I’ve been enjoying Motor Pickers on whatever channel it’s on these days. I don’t know, I just use an app. The premise is simple: a punter wants a new car, so Paul Cowland and Helen Stanley show them three vehicles and a so-called ‘wild car’. This is like the mystery house on Escape to the Country. Without a thatched roof. Or a paddock for your horses.
It’s a nice way to while away 25 minutes: there’s no hype or false jeopardy. It helps that Paul Cowland is an excellent presenter and salesman. My guess is that he was Saab’s ace sales guy. He could almost convince me to buy a new car on PCP. Almost.
At the end, after a short drive in each car, the punter selects their favourite, then drives out of the showroom with a smile on their face. Everyone’s a winner.
Motor Pickers is good, but it could be better. It could be MOT Pickers.
This is very much a PetrolBlog TV show. The premise is roughly the same: a punter wants a car. Punter is given a choice of cars. Punter drives away happy. The end. Roll credits.
However, rather than a shiny showroom with studio lighting and cars that look like they’ve just rolled out of the showroom, MOT Pickers will focus on cars from the opposite end of the used car market. Think under the arches, dobermans on chains and phrases like ‘good runner’ and ‘no warranty given or implied’.
There will be two hosts: a chap who looks suspiciously like Noel Edmonds, but isn’t, and Coogan. That’s Brendan Coogan. MOT Pickers couldn’t afford his more famous brother. Not until series two. That’s assuming it gets a second series. If not, there’s always monkey tennis.
MOT Pickers is set in Grays, Essex. The location is important, for reasons that will become clear. The camera pans across the faces of the Edmonds lookalike and Coogan, who are stood in front of a row of lock-up garages. The faded paint and weeds add to the sense of drama.
“A £500 car. Three near-identical garage doors and no questions,” announces the fake Tidybeard as he steps out of a helicopter. “Except one: MOT or no MOT?”
The punter, armed with £500 of his own money, looks on as Coogan opens the doors to reveal three cars of his ‘dreams’. At this point, MOT Pickers borrows a technique used by Storage Wars, as although the punter can look inside the garages, he can’t drive the cars. Not yet.
There are three cars: one with a fresh MOT, one with an MOT expiring in less than a week, the other with a MOT measured in hours rather than days. Unaware which car has the longest MOT, the punter must decide which one to buy, using only a copy of What Car? from the year the car was built, a torch, a hammer and advice from a character called Dishonest Tom.
Do you trust the words of Tom or you dismiss him as a charlatan? You don’t get this level of jeopardy on Motor Pickers.
The punter is given 15 minutes to make up his mind. As he begins to sweat, fake Edmonds steps in to tell him he has just seconds to decide whether to opt for the crusty Ka, the leggy Laguna or the tired Tigra. As an Essex man, the Ford is tempting. But he’s always fancied a Tigra. It’s a tough call.
In an unexpected twist, he opts for the Laguna. Dishonest Tom’s wild claims about dependability and bulletproof reliability have persuaded the punter to choose the French option. It’s at this point that Coogan reveals that the Laguna’s MOT expires in a week. It could have been worse: the Ka has a mountain of structural advisories to its name and an MOT shorter than Noel’s oh-so-tidy beard.
Now comes the real challenge. There are no scenes of happiness here. No cheery waves from Cowland and Stanley as a cheerful punter drives off in their new car. Oh no, if the punter wants to keep the car, he has to earn it.
Fake Edmonds climbs into a helicopter and takes off, covering the punter and Coogan in a cloud of dust and discarded face masks. He hovers overhead, which sends the criminal underworld of Grays into a state of panic, before they realise it’s not the police.
Coogan explains that the punter must now circumnavigate the M25 at rush hour on a Friday night. He has half a tank of fuel and a Wild Bean coffee in the cupholder. Radio tuned to Magic FM. The air-con doesn’t work, but there’s a Twix in the central storage bin. He’s good to go.
Edmonds follows the action from above, providing a running commentary on the Laguna’s leg of the M25. Coogan remains at the lock-up until he’s approached by a gang of youths, at which point he dives for cover in the Tigra. Even the youths are dismissive of the Ford Ka, which has more holes than a criminal’s witness statement.
If the punter makes it back, he gets to keep the Renault Laguna. In another unexpected twist, he also gets to keep his £500. That’s the good news.
If he fails, he must drive home in the Ford Ka, which by now has an even shorter MOT. He has a matter of hours to brave the M25, make it up the A1 and home to Hull. Edmonds could follow the action from his helicopter, but he decides to head home to watch Bergerac.
Coogan returns to his Land Cruiser to find that the alloys have been nicked, so jumps in the Vauxhall Tigra and heads to Southend for some chips.
Three men, heading off into the night in different directions. There’s time for one more shot from Edmonds’ chopper, which shows the Tigra heading east and the Ka on the inside lane of the M25, with a blown headlight bulb and an occasional puff of blue smoke.
“Join us again next week,” says fake Edmonds, “as we make more dreams come true on MOT Pickers.”
Meanwhile, Jane from Carshalton, who was set to appear on next week’s show, has second thoughts and cancels her appointment. That leaves a broken Brava, a soiled Shuttle and a patchy Probe with all go and no show.
Did anyone remember to give Dishonest Tom a lift back to the station?
Images © James Hime and Shutterstock