Adam Carolla Hates All Those Shows About Rebuilding Cars
We talk to Carolla about his new Le Mans documentary, driving Paul Newman’s 300ZX at Goodwood, and why true car guys need better TV shows.
Adam Carolla is most known as a comedian, actor, radio personality, television host, podcaster and a New York Times bestselling author. But he’s rapidly building a name as a producer and director of captivating automotive content. With his production partner, Nate Adams, Carolla released Winning: The Racing Life of Paul Newman to much critical acclaim. This month, they launched Chassy.com, a Netflix of sorts solely devoted to premium auto content. Their first release on their new platform? The 24 Hour War, about how Ford trounced Ferrari at Le Mans in the Sixties.
Carolla and Adams are also releasing a short form series with The Drive, entitled Going Racing With Adam Carolla, in which Carolla flogs Paul Newman’s Trans Am Nissan 300ZX up the hill at Goodwood Festival of Speed. (You can watch the first episode below, a day before it hits our YouTube channel.) We talked to Carolla about his new documentary, the current state of motorsports, why he loathes the current crop of car TV shows and about what it’s like owning the first Apple car, a $4.4 million 1979 Porsche 935.
The Drive: I loved The 24 Hour War documentary. It was such a deep dive into an epic clash. You got a ton of great people in front of the camera, including Mario Andretti, Dan Gurney, Piero Ferrari, Henry Ford, Edsel Ford, Peter Brock, John Surtees, Bob Bondurant and more. Who was the most interesting to talk with?
Adam Carolla: Dan Gurney. I loved how matter of fact he was for going out there and having mastered every aspect of motorsports. He was so methodical and workman-like about everything. He’s great.
I didn’t know Gurney started the tradition of champagne spraying in the winner’s circle.
He did. Cool, right?
Maybe it’s just American pride but even though you know the outcome of Ford’s rivalry with Ferrari, you’re still rooting for Ford the whole way through your documentary. Why is Ferrari considered the enemy?
I guess it’s like saying Ferrari is the good looking star athlete guy who gets all the cheerleaders and Ford is the nerd who can’t get a date. Is the good looking guy the enemy or is he merely standing in the way of the nerd? Wouldn’t you like to be the good looking guy and bang a few cheerleaders? [Enzo] Ferrari had his foibles and he liked to win and didn’t mind stretching the rules to do so. He’s not the first nor the last to engage in that behavior. In any story, your protagonist needs an antagonist, and I guess it’s the guy who nailed all the cheerleaders.
Ford had a ton of money that they threw at the race program. In 1967, when the windshields on the Mark IV GT40s kept cracking, Ford chartered a private jet directly from Detroit with only new windshields on board. Given things like that, was Ferrari actually the underdog in this fight?
Ford was able to do a lot more, but Ferrari had all the experience. It’s like one guy has some old wooden snow skis and skied the mountain a thousand times, and up comes this new guy with brand new skis. Is he going to be better? Probably not. At least not at first.
You’re a vintage racing fan. Do you think modern motorsport can regain the same kind of captivated audience it once had?
There needs to be a rival. There needs to be another Muhammad Ali meets Joe Frazier rivalry. Back then, those rivalries used to capture people. Now, we watch NASCAR and Toyota and Chevy and Ford win in a rotation and occasionally there’s some pushing and shoving in the infield, but it’s all really tame. I don’t really care who wins the next NASCAR championship. I want to see some reviled person capture us. Formula One needs a Tiger Woods. Lewis Hamilton kind of has some intrigue.
Hamilton keeps winning, though. When he’s on it, there’s not much drama in the hunt for first.
What Hamilton needs is an opponent who is a white supremacist from Germany who wins and makes headlines. Then things would get interesting.
Your series with us, where you take Newman’s 300ZX to Goodwood. How nervous were you to drive up the hill?
I knew we were on slicks, so I was just hoping it wasn’t going to rain. Then it rained. We also had a ton of discussion about the crown to the road surface, and how it wasn’t like a proper race track. There was plenty of cause for concern, but I also wanted to wind up the car a bit and let people hear it. I’ve never driven Goodwood, so I was sort of hoping I could get a run in a passenger car before I went up the hill, but that didn’t happen. The car was so nice and freshly restored so I didn’t want to screw it up. I took it slow for the first few runs, but by the fourth pass, I got into it a bit.
Your runs looked good and you didn’t wreck. Pleased with the outcome?
I was. It wasn’t really a race as much as it was a bucket list experience. Bucket list. I was going for exhibition, not time, but you always have your eye on the time just to see if you can do better the run before. They kind of don’t recommend first timers to go for time. It seems foolish, and there’s no way to practice or a simulator. It’s a great event, but you don’t get a ton of seat time.
Do you know if you beat your time with each successive run?
I’d have to check, but I imagine I did by the last run. First time out, I was just trying to figure out the turns and get a lay of the course, so that had to be pretty slow. The second time, it was raining. By the last run, I had a better sense of everything so I think I picked up some time.
You’re curating and creating great automotive content on Chassy.com. What do you think of the current crop of car shows on TV?
Man, I can’t take another build show where someone has two grand and two days to rebuild whatever. I’m disappointed in how pedestrian it all is. I don’t want to see another story about some guy’s pickup truck that was his dad’s and now it’s going to be restored in memoriam. I’m tired of seeing Chevelles, and Camaros and all that stuff. In general, I’d like to see something more exotic. I’m tired of the V8 LS engine swap into a stepside pickup truck. It feels boring. I’d like more Goodwood-type stuff.
Did you watch Top Gear under Chris Evans’ stewardship?
I watched it. I like those guys, but I’m a little tired of the road trip adventure. I’m more into the cars than the ‘buddies out on the open road’ thing.
Lastly, you bought the first Apple car! Congrats! That lovely 1979 Porsche 935 Newman drove in the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Have you driven it yet?
Not yet. Winter speed days at Laguna Seca are coming up in March. I’ll get it out there then.
You pledged in your podcast to drive at next year’s Rolex Historics race during Monterey. Will you?
Some would say you’re a brave hero for keeping the car on the tracks. Others would argue you’re deranged for racing such an expensive piece of racing history.
I don’t care. Just going to go and race it.
Watch the first episode of Going Racing With Adam Carolla below, a day before it hits our YouTube channel.