British Asia Network - Shahzad Sheikh
London 7 August 2019 - You never know who you're actually going to get when you meet a celebrity for the first time. The person on screen or someone else entirely.
And that could range from an airhead actor lost without a script, a dismissive diva that struggles to tolerate your impertinent impinging on his or her time, or sometimes a defensive antagonist inherently mistrustful of the media and who's decided you're only there to do a takedown.
I've always been a little reluctant when it comes to certain celebrity interviews - heeding the adage 'never meet your heroes'. So is Ant Anstead, who's been on Wheeler Dealers for only two of its 16 years, a hero of mine?
Well the two years of WB was preceded by the wonderful 'For The Love of Cars' TV series as well as 'World's Most Expensive Cars', and he also did a couple of Building Cars Live shows. Additionally Ant's been working on motors since he was very young and grew up to realise every car kid's dream - to design and build his own sportscars!
Along the way he was even in the police - one of the youngest armed officers in Britain with two commendations for bravery, as well as a stab scar memento to show for his service. Now that's kinda badass.
Then of course, famously, and perhaps controversially, he stepped into the literally giant shoes of every car nerd's beloved mechanic, Edd China, and did not so much as land on his feet running, but positively flew.
His expert knowledge, wizardly engineering and fabrications skills, as well as effortless commentary and engaging style, make the most tedious of mechanical tasks seem fabulously compelling and even exciting. On top of all that he's handsome chap too - says my wife. Oi! I saw you mouth 'man crush'!
So here we are then, after weeks of anticipation, sitting together and chatting in a tent at the back of Mike Brewer's stage, whilst he passes on his inexhaustible car-buying knowledge to an admiring live audience at the Silverstone Classic. We're trying to engage in conversation above the din of classic race cars roaring around the track as well as the original Wheeler Dealer's amplified banter - frankly it couldn't be a better setting!
You really are Brown!' is how Ant jokingly greets me, not merely breaking the ice but blast-melting it in an instant, and in a way turning back the mirror on my own created persona, that of the Brown Car Guy (he follows me on Twitter). Yes I'm the real deal too.
Before we even get going with the interview we get into a discussion about internet trolls and defining our own identities and actions as we wish, rather than trying to conform to others' blinkered notions. And we do this as if we just casually picked up on a conversation we had been having earlier in the pub.
In that moment the aforementioned adage is cast redundant. Not only is the Ant you see on screen also the one you get in real life but he's that plus plus. Down-to-earth, straightforward, at the same time witty and charming, but most of all, just so damn affable.
If you're a car guy, this is the mate you want to have. Not only would he give you the most solid advice about those interminable carb issues on your jalopy, but he'd probably just turn up, fix it himself, do an engine rebuild whilst he was at it, and fabricate a new rear spoiler - all he would want in return is a cup of tea and some biscuits to dunk in it.
Frankly I wished I'd had more time, there was so much more I would've loved to discuss; I wish my camera and sound equipment had behaved better to properly capture everything; and I wish I'd had someone else to worry about all that so I could just enjoy chatting to this pukka petrolhead.
But in the end I'm just grateful for the opportunity to have met and interviewed Ant Anstead, and to have been reassured that in this world sometimes the sincerely nice guys, do end up in the right place with the right opportunities and deservedly so - it means there's still hope for the rest of us.
I can also reassure you that the next time you're watching Wheeler Dealers, you can be secure in knowing that Brewer's new partner is car guy's car guy, who not only knows his stuff, but genuinely is as excited, stimulated and passionate about automobiles as you and I.