the automotive industry – massively. And it’s just riddled with treats, and access to both celebrities and automotive manufacturers that you could only dream of. And, of course, some fantastic heart-warming stories