Jimmy de Ville, star of the series Goblin Works Garage, is back on our screens in the brand new show World’s Greatest Cars, which debuts on Quest this Thursday evening. Headed up by Mike Brewer, Quest has assembled the biggest names in motoring to vote on their favourite cars of all time. Jimmy joins his fellow motoring stars Ant Anstead, Helen Stanley, Rory Reid, Paul Cowland, Drew Pritchard, Marc ‘Elvis’ Priestley, Vicki Butler-Henderson and Karun Chandhok for a bit of good old fashioned car banter. Each episode is themed and features a different genre of motor, focusing on a shortlist of five cars before revealing the number one in that class. It’s got everything from Supercars to Hot Hatches, 4×4’s to Rally Cars. Things of course get a bit heated as they all argue for there favourite motor!
Take to the Road catches up with Jimmy about the new show and his other project, Jimmy de Ville’s Garage on YouTube, where he’s been working on saving a 1953 Ferguson tractor.
Jimmy how have you been keeping yourself busy since COVID hit?
At first I was actually really busy as one of the roles I do is with the Reserve Army and we got called in to support the NHS. So within 48hrs of MPs in Parliament saying they needed support, I was on the ground helping get vital supplies into hospitals. So the first month of the first lockdown was very busy for me. It was a change of pace and something very different but it was really good to be part of it. I’ve also been building a house by myself for 8 years and when I saw lockdown coming, I ordered as much materials as I could to finish off as many jobs off as possible. So the massive achievement during lockdown was to completely finish my house. Sadly one thing got got put on the back burner though was cars. The real shock for me with the lockdown was that within a 7-10 day period, everything I had planned to do with cars in 2020 just disappeared. It was like a row of domino’s suddenly tumbling. And I knew I couldn’t just lock myself in the workshop as everything was shutting down. For example I was about to meet some guys to start doing some subframe work on an Austin Healy Sprite project of mine… it hasn’t happened yet. But things are opening up and happening again which is great.
So you’re in a fantastic new car show World’s Greatest Cars, the timing of which could not be better!
Yeah a lot of telly hasn’t happened this year because of lockdown and all the restrictions. Everyone was scrabbling to work out how to make it work. But the great thing about all the other car presenters on Quest is that we all hang out, we’re all mates. We’re all different and we all like different things when it comes to cars. So what was really nice about working on Worlds Greatest Cars, I spent a lot of my time imagining what my colleagues were thinking. It was quite nice as I was guessing with some quite good knowledge already of what rocks those peoples boats. So it was quite good fun! But the really great thing is I still haven’t seen what they have said yet… so I genuinely have no idea what they said! And they’ve no idea what I said either. So I’m really looking forward to watching it as it will be as much as a surprise for me as it is for the viewers.
The Worlds Greatest Cars, it is the perfect topic for when you’ve gone down the pub with your mates and just having a bit of petrolhead banter?
It is actually. I picked some cars and not being able to discuss them with anyone else it was surprising how frustrating that was. Episode 1 is about the Worlds Greatest Sports Cars and I picked the e-Type. It’s my favourite car, it such an iconic thing. But the funny thing was, also in the list was a Porsche 911. And there was me in my little bubble all focused on the e-Type, completely forgetting that right now I’m looking to buy a Porsche to smash round the B-roads and have some fun. But for some reason I blocked the Porsche out of my head, probably because I couldn’t have that conversation, as you would with your mates down the pub enjoying a bit of car banter. It was funny… I was in my own little bubble… I’m not planning on buying an e-Type! But it was quite good fun doing the show and I really enjoyed it. We’ve all been arguing with each other, without knowing it! Ha ha!
The guest stars in the show are top notch. So the debate was always going to be fierce. What car was the stand out for you? Apart from your own pick?
Yeah the lineup is brilliant and it’s such a diverse range of people and we’re all so passionate about the same subject. But we are all very much different in our own rights. I just love that we are all looking in the same direction, but from a different perspective. As for the cars in the categories across all the episodes, I could agree to disagree on all of them. I might not have agreed with it winning, but I could understand why it was chosen… even if it should have been an e-Type! Which I’m sticking with! Ha ha! But the great thing people will be able to have these discussions and disagreements at home with their mates. And I hope that happens because I love the disagreements that we have, as its about our passion.
So over the lockdown you’ve been working on a tractor build, a rusty old 1953 Ferguson TF. What was your first thought when you spotted the old Ferguson in the hedge?
So I live at the bottom of this farm track and on the track is an old farm. It was owned by a lovely old farmer names Jack. He sadly died last year at the age of 97. His farm had become an overgrown set of brambles and during the lockdown his family began clearing it all back. And suddenly there appeared an old tractor sat on a piece of concrete. I had no idea it was there. I saw it one day out running and I just loved it, it had ivy growing through it, was all rusty… it was gorgeous. I tweeted a picture of it and asked if I should save it. I knew nothing about it, didn’t know the make or model at all, but I loved it. And the reaction I got was amazing, it was the biggest tweet I’d ever done! So Jack’s family actually gave it to me. I dragged it into my workshop, I phoned my friend Gav who’s an ex-RAF engineer, told him I had this tractor project. He was up for it and it went from there. It was the perfect lockdown project for my Youtube channel. Parts are cheap… an engine rebuild kit is £200! I mean how bad can it be! And we thought we’d have a running tractor after 4 episodes!
There really is something special isn’t there about the romance with rust, the challenge of fixing things and resurrecting them from eternal doom?
Exactly! I did it as it was this beautiful old machine and I just thought what a better time to do it, with so much going on and with mental health so important during the lockdown… you know when the world just stops that’s when things hit you! So to keep yourself sane you have to do these things. And for me the great part of the journey has been getting behind the camera and learning how to it all myself… getting a camera, a mic, lights and learning the process. I mean YouTube is a mystery to me. Me and Gav weren’t worried about the numbers as we just wanted to share our passion and give something to people to enjoy. Honestly me and Gav have the best time of our lives working on this tractor, trying to bring it back to life. We’ve only got about 2,500 viewers but the response from them… I’ve got to be honest, they’ve blown me away! I get so many messages after each episode goes out. So if I’m giving them something to watch and they enjoy it, I’m happy. I mean if it ever runs, I will be in awe! Yes we’ve rebuilt the engine etc. But it’s sat there for over 31 years! I’ve not attempted to bring something back to life that was in such bad condition! Its become a crusade now to be honest. And the great thing is we’ve been able to work with other people, some of whom have been stuck during lockdown as well. It’s given us all something to do and to talk about which is great. We’ve even been in touch as well with an American magazine called Ferguson Furrows and we’ve now got a 2 page article in their latest issue which is fantastic! So it’s amazing how our little tractor project has reached others around the world. But that is the magic of the world we live in.
So the Fergie project is motoring along but it is a bit away from ploughing a field or collecting bales of hay. What has surprised you the most about working on this old tractor?
Our goal is that we’ll get it driving in the next 2 months. But the one thing an old vehicle does is it guides the way, on its own terms! Like when we discovered the main bearing housings had corroded away… I had never seen that ever happen before. I was expecting shot bearings, not the housings! That’s when you realise it has got you… you haven’t got it! But that’s what they do old vehicles, they lead us on ways and journeys through our lives. And with the times we are in right now with all the isolation, it is so therapeutic as a release to spend time tinkering on your own car for say half an hour. It can really help you, more than you can really imagine actually. For me it is some of the best therapy I have ever had. (Follow Jimmy and Gav as they plough on with the Ferguson restoration on YouTube)
So the big question that a lot of fans would love to know the answer to, what is happening with Goblin Works Garage? Will we see another series? After seeing the fans react to your cars at the NEC last year, they clearly want more!
Well let’s just say for the last few months I’ve been seeing Ant and Helen everyday! It’s been great! But yeah we are working on some projects… we can’t share anything just yet but we will be announcing something soon. So there’s more to come! And maybe with a little twist too! But yeah seeing the reaction to our cars at the NEC, regardless whether you love or hate them, there’s a joy that comes from them. It’s a real privilege to be able to engage with people and excite them and share our passion. It’s just wonderful! The first year I went to the NEC Classic Motor Show I took my jet boat (from the show Engine Addicts) and I meet this young girl with her Dad. Her Mum was terminally ill which was really tough for her. She loved the show and being able to see the very thing that was on TV was brilliant for her. I let he sit in it and we sat there and had a chat and it was a lovely experience. Since then her and her Dad have come to the show every year and the first place they come is to my stand. It makes me a bit emotional thinking about it actually. Her mum has since died. So the show and chatting to me has become a ritual for them. They come along, we stand and chat for ages and have a catch up. And of course she gets full access to all the cars on the stand! It really means something to her. She’s passionate about engineering. Amongst all the madness of the show, it highlights how important it is and it makes me quite sad that it hasn’t happened this year. Its those moments, those little life interactions that can be so life changing, improving and helping. It comes down to that personal moment! All thanks to cars!
Jimmy de Ville was talking to Niall Julian