The latest addition to the Discovery Turbo garage, AmeriCARna, isn’t what we’ve come to expect from Sky TV’s resident petrol head channel.
It’s hosted by former Nascar team owner Ray Evernham with occasional guidance from his friend and mentor, Rick Hendrick (also a big name in Nascar).
Nascar isn’t that big a deal in New Zealand, but Evernham did come across some fans when he last visited for Rod Millen’s Leadfoot festival.
“I did the hillclimb at Rod Millen’s place and I was surprised at how many Nascar fans there are in NZ” he said.
“I want to come back down again. Rod Millen and his folks treated us great down there. He bought a couple of my cars (a 1936 Chevrolet modified open wheel car and a replica of a Dale Earnhardt Nascar) . My wife went up the hill much faster than I did so she’s probably the better driver of the family.”
AmeriCARna isn’t your usual reality car show. There’s no manufactured drama, no scripted conversation — just real people talking about real, often historic, cars. Whether it’s telling the stories of lost racecars, barn finds, speed secrets, Hollywood films, historical racetracks and other unique places in American automotive culture, Evernham never loses that infectious enthusiasm. .
“I love cars and I love the stories so I said look I’ve got an idea for a TV show to Bob Scanlon who’s the GM of Velocity. I just picked up the phone and I bugged him.
“I invited him down to see me and said I’m going to make some of these shows ... tell me if you like them. Bob’s been a big supporter.”
Surprisingly, Evernham says he knew nothing about TV or being a TV host,” he said. “But we didn’t want to create one of those shows where you create drama.
“AmeriCARna is like an inside pass to travel with me ... I want viewers to sit there and feel like I’m sharing a story personally with them.
“We do lots of different shows but it's as much about the people and the passion and the story of how the automobile has affected our industrial timeline. Along the way we’ve met a lot of great characters and had a lot of fun.”
It comes across in the show with the weird and wonderful on display — and that’s just the people. As you’d expect, tracking amazing vehicles involves detective work. Without his background as a racer and the travel involved, the show might have never come to be.
“I’ve been on the road for almost 40 years racing cars, and in that time you meet a lot of people, you hear of a lot of urban legends. When I retired from motor racing full-time I started calling around. Now we get lots of emails and Facebook messages about these people who have these interesting cars and we just track them down.
“Putting together all the history is probably one of the most enjoyable parts of the job.
“With guests such as director Ron Howard, and even the Beach Boy, there are some true characters to help us tell the story of the week.”
AmeriCARna — new episodes on Sky’s Discovery Turbo, channel 075, Wednesdays at 8.30pm.