The Back-roads of Bangers to Bangor

Whenever there is a new car in the market, we see a lot of car publications and automotive journalists taking the cars out for a comprehensive review. This usually includes journalists talking to the audience by looking straight into the camera and giving them an in-depth explanation of the car in-terms of its feel, handling and driveability out on the open roads along with which viewers are also presented with an array of seemingly amazing photos of the car surrounded by some of the most scenic backgrounds.

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As budding automotive journalists, we decided to find out for ourselves as to what goes on behind the scenes in creating such videos and acquiring such photos as part of a learning curve. So, we took out two cars a 23-year-old BMW E30 and a 14-year-old Volvo S80 and headed out to Bangor, Wales.

On the way, we encountered some of the most brilliant driving roads, filled with some of the best scenic backgrounds all aiding us our first attempt at a proper car review. 

The Idea & the Preparations

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It all started when a bunch of five budding automotive journalists decided it would be a good idea to head out of the city in a couple of cars and put to practice what we have learnt during our first semester in automotive journalism. Looking at the maps, the North of Wales popped up repeatedly, why you ask, well for starters it has the Evo Triangle – a twenty mile stretch of tarmac praised highly by the writers of Evo Magazine while also gracing their presence as a backdrop of pictures for most car publications on a monthly basis.

Preparations soon started, with everyone giving inputs as to how each one could or would contribute towards the photoshoot. With many ideas and plans starting to gather steam it soon turned out to become a sort of a main event of the week. With bags packed and all required equipment rented out for the duration, all one had to do was drive to the place and start clicking on the camera button, or so we thought.

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The reality was far from that, for the most part of it the proper technique of using the equipment borrowed was something new to all of us, which meant trial runs. Hence before heading off to Wales we set about finding roads just off the city to first try our hands at the art of photography and videography. We set up cameras at different angles inside and outside the cars, testing out all the gear, driving the cars back and forth on the same piece of tarmac for hours at end until we finally got a bit of understanding on the ways by which we could get the kind of images and video clips we all shared in our minds.

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The Journey

Starting off our journey at Coventry we lined up the two cars in context, the BMW E30 and the Volvo S80. I started off the journey in the E30 with Illya, heading onto the British motorways in the early hours of the morning.

Moving in convoy with the Volvo, there were times where you could clearly make out the lack of power or torque from the 1.6-litre engine in the BMW. The E30 needed to be revved hard with late gear shifts to build-up the power required to keep up with the comparatively higher powered 2.4-litre diesel engine on the S80. The car also showed its age with a lot of rattling noises entering the cabin, sometimes enough to even dampen the engine and exhaust note themselves. 

Upon entering Wales, the six lane motorways gave way to narrower two-lane roads, long stretches of straight giving way to twists and turns and heavy traffic of the motorways turning into scarcely populated country roads. This is where the E30 came into its own navigating the corners more confidently because of its comparatively smaller size and lower weight, while being able throw itself around the corner at higher speeds more easily. The only problem here was that the E30 being a left-hand drive required more attention with myself aiding Illya through blind corners while sitting on the right-side of the car. 

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Round One Photoshoot

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Navigating our way through the two-lane carriageways of Wales, we reached our first destination Bala, a small town next to a beautiful lake called Llyn Tegid. Here against the backdrops of the lake and the surrounding mountains, we set up the cars in line for our first round of photoshoot. Arranging the cars in-line with each other we started off experimenting on different camera angles while also trying out various settings on the camera learnt during the first semester of course work.

While parked next to the lake, we also tried our hand at shooting an introductory section of Max and Illya’s ‘Bangers to Bangor’ video.  To state the facts, we did manage to stand in the cold Wales weather for upwards of two hours to get an introductory clip not more than three minutes long.

The three-minute video clip which took upwards of two hours to get right included many re-takes trying to get the perfect clip keeping in mind most parameters like the angles, writing and sounds correctly, not to mention the number of times both Max and Illya constantly kept forgetting their lines requiring them to keep referring to their transcripts time and again.

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Car Filming

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Once we nailed the introductory video (as per our beginner’s standards at least) we took off from the beautiful scenic view of the lake back onto the carriageway, bound towards Bangor. On the way, we got to experience some of the best driving roads Wales had to offer. Along the way, we set up video cameras in both their cars, got out the transcripts for each of their car’s review and then the cameras started recording. Both Max and Illya who had prepared transcripts for their video review, went about talking about their cars, one paragraph at a time with each paragraph requiring a minimum of two to three takes. The three of passengers, gave our inputs and helped the two drivers/reviewers with their video chipping in with either prompts from the transcripts or correcting them as and when they went wrong.

Soon we stopped over for a break, which gave me a chance to hope on to Max’s Volvo. The difference in-terms of the size, the power and the overall feel was immediate. With the cold Wales weather hitting our face the moment we step out of the car, the heated front passenger seats on the Volvo was a welcome additional feature. The power was adequate to pull the 1.6 odd tonne car forward. But what the car really felt short of was the nimbleness. It’s not a car one can throw around the corner, it’s not a car one can drive flat out on twisty roads, it’s a big car meant to be driven straight on a motorway with the cruise control switched on and with one eye on the average mileage the car produces. These points became apparent on the single carriageways of Wales, while the E30 was jumping around on its soft suspension while its rear end is all over the road, the Volvo S80 chugged along like a big yacht on the sea without any sort of movement firmly stuck to the roads and its ups and downs.

It was easy to see the difference between the two ‘Bangers’, one was the fun, light weight and naughty car trying to pull its rear out around a corner, while the other was a serious, heavy car which meant business and we all know which is which.

Round Two Photoshoots

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Moving along from the lake and the break in between, we reached the roads, deemed by some as the best stretches of tarmac – The Evo Triangle. Once here, we decided to carry on the tradition of getting rolling shots and videos of the car similar to other professional publications. The roads were perfect, the cars were ready, the scenic view was splendid in all directions.

We started off slowly, getting some rolling shots of both the cars with Chirag and myself placing ourselves in different parts of the corners to get different. We got out into the freezing cold winds climbing small hills, straying into the fields, standing right on the curb all the while getting some good images, while Max and Illya drove around their cars back and forth. 

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Footage Review

Finally, the two long days on the road were done and we got in the cars and headed back home to Coventry. We reached home late at night exhausted but at the same time excited to see the results of our two long days of hard work. We met up the following morning and went through all the video footage and the photos, reviewing what we could use and what we missed out on. Each one of us had managed to get over 1000 photos per person, hence going we prepared for another long day of work.

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Going through all the stuff we had acquired over the duration of the trip, Illya, Max and myself decided it would be a good idea to pen down our experiences of the whole journey through which we could maximise in utilising all the footage and images we had at our disposal. We concluded that while Max and Illya would stick to writing about the journey from the point of view of the driver and explain their cars and the driving prowess of each of them while I being a passenger on both the cars would try and document what it’s like to be on the journalist’s side of a car review. This was an interesting topic as car enthusiasts or people in general don’t always understand the amount of research or work a journalist or a reviewer go through while making such reviews (surely, we didn’t). 

Final Article

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So now that you know how the whole trip turned out and how all of us kept fooling around trying to get the perfect shot, perfect video while still enjoying the drive. Check out the actual article from the point of view of the two drivers Illya and Max published on the ‘Automotive’ magazine.

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Overall the trip to Wales was an amazing experience, where we not only got to learn and put to practice what we had learnt but also enjoy the beautiful sceneries and roads.


To read the main review of the Volvo and the BMW E30, check out the 'Bangers to Bangor' article on our 2017 Automotive magazine.

Also head on to Illya's Youtube channel to watch the full video - Bangers to Bangor: Volvo S80 and BMW E30 for £3000