National Geographic has handled a wide variety of subjects over the years. Many of these have been related to nature, but you’d probably be surprised how many haven’t. The upcoming “Driving America” will encapsulate the history of the American automobile and its impact on our society in a two-hour special. Some of it will be technical in nature, looking at early steam-powered versions of the automobile or the much newer Tesla electric cars. But it seems that it will focus much more on car culture, and how it has shaped our lives.

It is surprisingly difficult to make television shows about cars that will be watched by anyone other than hardcore enthusiasts. Top Gear had a good formula, but there are only so many copies of the same format that you can watch. National Geographic has dealt with cars in the past, but many of these shows have relied heavily on archival footage and overly dramatic music and voiceovers to cover for what is ultimately pretty boring stuff. But this being a special and not a part of series, it will hopefully be treated differently, and some real money will be spent making it.

Continue reading for the full story.

Why it matters

The special will cover several aspects of American automotive life, from Eisenhower’s building of the massive interstate highway system to the invention of the motel. Curiously, the press release only mentions the Model T, arguably the most important of all American automotive innovations, in the context of the Volkswagen Beetle being a German take on it.

But we have faith that the special will be worth watching. It is being produced by Silent Crow Arts, which is no stranger to the world of automotive television, and well-produced television at that. National Geographic has also named the 24 Hours of Le Mans as the greatest sporting event in the world, putting it ahead of the Super Bowl and the Olympics. And that is something you only do if you’re really into cars.

National Geographic's "Driving America" Premieres On May 25 Exterior
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Press Release

This summer, millions of friends, families and thrill seekers will participate in a ritual that our ancestors have done for more than century: take a road trip. Trips like these wouldn’t be possible today without motels, highways and fast food restaurants, and those things wouldn’t be a part of the landscape if not for one driving force: the automobile. This Memorial Day weekend, National Geographic Channel invites viewers to buckle in for DRIVING AMERICA (Monday, May 25, at 9 p.m. ET/PT), a two-hour ride through the social, political and economic impact of the automobile on America.

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In 1773 — two years before Paul Revere proclaimed that the British were coming — inventor Oliver Evans proclaimed that he could build a steam-powered carriage. By 1805, he was driving the streets (and rivers!) of Philadelphia with it, America’s first known automobile. From there it was off to the races, as a new industry, and a new obsession, was born.

“Cars, for Americans, more than anything else represent freedom,” says Matt Hardigree, executive director of Jalopnik.com in the film. “It doesn’t matter what you drive, you have the freedom to go wherever you want and do whatever you want, as long as you have the money for gas.”

National Geographic's "Driving America" Premieres On May 25 Exterior
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DRIVING AMERICA looks back at how car culture has changed the way we have lived, worked, traveled and socialized, through original interviews with journalists, car historians, automobile executives and general car enthusiasts. Among the fascinating stories they’ll share:

· Architect Arthur Heineman added a new word to the American lexicon — motel — when he built a drive-up lodging establishment outside San Luis Obispo, California, that charged $1.50 for an overnight stay. The concept exploded, with neon motor courts soon dotting the highway.

· President Eisenhower’s time in the Army’s first transcontinental motor convoy in 1919 stretched on for 62 days on impassable roads. This experience no doubt inspired him to build the interstate highway system. In 1956, when ground was broken, it was the largest public works project in the history of the world: 41,000 miles and 50,000 bridges.

· During the very first Indy 500, engineer and race car driver Ray Harroun raced his way to victory when he ditched his riding mechanic, a person who rode in the car to warn of approaching traffic, and installed a mirror instead — a rearview mirror.

National Geographic's "Driving America" Premieres On May 25 Exterior
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· In 1934, Adolph Hitler asked Ferdinand Porsche to design a German Model T. The result was the Volkswagen Beetle, which Germany made only a few of before World War II scrapped production. After the war, when the British army took control of the Volkswagen factory, they found the little bug-shaped cars, and an unexploded bomb. Thankfully the bomb was dud, otherwise the world might never have known the VW Beetle (which was the most popular car in the world by 1972).

DRIVING AMERICA also looks into the future of the automobile industry, with potential game changers like Tesla’s electric cars. Through it all, one thing is clear: from urban sprawl, to drive-in movies, to OJ’s Bronco and Hot Wheels, the automobile’s overwhelming impact on American society is as endless as the roads we’ve built to drive them on.

For more information on DRIVING AMERICA, visit www.ngcpr.com or follow us on Twitter at @NGC_PR.

National Geographic's "Driving America" Premieres On May 25 Exterior
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DRIVING AMERICA is produced by Silent Crow Arts for National Geographic Channels. For Silent Crow, Matthew Bennett is executive producer, Russell Pflueger is producer/director and Sean McCourt is supervising producer. For NGC, Kevin Tao Mohs is vice president of production, and Tim Pastore is president of original programming and production.

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