Automobiles and the movie industry virtually grew up together. They started around the same time and both developed alongside each other over the years. So many feature films have had iconic cars, from Bond's Aston Martin in Goldfinger all the way to Dom's Challenger in the Fast and Furious franchise. Action and adventure films aren’t the only genre cars elevated though.
Documentary films take a different approach from the fictional storytelling of features. They focus instead on real events, tend to be informative and can reveal a lot about a particular subject. They have the potential to be engrossing as they feature interviews from people directly involved with the events, along with actual footage.
There’s no shortage of good documentaries out there on flipping cars, racing cars and other exploits involving man's favorite creation. Those who know nothing about cars can plunk down, turn on a car documentary and learn things about the automotive world. The gearheads and enthusiasts get even more appreciation out of these kinds of documentaries, mostly because they understand car terms thrown around.
There is, however, a darker side to watching car docs. At the end of the day, documentaries are still biased and may not always give the whole story. This leads many viewers to adopt the ideas put forth in these films hook, line, and sinker. We’re here to clear up some of the myths viewers might believe after watching car documentaries, which focus on different areas of the auto industry. Although it’s natural to believe these things after watching certain car docs, viewers couldn't be more wrong.
Think everyone who works in Formula One has degrees? Think again. Job in F1 sets the record straight, confirming that Formula One employees don’t need a college degree to do their jobs. While there are certain roles that deal with complex fields, not every job in the motorsport requires one.
This may come as a relief to those who are interested in pursuing a career in Formula One who don’t have the money, time or interest to even go to college.
One documentary from 2008 goes through the history of NASCAR. Titled NASCAR: The Ride of Their Lives, the film highlights many great drivers throughout the sport. Kevin Costner even lends his voice as the narrator throughout the film. One of the worse things someone could get out of viewing the film though is the belief that the sport is only about driving in circles.
Bleacher Report clears up this false notion, reminding viewers that it’s a suspenseful sport where anything can happen at any second. Considering drivers go 200 mph, it doesn’t leave much room for a mistake.
Having all the bells and whistles looks good, but it doesn’t always translate to victories on the track. While some rallying featured in great documentaries like Easier Said Than Done may show glimpses of cool tech, it's not exactly the reason for racers' success. Even more, The Manila Times reports that smartphones aren’t allowed.
Instead, they allow old fashioned tools like calculators and digital cameras. Rallying is more primitive in that regard, but it also puts things on an even plain by enforcing such a rule.
From 2012 comes the doc Urban Outlaw, which will seem reminiscent to those who watch car shows. Complex reports that it centers around Magnus Walker whose business revolves around car restorations. When people watch this movie however, they might get a false impression about how this business really works.
According to The Chive, many abandoned cars might have trouble even running in the first place. The idyllic thinking many have is happening upon a deserted car and finding a way to start it up. In reality, though, it can take a long time to revive a car that someone’s discarded.
One of the more well-known car documentaries to come out in recent years is Senna. In a summary by Complex, the movie follows Ayrton Senna, one of the most well-known and accomplished Formula One drivers in the sport. While watching it, viewers might see the absence of the halo in race cars and make a case for why the sport doesn’t need them today.
ESPN points out that Formula One is always changing though, making adjustments to rules and regulations to make the sport safer. Viewers should be glad the halo now exists to keep their favorite drivers safer while competing.
Getting a job in Formula One is a dream come true for many. Some may have even been influenced by documentaries like Senna or The Red Bull Racing Story on their way up. Job in F1 debunks the myth that workers in the motorsport don’t get decent pay.
Although it takes time, there’s room for people to earn as much as six figures if they stick with it. That may not seem as apparent though from watching TV or car docs.
In expanding on an earlier point, it can take a long time to make a deserted car look and run as good as new. The movies and TV shows always make it look easy. While it only takes minutes or even seconds thanks to professional editing, it’s not as glamorous in real life. To do a complete restoration, it can take many months.
Not only does it take a long time, but can cost a lot of money depending on the kind of car and the condition it’s in. Viewers often get inspired, hoping they too can do it, until they actually attempt the endeavor, finding they're biting off more than they can chew.
There’s an idea circulating that when cars drift, they go faster. This, according to The Chive, isn’t true though. They report that it slows the car down. That makes rallying much harder, considering all the drifting that’s involved. Viewers might think that it makes cars go faster after seeing footage in Easier Said Than Done.
Complex reports that this documentary came out in 2013 and centers around Chris Duplessis, a rally racer. Those cars pull off maneuvers that are hard to believe and only a documentary can adequately capture those things on-screen. Keep in mind that it occurs on rougher roads.
Ice hockey is from Canada; Basketball came from the United States; NASCAR came from the south. Every sport has its origin. As sports evolve though, they become more global. NASCAR has become a much more national sport. As Bleacher Report points out, Kevin Harvick is from California, Tony Stewart is from Indiana and Matt Kenseth is from Wisconsin.
They go on to note that many drivers came from the south, but that’s less the case today. Watching a film like NASCAR: The Ride of Their Lives may give the impression only drivers come from the south, but that was only for a period in time.
This one couldn’t be further from the truth. We can only blame it on documentaries for leading viewers astray. While it always looks like drivers are separate from those in engineering or pit crew roles, Job in F1 notes that opportunities do exist for the two sides to meet.
The idea that drivers and workers never commingle is just a myth. The same source notes that drivers are even known to show up at the factory from time to time where go to their jobs.
Ask anyone what the key to racing is, and chances are they’ll say speed. The sport of rallying is different from other motorsports though. According to The Manila Times, it’s more about accuracy than speed. Assisting the driver, reports the same source, are route and time navigators who can help steer the team to victory.
One wrong turn or maneuver and the whole race can go wrong. That’s why it’s more important for drivers to avoid mistakes than it is to go as fast as possible.
Offroading appeals to the masses for a reason: drivers want to be able to overcome obstacles conventional road vehicles can't. Watching too many documentaries and TV shows about offroading can give a wrong sense about how it all works though.
For example, Driving Line notes that a 4x4 can become stuck and have one of its wheels sticking up in the air away from the pit. It wouldn’t do much good if that one freed wheel spun in the air now would it?
Everyone’s entitled to their own opinions. It’s hard though to make a fair case that rallying is really dull though. Just a glimpse at a documentary or car show featuring the motorsport might lead viewers to believe such a notion, when in fact there's a lot going on.
For one, as The Manila Times reports, the sport is a mental challenge for all involved. In turn, viewers may even experience this same notion when they watch enough and learn about the rules.
Many of the docs on this list have to do with racing cars. NASCAR isn’t just popular, but it’s a staple US sport. There are many stereotypes surrounding it though. Bleacher Report upends the notion that only those from the south watch the sport, especially in person. They note that the crowds are diverse and the sport even goes to lengths to be more inclusive. While someone might think only rednecks watch NASCAR documentary, they couldn’t be further from the truth.
The sport attracts lots of viewers of all ages, shapes, and sizes. It’s just an example of how some viewers may interpret a doc the wrong way.
Formula One looks really dangerous. When viewers see how fast the cars go, especially in the footage shown throughout a documentary, many become convinced it's the most dangerous sport out there.
Creofire reports that in the last ten years there haven’t been as many accidents though. They even point out that drivers wear Nomex materials, which help to stave off fires should a car erupt. No one’s denying the sport isn’t dangerous, but the perception may be overblown thanks to documentaries and TV.
Viewers see a rally car driver and instantly think he or she is the most important one of the bunch. This isn’t necessarily true though, as The Manila Times makes a case for the route navigator actually being more critical to the team. They’re responsible for helping plot the path for the driver, so one could argue that actually everything rests on them.
A documentary may focus on the driver since that’s the most appealing role, but the entire team is important.
One could argue that there’s some truth to this myth. The site Driving Line, on the other hand, reports that while narrow tires ideally work in mud and snow, it shouldn't be more than a foot deep. Otherwise, if it’s too deep, the tires won’t be able to touch the bottom and use it as leverage to dig up whatever’s in its path.
Many might think it’s as easy as slapping on narrow tires to overcome the mud when really all the conditions are important to factor in.
Everyone needs to practice what they do if they want to succeed in it. A sport can look easy with limited viewing or understanding of it until one actually attempts it themselves. In The Manila Times, a rally racer Mike Potenciano cleared up some myths about the sport and debunked the idea that no one needs to practice going into an event.
One has to remember that rallying looks a lot easier in the documentaries when they’re watching a professional behind the wheel.
The documentary Easier Said Than Done is sure to entertain viewers, though it has the potential to give people a wrong impression about rallying. When the credits roll they might walk away thinking you need a fast car in order to rally. That’s not the case, however.
According to The Manila Times, the most important things for a car actually sound basic. It has to be comfortable and can’t be too loud, otherwise, the team will have trouble communicating with one another.
This is more a humorous one than it is an actual myth. When one considers the life of a rally car racer and witnesses the actual motorsport in action, it makes one question the sanity of those who participate in it.
While it is a team sport, most of the attention falls on the drivers, who seem to have a calm and collected disposition while driving. It’s hard for viewers to even wrap their heads around how they’re able to do what they do.
There are lots of myths surrounding Formula One racing, many of which viewers are liable to get from watching docs like Senna or The Red Bull Racing Story. The site Job in F1 clears the air though, saying it’s similar to other jobs where networking with others is key.
Just because someone doesn’t know a friend or relative that works in Formula One doesn’t mean they don’t have a shot of getting a job. It certainly helps to know someone though.
There’s something of a perceived contradiction for Formula One viewers. As the site Creofire points out, the sport gets accused of using up too much fuel while ironically supporting a "Save Fuel" message. The same source makes the case though that spectators who show up to the sport end up using more fuel than the racers themselves, with some even arriving by helicopter.
When viewers see documentaries like Senna, they might wonder why the sport uses so much fuel, when really the cars don’t deserve the blame.
Just because viewers don’t see 4x4 owners do it in the movies doesn’t mean they should neglect theirs in real life. According to Driving Line, it’s important for owners to air down their tires.
The matter of how much air they should leave in the tires can vary depending on the conditions but forgetting to do it entirely is a grave offroading mistake. When it comes to offroaders, the tires are the key, so it makes sense that airing them down is imperative.
Many coveted jobs require hard workers. Someone can spend so much time trying to land a job that by the time they finally get it, they realize it’s too much work. There’s a myth about those in Formula One having to work seven days a week.
According to Job in F1 though, this is merely a myth and is typical to work five days a week. One can still expect to work overtime though, which is common for many jobs outside of Formula One anyways.
The documentary Dust to Glory is about offroading in Mexico. It came out in 2005 and shows viewers what it’s like to really drive off the beaten path. When viewers see bigger tires on a car though, they might think the engine needs more power to offset their size.
The site Driving Line reports that this is the wrong solution though, recommending owners re-gear their axles instead. In the end, that should turn out a lot easier than making changes to the 4x4’s engine.
Sources: The Chive, Complex, Bleacher Report, ESPN, Creofire, Job in F1, The Manila Times, Driving Line