The Best Episodes of James May's Cars of the People
Last Updated: Apr 4, 2019
James May presents this series which takes a look at the 'peoples car'. Covering every form of cars for the masses - from the Beetle to the Kei Car, May looks at the many forms of people's car, their origins and their effect on history. Each episode covers a particular theme; these being cars from dictatorships, microcars and the dream cars we aspire to. Throughout each episode, May drives a variety of cars, often giving them a mini road test while also talking about the car itself. As well as this, May also travels around the world to the country of origin of the various cars he drives, where he also performs some challenges and tests on the car. The entire show has a slight element of Top Gear about it, but it's very much a documentary as well.
#1 - Volkswagen Beetle
Season 1 - Episode 1
In his quest to discover how we the people got our wheels, James travels to Germany, Italy and Russia to reveal the extraordinary story of how dictators kickstarted the mobilisation of the masses. It is a tale of design brilliance, abject failure, war, fraud and double dealing featuring some of the best (and worse) cars and characters of the 20th century. James discovers how the British motor industry blew a gift-wrapped chance to rule the world and he gets his own back with a stunt that means bad news for one of the planet's most hated cars.
#2 - Microcar
Season 1 - Episode 2
James May downsizes to explore the weird world of the microcar. He discovers how austerity and fears of congestion led to European tragicomic disasters in the shape of Britain's infamous three-wheelers, French death traps and German absurdities. James takes to the battlefield to settle one of the greatest rivalries in car history and travels to Japan for an urban race between a state-of-the-art micro sports car and the best-selling vehicle in history.
#3 - Post-War Boom (and Bust)
Season 2 - Episode 1
James reveals the cars that turned post-war Germany and Japan into motoring powerhouses at the expense of Britain and the US. On his travels he encounters classic E-Types, Mustangs and the German and Japanese upstarts that were to conquer the world. He also has an unfortunate encounter with an Austin Allegro - the car that helped destroy the British car industry.
#4 - 4x4
Season 2 - Episode 2
James May goes off-road to tell the story of how the 4x4 conquered the world. From the wartime jeep to the global struggle between Land Rover and Land Cruiser, the white-knuckle world of rallying and boy racers, plus James conquers Mount Fuji and races through the sun-scorched Mojave Desert to decide which is the ultimate people's 4x4.
#5 - Steam Power
Season 2 - Episode 3
James explores the wilder shores of motoring to discover what happened to the cars of the future that we were promised. From improbable steam cars and ludicrous jet turbines, he reveals how the petrol engine and the power it gave us came to dominate the 20th century. He takes to the waves in an amphibious car, risks his life at the wheel of a notorious electric scooter and takes a hair-raising trip in the fastest driver-less car on earth.
#6 - Rolls Royce Silver Shadow
Season 1 - Episode 3
This episode is all about power and glory as James reveals the cars that finally gave the people hope. From the Rolls Royce that became a people's champion to the blue-collar heroes that launched a thousand burn ups, James reveals how aspiration and new wealth would drive the development of some of the greatest cars ever made. James tries to make sense of the baffling world of company car hierarchy with a travelling salesman race-off and indulges his 1980s urges with the twin delights of Lamborghini and Porsche. He also unveils his choice of the ultimate people's car - a car that can claim to be the greatest vehicle in history.