Meet a man who has made his own special way in the world, using his obvious talents to best effect. On one hand, he’s fascinated by design and engineering, and on the other he’s very personable chap who just can’t stop talking. As we say in English, he’s a true motormouth!
Forty five year old Edd runs Cummfy Banana – a company he set up to make his weird and wonderful automotive projects possible. When not working on this, he works as one half of the presenting team on one of the world’s most popular car TV shows, Wheeler Dealers. Along with his friend Mike Brewer, every episode sees them renovate and old classic car, and (sometimes) sell them at a profit. It’s an odd format, but works brilliantly due the obvious chemistry between the two men, and the stream of useful knowledge it teaches the viewer. Two million fans can’t be wrong!
Edd did an Engineering and Product Design degree in London. “I started playing with cars a lot and I had to do a year in the industry,” he tells me, “so I ended up working as an effects technician in TV. Because of that I began making crazy cars like the Casual Lofa (a drivable sofa) which became the world's fastest piece of furniture，recorded in Guinness World Records，at 87mph (140km/h), which is pretty cool!”
He went on making all kinds of other weird vehicles, when he was offered the job as the resident mechanic on a new television show, around fifteen years ago. The idea was to buy an old car, restore it and sell it on at a profit. Surprisingly perhaps, it has grown into a big success around the English-speaking world and acquired a cult following. “I guess it's worked for as long as it has because it has the chemistry and the tension between myself and my co-presenter. And our show actually divulges information. We do hands-on stuff that’s complex and takes ages to get right – it's about what it’s really like to own an old classic car…”
Unusually for a car show, a lot of women watch it. “Many women feel intimidated when they go into car repair garages, and our show is educating people so they feel they have the power not to be hoodwinked. Even more amazing is that a lot of families with autistic children come up to us at classic car shows and tell us that Wheeler Dealers is the only show that the children can watch that gives them peace and calms them down. I think that it must be to do with the tidiness – we start with something untidy and tidy it up! It has become almost an institution, which is quite amazing…”
One of the great things about watching Edd on TV is his passion for the subject. Whether he’s talking about the engine from a classic Ferrari or just a wheel bearing from a old Ford, he seems to love what he’s doing. “Well, my father was a rocket scientist so I guess I must have a gene of interest,” he tells me. “Britain’s brilliance has been founded on inventions. You know, Christopher Cockerell with his hovercraft, Frank Whittle with the jet engine, John Logie Baird with the television and Tim Berners-Lee with the worldwide web. It must be in our genes, or perhaps it’s the weather! Whatever it is, our society should celebrate it and push for more innovation. It was tragic that when James Dyson tried to do his academy, he couldn't get any support from the government. He’s doing some awesome work and pushes boundaries of design. The small guy is going to reinvent the universe, so needs to be supported!”
True to form, Edd is currently in Huntingdon Beach, California, preparing for his next adventure. He’s about to undertake the Peking to Paris Rally. “It was first held in 1907, when a chap from Paris put an advert in the newspaper saying, ‘what needs to be proved today is that as long as a man has a car, he can do anything and go anywhere. Is there anyone who will undertake to travel this summer from Peking to Paris by automobile?’ Bizarrely, loads of people turned up and drove to Paris. The winning car was driven by Prince Scipione Borghese, who was a bit cheeky because he bought up all of the hotels on the way for himself, so that no one else had anywhere to stay the night! Mike and I were offered the chance to join, and just had to do this amazing event!”
“We have found a 1916 Cadillac Roadster which is actually the world's first V8, and the first car to have the controls as we know them today,” he explains. “It has got cool features like a little air compressor on the gearbox which you can actually pump the tyres up with. While it's not quite from 1907, it is still very open so I guess the chance of hypothermia and instant death is possible! Because of that we've got to be quite careful and it's all got to be well planned. We’re up against over a hundred other cars, some of them much more modern. I guess it's about steady pace and navigation not just speed. Your brain needs to be on for eight hours a day, as it is nine thousand miles in just over a month and a huge challenge even in a modern car.”
Edd is checking every part of his historic Cadillac, remanufacturing bits that need fixing if he can’t buy them. “For me, this is where much of the joy comes from, taking the car apart and learning how they've done it which is often so different to what we think of a normal today.” It’s certainly different to his dream car – the McLaren F1. “I love it because it can still hold its own from a style point of view, despite being over twenty years old, and was built to deliberately push boundaries. I just think it is a fantastic car.” Still, I get the sense that his heart lies in his own inventions. “I like fixing things and creating things. That's what I do best,” he tells me, with a smile.