In the years immediately following its 2005 launch, YouTube was a very different place. Long before the rise of tutorial videos, gaming streamers and lifestyle vloggers, Internet users were busy looking at classics like the Numa Numa guy and Dramatic Chipmunk. Or perhaps the occasional FailArmy video.
As for the car stuff, there were all sorts of now-legendary videos lurking in dark corners of Internet forums. Sometimes these were freshly created videos, other times long-existing footage that found a new lease of life online. Yes, the quality was often potato-spec, but who cares - the content itself was gold.
Here are a few of our favourites from back in the day.
This is a video we found ourselves talking about recently. For years, this 2007-uploaded video portrayed what must have been the shortest Nurburgring lap in history, with the driver of an E30 BMW 325i stacking it within seconds of entering the track - hence the title “7 Sec Ring Master”. But a couple of months ago, a Mercedes-AMG C63 was caught on camera binning it the moment the lap began.
In 2009, a couple of road users filmed a Bugatti Veyron nonchalantly leaving the road and ditching into a lake. As it turned out, the pair had just witnessed attempted insurance fraud. We say ‘attempted’, as the driver Andy House’s claims that he was “trying to avoid a low-flying pelican” fell flat thanks to this footage proving otherwise.
He ended up spending a year in prison, and the video has gone on to clock nearly 10 million views. The now-infamous Veyron involved has since reemerged and is - at last - undergoing repairs.
A couple of years before the launch of YouTube, a news report from KRON in the San Francisco Bay Area covering the rise of ‘whistle tip’ exhausts went viral the old fashioned way. It spread through car-related messaging boards across the globe, and one man even set up a fan site for ‘Bubb Rubb’, a self-confessed whistle tip fan and now Internet meme icon. KRON subsequently sent a cease and desist notice.
As for the YouTube upload, that emerged in 2006. To date, it’s racked up 4.3 million views.
Here’s where it all started. Looking back, 2008’s ‘Ken Block Gymkhana Practice’ seems disarmingly low key compared to some of the later, more outlandish efforts. There are no over-the-top set pieces unless you count Block doing doughnuts around a dude on a Segway. But that’s half the appeal - this is Block’s tyre-shredding shenanigans distilled into a much simpler form, enjoyed so far by nearly 16.5 million viewers.
An oldie that found a new audience on YouTube, and a big one at that. On this upload alone 3.5 million people digitally tuned in to watch the late, great Ayrton Senna thrash a Honda NSX around Suzuka. What made the video particularly interesting was the two additional camera angles shown alongside the main onboard view - one of the instrument cluster, and one of the pedal box. The latter gave us a great view of Senna’s masterful heel and toe action, and his fetching loafers.
Ed Bassmaster’s 2010 ‘Look At This Car!!’ video was a viral sensation. Today, the original upload is on a whopping 40 million views. The audio has had something of a resurgence via various videos on TikTok and Instagram Stories.
Perhaps the only thing worse than entrusting a 14-year-old with a brand new Ford Mustang GT is filming proceedings - tempting fate, much? Moments after getting behind the wheel, the titular Joey drives through the rear wall of the garage, thankfully coming to a rest before ploughing through the house too. Released in 2006, the video is now on 4.3 million views.
Honda‘s famed ‘The Cog’ advert, featuring a meticulously put together chain reaction, feels like it was made for the social media generation. It came out a few years before YouTube’s inception, but despite prolific airings on TV, a later upload has still managed to attract 10 million views.
Although some insisted it was fake, the ad is the real deal. The sequence would technically work in one take but was separated into two sections for easier filming, with the two parts stitched together using a brief moment of CGI.
It’s all well and good to be mad at the driver for killing this poor C6 Chevrolet Corvette’s clutch, but we can’t help consider the bystanders partly culpable for standing by and doing nothing. Still, it meant nearly half a million people could morbidly enjoy this embarrassing moment of mechanical barbary.
One of the lesser-viewed videos here, but one that still holds a special place in many petrolheads’ hearts. Kreissieg’s video of a Lamborghini Countach fitted with one of its exhausts made for compelling watching (and listening) long before YouTube soundchecks were an established thing. The Japanese manufacturer has a channel full of videos like these, if you fancy disappearing down a noisy rabbit hole for a few hours.
‘The Hire’ was a series of videos, but if we’re going to pick one, of course it’s going to be ‘The Star’ since it features an E39 BMW M5. As a series of Internet-only viral marketing videos, BMW’s The Hire was well ahead of its time.
In each one Clive Owen starred as ‘the driver’, who was placed in situations that necessitated the driving of various brand new BMWs - often fast, and sometimes while being shot at. Various high-profile directors were brought on board including John Frankenheimer (best known amongst us lot for directing Ronin), Ang Lee and Tony Scott. Owen’s co-stars included Forest Whittaker, Stellan Skarsgard and Madonna.
Released over 2001 and 2002, they predate YouTube - to watch, you had to go onto BMW’s website and download them. A few years later, the videos ended up on the platform, where they were watched many, many times. BMW produced a reboot/sequel of sorts called ‘The Escape’ in 2016.
Millions of people have enjoyed watching this chap called Chavez going awfully fast in a modified Nissan Maxima while shifting through gears in a manner violent enough to make Dominic Toretto blush. The above upload from 2013 is on 28 million, but the original first appeared some years before. A true Internet motoring legend.
What other classic viral YouTube videos do you fondly remember?