TEST DRIVE by Dave Carley
CBC RADIO ONE
Linda Grearson: Producer
Winner: Bronze Medal, New York International Radio
Festival (Best Play)
FROM December 1 2001
Re-visiting the Sixties re-visiting the Sixties with the
life and loves of car dealer Earl Hughes, largely set
inside a Nash-Metropolitan!
The life and times of a car man are chronicled in Test
Drive, which premiered in 2004 at Ontario's famous
Blyth Festival. Earl Hughes loves his wife, children and
cars - and not always in that order. He also considers
his life to be resoundingly ordinary, except that every
ten years or so he sets out on a test drive that rocks
his world. Earl's first trip begins in 1954 - Hurricane
Hazel is brewing but he thinks he's still got time to sell
a Nash Metropolitan to a would-be starlet. After that
fiasco, Earl drives through the Cold War, discovers
peace, love and brownies at Woodstock, and
eventually comes to a screeching stop in 2004 - when
he must fight his final battle, to keep his driver's
Dedicated to the memory the legendary Canadian
automotive pioneer Hector Dupuis.
Earl Hughes loves his wife and kids, but cars have
always been his passion. His journey begins in 1954 -
a hurricane is brewing, but he still thinks he can sell a
Nash Metropolitan to a would-be starlet. From there,
he drives through the Cold War, detours around
Woodstock, and eventually comes to a screeching stop
in 2014, where an inevitable turn of events threatens
to put an end to his joyrides for good.
01 Test Drive December 1, 2001
1954. Earl takes over the car dealership after the
dramatic death of his father in law. In this episode he
takes a comely Leaside librarian out for a test drive in
a Nash Metropolitan. The test drive is literally a
washout - Hurricane Hazel intervenes, and Earl is
forced to spend the night in the librarian's apartment.
He is sorely tempted to break his marriage vows, but
doesn't. However, his wife Dorothy uses the near miss
with the Young Miss to leverage herself back into
working at the dealership.
02 Missiles and Mennonites December 8, 2001
1962. A young man enters Earl's dealership and asks
Earl to take him for a test drive to his parents' farm.
Daniel is a Mennonite living on a farm just at the
Markham edge of Scarborough - he's hoping that one
of the plain American Motors cars will be acceptable to
his folks. But a car of any kind is not to the parents'
liking at all, and Daniel leaves the farm. Earl and Dodo
put him up at their house in Don Mills. Dan soon falls
in love with Speedy, the apocalyptic 18 year-old,
bombshelter-building daughter of Earl and Dodo. The
Cuban Missile Crisis forms the backdrop to this
03 Driving Bob December 15, 2001
1968. Earl is asked to run for the Tories in the Federal
election. (It will transpire that Dodo engineered this,
in order to get Earl out of the showroom.)
Unfortunately for Earl's political ambitions,
Trudeaumania is sweeping the country and the
campaigning doesn't go well. Earl does enjoy the doorto-
door canvassing though, and manages to sell
several cars in the process. Bob Stanfield visits the
local troops and Daniel (the once-Mennonite son in law
and a terrible driver) chauffeurs Earl and the PC leader
to the rally in a brand new Rambler Javelin. However,
Franklin - Earl's lefty, hippie son - has booby-trapped
the car with marijuana and a political near-fiasco
04 September Song December 22, 2001
1976. Earl and Dodo drive to the Montreal Olympics.
It's their 30th wedding anniversary. Dorothy is dying.
As they journey up Highway 401, they revisit their
courtship days in flashbacks. They get to the Olympics
but Dorothy is too ill to use their tickets for the
gymnastics competition. Nadia Comaneci wins her
perfect 10s against a backdrop of adoring spectators -
and the Hughes' two empty seats.
Dorothy has an urgent mission. She has seen the
handwriting on the wall, and is convinced that
American Motors' demise is imminent. She urges Earl
to save the family economically by landing a new
franchise - with Toyota.
05 The Last Temptation of Earl December 29, 2001
1987. Earl's American Motors franchise has been
swallowed up by Chrysler, but his daughter Speedy
sees a bright future in the service sector. They open a
Tim Horton's on the site of the old dealership. There
isn't much for Earl to do (he's now about 65) except
wash tables on the patio.
But then Daphne, the librarian from Episode 1 drives
up. Earl takes her back to the house and is about to
actually have some intimacy with a woman for the first
time since he was widowed eleven years before.
However, first Franklin comes home and then Speedy
and her husband Dan. (They all live together.) They
run into each other in the bomb shelter - all of them
having repaired there for very different reasons.
The final scene is back at the former dealership.
Opening Day. Dan the bad driver is test driving a car
up to the new Tim Horton store's takeout window, in
full view of the city's press and television cameras...
06 Test Drive January 5, 2002
2001. Earl is over 80 now and his driving has
deteriorated. He smashes his old AMC Matador into the
rear of a businesswoman's Lexus SUV; she berates him
as his car is towed away. Earl loses his licence and is
forced to take a road test to get it back, and he take
his young instructor an one of the more exciting
driving tests in recent memory.
By Dave Carley
Linda Grearson: Producer
Winner: Bronze Medal, New York International Radio Festival
CBC Radio One
3:30 pm, December 1, 2003 to January 5, 2004
Episode Synopsis of Test Drive
Test Drive is the story of Earl Hughes, an American Motors car
dealer on the Golden Mile in East York, Ontario. The six
episodes of the series span the years 1954-2001 and follow
Earl's career in the car business, as well as chronicling the
story of his marriage to Dorothy (Dodo) and the exploits of his
two children, Eleanor (Speedy) and Franklin.
The much-loved Canadian actor Gordon
Pinsent plays Earl. Over twenty other
actors round out the exceptional cast.
Each week's episode tells the continuing
story of Earl's life over the years, and
the revolution that has occurred in the
auto retailing business since the 1950s.
Each episode also revolves around a
"test drive" - often involving a new car
and happening against the backdrop of a
American Motors was the last North
American independent car
manufacturer. It built a lot of weird and
wonderful cars - the Javelin, Pacer, and Metropolitan, among
them - as well as many famous, sturdy compacts, like the
Rambler American. It also owned Jeep. American Motors was
finally absorbed by Chrysler in 1987.
Gordon Pinsent, Linda
Grearson (director) and
Dave Carley in the radio
drama studio in the
Centre. Photo: John
Test Drive is a series of six radio dramas that were first
broadcast on CBC Radio One and Two in November and
The script for the stage version of Test Drive is available in the
Plays (full-length) section of this site.
Sound Engineer Wayne
Richards adjusts the "car",
with Richard Lee and Gordon
2m/1f - 2 acts
The life and times of a car man are chronicled in this new play,
which premiered in 2004 at Ontario's famous Blyth Festival. A
revised version is being produced at the Lighthouse Festival
Theatre in Port Dover, Showboat Festival Theatre in Port
Colborne, and Prince Edward County Festival in summer 2014.
To read the full play, click here.
Earl Hughes loves his wife, children and cars - and not
always in that order. He also considers his life to be
resoundingly ordinary, except that every ten years or so he
sets out on a test drive that rocks his world. Earl's trip begins
in 1954 - a hurricane is brewing but he still thinks he can sell
a Nash Metropolitan to a would-be starlet. From there he
drives through the Cold War, detours around Woodstock and
eventually comes to a screeching stop in 2004 - when he must
really go to war to keep his driver's licence.
When unable to sleep, my dad used to melt saccharin in warm
skimmed milk. If the CBC's Test Drive were a liquid, that's
what it would taste like. It's a mildly amusing sitcom in which
a namby-pamby Toronto car dealer looks back upon the last 50
years of his life and times. His wife's overbearing, his kids
typical, his son-in-law an ex-Mennonite who drives as if he's
blind. The acting is uniformly fine, the production lean and
bright, the characters stock, and the writing unthreatening,
considering the volatility of the last half-century. Yet
compared to TV comedy of the same nostalgic ilk, Test Drive is
a work of art.
- The First Temptation of Earl (14.2Mb)
- Missiles and Mennonites (14.2Mb)
- Driving Bob (14.2Mb)
- September Song (14.2Mb)
- The Last Temptation of Earl (14.2Mb)
- Test Drive (14.2Mb)
MP3 files hosted by archive.org.