James May

March 22, 2016

IamA James May AMA!

Hello this is James May, I am here to talk to you all about my new BBC FOUR show, James May The Reassembler.

Have a look at the trailer here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qSW-Pdm8CEM

And here is proof it's me: https://twitter.com/MrJamesMay/status/712287482684043264

Edit: i will be with you at 15:30 (GMT)

EDIT: Hello Hello i am here...

Sorry everyone, I've got to go now because the nurse has come for me. Sorry if I didn't get around to your question. I'll do another of these after The Reassembler has broadcast. It's on BBC4, 4th to 6th April, 9pm. #Plug

Where do you get your fashion inspiration from?

Mainly from my wardrobe. It's restocked by pixies in my absence.

Hello James, are you going to continue your career as a Youtube chef?

Difficult, I've already cooked everything I can do.

I know you play the piano so I've always wanted to ask you what your favourite genre of piano music is? And your favourite composer? Cheers!

Difficult, I like counterpoint and Bach, but also impressionism.

What would you recommend to buy as a first car?

I think the Ferrari 488 GTB is rather excellent

Would you rather fight 100 duck sized Jeremy Clarkson's or 1 horse sized Richard Hammond?

The Clarksons.

Are we allowed to ask when your new show with the other 2 fellas is coming out?

The Autumn, or fall if you're in the US. That's as specific as I can be.

Hi James,

I'm a big fan of your 'Cars of the People' series. What is your personal favourite people's car?

Almost certainly the Austin Allegro Vanden Plas.

Great to have you!

What's the thing we can best look forward to in the new show?

Also, bring back the James May cooking channel!

The really great thing about the new show is that I'm in it.


I don't know if he's still alive. I'll check and get back to you.

James -

Any chance we get this in the states? Just finished up watching the car factory show (aka Building Cars Live), and I always enjoy watching your more technically oriented shows.

If you mean 'The Reassembler', then yes, you will get it if a TV station buys it. They should.

Did you ever get to properly work a Dacia Sandero, and if so, what was your final opinion of it? It seems like a perfectly reasonable vehicle.

It's a lot better than you'd think, and I like an underdog.

Are you having more freedom to do stuff at the new show than at top gear?

We were always pretty free to do what we liked, to be honest.

James- Any chance we'll see more Man Lab? The theme song still randomly gets lodged into my brain and I'm not sure how else to get it out.

I'd like to do that one day. I have the theme tune as a ring tone. Really bloody annoying, isn't it?

What items will you be reassembling?

Petrol lawn mower, old telephone, electric guitar.

What is your favourite Sandwich?

Fish fingers. White council bread, frozen Birds Eye fingers or similar fried in a pan, bit of salad cream or tommy sauce.

Now that you're employed, does that mean you've quit making poor-quality cooking videos for YouTube? I loved those, shittiness and all.

No, I've quit making superb cooking videos for YouTube.

If you had to bottle Jeremy Clarkson's smell, how would you describe it?


Do you have a favorite outtake from Top Gear?

It was all out-takes, as far as I can remember.

What're you most looking forward to in the future of automobiles?

A chauffeur.

Do you ever wake up in the morning and think: how did I get here (in this job)?

Yes, especially when 'here' is a skip or a ditch.

What are your fondest memories of Lancaster Uni, or more importantly Pendle College?

EDIT : Hi Overheard @ Lancs

The constant and uninterrupted sunshine of Lancashire. No, hang on...

Always wondered: what do you smell like?


Hi James!

What is todays tea towel?

I'm not at home, but I think it's famous flying boats.

For you personally: LaFerrari, P1 or 918?


How is it like working with Clarkson and Hammond?


How tired of being asked about Jeremy Clarkson are you?

Are Dacias really your favourite cars?

Very, possibly.

Which was your favourite toy story you did? (Mine was the action man one)

From the design to finish, which did you have most fun on?

What was the biggest challenge you faced?

Were there any that didn't live up to your expectations?

Which ones exceeded your expectations?

Finally will there be any more in the future?

Thanks :)

Overall, the glider one (Flight Club). I didn't think it would work until the last few hours of filming. We might do another one on Matchbox Superfast vs Hotwheels in the future.

When or why did you say "oh cock" for the first time?

It was in Monaco, when I realised I'd lost the race against the Aston.


[You have to start with hello]

Hi James, I'm a huge fan. I read an interview you gave a few years back regarding the watches you wear. I have two questions:

  1. What watches do you currently wear and what do you like about them?

  2. What do you think of the merits, purpose, or charm of mechanical watchmaking in an age when a cheap Casio is more accurate and reliable than any mechanical watch?

I am a fan of mechanical watches as well and I was wondering what your views are on the subject.


Today I am wearing a Rado, which is electronic. But clockwork is fascinating and beautiful. There is room in the world for both, I think.

What is the first vehicle you ever owned?

1978 Vauxhall Cavalier 1.6 L in yellow, with a kicked-in rear door. Loved it.

Will you make more videos on Unemployment Tube?

Next time I'm fired, yes.


I remember that you, just like me, were quite skeptical about electric cars a few years ago because of the poor battery technology. You believed more in hydrogen power or some sort of range extender.

Now though, with the success of Tesla and all their advancements, have you changed your opinion on how "the car of the future" will/should be powered?

edit: grammar

I still like the hydrogen idea, but I can see that it's problematic. I have an electric car, a BMW i3. I think electric motors are great for cars, but electricity remains a bit elusive.

What is your favorite vehicle (can be anything, tank, aircraft, truck, boat/ship) from World War II and why?

Also, one more if you don't mind. Have you three ever considered doing a cheap pickup truck segment? I know when you rescued Hammond from that mountain that you and Jeremy did it but all three of you doing silly things with cheap pickup trucks in America would absolutely delight me since I'm an American and would love to see you all rant off about why they're horrible/bad/etc.

Probably the Curtiss P40. Can't explain why. We have talked about pick-ups.

What cars do you currently own?

And How big of a bell-end is Clarkson?

Porsche 911 C2S BMW i3 Fezza 458 Speciale Massive

Where did the idea for the show come from?

Also, was the line "I'll be putting things back together, slowly," a jab at the Captain Slow nickname?

We'd been talking about it for years. And yes, maybe.

Can you do more audiobooks? Love your voice and it's always interesting to know how to escape Butlins.

I could, but I'd have to write another book first, and I'm trying to avoid it.

Hi James, big fan. I can say with confidence that Top Gear is what got me interested in cars and how they work. My question is, what is your vision of the automotive industry in 10, maybe 20 years? What areas will find innovation and what areas will stagnate? Thanks for taking the time to do this AMA.

Everyone who has ever tried to answer this one has got it wrong. But, long-term, I think cars will become a hobby, and we'll find some other way of getting around.

The trailer makes me feel calm somehow. May I ask you for a haiku about The Reassembler?

The reassembler, Someone takes something to bits, I reassemble.

How do you feel about automated cars? Whilst not able to replace yourself or Clarkson, do you think Richard Hammond's role is at risk?

His role is at risk for all sorts of reasons. That's the least of them.

I know you have a pilots license, and have some, well, "unorthodox" experience with crossing the English Channel, and of course you have a wealth of automobile experience and time on trains from TG. What would you say is your preferred mode of travel? And do you prefer to drive yourself or be the passenger?

I still like to drive myself. I still find driving amazing. I'm amazed we're allowed to do it.

Have you ever been asked to be on QI? Would you like to be on QI? Also, thoughts on Denmark as a whole? Cheers! :-)

I didn't think Denmark was a hole. I rather liked it.

I don't want to talk about your new show. I want to talk about the time you came to Hemel Hempstead. What did you think of the magic roundabout?

Edit: This is the time he came to my town.

I met Dylan and smoked something weird. Man.

How has the impressive cooking been going? Any recent culinary delights you can share with us?

I had a fantastic curry last night. But that's because I didn't cook it.

Hello James! Huge fan of "so-called Top Gear". Thank you for doing this /r/iAMA. I'm stoked and hyped of you contacting us so, say "Hello" to Jeremy and Richard. What is this new show all about?

Putting back together things that have been taken apart for no good reason.

Is there anything you can't reassemble?

Hope. Can't do that.

James, does this new show have a name yet? Also have you had any moments with the new show that give you your "fizzy" feeling?

Yes, I've already had a fizzy feeling on the new Amazon show. But that was when I saw the budget.

Hi James! Thanks for all the laughs over the years! I know you are here to talk about James May The Reassembler, but.........

What was the scariest experience you've had while filming with the Top Gear team? And the funniest?

The scariest was the first time I saw Jeremy CLarkson's face. Come to think of it, that was also the funniest.

How's your recorder skills since you are no longer unemployed?

Still crap.

Honestly, what about cars would gets on your nerves?

They don't have bins in them. I don't know why. I think Volvo have done one.

What is your favourite thing to explain/delve into that the other two find boring?

Relativity. They just don't get it.

Are you ever going to resume making videos on your YouTube channel? The production quality was top notch on those.

No it wasn't. It was crap.

Hello, Mr. May - big fan of a few of your shows. Have you considered making another series of James May's Man Lab? That show was the perfect amount of semi-useful and ridiculous.

One day, yes. Simmy needs some work, apart from anything else.

James! Were you ever the stig, actually?

Some say I was.

If you had to spend the rest of your life living with Clarkson or Hammond, which one would it be and why?

Hammond. He takes up less space, so the house would seem bigger.

Hi, can I ask you, have you ever been in the Czech Republic?

Yes. Nearly got run over by a tram.

Hi James, long time fan. Thank you for taking the time to do this.

Two questions:

  1. One car and one bike for the rest of your life, money no object, what would they be?

  2. Can Marmite be used as a substitute to Bovril?

P.S. The colour combo on the 458 Speciale is superb.

1) Dacia Sandero and Honda C200 2) No

P.S. Thanks

Mr May, what is your favourite way to cook an egg?

I think poached, on slightly burned toast.

How happy are you that the phrase "Oh, cock" has entered the lexicon?

I think it's the only thing, if any, that will be remembered about me. I should have thought of something better.

driving on the left-side of the road or the right-side, which is better?

Better say left.

Left, obviously, otherwise you'd hit a car coming the other way. Duh.

How do you like your steak cooked?

By someone else.

Mr. May, you were "released" from Autocar magazine for hiding a message in one of their yearbooks. Have you since created any other hidden messages in any form of media that you are willing to divulge?

There is a hidden message in this. I'm amazed no-one has spotted it.

Hello Captain Slow!

How many episodes of your new show have you filmed? What's the coolest thing you've reassembled?

There are three episodes initially. The coolest thing I reassembled was a Honda C70. But I didn't do it on the telly, sorry.

Good afternoon James! Can you tell us what all you put back together? Is your objective restoration with full functionality, or simply reassembly? Big fan of your work (especially Oz and James Drink To Britain), and looking forward to seeing you and your cohorts back together in the fall.

This is strictly about reassembly. No restoration or replacement of parts is allowed, and no cleaning up.

James, what is your favourite Soviet cold war-era aircraft and why?

I think the MiG 17. Nice wings.

What is your relationship with Clarkson and the Hamster like outside of the show?

Don't know. Never met them.

Hello Mr May,

Anyone who watches top gear knows that you are a history nerd as well as a car nerd so "what is your favorite story in the history of the automotive industry and why?

PS Huge fan of top gear and I can't wait to watch the new Amazon show or the Reassmbler!

I still think the Beetle is the best story in the history of the car. Absolutely amazing. You couldn't make it up.

Hi James, what video games have you played/do you play? :)

Recently I have been playing Sky Gamblers and Pacific Fleet.

Hi James,

Is this show one of your ideas or did the BBC ask you to do it? Seeing as you were always the most technical one on top "so-called" gear, I'd say its a perfect fit either way and can't wait to see it.

I've made it with the people who also did Toy Stories and Man Lab. We invented putting things back together. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

James, you've spoken before on some of your favourite cars from your childhood, but did you have a least favorite car? If so, which car was it? Also, thank you so much for doing this AMA!

Triumph Mayflower. Stupid looking thing.

Hey James, before I ask my question, just a quick thank you for all of the hours of hilarity you've provided me and my family over the years. Super excited for your future projects.

My question for you is: During your trips around the world on top gear, the trio tends to gift obnoxious presents to eachother to make the trip just that tad bit more annoying. Are there any that you've managed to keep, and if so, which one is your favourite?

I'm sorry to say that they're all landfill, and I wish they were too.

I noticed on an episode of Top Gear you wore a white dial Rolex Milgauss. Are you a watch guy? If so, what are your favorites?

I do like watches, yes.

Slow! Thank you for doing this AMA. You're something of a chef (with an iron stomach no less) - what's your favorite meal to cook for company? Any secret recipes to share with us? How absolutely pissed should I be when cooking fish pie?

I would advise being completely blattered if making a fish pie. At least if it tastes anything like mine.

Hey James! Two questions, 1) Did you ever sell your Ferrari 2) Would you ever sleep in a Lego House again

Yes. No.

Current piano setup?

I don't know. Some idiot has dismantled it ready for series two.

How painful was it driving around Patagonia with 3 cracked ribs? Also, do you now find yourself bubbling up with rage every time you encounter a horse?

The ribs hurt like hell, but I still like talking to horses. But I don't ride them.

What was the most horrible experience you've had to endure for the show? (IE hitting head on a rock and going to a hospital)

I always really hated the post-studio buffet. It was like a crap wedding form the 1970s.

How were all the things you reassembled chosen? Was anything a huge pain in the arse or unexpectedly skookum?

I'd love to answer this but I haven't a clue what skookum means.

James can you say hi to Eduardo?

No. Bugger off Eduardo.

Two part question: Which of your vehicles do you regret selling most and have you ever tried to track them down?

I regretted selling a Moto Guzzi California I had, but I tracked it down and bought it back.

Which shade of brown is best?


When did you realize you enjoyed taking things apart and putting them back together?

We had a poltergeist in our house when I was a kid. It was always taking things like the kettle apart. That's how I got into it.

Do you have any advice for those who are young and struggling in life, e.g. Uni or finding work?

Yes. You still have the world's greatest wealth in being young, so enjoy it.

Hello James May! I'm a huge fan and my question is where did your passion for cars come from?

I got fed up with cycling. It's bloody knackering.

Hi James, thanks for teaching me how to do a proper poached eggs on toast, I'm at uni at the moment and it helps a lot.

You can afford eggs as a student? Wasn't like that in my day etc.


Not that I can discuss here.

Favourite type of pie?


What's the capital of New Zealand?

Is it Australia?

Does the new show have a name?


Hi Mr. May! Do you have any interesting hobbies that the public wouldn't guess?

I do massive tapestries, but don't tell anyone.

Hey James, what's your favorite American fast food restaurant?

Val's Burgers in Haywood, CA.

Taking things apart as a child means that I love DIY now; is this how you got started, have you always been a reassembler?

The first thing I took apart was my mum's bedside alarm clock. But I was only four and never got it back together.

You have 2 hours to cook a meal for the Queen, what is it?

I think Jeremy would be happy with a bowl of basic pasta.

Hey James, my question is what's the strangest thing you've ever seen whilst out on the road?

The lucky dog that saved me when I was driving the lorry through Burma. I still think about that.

Your article about the 911 3.2 is why I now own a 1988 Guards Red 3.2. It's as wonderful as you suggested. I was never that bothered about owning an old car until I stumbled across your article, thanks a lot. I just wish they were still going for £15k...

What else do you recommend the aspiring classic car collector buys?

I've sold mine. I hated it.

Hi Mr.May,

I deeply enjoy your content on history, and military topics.

What is your favorite part of history and why?

I like the Serbian Nobility Conflict of 1369.

Did you want to pursue a career in television when you left school or was it something that just happened? If not what did you want to do originally?

I originally wanted to be a gigolo, but didn't get any offers.

If budget was no object, what TV show would you make?

The Reassembler International Space Station edition.

After the whole Top Gear exodus, I'm kinda surprised the BBC let you come back, even for a separate show. Then again you and Hammond may have left on better terms.

Anyway, was Amazon in your mind when you were planning The Reassembler, or was this in the pipeline before all that?

It's been in the pipeline for about eight years. Took a while to put it together.

Favourite thing about Lancaster?

I like the astrodome on top of the cockpit canopy.

Favourite biscuit?

I actually like boring biscuits, like Rich Tea and Digestive.

Who does the disassembly?!

I don't know. It just happens when I'm not looking. It's bloody annoying.

Hi James! Have You seen the repaired version of Adams Probe 16?

Yes, I have. Cool.

Permission to say 'oh cock'?

I am no longer empowered to grant permission, so crack on.

Hello, James, what colour does your favourite sweater has?

Blue it has.

Now then, hows things?

Pure coincidence but I am sat on my arse reading this and having a brew while I should be out servicing the lawnmower before I give the back field it's first cut. It's bloody baltic out and I really can't be bothered, Have you any words of encouragement for me?

I'd carry on as you are.

Can I buy you a beer the next time you're in Houston, TX?


James, I am a big fan. I love your segments on TG and all of your other projects espescially "Cars of the People." My question is this: Do you get lost on purpose for the show? Or do you genuinely think your sense of direction is good? Even though you are frequently proven otherwise by the results.

Only boring people know where they're going.

Will there be specials in the new show, similar to the top gear episodes? I know I speak for many when I say that those episodes were some of my favourites in the entire series.


Hey James, like basically everyone here, I can't wait to watch your new show with Pinky and Perky. Any idea if/when/how it will be available in Canada, as Amazon Prime Video isn't here?

All I can say is, stand by.

Your show Cars of the People is one of the best shows I ever watched. Would you ever continue that series or do a spinoff on other cars?

I try to avoid spinning off. It's bad for my reputation.

Hi James. Two questions: 1) how accurate is my username to the fiasco that happened? 2) when you were in california, did you try the in-n-out burgers?

I have had many In-and-Out burgers, most recently with Jay Leno. Namedrop.

James... as a musician, what is your honest opinion as Jeremy as a drummer? Is he any good?

I thought he was building a shed.

I work a couple of units across the car park from you, would you like a coffee?

Yeah. Bring it over.

Whats been the most challenging point in this new TV show?

Watching it, I imagine.

How do you really feel about 2CVs? As a man who appreciates a good mass-market product and transportation enabler, I would be surprised if you were as much as an advocate for the amount of abuse they get from your co-presenters...

I rather like a good 2CV. My mum had one.

Hi James! I appeared on your show 'James May's Toy Stories' in the Airfix episode back in 2009 when I was still at secondary school, and I was the boy that didn't want to blow up his Airfix tank and that you said 'Would go far'. That comment always meant a huge amount to me, and still does. I'm currently studying for a Masters degree in Engineering at Oxford, so I could end up building a real plane someday, depending on how I specialise, although I haven't built much Airfix since the show! My question is, what in your opinion is the most impressive feat of modern day engineering?

Well, there you go. I was right. I think the 1959 Suffolk Colt lawnmower is pretty hard to beat.

This interview was transcribed from an "ask me anything" question and answer session with James May conducted on Reddit on 2016-03-22. The Reddit AMA can be found here.