Remember back in the day before YouTube and there was such a thing as “Car Telly”? Well, a good slice of good ol’ fashioned Car Telly is back thanks to the third series of The Car Years .

Fronted by Vicky Butler-Henderson and Alex Riley, each episode of The Car Years sees the presenters take two of the greatest classic cars from the 1950s to the 1990s and duke it out (in period-appropriate dress!) in front of a panel of automotive experts who ultimately decide, well… that year’s definitive car.

Script writer of The Grand Tour, wordsmith, and all-round good chap Richard Porter is part of the judging panel on The Car Years
Script writer of The Grand Tour, wordsmith, and all-round good chap Richard Porter is part of the judging panel on The Car Years
© The Car Years

Oh, yeah - whilst we’re here, it’s worth noting that the panel includes Richard Porter of The Grand Tour and Smith and Sniff fame, AutoTrader editorial director, Erin Baker, RM Sotheby’s car expert, Will Smith, and former Formula 1 driver, Karun Chandhok. To say that this group knows a thing or two about cars is an understatement.

S3 of The Car Years was shot earlier in 2022, and filmed on and around Southern Ireland’s picturesque Wild Atlantic Way; its standout driving roads, the Ring of Kerry and the Connor Pass, are slices of driving nirvana and prove more than equal to the Grossglockner High Alpine Road, Col de Turini, and Transfagarasan Highway for stunning views and hi-jinks helmsmithery. The Car Years showcases the Southern Irish region’s twisting coastal tarmac with its haunting, craggy rock faces, dramatic drone shots, and vast seascapes in all its gothic glory and to coin a phrase, “dere’s more to Ireland dan dis*.”

The gent who made this wonderfully indulgent - and, to be perfectly honest, nostalgic - piece of Car Telly happen is Executive Producer, Jim Wiseman. One of the funniest and refreshingly ego-free characters in The Car World, Jim took a break from his busy schedule to sit down with and talk us through his favourite car from each of the two featured per-episode. To find out what they are and why, you’ll just have to scroll down…

… over to you, sir!

DeLorean DMC12 (1981)

DeLorean DMC12 1981
The Car Years Presenter, Vicky Butler-Henderson with the DeLorean DMC-12
© The Car Years

Essentially, I've always loved the DeLorean DMC-12 but I'm also very much aware that it's not a great car. However, it turned up on the day for filming and I couldn't take my eyes off it. It's beautiful. People's reaction to the DeLorean is unreal, they were taking photos of it, crowding around it... it's mad! I think it’s remarkable how much it has influenced car design to this day, because the front end of that recent Hyundai N Vision 74 concept looked like a DeLorean, and that came some 40 years later! The gullwing doors are also mega and when you see them in action - and honestly, they really work in a practical way! - you think "how didn't this catch on?!" The story of John DeLorean is also as theatrical and as tragic as the car is. For me it's a bit of automotive folklore. DeLorean’s concept of creating an affordable, rear-engined sports car that was half the price of a Porsche 911 for the early 1980s was an amazing idea given the economy at the time. However, that very idea was what got the DeLorean Motor Company in the s**t financially. Then the whole thing with the cocaine deal he brokered to save his company put a complete stop to the DMC-12 because he got arrested. I like to think that were he not one of those dodgy 1980s CEO types, he'd have probably remortgaged his house and the DeLorean story would be very different! Anyway, you can easily overlook the DMC12's flaws such as its wheezy Volvo V6 and sketchy past because it's simply stunning.

You can buy your very own DeLorean DMC12 by clicking these yellow words.

Renault Clio Williams (1993)

Renault Clio Williams 1993
It’s hard to disagree with Jim when he says any motorsport fan cannot help but love the Renault Clio Williams
© The Car Years

The Renault Clio is a car I love in general and I have very fond memories of them in general. In fact, my mum took great pleasure in reminding me after we finished filming the show that it was the car I got my first speed ticket in. It was her car, too! She had one - not a Clio Williams, a 1.3 or something! - and I got done doing 92mph on the M40. This was during my "heavy right foot" days when I was 17 or 18. Anyway, I'm also a massive motorsport nerd, so with the Williams association you can't help but love this car. If you're a motorsport fan, I don't think you can help but be a little bit in love with that mid-1980s-to-early-1990s era of Williams, and let's be honest that dark metallic blue paint over those gold wheels still looks mint too! As a piece of car design, though, I think the Mk1 Renault Clio has aged really well and it fully deserves modern classic car status. Anyway, the Renault Clio Williams is a textbook “man in his 40s trying to relive his youth” car and I’m not sorry about it at all!

You can buy your very own Renault Clio Williams by clicking these yellow words.

Jensen Interceptor (1966)

Jensen Interceptor 1966
“The Jensen Interceptor also has something very 'Roger Moore' about it”
© The Car Years

The Jensen Interceptor is one of those classic cars you could drive one down the street today and people will still say "that's pretty cool". It’s an old car, but strangely it’s also very usable and easy to live with. To put that into some context, we also had a Lotus Europa on the show, which is a cracking little car but it just wouldn't quite work in 2022. I mean, it's so low and so small, someone doing the school run in their daft SUV would run you over whilst they're reversing out of a primary school or something. The Jensent Interceptor also has something very 'Roger Moore' about it, and being a big fan of Sir Rog-era Bond, you just can hear him saying something like "hello darling, let's go out for a drive in the Interceptor" with a raised eyebrow. It's just a very cool car, and let’s be honest, you’d feel like the balls rolling around town in your Gentleman's GT called an Interceptor, wouldn’t you?

You can buy your very own Jensen Interceptor by clicking these yellow words.

Jaguar XJ220 (1992)

Jaguar XJ220 1992
The Car Years presenter Alex Riley with the Jaguar XJ220
© The Car Years

The Jaguar XJ220 is a car that's always stuck with me since I first saw it at the 1988 British Motor Show. I was only a kid, and me - along with everyone else there - was like "whoa!", because none of us regular folks had ever seen a car like it before. I really think that had that car come out two years later in 1994 and not in the middle of a recession, it'd have been lauded as being the British version of the Lamborghini Diablo or the Bugatti EB110. It would have absolutely cleaned up. The same can be applied if it came out a few years earlier, too. As a concept, it was introduced right at the end of the "loads of money" 1980s with a V12 and all-wheel drive. Given the mood and financial climate at the time, people would have happily spent buckets of cash on it. Unfortunately, when it launched Jaguar had no money to do the whole V12, AWD thing, so the XJ220 ended up with a turbocharged V6 and rear-wheel-drive because of the recession of the early 1990s. I actually have a theory that when a hypercar is launched - which the XJ220 was at the time! - then a recession is coming, and that’s exactly what happened. If we fast-forward the clock to 2008, the Bugatti Veyron was a precursor to the credit crunch in 2008. So, keep an eye on what cars are being launched, if there's a hypercar or two, take your money out of the bank because there’s a recession looming!

You can buy your very own Jaguar XJ220 by clicking these yellow words.

Aston Martin V8 Vantage (1977)

Aston Martin V8 Vantage 1977
Burly, loud, and extremely British, the V8 Vantage is the British carmaker in its purest form
© The Car Years

The Aston Martin V8 Vantage is a glorious car, and it's extremely pretty in that brutish, old-school British muscle car kind of way. I also love the overall story of Aston Martin, because it's a car company constantly on its arse financially. I honestly think that if it wasn't for Goldfinger, Aston Martin would be bust by now and consigned to the history books like one of those weird little period British car makers like Alldays and Onions. I think it's proper funny that it's James Bond who ALWAYS saves Aston Martin, because think about it - he's gone through Lotus, BMW, and who does he always return to? Aston! The V8 Vantage was also in The Living Daylights at a time when - once again - Aston Martin had no money. I’ve got this on authority from a few of the lads at Aston Martin that they couldn't afford to lend the production team a load of Vantages to be loaded with gadgets and be shot at for the film because it was a properly expensive car - in today’s money, it’d have been about £200,000. Anyway, the producers went out and bought V8s from their own pockets and did them up as V8 Vantages because weirdly, it worked out cheaper. We go over this story in the episode called ‘Bond vs. Bandit’ and I love it because I just think it’s a really quintessential Aston Martin “thing” to happen.

You can buy your very own Aston Martin V8 Vantage by clicking these yellow words.

Honda NSX and Mazda MX5 (1989)

Honda NSX and Mazda MX5 1989
The Mk1 Mazda MX-5 and Honda NSX are both held in such estimation by Jim, that he was unable to choose a favourite from these two JDM icons!
© The Car Years

I've owned a first-gen Mazda MX-5 and it was great. All I'll say on the matter is that if you want one, and someone tells you "oh, it's a hairdresser's car" then totally ignore them because they're just being a knob. Just drive one and experience it for yourself! I can honestly say that the first one I drove blew me away, because it handled so, so well. It's everything you want as a driver - it's manual, rear-wheel-drive, small, and so amazingly balanced. I cannot put into words how great it is! When I worked on the early days of Clarkson-era Top Gear, I also had the privilege of driving a Honda NSX. It was before the show got all massive and big budget, and the NSX was the first supercar I ever drove. We did this drag race between an NSX and a Jaguar XJS which had nitro fitted, and I was the one driving the Honda because the show couldn't afford professional drivers at that time (video here!) It absolutely blew my mind, and when you add in the whole Senna thing, the NSX is pure magic. It's perfect in every way - it's practical, it's fast, it's good looking, it's like a really off its tits version of the MX-5. I know we've been playing "This Or That" up until this point, but I adore both of these cars because they’re exceptional in their own special ways so it's a draw!

You can buy your very own Mazda MX-5 by clicking these yellow words, and your very own Honda NSX by clicking these yellow words.

BMW 600 (1957)

BMW 600 1957
As you read on, you’ll be surprised to find out that the BMW 600 never really took off… unbelievable, isn’t it?
© The Car Years

The BMW 600 is utterly stupid as a piece of car design and engineering. It is the most ridiculous thing you will see on the road… except you won’t ever see one, and there’s a set of very good reasons for that. It’s so flawed in so many ways, and you can’t help but think to yourself “who thought this was a good idea?!” Don’t get me wrong, the BMW Isetta or “Bubble Car” did really well for BMW, and the 600 was supposed to be their answer to the post-war market of small cars such as the Volkswagen Beetle, the original MINI and the FIAT 500. But instead of creating something entirely new and socially appropriate for the time, someone at BMW came up with the idea of extending the Bubble Car’s wheelbase, putting one door on the side, but keeping the Bubble Car’s leg-breaking front door where you got in and out. You can imagine the board meeting in Munich, can’t you - “yeah, let’s keep the front door thing, because nobody else is doing that, are they?” It’s completely comical! Anyway, I’m glad BMW learnt its lessons from this plainly silly idea, because what followed was the 700 - a car that shares the floorpan of the 600 and a car that helped BMW become what they are today. I genuinely believe rocking up to a garden party or something similar in a 600 in 2022 would be hilarious though. Onlookers would be like “what’s that?!” as you clamber out of the front or that stupid side door, which is there for reasons known only to BMW.

Buy your very own BMW 600 by clicking these yellow words.

Alfa Romeo Giulia

Alfa Romeo Giulia
The Alfa Romeo Giulia is - according to Jim - a “work of art” and it’s impossible to agree with that take on things
© The Car Years

The Alfa Romeo Giulia is a car I’ve tended to overlook, because I can’t afford one, and if I can’t afford something I tend not to be overly interested. Anyway, we got this green Giulia for the show, and in the flesh it’s a work of art. It’s absolutely beautiful, and I was like “yeah, now I get it!” Tying back to the motorsport geek thing I mentioned earlier, it was also a phenomenally successful touring car back in the 1960s and I love the fact that it’s so overlooked. Thanks to the power of the Ford PR machine, we’re told that the Lotus Cortina was the most successful touring car of its era because of Jim Clark winning a few BTCC titles with it. However, on the European scene, the Lotus Cortina got an absolute kicking by the Giulia. Unlike us Brits who tend to get a bit misty-eyed about the past, the Italians tend to do something and when they’ve done it they move on to the next thing, which is exactly what happened with the Giulia in 1960s touring car racing. So yeah, the Giulia is a stunning looking car with a really nice piece of relatively obscure history behind it. I can’t help but love it for that.

Buy your very own Alfa Romeo Giulia by clicking these yellow words.

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