Earlier this month we spoke to Jethro Bovingdon about his new show coming to Motor Trend. This petrol head is starring in Head to Head and Ignition. Jethro started back in May 2001 as a road tester at EVO magazine, he then went on to work for Drive Tribe, and CAR Magazine amongst others. He has now moved on to Motor Trend!
His first appearance is in Episode 94 of Head to Head, which is available now on Motor Trend OnDemand. In this episode, Jethro and Lieberman put the Audi RS5 against the Mercedes-AMG C63 S Coupe, tackling the back roads of Wales to see which one comes out on top - it's a long running battle of the European muscle cars. That's not all you will see in episodes of Head to Head, expect everything from consumer oriented matchups to the extreme... Corvette versus Porsche 911 or Ferrari 458 versus Ducati's.
Episodes of Ignition are now available on Motor Trend now! In Episode 183, Bovingdon heads to Italy to get behind the wheel of the super exotic Pagani Huayra BC. The premise of Ignition is to bring you first drives and first tests of the latest and most desirable vehicles on the market, everything from the super exotic to SUV's. Examples include testing the 2017 Nissan GT-R in California or The Lamborghini Aventador in Italy, Ignition’s team of expert presenters put you in the driver's seat.
Planet Auto's Michael spoke to Jethro about the show, we also wanted to know some of the best cars which he has driven and what is in his own collection at the moment. They might seem relatively easy questions but when you have driven as many cars as Jethro its not quite as simple as that. Driving everything from the latest hyper cars the all time greats such as the Ferrari F50. It was great getting to chat to Jethro and get his insight into the automotive world and some of the amazing experiences he had had throughout his motoring life.
Here is the full Planet Auto interview with Jethro Bovingdon -
- Hello is that Jethro?, it's Michael calling from Planet Auto
- Hello, hello it's nice to hear from you. How's it going?
- Very good thank you, how's your day going?
- Fine, fine. I’ve just got back from Scotland, actually. Got home a couple of hours ago. I’ve just been on a shoot up there. It went pretty smoothly. We were doing an Ignition episode with the 570 S Spider on the Cairngorms. It was really cool, really good fun and the weather sort of played ball. It wasn't sunny but it didn’t rain, which is a bit of a result in Scotland I think, anytime!
- I guess my first question is,
Where did it all start? We know you started at Evo back in the early 2000’s. What did you have to do to get to where you are today?
- Yes, well like everyone else in the game I absolutely loved car magazines as a kid: I read everything and all that I could - Autocar, CAR and as I got older Auto Express, the full glut of UK magazines and on the odd occasion trying grab a US copy, if anyone was going over to the States.
I loved the idea of being a journalist but had no real idea how to go about it. It was different
back then - this does make me sound 100 years old – however, it was a different world back then we couldn't speak to people in the game on social media.
I did a traditional degree at the University of London at Queen Mary, I did English and History and towards the end of my time I just sent a letter to the editors, basically. Fortunately for me, Evo were looking for someone relatively inexperienced and it's like everything… if the stars are aligned things happen, that's the way it works. I left university in May… well that's depressing I could probably work that out (it was 2000), I went for an interview at Evo and then there was lots of to-ing and fro-ing, things changing behind-the-scenes. I finally started as Staff Writer the following March. So it took quite a lot of time and quite a lot of patience. Yeah that's how it happened. It was pure luck really. I always said I would be a car journalist but had no real idea of how I was going to do it and everything just fell into place.
- At the moment, I'm at the University of Lincoln I went back today and I started doing this back in January when we remade the website and it has all sort of exploded since then.
- It's great now. There are so many more ways into the industry. It certainly wasn't a closed shop before, but there were simply less positions because it was really just the four or five big mags. Today there are so many different ways to enter or start your own thing and make it look really professional from the get go with all the great packages out there. It is a bit of a different game now.
I think the one thing that keeps you going is producing the best content you can do. If you do good quality work, hopefully people recognise it and you'll have work for years to come. This is where I hope I am now. I love what I do and I haven't tired of it at all. I'm not one of these industry guys who’s passionate about knowing about who’s the head of development etc. I don't care about their roles, that is not my thing. But I do love driving cars and if I carry on doing that I'll be happy, basically.
- It must be a change for you now going to Head 2 Head and Ignition - Can you please tell us something about the shows?
- Yes, you probably know as much as me! I have gone through the transition from print to online. Certainly in the UK the big publishers are still grappling with it – finding a way to make money from it. I've always been keen on staying at the sharp-end of the industry and enjoy doing video so that’s been frustrating. Of course, it (shooting videos) is really hard work but it’s pretty rewarding. And with cars it’s all about the noise that they make and the way they make you feel. Video is the best way to get that across.
MotorTrend for me, the last couple years, they have been pushing out great content and finding ways to monetise it and not doing it by simply selling themselves. They’ve kept the quality of the content and I think that's great.
Yeah, Head 2 Head is pretty simply what ‘it says on the tin’: Two rival cars - not always completely obvious rivals - and the idea is that myself and my co-host Jonny (Lieberman), plus Randy (Pobst) who is the racing driver sets lap times. Anyway, we drive the cars then discuss their various qualities and try and get across their different personalities. There is always a winner, however that doesn't necessarily mean there is a loser. The idea is to get across how much fun these things are, and we are lucky in that we get to drive the more exciting and interesting cars. It’s rare, I guess, that we’d drive an absolute clunker.
On top of the subjective testing, we also try to delve into the abilities of the car in a measurable way by doing lap times, figure 8’s, 0-60 times etc. Really, though, it's about how each car makes you feel and the one that makes you feel better is generally the one that wins.
- Do you have a favourite car that you've tested up to now?
- It’s pretty early days still. The first Head 2 Head I did was the Audi RS5 and the Mercedes C63 S Coupe, which went live last week. I was really interested to read about the RS5 and heard nothing but bad things… then I drove it and I was shocked how much I liked it. Somehow all the ingredients work. Perhaps they shouldn’t, but it works really well. The C63 is such a lot of fun. There’s something quite old school about it - it has got this brilliant mix of grip and power, I love it, it’s completely unapologetic.
They’re totally different characters… but the C63 is one of the few cars I’ve driven recently that I can actually see myself scraping together a deposit for and then paying a big monthly cost to own it. It’s a huge amount of fun and that was a really cool test to start things.
Ignition is a show with just one car usually, the newest car or the most exciting car. I've just done the Pagani Huayra BC, which went live yesterday on MotorTrend OnDemand. That was brilliant. I’ve driven Huayra’s a couple of times before and I really enjoyed them but they didn’t quite hit the spot somehow… the old models (Zondas) were always just brilliant. The Huayra always felt like it wasn't quite there yet. The BC, though, massively exceeded my expectations. We drove it on a track near Milan (the Autodromo di Franciacorta) and on the road and they were just the best couple of days. The weather was amazing and we had this $3 million hypercar and the PR guys were great… We could do whatever we wanted to do, which was really cool. It also showed that these type of guys respected MotorTrend and could see what we were trying to do.
Pagani today, well you wouldn't be able to buy one till about 2021 because they’ve sold out of all their cars. They don’t really need the PR. Perhaps the relationship from the old days helped us along the way with Pagani, but they really like MotorTrend. That’s really cool and demonstrates that MotorTrend are pushing the online motoring boundaries, which is absolutely ace.
- We've got a Tesla later in the year and of course they don’t need anyone to sell their cars, they sell themselves, yet they are still left still happy to let us have the car for a couple of days… Testing is great really
- Yeah, you’ll really enjoy it.
- What would you say is the best car you’ve driven in your career, the Pagani?
- The problem with trying to pick the best car I've driven is it could change on a daily basis! I've been so lucky to drive some amazing stuff. If I had to choose - the likes of those supercars are so out of reach, much as I love driving them they never really quite resonate with me. The more normal ‘production-like supercars’ like the Ferrari Speciale are still out of reach sadly, but somehow they resonate a bit more as you can almost imagine owning one.
I think the Porsche GT3 RS 4.0, the 997 generation, is one. I absolutely adore the Ferrari 458 Speciale, too. And I absolutely adore the Carrera GT which has the most amazing engine and gearbox. The Ferrari 458 because it delivers so much fun on a killer road.
- We just had the MG3 last week, and it’s a whole heap of fun, not the most expensive or fastest thing in the world though.
- I've come across this in the past and I am sure I will in the future: If you’ve just done a test drive in something, say a £30,000 or so Honda Civic Type R. Then you drive a Ferrari F12 or something like that… (people think) that you can't possibly enjoy the cheaper car more than the expensive one. But you can.
I think particularly hot hatches at the moment hit the sweet spot in the whole motoring world. An M3 or 911 used to be in that sweet spot, but the new and more powerful variants have now tipped over into the realms of the almost unusable. They have so much grip and performance. The hot hatch now occupies that old space. Despite getting to drive everything under the sun, if you put me in a hot hatch I am pretty happy. They’re so much fun and so suited to our roads. That’s why I’m looking forward to getting out to the US and I can see how the hell the hot hatch translates out there. Next month one of the first cars we are doing out in the States is the new Honda Civic Type R and we’ll see how that feels out on the US roads.
- We recently had a Volvo V40 which we took to London and I have always liked Volvo cars and this was great but when driving it you are aware that if you make the slightest scratch it’s not going to be good, like a Faberge Egg compared to my Fiesta.
- Yes, I guess. But the thing I love about the car industry - as I said I'm not bothered about the who's the boss of what - I do like to speak to the engineers, because they're all real enthusiasts. And even when you think a certain car doesn’t need to be dynamically good to be a success, those engineers have the passion to make them handle, to make them fun for people who understand. That these teams care enough to make their cars really cool to drive is fantastic.
I think the industry really needs to celebrate what it creates and sometimes it feels a
bit apologetic at the moment. There’s so much negative PR aimed at cars and car manufacturing, they're almost running scared from the media agenda.
- It was quite funny Goodwood last week, when we were up on stage looking around at the new TVR Griffith and I said to Les Edgar those indicators look like they're off a Ford Fiesta and he turned around looked at me and said ‘well maybe they are?’ no, no you're wrong they’re not off the Fiesta.
- Yes, you have to be realistic. Indicators could cost realistically half million quid (to develop) and I don't want to judge TVR on that. Everybody remembers that era when there was a new TVR every 10 minutes. I used to go to Blackpool and pick them up and it was like every drive was a proper little adventure. And I went to the factory and it felt like a bunch of really cool guys sort of winging it, making these mad cars. I think there is a bit of cynicism about the new TVR but I really hope it makes it. It would be really good for the motoring world if TVR were alive and kicking. The involvement of Gordon Murray means it's looking hopeful, the signs are good, yeah. You just never know, the world is changing.
If you think of the old TVRs they looked much more outrageous than others, and were very quick - 911 Turbo pace but for Boxster money. It’s quite hard to recapture that formula now because many of the cars have got so quick. You can't be that much quicker than the Cayman S now. Or a Carrera S with a sub-four second 0 to 60mph time and top a speed of nearly 200mph. It is a different world today, and it will be fascinating to see what happens, but I really do hope it works out.
- I think the pricing of it around £90,000 isn't too bad to think what you pay for a Porsche 911 Turbo.
- Yes it's just getting people out of the Cayman S or whatever. But the (Porsche) downsizing to a turbocharged 4 cylinder represents a good opportunity to TVR – a real point of difference with that big normally-aspirated V8. I think there's a huge amount of fun with the naturally aspirated motor. Fingers crossed, and like you say Gordon Murray's involvement may give it credibility. I hear good things about it all, we just have to wait to see.
The old cars had their issues but what they represented has sort of been lost - really cool sportscars with naturally aspirated engines and a manual gearbox. They were genuinely good cars and full of character and quick on the track, too. Europe's become so obsessed with downsizing, with efficiency and it feels like they’ve almost forgotten why people buy sportscars in the first place.
That’s another reason it’ll be great for me to go to the US where they’ve almost rediscovered that formula. I can't wait to go out there to the States to drive the Mustang GT350 and all the crazy cars the US are building. It’s a pretty cool time in the US and it’s good to see TVR in the UK taking the fight to them as well.
- Even when they were launching the TVR, they said you'll be a sat whilst Fiesta ST’s and Type R’s pass you but you'll be glad sat in a cloud of smoke spinning wheels with the biggest grin on your face.
- And I think that's what it's about - I hope and believe there is still a huge amount of enthusiasm. Again, I come back to the MotorTrend thing. It’s so cool and the scale of their subscriber base on YouTube proves that there is still a massive body of people out there who
are passionate about cars. Car magazines are clearly not hitting all those people because of the numbers dwindling, so online is taking on that.
I hope Ignition and Head 2 Head will get across our enthusiasm. We just want to show some of the great stuff that is out there. Of course, there will be serious testing (lap times, acceleration figures), but a lot of it is about just driving cars and talking about all the cool things to do with them. There are great stories out there that we can tell over the next series. It's a good it's time to be in the car industry, with the enthusiasm still out there and finding that audience that loves it, basically.
- I was talking to Tiff Needell a couple of weeks ago and he was mentioning that the main TV broadcasters aren't interested in that sort of thing they're more interested in Love Island, Big Brother and that's why MotorTrend is doing so well, it has sort of a niche.
- Again, what I like that they've done is stuck to the principles. I’ve been contacted by countless different production companies with another great idea for a show, normally I just write the conversation before it happens - They ring me and say we're thinking about this TV show… ‘let me guess we’re going to get two hosts, build up some old cars and then perform some sort of challenge.’ And that’s it. That's what production TV companies seem to think car programs HAVE to be. What's great is someone like MotorTrend saying, ‘we know about cars and people want to know more about cars. To see them being enjoyed properly and not just crow-barred into some made up narrative with silly challenges.’ And that's great. The TV companies, they are sort of ignoring the fundamentals. Whenever they do a car thing it’s got such a strange take on them.
Many car shows never actually hit the core enthusiast audience, so there are great opportunities to make stuff for car enthusiasts. I'm not talking about Top Gear - they still have an element of this (doing proper reviews and showing the cars in great locations), but it's the more peripheral TV shows trying to come onto the market by making some kind of contrived show, rather than letting the car's talk.
- What do you have in your own car collection have you got a car collection?
- I wouldn't go as far to say it is a collection! I have a Porsche 911 - a 996 which is the 911 everyone hates. I got it because everyone is wrong, basically. I was never a 911 person before I started in the industry. Then I drove one, well was a passenger in one, and I suddenly got what it was all about. It’s done a million miles, well 150,000 miles, and it is the ultimate non-standard Hot Rod style 911, and I love that about it. I am not super precious about it and I'll do more and more modifications in years to come. So that’s my fun performance car.
I've also got a 1972 Citroen DS. I fancied a classic car but I’ve driven so many older cars over the years and they tend not to live up to your expectations – except maybe the super-iconic cars. So instead of an old sportscar I decided to get something completely different from my day job. My dad had a DS is when I was a kid and so I bought a DS.
I bizarrely bought in Greece. I flew out there to look at it, went for a lovely lunch with the owner and had a quick test drive. He had many cars, dozens in a family collection and it was parked in an underground carpark amongst loads of really cool stuff. I thought this guy seems like the right guy to buy a car from.
Three weeks later I picked it up. I got a ferry from Patras in Greece to Brindisi in Italy, then headed to the airport to pick up my Dad and two brothers who had flown in. And then drove on a road trip for four days back to the UK. It was really great. We stopped in Maranello the first night - I thought it would be nice to see the Ferrari factory and stuff so we did all the touristy things: Peeped through the fence at Fiorano, that sort of thing. Then we headed for the passes in Switzerland over to France and then home. Nothing went wrong with the car quite amazingly, that was probably the coolest adventure.
I have one project, too. My brother's a mechanic so we bought an E30 BMW, a 320i two-door. We thought we’d build a track car and he bought an old 535i (E34) to change the engine for about 400 quid or something. We fitted the 535 engine, added AST suspension, Gulf colours and it's really fun. But we fell victim to the fact that we bought a car with a bit of a shoddy engine and it’s always been a bit unreliable. I suspect this winter I'll probably buy another donor car and we will stick in a new engine.
I would like to add some more but it’s having the money… the next thing I'd love to buy is an early R8 V8 manual. However they’re not depreciating as fast as I would like, meaning 45 grand - that might have to be a long-term project, but I'd love to have one..
What is your daily driver now, the car you use day to day?
Well I’ve always been incredibly lucky, this is sort of a fairly sore subject, actually! Because I’ve often had a long term test car, which is like the best possible part of being a motoring journalist. But obviously now I’m contributing to MotorTrend who are US-based and I’m staying in the UK. I will probably do a week every month in the US. So I don’t have long term test car, so I’m using the Porsche every day for the time being. In fact, I’ve been using the DS because the Porsche is in having a new clutch and a lightweight flywheel and a few other bits put on it. I’ve been driving the DS but that’s not going to work because I don’t want to take it out when the weather is horrendous. And when you have a really old car you realize every time you drive it, it doesn’t necessarily go wrong but there is another thing you would always like to put right. So this is an unfolding saga at the moment.
I am thinking I will buy a hot hatch because I like them. I said earlier I love them and it’s just a matter of which one I’m going to buy or whether or not I decide to get something quite new or go a bit older. I’m having that debate at the moment in my mind, so I think I will end up with a Clio, some sort of RenaultSport, anyway. Because I love the Clio 200 Cup and I love the Megane. I just think it’s so spot on. I will probably end up with something from RenaultSport. I also keep looking at maybe a Golf GTI but they’re almost too sensible. I think I would kick myself for not buying the Megane if I was in the Golf. Like I say, I think it will be an impending purchase in the next couple of weeks.
I just think I need something exciting everyday. I would struggle to have - even though I’m lucky to have the test cars come and I’ve got the 911 - something hum drum. I just like driving too much. I think it’s going to be a performance car, so I might as well go for one I like best. The Renault isn’t too expensive. You can get a second hand 250 Cup for fairly reasonable money. I think I will end up down that route, maybe a Clio but I think Megane is probably the way to go… Yeah, a bit more room and I will be doing a lot more motor way driving, you know driving to airports a slightly bigger car would be more useful. I don’t want to get anything too sensible I need something fun otherwise I would just get too depressed.
- Laugh… Well I think that’s about it, that’s all I had written down really.
- Okay that’s cool, well it was really good to speak to you and hopefully people will tune in a watch the show it will be an interesting time ahead I think. MotorTrend is a huge part of it for me.