For the die-hard car enthusiast, the only thing better than driving is watching other people drive. Fortunately, our multi-channel universe means there’s seemingly always a car-focused show on television at any given moment. That includes Netflix, which stands ready to pump automotive-related content through your TV with the click of a remote.
As of this writing, searching “car shows” on Netflix yields 13 series, including everything from Netflix-produced series to programs initially created in other countries. The one drawback is the lack of a “car review” show like Top Gear or Motorweek. However, there are plenty of other entertaining programs, though some stretch the definition of “car show.”
This ten-episode reality show from Australia’s 7 Network showcases the work of a family-run towing company based in Queensland. The men and women at Clayton’s, about half of whom have colorful nicknames like “Scooter” and “Jimbo,” are called in for everything from clearing crash wreckage to recovering disabled boats from offshore national parks.
If you’re the sort of driver who slows down to gawk at a crash on the road or enjoy watching colorful Aussies cursing at each other while hooking their trucks up to transportation disasters, Towies might well be your jar of Vegemite. If you’re into this genre of program, you’re in luck! Towies is one of only three towing-themed shows on Netflix.
9 Dangerous Roads
This nine-episode, three-season BBC series is a combination of a travelogue and I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here. British actors, comedians and personalities (among them Downton Abbey star Hugh Bonneville and ex-Great British Bake-Off/Baking Show presenter Sue Perkins) pair up for treks along treacherous roads around the world.
There’s a fish-out-of-water element to the show that makes it compelling. Plus, the scenery is breathtaking, some of the roads are straight-up terrifying, and the production values are high. The BBC can do these kinds of shows in its sleep, thanks in great measure to the largesse of the British taxpaying public.
“It’s my way or the highway,” says trucking company owner Jon Kelly at the beginning of MegaTruckers, produced for Australia’s A&E network. Of course, because the show focuses on long-haul truckers driving semis across the Outback, his way is quite literally the highway.
The distances these drivers have to travel are mind-boggling, and the pressure to deliver cargo on time can be intense even without producers amping up the drama. But viewers also can see the truckers outside the cabs, in team-building exercises such as…um, driving go-karts. It probably won't spoil the ending to reveal that Kelly's company, Heavy Haulage Australia, went out of business in 2015 following a downturn in the Australian mining industry.
7 Car Masters: Rust To Riches
This Netflix original show focuses on a custom-shop that tries to turn copper into gold. The owners of Gotham Garage (not in New York, oddly, but Temecula, California) pick up a $1,000 car (a mid-60s Thunderbird in the premiere) and through a series of trades, acquisitions, and customizations, expect to score a six-figure sale. The ups and downs of that precarious business model set up more than the usual number of contrived everyone-meets-in-the-garage-to-talk scenes, but at least, it’s an interesting twist on the genre.
Some of the show’s builds are fun (a Smart Fortwo off-roader is a favorite), but the “marquee” jobs feel somewhat unimpressive. Cast in point: The opening title sequence shows the finished Thunderbird tricked out with a chrome-look wrap and wrap-around windshield…with its original scuffed-up steering column intact.
6 Fastest Car
This Netflix original delivers pretty much what is described in the title: Drivers from across the country compete in a series of heats — and then an epic finale — to determine who has the fastest car in a quarter-mile drag race. But because just watching drag races is a tiny bit dull, the episodes provide deep backstories on all the racers, from a guy who’s racing in honor of his dead brother-in-law to the rich LA woman who races on the weekends.
Before a winner can be crowned, there are numerous mechanical breakdowns, personality clashes, and near-disasters on the drag strip. It’s a compelling show done to a high standard.
5 Formula 1: Drive To Survive
Being an American fan of Grand Prix racing is exhausting. The races are on television at crazy hours, there’s only one race in the U.S. (at Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas), and the fan base is nowhere near the size of NASCAR or IndyCar. That may explain the thinking behind this ten-episode Netflix original series, produced in conjunction with F1’s sanctioning body.
The series follows the teams through the 2018 campaign and introduces viewers to the team principals, family members, and behind-the-scenes workers who support the drivers in their quest for a world championship. It is an infomercial in the way that HBO’s Hard Knocks is an infomercial for the NFL, but F1DTS is a revealing look at the skill, drive, and money needed for big-time auto racing.
4 Paul Hollywood’s Big Continental Road Trip
As it turns out, The Great British Bake-Off/Baking Show judge and high priest of bread Paul Hollywood knows his way around a car and was for a brief moment part of the U.K.’s Beechdean Aston Martin racing team. This three-part special produced for the BBC has him visiting Italy, Germany, and France to find the through-line that connects each country’s best-known cars.
The great production values and Hollywood’s slightly self-aware presence makes this Road Trip feel a little like Top Gear with a toned-down Jeremy Clarkson, while Hollywood’s conversations with style leaders and professional drivers give it a Parts Unknown flavor. Furthermore, the cars — from the Citroen 2CV to a Lamborghini Miura — are spectacular.
3 Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee
First available on the Crackle streaming service, this pioneering web series jumped to Netflix in 2017. In each episode, comedy legend and bona fide car collector Jerry Seinfeld fetches a different comedian in a classic or significant car. The subsequent drive to get coffee (and/or food) and talk become the meat of the show.
Each car is thoroughly introduced in the first few moments of an episode and then recedes into the background. This makes it just average as a “car show,” but Seinfeld and his producers have terrific taste in cars, the guests are all interesting, and the conversations are funny and often poignant (the episodes with David Letterman and Michael Richards are standouts).
2 Rust Valley Restorers
Mike Hall is a 64-year-old, gray dreadlock-wearing gearhead with a heart of gold, a handsome and pragmatic son, a wacky best friend, and a problem: Lots of cars and no money. That’s the premise of this show produced by the History Channel in Canada and focusing on the goings-on at what must be the nuttiest restoration shop in Tappen, British Columbia.
The show is structured like a lot of car-customization programs, in that it’s a mix of interesting builds, local color, and slightly-contrived set pieces inside the garage. But Hall comes off as genuine and funny, and Rust Bros' ragtag band of misfits have personality to spare. Plus, the builds are tasteful and the cars are fun.
This high-octane hybrid of American Ninja Warrior and the Fast & the Furious movie franchise delivers more heart-in-the-throat excitement than almost any other car show on television. Twenty-eight drivers from around the world compete in an ever-more elaborate series of stunts laid out over the street network inside Eastman-Kodak’s old manufacturing campus in Rochester, New York.
There is exposition in the form of “home visit” vignettes, but with the exception of a South African clip featuring co-executive producer and certified car nut Charlize Theron, they’re pretty short. The focus is squarely on the crazy stunts (including the giant seesaw called “The Leveler”) and remarkable displays of car control, all energetically narrated by a four-person crew.