For our first ever ‘First Car, Worst Car, Current Car, and Dream Car’ feature, we’re joined by Thomas Holland and James Engelsman - the presenters of the popular Throttle House YouTube channel - who talk us through the high points and low points in their car histories as car owners and car show presenters
You don’t need us to tell you this, but there’s a lot of erm… how to put it… car shows (sorry, car “content”) on YouTube that ain’t great. Thankfully though, Throttle House doesn’t fall into this category because if we’re being totally honest about things, it’s the thinking person’s online car show of choice.
If you’ve been living off the grid, this is what Throttle House is all about
In short, Throttle House is pretty much an online phenomenon. The channel is fronted by a double act of well-humoured, and deeply knowledgeable presenters - Canada’s Thomas Holland, and Brit James Engelsman.
The Anglo-Canadian pairing drops a full-length car review approximately each week, and at the time of writing, the Throttle House channel has more or less 1.5m subscribers. Oh, and that’s excluding the Extra Throttle videos which boasts a further 88k subscribers, and treats viewers to the B-side videos that didn’t quite make it to the final cut.
Things haven’t always been this way, though.
How Throttle House became a pro YouTube channel
In what is becoming a bit of a regular thing these days on Dyler, here’s a brief history lesson about how Throttle House came to be. The channel was originally founded by Thomas - a filmmaker in his own right - as a way of killing time back in 2015.
“To be honest, I was working another job, so it was something to do,” he recounts to Dyler. “On the channel, I was doing BMW builds and the odd car review here and there for fun, so no way was it a full time thing.”
“Anyway, it turns out that James was a casual watcher. Sometime in 2018, he messaged me basically saying “you suck at everything, so I’m gonna jump in there and help you make it into a thing” and he did. In return for that, I forced him to perform on camera and here we are now!”
In that classic way only close friends can joke around with each other, James tells his own version of the story.
“In short,” he recalls. “I messaged him saying that his stuff was a ‘bit s**t’ and I could help, so here we are now!”
And Throttle House has indeed come some way since BMW restoration projects and the sporadic car review.
Getting behind the magic of Throttle House (hint, it’s nothing to do with supercars!)
The channel’s magic lies in high production values (click here to watch the BMW M4 review to see what we mean!), a solid, self-deprecating sense of humour, and the fact that it doesn’t fall into the Car YouTube trap of supercar, after supercar, after supercar - for every Ferrari GTC4, there’s still something that’s very much attainable; think Volkswagen Rabbit, think Porsche 997.
Anyway, after a few weeks of working across different time zones, varying schedules, and dealing with the side effects of the COVID-19 vaccine, we caught up with Thomas and James who kindly joined us from Canada for this very first edition of an all-new Dyler feature called ‘First Car, Worst Car, Current Car, and Dream Car’.
In short, each month from now onwards, we’ll be talking to a personality - or personalities, in this case - from the automotive or motorsport scene about their car histories and what they hope to have on their driveway at some point in the future.
Anyway, get ready for some surprises. Over to you, gents!
Thomas: “My first car was a 1994 Pontiac Bonneville SSEI which was a hand-me-down from my dad back in the day. It had a 3.8-litre supercharged V6, but given this was an American car from the 1990s, it produced just 225bhp which isn't really a lot. I really enjoyed that car though, because it had so much cool tech in it! It had a nine-way adjustable driver’s seat, full leather, traction control, heated mirrors, and all sorts of crazy stuff from back then! But the coolest thing for me was this overhead car display which would show when the doors were open or closed, or if the trunk was open or closed - I remember it being that being the coolest thing in the world! I had a look recently at one online, and don't get me wrong, it looks really '90s now. Back then though, I felt like I was living in the future and to this day, I still really like that car.”
James: “My first car was pretty standard for your average British teenager who’s just learned to drive! It was a 2006, 1.2-litre Vauxhall Corsa SXi, which had silver seatbelts. I was just so desperate to have my own car and drive it, to be honest. I remember I worked at a toy shop part-time not too far from home for over a year to save for it. My dad matched whatever I saved, which helped me buy it. However, the deal was that I paid for the insurance and petrol. I think it cost me £3,000 in total. But if you want the story in a nutshell, I sold a lot of Lego and Ben10 figurines for 18 months to buy a Corsa!”
Thomas: “That award goes to a Nissan Versa I owned some years back. It was just an objectively awful car in every single way. It didn’t help that it was fitted with a CVT at a time when manufacturers didn’t even bother trying to make you not hate that sort of gearbox. The Versa was slow, small, and it was pretty badly put together to the extent that I managed to break both upper strap mounts whilst crossing a moderate railway crossing. There really isn’t much good to say about that car at all.”
James: “I don’t think I’ve ever owned a ‘bad’ car as such, really. I had a Jaguar F-Type for a bit which was bad on the wallet because it cost me a fortune in depreciation, but as a car it was great and I really enjoyed having it. I think it’d be better if I mentioned the worst car - or some of the worst cars - we’ve driven over the last few years as there’s definitely been a couple of hundred! I would give the ‘worst car’ spot to the new Aston Martin DBX. I know that’s a strange thing to say because everyone seems to like them, but by the time we finished with it, I properly hated that car - the suspension was horrendous, the chassis was all over the place so the front of the car was doing one thing, whilst the back was doing another. The seats were uncomfortable, and the transmission was jerky, too. It’s a nw car, so it was a surprise that it didn’t have soft-closing doors, the infotainment wasn’t touchscreen, and the lane-centering assist didn’t work. Given that the DBX costs around £160,000 new, it just doesn’t seem to make much sense. Honestly, I found it a truly horrid car.”
Thomas: “As for my current car, well I have more than one! I have a 1972 Alfa Romeo Spider, which is utterly lovely. I’ve got a real thing for classic Alfas and most classic cars, to be honest. I’ve also got a BMW E46 M3 as I love most BMWs, as well as a Mercedes 190 E. It’s nothing special like a 2.3-16v or anything, it’s just an in-line four with an automatic gearbox. For me, the 190 E is just a really solid, comfortable car. With that Bruno Sacco-designed body, it’s pretty timeless, too.”
James: “I’ve got a couple of cars, too! I’ve got a 2016 Mazda Miata - or ‘MX-5’ as we call it in the UK - and a fifth-generation Audi S4 which I’m thinking of changing. I really like the new Audi A6, to be honest. It’s got the air suspension and a cracking sound system, so it’s a proper cruiser and pretty much like a baby A8. In fact, it’s Thomas’ fault that I’m looking at changing the S4, because he’s always saying the suspension is overly hard and I’ve now started noticing it now, too! The other day, I had a stomach ache and I swear the ride made it worse. By the time I got home, I was properly, properly pissed off at it! As for the Miata though, I love that car. I think it looks great, and I always smile when I drive it - it’s impossible to not have fun!”
Thomas: “That’s an easy one for me - it’d be one of those Alfaholic GTVs! I love those old 105 and 115 chassis anyway, because they’re just wonderful in their original form. What Alfaholics have done is make them pretty much perfect with their restomod programme. I’d love to spend some time with one if I had the chance. I know Jeremy Clarkson and Chris Harris are big fans, so who am I to really question their judgement? You know, I’d go as far to say that I wouldn’t even need to drive it. I’d just look at it, and I’d be content because it’s such a glorious shape. I know it’s a bold statement, but I think I’d rather have one of those than any supercar! I like some older Porsche 911s and we’ve driven a 993 and a 930 on the show. They’re great, don’t get me wrong. They just don’t - and I’m going to say it - have the same passion and magic as an Alfa!”
James: “You know, I actually agree with Thomas here. However many supercars later, the whole high-revving, loud-engine, big-proportion thing starts to become pretty unliveable in the real world. What’s more, you don’t get to experience even half of it day-to-day, so this is a pretty difficult question. I like the idea of some big old American classic muscle car because they’re hilarious. The Shelby Cobra we drove recently was great fun, but it just feels too old, too crazy, and ultimately too unsafe. I really like Porsches too and I thought that a 992 GT3 would have been the one. Again though, it’s not that easy to live with on the daily and you’ll never really be able to enjoy it fully. Old 911s? Well, I like them but the whole Singer thing doesn’t do a lot for me either. So you know what? I’ll say that I’m undecided about my dream car, and I’m happy with my little blue Miata I have at the moment!”
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