Known around the world as one of the best educated automotive connoisseurs ever to have been born, James May is a force to be reckoned with, respected by almost every car enthusiast on the planet. He owes his legendary repute to nearly 25 years on television, each time testing, describing or otherwise commenting on cars.
Of course, this award-winning journalist and host achieved most of his fame from having been the face of the world-renowned motoring magazine and TV series entitled “Top Gear,” which has been running most of the time since 2002. Along with Richard Hammond and Jeremy Clarkson, James May was always one of the first people on the planet to sample the highest quality cars right off the assembly line.
May co-presented a total of 175 episodes of “Top Gear,” from 2003 to 2021. With 18 years in the world’s most respected automotive TV series, he is set to take a massive chunk of the audience wherever he goes. James and his two superstar colleagues are currently busy hosting “The Grand Tour,” in which they go all over the world to drive the most unique cars out there, which are otherwise not accessible in the US for one reason or another.
A collection to rival most millionaires
Being one of the most successful TV personalities on the planet, James boasts a net worth of over $40 million. That great wealth then allows him to pursue the passion that has made him rich, as he’s been using it to fund his car collector obsession for decades; some of the world’s most venerated cars can be found in May’s garage.
The fastest car currently in James May’s possession is the prestigious Ferrari 458 Speciale – a special-edition model which is quite rare, and was difficult for May to get a hold of. This is his favorite Ferrari, although it’s ‘Fezza’ in his words, as that’s how the expert calls these cars. Before this one, he also had the 458 Italia, as well as the Ferrari F430. This vehicle was raced against Richard Hammond’s Opel Kadett Oliver, at which point F1 driver Sebastian Vettel sampled both of them, crowning May’s as the winning one.
While one could assume that a car brand as humble as Fiat would never make it s way past James’ garage doors, they would be very wrong. The TV superstar owns a Fiat Panda that he’s really proud of, as it was his daily commute car for the better part of a decade. He liked this vehicle because one can’t put pedal to the metal with a performance car on a busy street anyway, while the Panda was always using all of its power.
It broke down in 2014, and has since remained in the garage, replaced with a BMW I3, which cost May only £35,000 ($43,000), since he received an extra £5,000 ($6,000) from the government in its support towards electric car owners, and an overall greener society. The car runs fully on electricity, and still reaches up to 30 mph (48 kph) in almost no time, though it caps out quickly too, making it a not-really-fast machine. The car was seen in “The Grand Tour,” in which Jeremy Clarkson measured it up against his VW Golf GTI, meanwhile wondering why the government financed part of the investment.
The next one on the list, and one of May’s proudest possessions, is the Tesla Model S 100D – a car he revealed excitedly in a video of its own. He begins by saying ‘Yo brothers, yo sisters, this is my new wheels. This is my new whip. I’m gonna unveil it. This is gonna be awesome. This is gonna be solid. This is go- what’s another word? Sick. This is gonna be sick. Do I have to do this, or can I just do it like a normal person?’
He continued seriously after the joke, stating ‘Hello viewers, this is my new car, which I’m about to unveil for you. Some of you may already have guessed what it is, some of you may already know. Let’s see if you’ve guessed correctly though as I pull off the covers to reveal…Are you ready? A Tesla Model S.’
Knowing that his audience is generally old-fashioned and not really appreciative of next-generation, electric cars, James then said ‘Boo, I hear you cry as one. What do you think? That is standard. Now, a lot of you are gonna be very disappointed about that, and then you’re gonna say ‘Ugh, you’ve bought into the electric car nonsense. I don’t know what’s wrong with internal combustion, and it’s internal combustion until I die.’’
Can't beat a good moan about your car 🤷♂️
Posted by DRIVETRIBE on Thursday, August 27, 2020
To that, James says ‘Yeah, I know, I get it. If you look over there, there’s still some internal combustion engine things. This Alpine, motorcycles and scooters, and so on. The point of this – I don’t know what the future of the car is, but I do believe, one way or another, they’re gonna be powered by electric motors.’
As May admitted that he can’t see the future, he then speculated about the way cars might be powered in a few decades, saying ‘Now, this has a battery. The answer might be hydrogen fuel cells, it might be antimatter. This has a lithium ion battery. There may be a future in supercapacitors, or something like that. The important thing, I think, is to take part in the experiment.’
He also addressed real concerns that other automotive connoisseurs may bring up in response to his claims, and thus he stated ‘And before you also go into the comments, like, subscribe, etcetera, and saying ‘Yeah but it’s not really green because actually your power station might be burning coal.’ Yeah, I know that. I’m not actually that interested in the green thing. I’m interested in the future of the car.’
May took a gentle approach to saying that he can simply buy whatever he wants, stating ‘I’m in a lucky position, I can take part in all this, so I’m going to. Here’s my Tesla, let’s have a look inside.’ Surprisingly, it looks like Elon Musk’s revolutionary vehicle comes in a rather simplified form, unlike what most might expect.
To clarify that, James said ‘Look at that. Possibly the plainest car interior available. All vegan as well, apart from the steering wheel cover – they still use leather for that. And again, a lot of people are saying, you know, ‘Oh, why is the interior so bland, why doesn’t it have more interesting materials?’ In some ways I agree, it could be a little bit more flamboyant.’
— James May (@MrJamesMay) June 20, 2013
However, May seems to also agree with Tesla’s design, saying ‘But at the same time, when I look at the interiors now, in things like Bentleys, Mercedes S classes, with all that leather and some of that, sort of, ruching, and buttoning, and ribbing, and so on. I’m beginning to think that’s all a bit sort of Liberaci, to be honest.’
James then takes the audience on a tour of the front of the car, or the so called ‘f-boot’ (front boot), or front trunk. He explains that the car’s key has the same shape as the vehicle itself, and it can be used to pop open different parts of it, depending on where the key is pressed. With that, he pops open the hood, saying ‘There’s no engine, it’s electric. The motors are on the axles. There’s a joke about nuns and the missing engine from the VW beetle. Blah, blah, blah. Where’s the soap? I know. Yes it does, doesn’t it. That’s that.’
The back trunk, however, is the truly impressive piece of the car’s storage capabilities. He opens it up, stating ‘I mean, look, it’s the boot luggage bay, whatever, of a large saloon stroke Sedan car. It’s big. It’s far bigger than I ever need. The whole car, to be honest, is bigger than I ever need.’
Having shown some of the car’s coolest features to the viewers, he declared ‘I don’t know what else to say about it. It’s a car. You know, there was a time when people would say ‘Oh but it’s an electric car,’ and I’ve thought for a long time as I’ve been driving them around – I’ve had the BMW I3 there for over five years now – that, somehow, driving electrically gave you special privileges, special concessions.
He further elaborated on that, saying ‘Because you could be going the wrong way up a one-way street, you could be blind drunk, and when a policeman stops you, you could go ‘Yes I know officer, but it’s electric.’ But actually, it’s not really like that anymore. This is just a car.’
This seems to be an important moment for making that statement, as James explained that ‘Another thing worth saying is that the car, currently, is under greater scrutiny than it has ever been, at any point in its existence, apart from maybe when it was first invented, and people had to walk in front of them with red flags, and so on.’
To add to this point, May said ‘I mean, when I was a kid, the car was king, and nothing could stand in its way, and if you got run over by one, well, that was your own fault for being in the way. That’s not true anymore, is it? And rightly so, we have to think very carefully about how we use the car in, I’m gonna say it, the community, and make sure it doesn’t cause offense.’
By ‘cause offense,’ James meant more than just having an accident. He explained further, stating ‘Because people are worried about how recyclable they are, what sort of smell they make, how much pollution they cause, and now how much noise they make, what they represent in terms of the disparity in social wealth and position, blah, blah, blah.’
He then related to everyone watching, especially himself and his colleagues, stating ‘And since we are car enthusiasts, it may be that we have to embrace things like this, which apparently will make the car more acceptable, in order that, at other times, we can use the cars we love. My Alpine, for example.’
May doesn’t seem to be the only one with this mindset, adding ‘So, I mean, Jay Leno has said something similar to this very many times: ‘The battery electric car, and the fuel cell electric car, will save the internal combustion engine car.’ Because they’re only gonna be of interest to enthusiasts, and the enthusiasts, relatively speaking, are very small in number.’
With that, the automotive expert gave everyone watching sound advice, saying ‘So, if you allow this sort of thing to happen, embrace it and cheer it on, your hobby will be preserved for longer. And if you drive carefully, and you drive considerately, your hobby will be preserved for longer. If you take the piss, they’re gonna take them away from you. It’s exactly the same as owning a shotgun.’
The Tesla car isn’t the only way May pursues the future of the automotive industry, however, as he also has a hydrogen-powered 2015 Toyota Mirai, primarily purchased only so it could be compared to the Tesla, but he later chose to keep it in the garage as it is indeed a superb car. In spite of his wish to keep driving the Toyota, though, May ultimately sold it due to there being only eight hydrogen fuel stations in the entirety of the UK at the time of purchase, and a mere 11 when he got rid of it.
He later replaced that car with a brand new 2021 Toyota Mirai, which is still in the automotive expert’s garage. This one, he mostly uses to commute around London, especially during traffic jams and on crowded roads.
James bought a Rolls Royce Corniche in 2007, but he doesn’t own that car any longer. Even though it’s considered one of the most prestigious vehicles available on the planet, he was simply dissatisfied with it due to the seats allegedly causing his allergies to flare up. The car was sold in 2017.
In 2015 he bought the highly coveted 1984 Porsche 911, which is one of the last air-cooled vehicles of its brand that was available on the market at that time. May is still quite satisfied with this purchase even in December of 2022. Lastly, May also has a Datsun 120Y and an Alfa Romeo 164, both of which he bought more out of curiosity than necessity, and aren’t often driven, if at all.