James May is an English journalist and television presenter who is popular for co-presenting the motoring program ‘Top Gear’ alongside Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond from 2003 to 2015. He currently owns his own company ‘W. Chump & Sons’ and also presents the television series ‘Grand Tour’ for Amazon Video as an exclusive for Amazon Prime customers with his former ‘Top Gear’ colleagues. As a journalist, May started his career in the early 1980s, working as a sub-editor for the magazines ‘The Engineer’ and ‘Autocar’. He also wrote weekly columns for ‘The Daily Telegraph’ as well as hosted several programs on science, technology, liquor, toys, and lifestyle. Apart from ‘Top Gear’, he has presented some other very popular shows on television including ‘Oz and James's Big Wine Adventure’, ‘James May: My Sisters' Top Toys’, ‘Top Ground Gear Force’ and ‘Oz and James Drink to Britain’. Since 2006, James May has published several books, some of the notable ones being ‘Oz and James's Big Wine Adventure’, ‘James May's 20th Century’, ‘Oz and James Drink to Britain’, ‘James May's Car Fever’, ‘James May's Toy Stories: Lego House’, and ‘James May: On Board’.
Childhood & Early Life
James Daniel May was born in Bristol, England on January 16, 1963. He has a brother and two sisters.
During his childhood, he attended Caerleon Endowed Junior School in Newport and later in his teenage years he went to Oakwood Comprehensive School in Rotherham. He was a choirboy at Whiston Parish Church.
James was passionate about music in his younger days and did his bachelor’s degree in music. He graduated from the Pendle College, Lancaster University, specializing in harpsichord and piano. He is a keen flautist and saxophonist apart from his expertise in piano and harpsichord.
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James May started his career as the sub-editor of the magazine ‘The Engineer’ and later started working for the ‘Autocar’ magazine. He was dismissed from ‘Autocar’ for playing a prank; he had put together an acrostic in one issue.
He wrote for many publications and also contributed a regular column ‘England Made Me’ for ‘Car Magazine’, along with columns for ‘Top Gear’ magazine and ‘The Daily Telegraph.’
May’s biggest work on television was co-presenting the ‘Top Gear’ series in 1999. He later co-presented the revived series of the show in its second season in 2003. He drove some popular vehicles on the show, including a Bugatti Veyron at 253 mph. He also traveled to the magnetic North Pole in 2007, using a modified Toyota Hilux.
He has written several books including ‘May on Motors’ in 2006. His other books are ‘Oz and James's Big Wine Adventure’, ‘James May's 20th Century’, ‘Oz and James Drink to Britain’, ‘James May's Car Fever’, ‘James May's Magnificent Machines’, ‘James May's Toy Stories: Airfix Handbook’, ‘James May's Toy Stories: Lego House’, and ‘James May: On Board’.
James May has worked on many science-related shows, mostly as a presenter. He presented ‘Inside Killer Sharks’, a documentary for Sky. He also flew in a Royal Air Force Eurofighter Typhoon and registered a speed around 1320 mph; this was televised for the program ‘James May's 20th Century.’
Later he presented shows like ‘James May on the Moon’ and ‘James May at the Edge of Space.’ For shooting the latter, he was flown to the stratosphere in a US Air Force Lockheed U-2 spy plane.
On March 25, 2015, BBC decided against renewing Jeremy Clarkson's contract and following the decision, James May also decided not to continue on the show.
Co-presenting the original ‘Top Gear’ series has been the highlight of James May’s career. He was given the nickname of ‘Captain Slow’ by his colleagues and media for his careful and conscious driving style. However, he has also done some memorable driving on the show, like driving a Bugatti Veyron to its top speed of 253 mph in 2007. Later in 2010, he clocked 259.11 mph with the Veyron's newer 16.4 Super Sports edition.
He traveled by car to the magnetic North Pole in 2007, with his fellow presenter Jeremy Clarkson using a modified Toyota Hilux. May did many exciting things during the televised trip, including driving a Toyota Hilux up the side of the erupting volcano Eyjafjallajökull in Iceland as well as driving a 1.3-litre Suzuki SJ413 through Bolivia, along the Death Road, and over the Andes to the Pacific Ocean in Chile.
Awards & Achievements
James May was awarded an honorary degree by Lancaster University in July 2010.
James May lives with his long-term partner, dance critic Sarah Frater, in Hammersmith in west London. The duo has been together for over 16 years now.
He is a motor freak and has owned over a dozen new and custom-made cars over the years. His collection includes a 2005 Saab 9-5 Aero, Rolls-Royce Phantom, Triumph 2000, Rover P6, Bentley T2,, Alfa Romeo 164, 1971 Rolls-Royce Corniche, Jaguar XJS, , Fiat Panda, Datsun 120Y, 2009 Porsche 911 Carrera S facelift, 2005 Porsche Boxster S, and 1984 Porsche 911. Currently, he has a BMW i3 and a 2014 Ferrari 458 Speciale in his garage.
He also holds a light aircraft pilot's license which he obtained in 2006.
He has his own Youtube channel titled ‘JM's unemployment tube’.
He failed in his first attempt to get a driving license.