Q: How did you and Jonny meet, and how long have you been friends?
A: We met when Jonny parked in my parking space at the magazine company we were both working for about 15 years ago. It was his very first day. I stormed into the office and asked “who the hell parked in my space,” and his tiny, tentative hand went up. I then asked him politely not to park there, and if I could have a look at his car, please. It was a Ford Granada Mk1 lowrider on hydraulics, with metal flake paint, a whippy aerial and tiger-fur upholstery. I knew we’d get on.
Q: How long have you been interested in cars, and how did your fascination begin?
A: My dad had a lot of interesting cars; particularly BMWs, which left a big impression on me. I have always been a little bit obsessed with the wider idea of the car. It’s the reason I started writing about them, because they’re not just modes of transport. A car is a rolling social commentary: technology, fashion, design, materials, science, innovation, and ego.
Q: On to the show – what’s your most memorable moment on Mud Sweat and Gears so far?
A: My most memorable moment was having a gun battle in a Ford Dualie that we’d made into an armored car, versus Jonny in a modified ice-cream van tank.
Q: Can you name/describe the most surprising thing that’s happened to your MSG team?
A: We found out afterwards that one of the contestants in the Cops episode was actually a real-life Highway Patrolman which was very surprising. He was a suspiciously good driver.
Q: What’s made you laugh the hardest on the set of Mud Sweat and Gears?
A: I laughed a lot filming Mud, Sweat and Gears, however watching Jonny’s team rally drive a glitterball limousine down a very steep hill in the Delivery episode was a personal favorite of mine.
Q: Which challenge on Mud Sweat and Gears have you found the most difficult?
A: The hardest challenge was getting the cars finished to the point they didn’t break instantly. Funnily enough, car companies spend billions of dollars developing cars, so modifying them with a hacksaw and a welder sometimes makes them slightly worse.
Q: What’s your number one dream machine?
A: If money was no object it would be a Porsche 911 by Singer, or an ICON Bronco—both built to my very exacting specification.
Q: Which brand new car on the market would you most like to transform/reconstruct/supersize – and talk us through what you would do?
A: The Porsche 918. We’d have a race-bred V8, a load of hybrid tech and AWD to play with, so I would create some sort of off-road racer that can fly, or at least glide.
Q: How many cars do you own, and can you talk us through what they are?
A: I own a very old Jaguar XJ, bought with the sole reason that I can work on it without breaking the electronics. I’ve also got a Mercedes C-class as a family wagon, and a Golf GTi for daily use. But as I’m a road tester for a magazine, I generally have to drive 2/3 cars a week, so it doesn’t leave much time for anything else.
Q: How is this show different from other top TV car shows?
A: We’re celebrating the idea of being a motorhead, and there are real people involved, having a whole heap of fun. So it’s not serious, but the kind of thing you can imagine doing with friends if you had the time and fabrication skills. Or at least Jonny and I would.
Q: Can you sum up Mud, Sweat and Gears in just three words?
A: Jalopies, Revived, Spectacularly
Q: Dish the dirt on Jonny:
1) Sum up Jonny’s greatest strength as a team leader?
A: Jonny’s enthusiasm is his greatest strength. It’s infectious and he keeps his team in high spirits even when they are losing.
2) Does Jonny have a specific style as a team leader?
A: Jonny is all about the hidden performance of a car so he blinds the opposition by choosing what looks to be the most random vehicle and painting it with glitter to further distract from the hidden power.
3) What is Jonny’s best trait?
A: Jonny is great at finding cars on eBay and Craigslist—he has a real talent for finding hidden gems.
4) What is Jonny’s worst trait?
A: He has a very short attention span and is very easily distracted. We would often lose him whilst filming on set whenever a Hot Rod drove by.
5) What’s Jonny like in a crisis?
A: He’s not great! He just runs around in circles. Once, I broke my leg in a car crash, and he just ran around shouting ‘MEDIC!’ instead of helping me to get out.
6) Any Jonny secrets only you would know?
A: Jonny still owns his very first car, a 1967 VW Beetle 1500—which he is very attached to.