Auto-themed Podcasts to Ponder
Whether you drive, or ride, these five picks deserve a listen
There’s something for every listener in the podcast universe, especially when it comes to the world of automobiles. From the historic factors that shaped North America’s roadways and how its future streets will be navigated by driverless vehicles, to four best friends in awe of recent industry breakthroughs and wisecracking Boston mechanics offering practical advice, there are as many options as there are automobile makes and models. Here are five car-related podcasts as informative as they are entertaining.
“Driving While Awesome”
For an epic 600 episodes and counting, four long-time friends – Lane Skelton, Warren Madsen, Bryan McQueen and Art Cervantes – have gotten together for twice-weekly chatter on all things auto related. Their comradery drives their scattershot commentary on topics as diverse as the YouTube stunt series Gymkhana, Amazon’s fleet of delivery vehicles, searching Craigslist for used beaters and the best sportscars from the 1980s. Fans who know their Corvette C4s from their Japanese-made “kei” cars will get the most enjoyment from the show, but the easy dynamic between the hosts, and their frequent digressions, makes “Driving While Awesome” a fun listen for all. New episodes are released every Thursday and Sunday.
Minneapolis-based journalist Kris Clewell and National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence-certified mechanic Jake Solberg have hosted more than 250 episodes of this car-culture podcast. Episodes touch on everything from international auto news to things going on in their own garages, as well as frequent longform interviews. Recent guests have included a couple currently on driving from Mexico City to Newfoundland in a Volkswagen Beetle, photographer Brenda Priddy, known for capturing images of pre-production vehicles, and endurance sportscar driver Derek Bell. All this plus epic deep dives, like their recent three-part series on how the creation of the railroad in the 1800s foreshadowed the rise of car culture. “We have a natural chemistry, and are frequently at odds with each other,” Colberg said. “Which makes for great entertainment.”
“Driving the Green Book”
This podcast by television and radio broadcaster and author Alvin Hall and racial justice activist Janeé Woods Weber follows the pair as they take a 12-day, more than 3,200-kilometre road trip from Detroit to New Orleans in 2019 using “The Negro Motorist Green Book” as their guide. The annually published book guided African-American motorists through the United States during segregation and the Jim Crow era. “The people we met vividly described the thriving, entrepreneurial African-American communities that were places of safety and joy for travelers, as well as local folks,” the hosts said in a joint email to the Toronto Star. “Their recollections, even the most disturbing ones, are filled with forgiveness, resilience, grace, sometimes ironic humour, and always mother wit.”
NPR’s “The Best of Car Talk”
The one thing all 12,000 puzzled drivers who called into this Peabody-award-winning radio series had in common: a desperate need for some automotive assistance. Every Saturday, National Public Radio re-releases episodes of the classic call-in show, which was broadcast between 1977 and 2012. There are certainly no tune-ups required when it comes to translating the hilarious advice from brothers Tom and Ray Magliozzi to the podcast era. The Boston mechanics diagnosed the auto woes of American drivers with their timeless, rowdy good humour. Though Tom died in 2014 due to complications from Alzheimer’s disease, he and his brother’s decades of good advice, and even better laughs, are a fitting legacy.
“Autonomous Cars with Marc Hoag”
Lawyer, start-up founder and self-driving car consultant Marc Hoag steers this podcast straight into the looming autonomous driving revolution. An informative masterclass into everything self-driving, Hoag
chats with industry leaders, legislators and authors, covering topics such as driverless rideshare vehicles, delivery bots, how COVID-19 is accelerating the autonomous revolution and how autonomous and human-driven vehicles could possibly co-exist. He also delivers detailed test-drive reports, including his recent six-month, 16,000-km test of the Model Y Tesla, a vehicle which he calls, “Our best widely available option for semi-autonomy. I believe that Tesla will be L5-ready [fully autonomous] between 2025 and 2028.”
Correction – Mar. 9, 2021: This article has been edited to correct the spelling of Jake Solberg’s name.
Ryan Porter/Special to Wheels