Adam Carolla On The 24 Hour War, His Le Mans Rivalry Documentary
It’s no secret funny man Adam Carolla is one of Hollywood’s most renown car guys. From vintage Lamborghinis to classic pedigreed Datsun racecars, Carolla is a genuine petrolhead who’s in a position to give back to the hobby he so dearly loves—thankfully for us, he’s doing just that.
Partnered with co-director Nate Adams, the two recently founded Chassy Media, an automotive focused film outlet that’s quickly developing into a serious documentary producing machine. In 2015, they released their first film titled Winning: The Racing Life of Paul Newman. But, just last week Nate and Adam dropped their newest installment titled The 24 Hour War, which covers, in great detail, the beautifully ferocious Ford/Ferrari Le Mans rivalry of the 1960s.
Adam was kind enough to pen me in his very full itinerary to discuss Chassy Media, The 24 Hour War, and the film house’s bright future.
Andrew Golseth: Adam, we generally begin these chats by asking, “What was your first car,” but I understand your first “car” was actually a motorcycle. What bike was that and after you realized four wheels were better than two what vehicle did you purchase?
Adam Carolla: Yeah, it was a Honda 400 four, like probably a 1977 or something like that. It was used when I got it, but it was nice. Not much power, but four-cylinders on a 400cc displacement, it was pretty smooth. You know the main thing about the bike was it just handled really well. It was all about the handling, it just handled incredibly. It probably saved me a few times just because of how well it handled.
I didn’t have any money or anything until I was, I don’t know, 19. I had a mode of transportation in high school—I’d borrow my dad’s Buick Regal. The first car I got was a Datsun 240Z that was older, it was a ‘73. I got it in ‘84 or something like that. But, I quickly figured out that I had to get rid of the motorcycle and get rid of the Z-car because I needed a pickup truck.
I worked as a carpenter/construction laborer and my boss told me that if I bought a truck he’d give me another dollar an hour. So, I bought a ‘79 Mazda long bed and from that point on it was pretty much Datsun pickup trucks until I got into show business.
AG: Alright, before we dive into the new documentary titled The 24 Hour War, tell me about Chassy Media—how did that get started?
AC: Nate Adams and I did the documentary Winning: The Racing Life of Paul Newman, our other racing documentary. We sort of distributed it through conventional means. Which was, you know, it’s just a lot of cutting in other people and having them show you trailers that they cut which they charge you for even if you don’t like it and then you have to go recut the trailer—all that kind of stuff.
We just kind of decided, like, here we are making these movies, we’re doing it all in-house, we’re doing the trailers in-house, we’re doing the posters in-house—when I say “in-house,” I mean we’re working with guys who make a poster, we’re not making the graphics.
But we’re doing all of this stuff ourselves, why don’t we keep going? Start a website and just sell it ourselves? We’re doing all the work and when we’re done doing all the work, we’d cut in some guys form New York or Los Angeles who’d just wet their beak even though they didn’t do the work.
It’s not that that’s not a good route for some people, just for us, I got a platform. I’ve got a podcast. Let’s just keep this going and build our own site, ya know? I’m also kind of a “bet on yourself” kind of guy and that’s been working for me the last few years so I’m keeping with that.
AG: Definitely. So, was Nate Adams a natural co-director/partner in Chassy Media? Is he a car guy too?
AC: He’s actually not a car guy. We were introduced by a mutual friend and we started working on an independent movie I was doing called Road Hard. I learned pretty quickly that he was a guy who was able to make things happen. Get crews together, there’s a lot of logistics to this stuff, there’s a lot of clearance and insurance. Everyone thinks they want to do this, every jackoff in Hollywood wants that. (laughs) You know, “I want to be a producer,” or, “I want to be a director.” But people don’t really realize how much paperwork is involved and how boring it is—and 92% of it is. They think it’s all cocktail parties, sort of hobnobbing, and, “Hey, let’s sit down with Robert Redford and interview him for the Paul Newman doc.” There is that, but that’s a very small percentage of what you’re doing. It’s like, we gotta get a crew in New York, we gotta get a rental car and van, we’ve got to coordinate this thing with Robert Redford’s assistant, we only have an hour with him, you know, bla bla bla. It’s just a bunch of work.
And Nate, Nate is not scared of that work, which I like. Most guys go, “I wanna be a producer, but I don’t want to do this crap.” They picture their assistant doing all this stuff, but it doesn’t work that way. You can’t do it that way. It’s real nuts and bolts and it takes a lot of experience and a lot of relationships. You’ve got to have these relationships with crews, guys that do lighting, and direct photography, all that stuff. Nate is just that guy. And I was the guy with the passion for the cars and knew the stories. Plus, I’ve shot a lot of stuff as well so I know what I want stuff to look like and sound like.
AG: Well, the duo certainly seems to jive well. I just watched The 24 Hour War and you and Nate did a bang-up job retelling one of the world’s most iconic and grueling motorsports duels: Ferrari vs. Ford at Le Mans in the 1960s. Aside from the obvious significance of this legendary rivalry, why did you set out to make this documentary?
AC: I don’t have fantastic answer, and you’ll see when you watch the Newman documentary, you’ll say, “God damn, I loved that one as well.” I don’t know why that story needed to be told either but I sort of just skim through life and stop once in a while and interview a guy or read a book. In this case, I talked to A.J. Baime who wrote Go Like Hell: Ford, Ferrari, and Their Battle for Speed and Glory at Le Mans and I thought, “This is an interesting story. That’s a story. That story needs to be told.” In the case of the Newman doc, I have a whole bunch of his racecars and restore them, maintain them, and race them, so I kind of liked them. That one was easy for me. Now we’re working on a Willy T. Ribbs doc, the first black driver at Indy, because along the way of doing the Newman doc someone says, “You’ve gotta interview Willy T. Ribbs. Newman got him his first sponsorship in the Trans Am series.” So, now you go alright now we’re going to interview Willy T. Ribbs and then you think, “Well, this is an interesting story.” There’s your next documentary, ya know? It doesn’t work any differently than any other part of life. (laughs) Whether it’s meeting your wife or whatever it is, it just kind of happens. Next thing you know, here we are kind of thing.
AG: Certainly, things just sort of snowball. One of my favorite aspects of the film was the depth of the mechanical side that was divulged. It was just enough to get us petrolheads all fizzy over, yet it’s still easy to follow and entertaining to “normal” people devoid of gearheaditis—is that a challenging balance to strike?
AC: It’s not for me because I have a goal. I create these things with the intent of you sitting down with your wife and watching it and her enjoying it too. To me, I’ve failed as a filmmaker if this thing is for you but it’s not for her or not for him because they’re not gearheads, etcetera. I want your 14-year-old to enjoy it, I want your wife to enjoy it, I want everyone to enjoy it. That’s sort of how I approach it.
I live in L.A., I know a whole bunch of car guys and of course I want them to enjoy it but for me, I make these films with these guys… you have no idea how un-car-guy this town is. There’s a handful of Tim Allens and Jay Lenos of the world, but for every one of them there’s a thousand guys who don’t know and don’t care about cars and I employ many of them. So I’ve got to make a movie and there’s a bunch of Priuses in the parking lot and they can’t drive a stick shift but I’ve gotta make a movie with these guys. (laughs)
If the guy I’m editing the movie with is confused, he’s just basically sitting in for your wife. He knows about as much as your wife does about cars and I’m surrounded by these people. So, if these guys are asking questions during editing, then I already know I need to modify things.
AG: You guys had a killer lineup of contributors who were there firsthand during this historic era—Piero Ferrari, Peter Brock, Mario Andretti, Dan Gurney, just to name a few. Being such an intense international rivalry, was it difficult to get everyone on board to contribute their piece of the puzzle, or have tensions settled after all these years?
AC: You know, I really didn’t know. I didn’t know if we were going to get the Italian contingent on board. The story doesn’t really end on a happy note for them. I didn’t know if they wanted to talk about it and I didn’t know who was even around to talk about it. I was pretty happy their race director was only 26 when Enzo gave him the nod. So, he’s still a relatively young guy now considering he was right in the middle of everything through the ‘60s.
I was really happy we were able to get those guys. But, whatever it takes, it just means more: more travel, more logistics, more money, more everything because now you’re going to Europe to talk to people. It’s a hassle but our thing is we just gotta make the best movie we can make.
AG: Now, I know you’re a Lamborghini guy, but I’m going to put you on the spot: Ferrari or Ford? What’s your favorite of each marque?
AC: I think the Ferrari GTB Competizione is just the best lookin’ car in the world. It’s just the best lookin’ thing ever made, even better than the Ferrari 250 GTO. I like the Ferrari LM 250, too, the mid-engine they went to.
And Ford, you gotta go with the GT40. But the first year of the Shelby GT350, the ’65 Mustang, that’s a nice piece too. And the new Ford GT that’s coming out in a year is pretty damn cool.
AG: Now that you’ve set up shop with Chassy Media and knocked out two racing documentaries with Nate Adams, is it safe to say you two will continue cranking out these high-production in-depth automobile films?
AC: Oh, yeah. What we’re doing is we’re going to have our own documentaries, our own product, and we’re also going to be an aggregator for other people’s products. For instance, we didn’t produce The Bug Movie: Life and Times of the People’s Car, but it’s a good movie so we’re putting it up on the site.
This way people have a nice selection of titles on Chassy Media. We’re going to have multiple, multiple titles up there soon, including the Willy T. Ribbs one, and it’ll just keep going.
AG: Great to hear, we’re looking forward to watching. Any last note you’d like to end this on?
AC: I would tell people, who don’t have this gearhead thing, whether it’s Winning: The Racing Life of Paul Newman or The 24 Hour War, just take a look at the reviews. The audience and top critics and all that kind of stuff, all great feedback.
Take a chance on it and watch it, because people think, “No, I’m not into cars and that sort of thing,” but I watched King Of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters. I’m not into video games and I enjoyed watching that. Don’t just watch documentaries on stuff you’re interested in or you won’t learn anything.