Fast and Fearless: Britain’s Banger Drivers, a two-part documentary by the BBC, could easily have been a standard exercise in point-and-look TV – viewers invited to gawp at a bunch of working class Essex blokes and their ignorant hobby.
In fact, the series revealed a microcosm of deep, inter-generational masculine pride and affection.
The first episode follows three father and son teams as they prepare their vehicles for race day. As each of their stories unfold, it’s clear that amid the sump oil and rusted motor parts, fathers and sons forge strong ties, spoken in their own language.
One man points to a grimy 1980s photograph of his dad and uncle — both wearing racing overalls and standing beside a beaten-up banger racer — as he describes how his dad had died unexpectedly from a brain tumor a couple of years earlier.
He continues: “Everyone you know, either their dad’s done it, or their uncle’s done it. Someone in their family has done it. I don’t know someone who’s just woke up and one day said ‘I’d like to have a go at that. Like no one.”
‘Dad’s best-ever crash’
The next shot shows him sitting on the sofa next to his young son, saying: “Tommy, do you want me to show you dad’s best-ever crash on the video?” The little boy looks at his dad with wide eyes and nods his head enthusiastically.
Between the two films, banger tracks and scrap yards are shown as the settings where men and boys play out deep friendships and old rivalries, screwed-up relationships and life-long lessons.
Halfway through the first episode, a young man leans against a stripped down wreck of a London black taxi and describes his anxiety at the thought of his dad going out to race.
“He ain’t so limber any more. Just tap him in the knee, his knees are no good. If he turns funny his knee will pop out. It’s just a nightmare. It worries you.
“I tell you, as soon as he’s on the track, I won’t be watching the race, I’ll literally be watching his car, staring at it and watching him.
“If he’s stuck in something I’ll quickly run round and make sure he’s OK. If I have to, I’ll go straight on the track and drag him out myself.”
Car crash TV, this ain’t.
Photo courtesy: ozz13x