Jon Summers – The Podcast

A few years ago I was involved in a nascent YouTube channel, Just Go Drive. My contribution was to do road tests and comment on new cars and companies from a historical perspective, much like Motor Sport magazine reviewing a new car. At best, I am an indifferent photographer and an inept videographer; no matter, I thought, instead of messing around with that myself, use manufacturer B-roll, in all its glossy glory. Over it were dubbed my opinions of the cars, which I had actually driven.

At the time, I thought I was being clever, but in reality YouTube is a medium one watches primarily, and listens to secondarily. Seeing Hubnut’s beard and rain soaked car storage spot is critical to the appeal of the video, despite Hubnut’s extreme un-glossiness. Sure, there are documentary channels that lean heavily on narrative and use dull panning across stills for visuals, but for cars, especially new ones, you really need to be standing next to, actually driving the car you’re talking about for the medium to work. Obvious really, just not to me. 

The visual element introduces a whole lot of unnecessary stress into the process of car storytelling. If you hadn’t done video conferencing much pre-pandemic, and then suddenly learned, you will know what I mean by suddenly needing to worry about what is in your back-drop, camera height / angle etc instead of just having to dress nicely as is the case with normal face to face meetings. Worrying about sitting such that my beer gut or double chins are minimized is not my style. I’m not that vain. A decade or so ago I did some front-of-camera stuff and caught myself exercising to look slim on camera, and realized in an instant the narcissistic poison of Hollywoodland. What’s important is the substance of your words, not whether you wore a nice shirt and didn’t spill coffee down it in order to say them.

None of that visual tomfoolery has anything to do with my way of car storytelling. Over the summer, my wife had a week away. My evenings were my own, and I stumbled across this remarkable podcast. I sat out in the back garden, in the dark, hypnotised by the voices and narrative. Like a great radio play on BBC Radio 4, or Sherlock Holmes audiobook, or the CD of Odysseus slaughtering the suitors which is trapped in the Mustang’s 6 CD player. The stories tend to be denser and deeper than in YouTube because the podcast encourages a longer format. People often listen while they’re doing another task which leaves most of their mind free to absorb the more complicated storytelling – driving, working out in the gym, doing the washing up.

Reasoning that the pod format seems to suit my style, I created the Motoring Historian, a Tristram Shandy-like stumble from one automotive topic to another. The format is conversational, the structure rambling. Maybe I should focus on a particular topic and Impart My Knowledge (“this week “How Good Was Rene Arnoux?” , next week “The Grand Prix Cars of Delage”, with questions following up our episode on “Company Cars I Have Crashed”) but I feel that I might keep that thorough approach for the written word. The spoken word, there you get my rambing, passionate, anecdote laden unedited self.

As I have learned the editing, production and distribution software, it has become clear that, ironically, the less I edit, the better what gets published is. Trying to cut out boring bits (especially boring bits, tbh I fear the whole thing is dull because I have captured unscripted normalcy) results in editing mistakes – mis-aligned talk tracks, words snipped off mid-syllable etc. How much this is due to the software’s limitations, the patchy wireless I usually work on or my sheer ineptitude is as yet unclear.

#1 1100HP Lucid Driven; Isle of Man TT, Our Man Still in Hospital

#2 Goodwood and an Arthurian Odyssey in a Transit Van

#3 Pebble Prattling and BMW M2 in the Pyranees

I’m interested to see how this new project develops over the coming months.