10 Automotive Documentaries To Binge Over The Holidays
It’s like homework, but for gearheads
Growing up, when we would host my mom’s side of the family for Christmas dinner, there were basically only two things we could all agree to have on the TV. The History Channel or The Barrett Jackson auctions.
Except this year, I really don’t think I can take any more tales of tribulations throughout history or stomach watching millionaires over-inflate the prices of cars originally intended for blue collar workers.
Luckily, there are many great automotive documentaries out there that will allow you to indulge your car enthusiast hobby, while also giving you a little insight and history into some of the most interesting, compelling and impactful stories in the automotive world.
Really, this is the ultimate documentary for any gearhead. A viewing is practically a write of passage. Senna documents the life and racing career of Formula One icon Ayrton Senna and is often cited as the greatest racing documentary ever made.
Shelby American (2019)
The story of Carroll Shelby’s life, from farmer to racer to automotive entrepreneur and icon is one that many gearheads might already be familiar with. However, what’s most interesting about Shelby American is the examination into some of Shelby’s lesser-known career achievements.
The 24 Hour War (2016)
For those who have read the book, Le Mans ‘66 or seen the movie, Ford vs Ferrari the story of Ford partnering with Shelby to beat Ferrari at the infamous Le Mans race may be a familiar one. The 24 Hour War is a less dramatised, albeit griping look into the real life rivalries around the Le Mans race.
A Faster Horse (2015)
Whether you’re a fan of the Ford Mustang or not, this in-depth look into the development of the latest Ford Mustang offers rare and compelling insights into the development of a mass consumer car. You really get a sense of just how monumental a challenge it is to design, engineer and build to cost a car which is considered an icon by so many. A Faster Horse gives you a greater appreciation for just how difficult it is to build a car that people will love.
Apex: The Story of the Hypercar (2015)
An interesting look into companies like Koenigsegg, who seek to push the barriers of what’s possible in terms of automotive performance. Apex raises the question of “what is a hypercar?” and then seeks to answer it.
Love The Beast (2009)
An oldie, but a real goodie for anyone who has developed an inexplicable, long-term attachment to a car. Love The Beast tells the story of actor Eric Bana and his 1974 Ford Falcon XB, which he’s owned since he was a teenager. Eric decides to turn his XB into a full-on race car for the Targa Tasmania race and is subsequently forced to consider whether the vehicle can or should remain in his life.
The Grand Tour: A Massive Hunt (2020)
Okay, it’s not exactly a pure documentary. But it’s still nice to have Clarkson, Hammond and May back — even if it is just for these one-off Grand Tour specials. A Massive Hunt has the trio head to Madagascar for a kind of treasure hunt. Instead of buying used lemons, this time they’ve chosen brand new cars for their trip —which they’re forced to modify in order to survive some of the absolute worst roads on the planet.
Sort of a documentary – drama mash up, McLaren is of course focused on the life of racer, team owner and supercar brand namesake, Bruce McLaren. The film uses archival footage, interviews and dramatic recreations to tell the story of Bruce’s humble beginnings in New Zealand to his foundation of the McLaren Motor Racing, the second oldest F1 team next to Ferrari.
Uppity: the Willy T. Ribbs story (2020)
Like so many other segregated forms of life before The Civil Rights Act, auto racing used to be an all-white sport. The first African-American driver to test a Formula One car and race in the Indianapolis 500 was Willy T. Ribbs. Uppity offers an in-depth look into Ribbs’ life, career and the extraordinary barriers he faced just to get into the driver’s seat.
Urban Outlaw (2012)
Whether you’re a Porsche fan or not, it’s difficult to not be enthralled with the industrial design of Magnus Walker’s creations. While only 32 minutes long, Urban Outlaw is nonetheless an inspiring look into turning a passion into a career and being a rebel in your field.