Car S.O.S Special: 7 Day Challenge: A Conversation with Presenter Tim Shaw
National Geographic’s top-rated “car-shaped show about people”, Car S.O.S, the car restoration show with a whole lot of heart, returns this Valentine’s Day with a televisual love letter to one of the country’s most cherished cars, the Land Rover. Tune in to National Geographic on 14th February at 8pm to catch the first of two brilliant, fast-paced and funny new special shows featuring a live studio audience and a celebrity guest in Car S.O.S Special: 7 Day Challenge. Then catch the second instalment of the adrenaline fuelled spin-off show on 21st February at 8pm ahead of a brand-new 10-part series of Car S.O.S commencing 28th February at 8pm.
The series opener this year has the intriguing title of “Car S.O.S Special: 7 Day Challenge.” Please tell us about it.
This episode of Car S.O.S is rather different. It’s a seven-day challenge. We have just seven days to completely restore an old 1959 Series 2 Land Rover which belongs to Brian, who’s had cancer. It’s one hell of a challenge. If you went to any garage and asked, “Can you restore this in seven days?”, they’d burst out laughing. The ticking clock is nerve-wracking, but it’s also very exciting. If we manage to pull it off, it’s something we’ll be very proud of. This episode fits with the Car S.O.S ethos. This show is never about money. It’s about how cars bring families together. It’s a genuine feel-good show.
Your guest star in the first episode is Ross Kemp. He is a genuine petrol head, isn’t he?
Absolutely. He loves cars. He owns a Ferrari California and a Q7 Audi. He loves the show and is very keen to join in. He’s a lovely guy and astonishingly brave in the documentaries he makes. His excitement level is set very high! Sadly, he doesn’t get the chance to drive his Ferrari very often because he’s too busy being shot at!
What other highlight can we look forward to in the new series of Car S.O.S?
In one episode, we restore a Triumph TR7 for her lovely family that you can’t help but wish to be part of. In each episode, everything you can go through in life is compressed into 44 minutes of television. The really heartwarming quality of the show is seeing how a car can bring a family together. Other shows are purely about cars, and unfortunately that alienates a lot of viewers. The difference between those shows and Car S.O.S is that we get stopped by great-grandparents, grandparents, parents and children to say how much they love the show. That happened to me just yesterday. Four generations of people choose to watch the show together. That’s a lovely thing.
What do you love most about presenting Car S.O.S?
When we give the restored cars back to people, all that matters is the smile on that person’s face. It’s all about emotion. When people get excited, they get goosebumps, and at that moment we turn that person into a giant goosebump. It’s about uniting a family so that they can all get pleasure from the car and become one goosebump together. It’s the biggest privilege to be able to bring that emotion to people. We also learn from the people who come on Car S.O.S. They teach you to enjoy every single day, while you have got it.
Why does your relationship with Fuzz work so well?
We are like an old married couple! Fuzz and I really get on with each other. We are just a pair of blaggers. I used to present a radio show in Birmingham. One day Fuzz came in to talk about one of the bands he was in, The Beat, and we hit it off immediately. Within two minutes, I could tell that he was a complete petrol-head. I can always tell, whether it’s from someone’s screensaver or their keys on the table.
Tell us more about Fuzz’s love of vehicles.
He collects buses. He cares as much about buses as cars. A bus is a very big contraption, like a massive house on wheels. It’s a huge precarious box bowling along on four tiny tyres. Fuzz loves taking 45 of his closest friends out for a day trip in his bus!
You are brilliant at blagging. Where does that come from?
I grew up in Sheffield, and there was not much money around. I was obsessed with engineering and wanted to know how everything worked. I’ve always been fixated with cars. If I wanted equipment for one, I’d go to a scrapyard and do a day’s work for it. We didn’t have a TV. My dad would say, “Here’s some tools for your Christmas present. Now go outside and make something.” I’m still like that.
We love cars in this country, don’t we?
Definitely. We are a nation of car addicts. One of the things I love about Car S.O.S is that it is a way of affecting people and turning them into huge car fans. If you start watching an episode as a 4% petrol head, it will go up to 10% by the end of the show!
Can you please expand on that?
A car represents escapism. When I was younger, I couldn’t afford a nice house, but I could afford a nice vehicle. So I could escape my small house and appear to be someone and somewhere else. I wasn’t attractive, but I could also get attention from girls with a car. If they were honest, most of my mates would say the same – that they got their first car in order to try to impress girls. Cars certainly played the most important part in my childhood.
Was being fascinated by cars a good hobby?
Absolutely. Cars gave my mates and me something in common. We could chat about them till the cows came home. We weren’t drinking or taking drugs. We were learning how the world works. If you know how a car works, you know how the world works. When my daughter asks, “Why do we have to study Pythagoras?” I tell her that it’s engaging a part of a brain that she’ll need in later life. Cars do that, too.
What do you hope that viewers take away from watching Car S.O.S?
I hope Fuzz and I inspire people to tinker with cars more. Working on cars gives you very saleable skills. It’s great to be part of a team that is encouraging young people to put their phone down and make something.
Finally, why do you think Car S.O.S has been such a hit?
It’s done really well because it’s a car show, but almost by accident. First and foremost, it’s about people. The thing these people have in common is cars. It could be a programme about shoes, but it happens to be about cars. Having said that, if they made Shoe S.O.S, I don’t think Fuzz and I would be presenting it!
Car S.O.S Special: 7 Day Challenge, Thursday 14th February at 8pm & Thursday 21st February at 8pm on National Geographic