While Top Gear is still going strong on the BBC and The Grand Tour is being eagerly awaited on Amazon Prime, some of the best automotive content is now found on — yes — YouTube. Here’s our take on some of the best YouTube channels for those who love cars.
Back in the early 2000s, car enthusiasts who wanted to watch screaming Ferraris, tyre-shredding Lamborghinis, and drifting-sideways Porsches on television did not have too many shows to choose from. In terms of top quality content, two British shows led the way; there was Top Gear on the BBC and Fifth Gear on Channel 5. Accessibility in India was a grey area — the BBC was officially available on cable, but Channel 5 wasn’t. However, rips of both shows were available on various torrents sites online, for those who were prepared to take their chances with the law. There were also one or two car shows on Indian television back then, but were dull, and poorly made.
Back then, 20 years ago, television was still king, and the internet was for exchanging emails, and illegal downloading of MP3s and the kind of JPG images that you didn’t want anyone else to see on your computer. The video-sharing website, YouTube, came along in 2005, but given the low bandwidth and slow internet speeds in those days, and the lack of professional video content creators for the internet, nobody could have imagined that it would someday, become the best platform for special-interest content.
Things change. And in the case of YouTube and car shows, it hasn’t just ‘changed’ things; it’s simply blown the past away, and brought in a whole new paradigm of how car shows are produced and watched by the audience. These days, if it’s not on YouTube, it pretty much doesn’t exist. Sure, television isn’t dead just yet. Top Gear, after Jeremy Clarkson and team’s acrimonious departure a few years ago, has managed to find its groove again. The current TG team, which includes Chris Harris, occasionally produces some of the best automotive content in the world — although their famous ‘challenges,’ which were once fun to watch, are now mostly dull, boring, and downright absurd. Fifth Gear makes an occasional appearance, though Tiff Needell is not with the show anymore, and nobody really seems to know if Fifth Gear will come back for another season or not. After moving on from the BBC, Jeremy Clarkson, James May, and Richard Hammond went to Amazon Prime, where they have been doing The Grand Tour for the last five years. The first three seasons were very good, but now the show seems to be losing steam, and the three presenters seem more inclined to go their own ways, and do their own thing. After all, nothing lasts forever, right?
So, for car enthusiasts, the internet — and more specifically YouTube — is where the action is these days. And here’s the MW list of the car shows on YouTube.
Harry Metcalfe is a leading British motoring journalist and car collector. He is the founder of Evo magazine, and has also written for the Sunday Times and Octane. An immensely knowledgeable enthusiast, Harry really knows his stuff, and has access to the newest, most exotic supercars, which are featured regularly on his YouTube channel. He also does some very interesting, insightful interviews with the people who really matter (the latest one being with Gordon Murray regarding the new GMA T.50) and for fans of older exotics, regularly features some truly memorable classics from the 1960s to the 1990s. While there are many channels that provide reviews of modern cars, when it comes to covering classics — high-performance cars from the last 50 years — Harry’s Garage is right on top. Unlike most other presenters, Harry has been fortunate enough to have owned
(and/or driven extensively over thousands of kilometres) many of the expensive exotics he talks about on his show. He speaks very well, and is an engaging, charismatic presenter, which helps make Harry’s Garage one of the best car shows on YouTube.
Television’s loss has been the internet’s gain; former Fifth Gear presenter Tiff Needell has joined hands with Paul Woodman, car enthusiast and former management consultant, who is the founder of Lovecars. While Lovecars has been around for some time now, it’s gathered a lot of momentum in the last one year, after Tiff came on board. Mr Needell, of course, needs no introduction — he’s one of the fastest, most talented drivers among all car show presenters and today, even at 69 years of age, can slide and drift a car like few others can. The show is professionally produced, and Tiff’s encyclopaedic knowledge of all things automotive, his unique style of presenting and unflagging enthusiasm for fast cars, all come together to create a rare bit of YouTube magic. (Incidentally, Lovecars is now also on TV with their new show, Lovecars: On the Road, now airing on ITV4 in the UK. However, since this isn’t available in India, their YouTube channel is still our best bet.)
This is where you find some of the most beautifully shot videos of the most beautiful, memorable, lust-worthy cars ever made. This isn’t a channel where you’d find reviews of mainstream everyday cars. Instead, go to Petrolicious for every car (and the occasional motorcycle) you ever dreamt of as a child; all the cars you put up posters of, you can see live in Petrolicious’s artfully produced videos. Beautifully restored classics, hard-to-find exotics, high-end supercars from the 1970s and ’80s, and so much more. Notably, whereas some car shows depend on their presenters’ charisma for getting viewership, here it’s all about the cars, documentary-style storytelling, and high production values. The end result is content that is near impossible to find elsewhere on the internet.
Jay Leno’s Garage
Actor, writer, producer, and former television host, the very talented Jay Leno is also deeply passionate about cars and motorcycles. His YouTube channel, Jay Leno’s Garage, has some of the best automotive content you’ll find anywhere on the web. A long-time car and motorcycle collector, Leno is extremely knowledgeable, knows his cars and bikes, and presents his show in an instantly likeable manner. His show is different from others, as there is very little actual driving here, and certainly no high-speed cornering or going sideways. Instead, most of the action takes place inside the studio (Leno’s own garage), where the host discusses cars in great detail with owners, collectors and/or people who played a significant role in the development of a particular car. Despite the lack of driving action, the show is engaging and interesting, especially for hardcore petrolheads.
Most car magazines (print) now also do video, with varying degrees of success. Among all the YouTube channels run by car magazines, Autocar (UK) has some of the best-produced content, with coherent storylines, relevant performance testing, and good production values. The various presenters are, we presume, Autocar editorial staffers, some of whom are reasonably good in front of a video camera, while some others are just about okay. But the Autocar (UK) channel does have the widest range of cars (and a sprinkling of motorcycles), access to racetracks for high-speed driving action, and a fair number of interesting stories that are enjoyable to watch.
Another UK-based car magazine, which now does full-blown car videos for enthusiasts. You’ll find all the exotic, high-end supercars here, which are beautifully shot using multi-camera setups. The magazine has full access to the latest machines, racetrack access for high-speed testing and dramatic cornering shots, and production values are consistently high. However, in most of its videos, Evo relies more on voiceovers rather than having an actual presenter speak in front of the camera. This works surprisingly well for them, however, and most videos are quite enjoyable. They haven’t been doing too much for the last few months because of the Covid-19 impact, but we’re sure they’ll be back in action soon. In the meantime, enjoy the archives.
The US-based MotorTrend channel has a vast range of car and motorcycle stories, reviews, a bunch of whacky features, car mods, automotive tech, and even a bit of motorsport thrown in for good measure. Tone and production quality are perhaps not quite as consistent as with some of the other channels mentioned here, but most content is still quite engaging. Whether it’s hot-rods you’re interested in, or Italian supercars, 4×4 SUVs, European classics, or American muscle cars, you’ll find it all here.
The Smoking Tire
Hosted by Matt Farah, The Smoking Tire features a wide range of vehicles — you’ll find reviews of everything from scooters and motorcycles to supercars, ATVs, and crosskarts here. In the way that it’s shot and presented, this isn’t quite up there with the best yet, but is still worth a visit if you’ve run out of videos to watch on other car shows.
Produced by the UK-based weekly car magazine, this YouTube channel features a comprehensive set of car reviews, and the channel is updated regularly with new content. Production values are reliably consistent and while they don’t have swashbuckling TV-style presenters, their regular staffers do a reasonably good job in front of the camera. If you simply want to watch the latest car reviews without Hollywood-style histrionics and unnecessary drama, this is where you’ll find your happiness.
Another UK-based channel, Carfection boasts an impressive set of car reviews, everything from modern supercars and SUVs to rally cars, Group B legends, classic and vintage cars, and even experimental cars. Acceptably high production values, a nice selection of offbeat stories, good camerawork and what have you — Carfection has everything that matters, and is a good destination for those looking for interesting automotive content on YouTube.
The official YouTube channel of the iconic TV show, this has a nice selection of clips and snippets from everything they’ve done over the last two decades, including the days when Clarkson & Co. used to host the show. For anyone who wishes to relive the glory days of TG or simply rewatch some of their recent stuff, which was first shown on TV, the YouTube channel is a reliable repository of some truly enjoyable videos.
The Late Brake Show
Self-proclaimed ‘car pervert’ and former Fifth Gear co-presenter, Jonny Smith has now moved to YouTube, which, he says, is the ideal platform for him to create the kind of automotive content that he always wanted to do. Smith has a casual yet engaging style of presenting, and is quite fun to watch. Right now, there’s very little content on his channel, but it’s likely to be a channel to watch out for in the future, so you might as well bookmark it now.