Shane Jacobson is a much-loved Australian actor, presenter and knowledgeable automotive enthusiast. Now, he takes on a new role as the Victorian Automotive Chamber of Commerce (VACC) ambassador.
Sitting down with VACC's Australian Automotive, he talked about his passion for automotive and plans with the Chamber.
You are VACC’s ambassador. What are you going to be doing in your new role?
What I’m going to be doing is having a lot of fun, because what it does is hand me the keys to an arena that I love walking around, which is the state I live in (Victoria), and the all-encompassing world of automotive. It also gives me a chance to broaden my knowledge about the auto industry, such as the sectors and jobs within it.
I hope to have a positive impact on the community VACC services. I want to make the world more aware of what VACC does for its members. It’s no mystery to (Chamber) members but I hope to shine more of a light on that, so the wider community understands the great job VACC does. Also, the members of VACC – several of which are my friends – have told me that they’re excited that I am coming on board, so that we can get more attention on what the Chamber does and what their colleagues in the auto industry do.
There are panel shops and auto electric people, and all sorts of automotive people, who are represented as members. Hopefully I can give them a slightly louder voice. They have a voice, and they have knowledge and experience, but sometimes you have to stand on the roof of your car and yell a bit louder to bring attention to issues. I see that as my job. I’m really looking forward to it.
Where did your interest in all things motoring come from?
The truth – it was a virus I caught when I was really young, and for which I am not seeking a cure. I got it like when you get German measles and the mumps – you really get it. But I didn’t build up an immunity, I just got sicker.
It doesn’t come from my family. I am the one that has an interest in motorsport. My sister knows that there are things called cars and has seen them. My stepfather was a steam engine fanatic, and I would go to steam engine rallies and learn about engineering. My brother doesn’t have much of an interest in cars beyond they are a mode of transport. It was me, on my own.
But like any passion, you don’t know when it starts. My bedroom was covered in pictures of cars and motorbikes that I cut out and posted on the wall. I had hundreds. My parents let me cover every inch of my bedroom walls. In the end, there was no room for me to put up an EH Holden until I tore down a picture of an EH Holden.
What were your favourites back then?
I remember seeing a candy-apple red hotted-up EH Holden with a 400 Chev and centre-line mags pull into the supermarket carpark in Avondale Heights. I was about 10 and sitting on my Malvern Star (bicycle).
It was the first fully-fledged hot rod I had seen. I had never seen anything like it. I’m a Holden man, no doubt, but I am a car lover. The 1932 Ford is on my hitlist. They distract me. The XB Coupe from Mad Max is the toughest looking car I have ever seen.
I have a 1970 ZB Fairlane because they are a moving piece of art. I have always, as long as I can remember, loved cars.
You have an obvious passion for classic cars. What’s in your garage?
I have a 1964 EH Holden, a HJ Kingswood from the film Charlie and Boots that I was in with Paul Hogan – that is in the Holden museum in Echuca, a HQ Ute, a ZD Fairlane, a 1963 MG B Roadster, a VS Commodore Ute that is done up for rallying, an old LandCruiser, and a Morris 1100 convertible that I am doing up.
You also like motorcycles.
I have always ridden dirt bikes, and later in life I started riding road bikes. I currently have a dirt bike that my wife insists I get rid of...
And heavy vehicles…
I own a bus with a few friends. I have a CAMS racing licence because I compete in motorsport. I got sick and tired of sitting on an oil can at the end of the day, so I have this bus which is fitted out.
I have a lot of licenses. I felt as a young kid that to be employable anywhere in the world I should be able to drive things or pick things up and put things down. This was my survival plan. So, I have forklift, scissor-lift, boom-lift, car, motorcycle, bus, truck, all the way up to a semi-trailer.
Do you work on your cars yourself?
No. I understand it, but I am not mechanical. I have helped a friend rebuild a HQ Station Wagon. But do I pull an engine apart and put it back together again? No, I don’t.
I have trusted people that do my work, including panel beating – I have a guy that can roll panels.
I consider myself a handyman but that mechanical stuff, I don’t do. I went to a tech school, so I did do automotive and electrical. But other than helping mates, I have always had my cars worked on.
What was it like working on Top Gear?
The number one question I get asked is – is hosting Top Gear the greatest job in the world? The answer is yes.
We all know that the most fun you can have is driving fast in someone else’s car, with someone else’s fuel, with someone else’s insurance policy, and on a closed-off road in safe conditions. That’s the dream that came true.
I actually didn’t know I was being asked to host the show. I was contacted and I thought I was being asked to be a guest on the show, during the ‘Star in a Reasonably Priced Car’ segment. I was even thrilled to be asked to do that.
I pulled up to meet the show’s executive producer, Peter Abbott on St Kilda Road. I was running a bit late, which is never a good thing when you want to make a good impression. I was driving a six-litre Calais and I got the rockstar car park right outside this café where we were to meet. I parked the car, and the engine is rumbling. When I got out and met Peter, he said, “Okay, you like your cars”.
Halfway through this meeting he said, “We’d love to have you as the host”. And then I realised. I was so thrilled.
The experience itself took me over to New Zealand and England and Ireland and I worked with all of the guys from Top Gear in the UK. They are still my mates – they were fantastic to me. I also ended up doing the Top Gear Live festivals and arena shows and had the thrill of a lifetime.
It’s going to be hard to beat, but it doesn’t mean I won’t stop trying.
You were a competitor in Targa Tasmania in 2021. What was that like?
It’s hard not to think back to Targa 2021 and not see the cloud of the tragedy of three lost lives. We had three in two days. Having said that, when you compete, you are aware of the risk.
But it doesn’t make it any easier to swallow. We all entered that event, including those who lost their lives, because it is such a great event.
We did about 2000 kilometres of road travel – not all of it competitive – and it was magnificent. Sir Stirling Moss was asked what the greatest road in the world was and his answer: Any road in Tasmania. And there is a man who had driven a few.
I love Tasmania and I love cars, so competing in Targa Tasmania makes a lot of sense. It was a bucket list thing for me. It ticked all of the boxes.
What is your most memorable drive?
If I can have four children and love them equally, I think I can answer this in two parts.
I always get a buzz when I go under the timber arches of the Great Ocean Road, because I am a Victorian and it has always been a signature drive for people. The views are amazing. I go for holidays with my family in that region, and I used to go there as a kid with my family, so when I get on that road it takes me back. Even today it seems romantic.
The other trip, thankfully, has been captured on film, when we did the movie Charlie and Boots with Paul Hogan. The film is a road trip from the southernmost point of mainland Australia, Warrnambool, to Cape York. It was filmed in sequence and we did it by road.
I love that the movie has helped a lot of fathers and sons to do road trips and get to know each other. It spurned on a lot of real-life connection stories. That makes that journey even more special for me, and it also served a purpose for other people.
So, that’s why I have two favourites – one is the road that I love for the road, and the other is the journey for what it caused.