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INTERVIEW | Fuzz Townshend and Tim Shaw of Car SOS talk about ‘turkeys’, first cars and best resto jobs

Tim Shaw and Fuzz Townshend next to the Pristine.

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Whenever my husband saw an episode of Car SOS on TV, he would call me and say, ‘Come and see what they’re doing for this man’, or ‘come and see this amazing restoration they’ve done on this car’. He was referring, of course, to Tim Shaw and Fuzz Townshend. I’d roll my eyes at first, but then I’d have him rewind the whole show so I could watch it from the beginning because I’m getting hooked too.

That’s the magic of these two, Tim and Fuzz; they pull you in. They’re real petrolheads, but they’re some real dudes, and whatever their job is, they’re so genuine and passionate about what they do.

“Car SOS” returned to National Geographic (DStv 181) earlier in April for its tenth season featuring heartwarming true stories and incredible car makeovers, including the show’s 100th renovation.

READ | Tears Certified Season 10 of Car SOS on Nat Geo Promises Great Tim and Fuzz

We recently sat down with them to talk about season 10 of Car SOS and learn a little more about these car crazies.

They have been the presenters of the show from the beginning, but they are also restorers and mechanics of classic cars.

Tim Shaw and Fuzz Townshend at Car SOS. (National Geographic)

Delivered National Geographic

Wheels24: What has been the most challenging restoration of the past few seasons for you?

Fuzz Townshend: Well, there have been some, but I will say that the car that caused us the most trouble and the most grief was from this series, from season 10 of Car SOS. You don’t get to see what happened to this car anywhere in the episode.

We did a 1992 VW Corrado which had been shown to have wiring issues for decades. People had things built in to try and make it work, and then we tried to tweak it. When we picked up the car, a man came up to us and said, “Listen, I’ve been working on that car. If I were you, I’d rewire that car!” And of course I said, “yeah, yeah, whatever”.

Tim Shaw: You can’t just rewire a car. It’s like, wow.

Down: No, it’s hard enough on a very old one. But with a car from the 90s with miles of wiring lying around, it gets even more difficult. Anyway, we tried to tweak it and didn’t get any of the changes we made to work. The electronic control unit would not accept them.

Each time it would trigger something different. All kinds of actions and reactions happened with it. And we’d drive the car 50 or 100 miles, and it would be fine. Then we would return it to its owner, and it would die within a few miles. So we would bring it back again, work on it more and drive it another 100 miles. Absolutely fine. Give it back. Dead. For six months it was chewing and frying. After six months I was surprised to walk into the workshop and not see it there.

Tim:

In the car world you talk about a ‘turkey’. A turkey is a car that, for whatever reason, you can’t figure out what’s wrong with it. Most people never have a turkey in their entire lives. You get a car that has some problems every now and then. Fuzz and I knew, just by the law of averages, that in 10 years we would have a turkey at some point. This was it!

W24: Let’s talk about the background of how you fell in love with cars and what you do. This is probably linked to the first car you had. So, what were your first cars?

Tim: I was 12 years old. My father bought me a Beatle Flat-Four Echo 1300 motorcycle at a scrap yard. I sat there looking around at our Christmas tree. There wasn’t much under the tree that year. My father said “outside” and outside was a broken, rusty engine, which was mine. He knew I loved cars. The walls of my bedroom were covered with pictures of cars.

For me, this turned out to be without a doubt the most inspiring tool and the best gift I’ve ever received. It has changed my life. I was sitting outside with my dad and that little Stanley box of tools, like wrenches and screwdrivers. I asked him what everything was like a carburetor or what does crankshaft mean? That changed my life there. He knew I loved cars.

Later we got a Morris Thousand, which we drove around in places, like in a field. I learned to ride a milk crate around the age of 13.

Fuzz Townshend, Tim Shaw, auto sos

Fuzz Townshend and Tim Shaw on Car SOS. (National Geographic)

Delivered National Geographic

Down: I started to operate the family lawnmower because it had a gasoline engine. Anything with a petrol engine was good for me. When I was about eight years old, I was allowed to mow the grass and I just walked behind the reel mower. That was brilliant. I felt like I was driving and driving a motorcycle.

Later I got a Honda C50 step-through with a small centrifugal clutch and all. Having a motor vehicle with gears was even better. When I was 15 I bought my first car for £25 (about R490 by today’s estimate), a 1964 Anglia.

In fact, I recently found its log. I had rose-colored glasses and didn’t ask much about them. I thought I’d just take it off. Then I asked, “Is it going to work?” And the guy who sold it to me just said “no”! So my first job was to get that thing going, which I did, but it didn’t take long because I learned the hard way how bad an engine could get internally. That thing was completely broken!

W24: What were your highlights this season?

Down: There were many highlights this season. There was an Opel Cavalier turbo 4 by 4 that we made, from the 90s, not a car I really love. I got to ride it and then I could see what the enthusiasts were talking about.

This Vauxhall Cavalier turbo was made for a man who had a terrible motorcycle accident, ended up under a truck and ended up as tetraplegic. He can’t move anything below his jawline. The only part of his body he can control is his lower jaw. Getting him back in his car to enjoy the car enthusiasm and going to shows was incredible.

We managed to figure out a way to get him back in his vehicle for the first time in 13 years so he wasn’t just a spectator anymore. He could join in and go out with his friends. All he had to do was let his friends drive him.

I like cars because they go back in the past that you can have. You can live in a different era by just sitting in a 1920s car!

Fuzz Townshend, Tim Shaw, TIM AND FUZZ

Fuzz Townshend, Darren Russell and Tim Shaw pose next to the car with his family and friends. (National Geographic)

Delivered

W24: You work on a lot of classic vehicles and you clearly have a passion for them. Does working on modern cars bring you just as much pleasure, or is it just not the same?

Down: Although you say so. I mean, now we often work on 90’s – early 2000’s cars, and they’re getting classic. But actually, I’d rather work on something from the early 20th century to the 1960s. That’s where my enthusiasm lies.

Tim: Modern cars today are automated. And for us, if you can pop the bodywork on the car and physically take something apart with a toolbox or even some fancy tools, you can usually figure out what you’re looking at and how it works. It’s well worth cracking the nut and having that penny drop moment. While with a modern car you come to a small black box, and it’s another set of skills you need. Fuzz Townshend: It’s still cool though. That’s just bringing more disciplines into the world of classic cars. I think that’s a great thing.

W24: What have you learned the most over the years?

Tim: I would recommend working on car engines for all the young people, everyone out there. The thing about rebuilding an engine is the skills that you can transfer all your life. I’m currently wearing gloves and building right now, covered in plaster dust because I have dry walls right now, and that’s right there and then from age 12 when I learned to be good with my hands, that changed my life.

Even though we are at the turning point of electric vehicles and hydrogen vehicles and ecofuels and all that, I would still recommend people to work on cars. It’s an excellent set of skills that you’ll learn, and transfer it to anything later in life.

W24: How are things on set? Are your personalities different from what we see of you on television?

Tim: We are as we appear. We’re great buddies. We get on, well, we got our laughs, and that’s about it. We don’t take life too seriously. We love it. It’s the best job in the world. Neither of us would ever change it. And we are lucky enough to be able to do what we do and make people smile. And that’s what it’s all about in the end.

The lucky thing for Fuzz and me is that we can do something beautiful for people. We thank National Geographic for their support and support of the show as it continues to grow. And I don’t know what’s happening now, but it seems to have reached a new level, like I’m even recognized by dogs and bugs and stuff, haha!

Car SOS will air for its tenth season on National Geographic starting April 26, 2022 on Tuesdays at 7:00 PM.