Exclusive Interview: Stars of ‘Wheeler Dealers’ talk about life in the fast lane, telly induced injuries and a brand new series

October 28, 2008 by  
Filed under Features

Tonight, Discovery’s resident car enthusiasts, Mike Brewer and Edd China return to our screens in Wheeler Dealers – On the Road to tour Europe on a money making mission to buy old cars, do them up and sell them on.  OntheBox’s Susan Allen talks to them about life on the road, just what constitutes authentic telly nowadays, and their valiant roles as car-recycling crusaders.

I’ll admit this right now.  I am no car fanatic. I’m not even a car lover, really.  Sure, I can tell the generally run-down scrap-heap from the potential vintage classic and can take a good guess at which ones are mind-bogglingly expensive, normally by the distinctive swagger of its owner.  However, when it comes to buying old cars, doing them up and selling them on, I’m clueless and to be frank, fairly apathetic.  It was clear from the start that the Wheeler Dealers guys were going to have to come up with something pretty special to capture my attention.

Walking into Trident Sound Studios in Soho, I glance up at the photographs of the likes of John Lennon, Paul McCartney and Elton John, who recorded some of their greats here.  Feeling a little uncertain with my lack of car knowledge, I walk in to find Edd and Mike chatting cheerfully about the voice-overs they have just laid down for the new series.

Instantly at ease, we start to talk about the show- what’s it all about then? “Michael travels off and finds an old, sha*gged car…? begins Edd sitting back in his chair as if settling in to tell the long-winded tale of how they change the destiny of old cars and against all odds, get them back on the road.  But he is interrupted.  Mike leans forward and finishes it in a sentence, “but the point is that the cars have to be iconic cars that mean something to me and Edd.?

It’s not difficult to tell that Edd is the mechanic. Originally trained as an engineer, his speech reflects a keen appreciation of detail as he enthusiastically and rapidly attempts to explain every aspect.  Mike, the more TV savvy (he has worked in the industry for 10 years on shows like Driven and The British Rally Championships after being plucked from his job as a car salesman to be on Channel 4’s Deals on Wheels), naturally sums things up with a self-assurance and brevity only a presenter knows.

Curious as to the appeal of heading off to the lands of Germany, France and Spain to flog restored cars I wonder whether life on the European road is all its cracked up to be. “My Delboy French really is Delboy French? says Mike winking and accentuating his cockney accent, but he maintains that it was a great experience, which definitely gave an insight into the varying attitudes to cars abroad.  Germans, it transpires, look after their vehicles whereas the Italians don’t really care for them (‘ah like me!’ I thought, no, I must concentrate…) and the French have no respect for cars whatsoever.  At this point, Edd is a little quieter.  He didn’t get to go abroad.  His place was firmly in the workshop back in Britain.

There is a distinct feeling that Edd’s days involve much hard graft
and last longer than most TV personalities are used to.  At the moment he’s nursing a particularly sore eye after a nasty incident with iron filings falling from the underside of a car, “I’m a damaged man because of this guy!? he splutters, “I’m the only presenter, who has to work longer than the crew does.?  A grinning Mike concedes that he has the more glamorous job, “ok, I don’t mind our viewers knowing that he does work considerably harder than me…when I’m at home tucking into me pie and chips, I often think of Edd in the workshop? though is quick to set me straight, “but when he’s at home sipping his Pimms…I’m the one flogging the motor and trying to earn us a profit.?

Bouncing off each other, it’s become clear that their rapport plays a big part in the programme’s appeal.  But more than that, the Wheeler Dealers boys have the personal touch. These two aren’t trying to be anything they’re not, self-confessedly passionate about the motors first and TV second.  Conscious of being a source of inspiration to their viewers, many fathers and sons, they want Wheeler Dealers to be “the nudge they need? to go out and do up cars themselves. And for this, it’s important that what they do is a reality.  Edd really does sweat away for hours on end avoiding injuries here, there and everywhere, Mike does have to stick to a budget abroad and if he doesn’t leave enough money for the renovation, Edd will be put out upon his return.  This is, they are determined, “authentic telly?.

Do they see themselves as environmentalists, I ask in reference to their make-do-and-mend attitude to vehicles?  They chuckle.  Unsure about the absolute greenness of old cars’ emissions in the ethical debate, they do agree that “[i]t’s about the love of restoring an old classic.  What we’re doing effectively is recycling, we’re keeping old cars on the road.?  I undoubtedly warm to this idea of appreciating something’s original value.

What’s admirable with these guys is that they’re fervent about keeping worth in the cars they restore and this principal in itself is inspiring. In times gone by of fast and fleeting consumption and within the context of a new more cautious economic climate this notion makes ever more sense.  Do you know what, I think they’ve done it. I may never get the full on laddish motor obsession but I think they’ve finally convinced me that there is something cool about appreciating old cars and not disregarding them just because they’re not brand new.  At last I have a grasp on what for them is truly a labour of love.

The new series of Wheeler Dealers starts tonight on Discovery Real Time at 9pm.

By Susan Allen

Terry Devlin says:

Have they ever tried to track down some of the previous cars which they have sold to see if they are still around.