Car S.O.S Special: 7 Day Challenge: A Conversation with Celebrity Guest Rick Wakeman
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.
Rick appears in TX 2 on 21st February, 8pm, National Geographic
What appealed to you about being a guest star on “Car S.O.S Special: 7 Day Challenge”?
Very occasionally, you get asked to appear on a programme you’re addicted to. It doesn’t happen that often – in fact, it’s very, very rare! But I’m genuinely addicted to Car S.O.S. I’m a complete petrol-head and I absolutely love this programme. Occasionally I’ll catch a re-run I haven’t seen and I’ll sit down and go, “Great!” Car S.O.S is really entertaining, a lot of fun and has a poignant edge. It’s very clever. It ticks every box.
Tell us about how they recruited you for this episode.
My agent said, “I’ve got an inquiry asking you to appear on a car programme. The only problem is, you’ve only got one day in December, and you’re in Ukraine the day before and Bexhill the day after. Shall I say you’re not available?” I asked, “What programme is it?” When he said, “Car S.O.S”, I replied, “I’ll change my flight now,” and that’s what I did.
What do you get up in this episode?
They asked me, “What car do you want to drive?” I said, “One car I’ve always been fascinated by is the Armstrong Siddeley Sapphire with pre-select gears.” They found me one. Now I’m fascinated to see what damage I can do to this Sapphire!
Do you enjoy the restoration element of Car S.O.S?
Yes. The basic premise is wonderful. Someone has a car they love. It means a lot to them and has a lot of memories. But because of misfortunes beyond their control, their dream of restoring it collapses. That’s where Tim and Fizz come in.
What other aspects of the show do you relish?
I really like the fact that money is never mentioned. They would never do that. The value of the car lies in its provenance, the people who have owned it and the joy of putting it back on the road. Pretty much every other car programme talks about the cost, but Car S.O.S never touches on that. That’s incredibly endearing.
I like the fact that the programme shows that cars are not just inanimate objects. They’re like photos. They evoke memories. Car S.O.S demonstrates that. I’ve got a 1966 Morris Minor Traveller. Whenever I go out in that, someone will say to me, “My grandfather drove one of those” or “We used to go on holiday to Wales in one of those.” Those people wouldn’t have that story if it weren’t for that car. That’s very hard to do with modern cars. All they evoke is expensive bills when they go wrong! I like cars that have character and that make me smile.
Why is the on-screen partnership between Tim and Fuzz so successful?
They have a great relationship. They bounce off each other really well. They’re very genuine and they’re very good at what they do. I love people who are passionate and are good at what they do.
Have you always had a passion for cars?
Yes. I love saving classic things and there are two things that I love saving in particular: pianos and cars. I’ve got a few old cars which had been scrapped, including a 1988 Jaguar XJS, a 1966 Morris Minor Traveller, a 1984 Dodge van and a 1998 Rolls Royce. They’re all works of art.
Would you like to collect more classic cars?
Yes. I would if my wife would let me! The problem is, I keep finding stuff I like. I have to explain it to my wife when a new classic car turns up at our front door. That’s a pretty tough conversation. The arrival of a new classic car is normally met with my wife saying, “Fine”, which means, “You’ll pay for this!” But my wife is wonderfully supportive of my cars. She says, “There are worse things you could be doing!
How did you first fall in love with cars?
I was born in 1949. My dad bought a 1938 Morris 8 in 1954. For a five year old kid, that was absolutely amazing. From that moment, everything for me has been about cars. My parents would ask me, “What do you want for Christmas?” “Dinky Toys.” “Where would you like to go as a treat?” “The Motor Show.” If the love of cars happens as a kid, that’s it for life. My passion for cars has never left me.
Did you learn how to drive when you were very young?
Yes. I couldn’t wait until I could drive. An instructor from Thanet Driving School taught me to drive aged 16. He told me, “There’s a very big L sign on the roof of the car. No one will stop us!” My first official lesson was on my 17th birthday in a 105 Ford Anglia. The instuctor said to me, “Pull in here. Where have you been driving? You know how to drive already, but I’ll teach you how to pass the test.” I had two lessons and passed. I then bought my first car, a Ford Anglia, for 30 pounds, including tax and insurance. You couldn’t do that now!
Do you like to tinker with your cars?
I can get my hands dirty if it’s a quick fix. But I don’t have much time as I’m constantly travelling all over the world. I’m very lucky. In my village, there’s a fantastic garage where people send cars from all around. If I had more time, I’d get my hands dirty more. But the problem is, if I get under a car now, it takes me seven hours to get out!
Car S.O.S Special: 7 Day Challenge, Thursday 14th February at 8pm & Thursday 21st February at 8pm on National Geographic