MUM and dad bickering over the A to Z, using a coat hanger as a car aerial and that one CD that played repeatedly whenever your family went on a long journey.

Just a few motoring memories all now lost on today’s generation as according to a new survey for the BBC’s Top Gear.

The research for Top Gear into family car travel over the last 40 years reveals a seismic change between generations and identifies the in-car travel experiences that could soon be consigned to the history books.  

Tuning in the car stereo, picking up hitchhikers and the plaintive cries of 'are we there yet?’ from restless children are also listed among the motoring experiences that younger generations are unlikely to encounter.  


The survey of 2,000 UK adults aged 40 and over was commissioned by BBC Studios to mark the start of the 30th series of flagship BBC One motoring show on Sunday, March 14. 

In this weekend’s show, presenters Paddy McGuinness, Freddie Flintoff and Chris Harris drive their old family cars and reminisce about their childhood motoring memories.  

In car games such as ‘I Spy’ and imaginative checklists to spot road signs were also named as the most fondly remembered ‘motor memories’ (67 per cent),

Whilst it may have been their parent’s worst nightmare the rallying cry of ‘are we there yet’ still has a place in Brit’s hearts with over half of those surveyed (56 per cent) saying it was one of their most vivid family road trip memories.  

The top ten family car travel experiences which have been lost to history:   

1.       Unfurling of maps and arguments between parents over directions (54 per cent).

2.       One CD or tape in the car that you had to listen to every single time you went on a drive (53 per cent).

3.       Pre-planning routes (39 per cent). 

4.       Using a coat hanger as a radio aerial (39 per cent).

5.       Using the cigarette lighter for its original intended purpose (35 per cent).

6.       Endless tuning to get a radio signal (34 per cent). 

7.       Classic ‘in car’ games such as ‘I Spy’ (34 per cent).

8.       Picking up hitchhikers (30 per cent).

9.       The rallying cry of ’are we there yet’ (24 per cent).

10.     His and hers windscreen stickers (sunscreen strips) (23 per cent).

Experiences which just missed out on a top 10 placement included changing your own spare tyre (23 per cent), the discovery of local radio stations being picked up as you drive through a hilly region (19 per cent) and going for a Sunday family ‘leisure drive’ (19 per cent).

The survey also revealed that the countless hours spent on childhood car journeys hold vivid and cherished family memories for the vast majority (68 per cent) of British adults.  

South Wales Argus: Top Gear presenter Paddy McGuinness reminisced of his childhood memories. (BBC/Top Gear)Top Gear presenter Paddy McGuinness reminisced of his childhood memories. (BBC/Top Gear)

Top Gear presenter Paddy McGuinness reminisced of his childhood memories.

He said: “Kids now will never witness the delights of an A to Z or the games of eye spy in a very warm car.

“It was great to take a drive down memory lane in our old family cars for the new series.  One thing we all recalled with huge affection was the heartfelt chats we had with our parents on those long car journeys when we were growing up.”

Clare Pizey, Top Gear’s executive producer said: “As this new survey would seem to prove, whilst long car journeys back in the day took for ever, weren’t always very comfortable – or indeed safe given lots of us didn’t have rear seat belts - what they did have was loads of family chats and games that have made precious memories.”

She added: “Fred, Chris and Paddy certainly felt like they were driving down memory lane when they drove their Dads’ cars recently and they all remembered just being with their parents in the car very fondly.”

You can see the ‘motoring memories’ segment this weekend when Paddy, Freddie and Chris return to our screens.

Top Gear starts today, Sunday, at 8pm on BBC One and BBC iPlayer.