14th March, 2019

Q & A with Alex Riley

Alex Riley, former Top Gear researcher, a familiar face on The One Show and now TV presenter of The Car Years, is here to answer some classic vehicle questions fuelled by Footman James.

1. What has been the best part of filming The Car Years?

Driving the cars has been a real thrill and a total privilege. And I’ve loved researching the stories behind why each car is so significant, how it was created, why it turned out the way it did. I’ve also enjoyed arguing with Vicki, especially when my car wins.

2. Who is your motoring hero?

I dream of designing and building my own cars and am fascinated by engineering, so I’m a little bit in awe of Gordon Murray. And he recently bought one of my favourite cars, a Ferrari 308GT4.

3. If you could sum up The Car Years in 3 words, what would they be?

Classic car heaven.

4 What was the first ever car you owned?

I bought a half share in an HC Vauxhall Viva with a mate but it was mostly papier mache and fell to bits before I drove it. Then one Summer I got a job selling aerial photographs in Lincolnshire and bought the world’s most unreliable Citroen Visa 14 TRS. Rear wiper, rear brakes and rear lights didn’t work. It overheated daily and the clutch cable kept falling off the pedal. I didn’t sell many photographs either.

5 Why should people tune in to The Car Years?

I can’t think of another show that’s so totally focussed on the cars. Vicki and I each make the case for why our car is the best from a given year and because we’re not buying selling or restoring, we can really go to town telling their often surprising stories. Add in the gorgeous photography and brilliant archive footage and it’s a feast for the eyes. Then at the end, me and Vicki have a ding dong about why our car should win, before we finally discover the judges’ decision. And then act like spoilt children if we lose (Vicki, not me).

6. If you could only attend one classic car event globally each year, which one would it be?

I’ve been meaning to go to Retromobile in Paris for about 20 years but haven’t got round to it yet. The Goodwood Revival would be up there, but spending every May watching amazing sports racing cars in the beautiful Italian countryside, while competing in or spectating at the Mille Miglia would be a wonderful thing to do.

7. What would be your advice to budding young enthusiasts interested in classic cars?

Buy and read classic car magazines, it’ll feed your enthusiasm and increase your knowledge. And go to classic car shows and events big and small, chat to people and ask questions. People love talking about their cars and will be full of help and advice. And start saving.

Alex Riley will be joined by The Car Years co-presenter Vicki-Butler Henderson on the Footman James stand at the Practical Classics Classic Car & Restoration Show on Friday March 22nd for a meet and greet with fans at 2pm. You'll also be able to catch them talking about the new show on the Live Stage at 1.30pm on Friday.