Classics and Performance Logo

Ultimate Factories

Video Review

by Ryan King

The automobile truly is a multidimensional creation – not only does it employ multiple technologies, it is the product of multiple disciplines, and is fashioned through the interconnection of a multitude of activities.

U.S. Military Name Tapes Link

One of those many activities is manufacturing – and in the case of a production automobile, the method of manufacturing most often used is mass production.

While it can be very difficult or impossible to recreate the techniques used in mass production, anyone who works with cars can benefit from understanding how a car is made, whether you are a shade tree mechanic, professional technician, restorer, designer, or engineer. That information, has, up until recently, been very, very difficult to come by, by-in-large being kept within the hallowed halls of the manufacturers, themselves. Today, with information spreading like wildfire, that is no longer the case.

In fact, today, vehicle manufacturing can be found in enthusiast-focused books, television, the web, and in your own personal media collection – if you know where to look. Two prominent sources of this information are How It's Made, and the subject of this review, National Geographic's Ultimate Factories/Megafactories/Supercars.

Ultimate Factories is a tour de force in this field, with 45-minute long episodes covering all aspects of the manufacturing process of dozens of different makes and models in varying detail. Together with context for each make and model, this series provides an unprecedented look at how vehicles are assembled, using varied approaches to production – from hand-crafted, to expansive robotic assembly lines.

Although the series doesn't look back at historic automotive assembly, virtually all forms of automotive manufacture are explored.

The series is no longer in production, but it appears from my research that various sources have claimed that some 91 episodes were produced – most of which concentrated on automobile manufacturing. The following is a list of the episodes as complete as I have found, which includes episodes shown in other countries under its international titles, Megafactories and Supercars.

Not all episodes are available for purchase on media, some are available for download, some through streaming, a number on DVD, and others you'll just have to catch on television in reruns or hunt around on major media sites to find. I've provided a brief review of each episode, including subject, a synopsis, a summary of its relevance to the automotive enthusiast, and where I've found it available. I've done my best to assemble them in some sort of order, compiling and cross-referencing them with the various sources I've found, both more and less official.

Each episode on the list includes an auto enthusiast-focused mini-review, with a few exceptions because I wasn't able to view and review them.

Season 1

Ferrari

Subject
Ferrari 599 GTB Fiorano
Synopsis
Follows the manufacture of the Ferrari 599 GTB Fiorano. Provides historical context, and gives insight into the development of the car.
Relevance
A combination of hand-built assembly-line production, with robotic assistance, and intermittent use of conveyor and non-conveyor movement through individual workstations. Looks at body, chassis, and engine assembly. Insight into how a vehicle is developed, as well as methods for achieving high quality.
Availability
DVD; iTunes; Amazon Video; YouTube

M1 Tank

Subject
M1 Abrams Tank
Synopsis
Follows the manufacture of the M1 Abrams Tank used by the U.S. Army. Provides historical context, and gives insight into development of the tank.
Relevance
Mostly hand-built assembly-line production, with some large equipment assistance. The assembly line uses no automation or conveyor system, instead focusing on individual workstations – a system ideally suited to give enthusiasts a perspective into how to approach their own large projects. Abrams tanks are no longer manufactured new, so it provides unique insight into restoration methodology on a large scale, including disassembly, remanufacture of body and components, modification and retrofitting, and re-assembly.
Availability
DVD; iTunes; Amazon Video; YouTube

Peterbilt

Subject
Peterbilt 387 Semi Tractor
Synopsis
Follows the manufacture of the Peterbilt 387 and touches on the development process along the way.
Relevance
Although obviously not a car, this episode follows the assembly of a Peterbilt 387 Semi Tractor, their most capable model at the time. It is primarily focused on the tasks required to build a vehicle, which provides insights into the way a vehicle is put together. That includes some of the challenges associated with those tasks – invaluable information for any builder.
Availability
DVD; iTunes; Amazon Video; YouTube

Budweiser

Subject
Budweiser Beer
Synopsis
Follows the manufacture of Budweiser Beer from gathering raw materials to the finished product.
Relevance
Not vehicle-related, however, it focuses on some key elements that give insight into some vehicle building processes: gathering and processing raw materials, use of the supply chain, and most notably, how the factory runs and is managed. Although the brewing process is massive and highly automated, seeing the processes in action is illuminating when the principles are applied to any automotive building project. Another valuable piece of knowledge is the way Anheuser-Busch approached their factory, which is developing its massive capability along with aesthetic beauty – the factory has a very beautiful industrial look and feel, which provides excellent inspiration for enthusiasts to build their own small-scale shops.
Availability
DVD; iTunes; Amazon Video; YouTube

Harley-Davidson

Subject
Harley-Davidson V-Rod Motorcycle
Synopsis
Follows the manufacture of the Harley V-Rod. Provides historical context, and focuses on the development process.
Relevance
Hand-built assembly-line production, with some large equipment and automation assistance. It includes a look at engine building, and a craft production line. Because this episode focuses on the development of the bike, it provides some insight into the process for developing a motor vehicle – which is invaluable, especially to hot rodders, kit builders, and coach builders.
Availability
DVD; iTunes; Amazon Video; YouTube

John Deere

Subject
John Deere STS Combine Harvester
Synopsis
Follows the manufacture of the John Deere Combine Harvester. Provides historical context, insight into the use of technology in manufacturing, and the importance of engineering.
Relevance
It highlights the importance of engineering for the purpose of the equipment which is critical for the customizer and coach builder. It is also beneficial for anyone working on a vehicle for insight into how and why things work the way they do. It also gives insight into the development of assembly lines which is critical for restorations, customizations, kit building, and coach building.
Availability
DVD; iTunes; Amazon Video; YouTube

Apache Helicopter

Subject
Boeing Apache Attack Helicopter
Synopsis
Follows the manufacture of the Boeing Apache Helicopter used by the U.S. Army.
Relevance
Hand-built assembly-line production, with some large equipment assistance. The assembly line uses no automation or conveyor system, instead focusing on individual workstations – a system ideally suited to give enthusiasts a perspective into how to approach their own large projects. Also provides insight into the application of design concepts to practical use, which is beneficial for modification, customization, and coach built projects.
Availability
Amazon Video

Season 2

BMW

Subject
BMW Z4 Roadster
Synopsis
Follows the manufacture of the BMW Z4. Provides historical context, insights into manufacturing technology and material handling, and the importance of product development and engineering for the outcome of the final product.
Relevance
Although the BMW is predominantly built using automation, there is some very insightful information about engine design and building. It also touches on dangerous material handling. However, one of the biggest benefits of this video is seeing the way outsourcing of parts is handled, from management to manufacturing to the way the outsourced parts are integrated with assembly of the rest of the car. Lastly, you get an inside perspective on modern manufacturing, including environmentally sound energy use and a look at how a modern, productive factory is designed, even if they don't go into detail about how it is done. It's almost shocking to see the difference in the way cars used to be made here in the US and modern international methods, which are well lit, comfortable, and open.
Availability
DVD; iTunes; Amazon Video; YouTube

Corvette

Subject
Chevrolet Corvette Z06
Synopsis
Follows the manufacture of the Chevrolet Corvette Z06 (C6). Provides historical context, insights into manufacturing technology and manual assembly techniques, and the importance of technology and engineering for the outcome of the final product.
Relevance
This episode gives tremendous insight into the manufacture of vehicle frames and engines. It doesn't cover everything by a long shot, but it still focuses down into the individual assembly processes and is fascinating, especially since much of it is manual labor. It also provides a look at outsourcing and integration of the outsourced parts with main Corvette assembly as the frame is assembled by Dana and shipped to the Corvette Factory fully assembled.
This episode is right near the top of my favorite Ultimate Factories episodes because it covers so much of the vehicle from engineering to assembly.
The Corvette Factory in Bowling Green, Kentucky is an old American factory. Not quite as old as some of those built in Detroit, but it's still confined, poorly lit, and its easy to see how the ambience negatively impacts productivity. Although the facility has certainly been upgraded to build modern vehicles, its nothing like a modern facility used by most luxury and performance car manufacturers. This gives the automotive enthusiast an excellent example of why it is important to make sure a shop is created with proper ambience.
Availability
DVD; iTunes; Amazon Video; YouTube

Caterpillar

Subject
Caterpillar 797B Dump Truck
Synopsis
Follows the manufacture of the Caterpillar 797B. Focuses on coordinating the assembly process across multiple manufacturing sites.
Relevance
Although this episode covers a vehicle far, far larger than any car or light truck, it is relevant because of the way it shows the vehicle being assembled in multiple environments and the coordination it takes to do so – which is something many enthusiasts may need to consider if a single location won't work for all of the work they plan to do to their own projects.
Availability
DVD; iTunes; Amazon Video; YouTube

Lamborghini

Subject
Lamborghini Murcielago SV
Synopsis
Follows the manufacture of the Lamborghini Murcielago SV. Focuses on hand assembly work throughout the entire process.
Relevance
If you are looking for a model for your own shop, look no further than this episode. While obviously more grandiose than a hobby shop, Lamborghini builds their cars with a very similar approach to a hobbiest. Although done with tight constraints and at a much, much, much higher level of repeatable quality, their methods are the closest thing you may find to a hobby shop in mass production of an automobile.
This episode vies very heavily for my favorite episode because of the hands-on assembly of the entire vehicle.
The factory, although storied and historic, is state of the art for hands on work, and you get a good idea of how it functions. Not only that, but they focus on interior and paint work done at an extremely high level of quality. For the hands-on restorer, this might very well be the ultimate episode of Ultimate Factories.
Availability
DVD; iTunes; Amazon Video; YouTube

Winnebago

Subject
Winnegbago Vectra Motorhome
Synopsis
Focuses on the assembly of the Winnebago Vectra motorhome.
Relevance
This episode covers a motorhome, which is substantially different than an automobile or light truck, but that doesn't mean it is without relevance. It clearly shows the process of assembly of a motor vehicle, and the advantage of outsourcing work to other manufacturers with capabilities superior than their own – a concept important for many enthusiasts who need to integrate other specialists in order to achieve the goals of their projects. It also shows how they integrate several specialized locations to create a vehicle, which, again, may be important to enthusiasts you have to expand or perform specialized procedures that can't or shouldn't be done in a central location like their main shop.
Availability
DVD; iTunes; Amazon Video; YouTube

UPS Worldport

Subject
UPS Worldport Shipping Hub
Synopsis
Focuses on the function of the UPS Worldport shipping hub and the UPS shipping system.
Relevance
Although way, way, way beyond the scope of any enthusiast, this episode gives important insight into the way logistics works – which is a critical part of success for any project or work-based hobby. The insights learned here may very well help an enthusiast figure out how to effectively coordinate supplies and suppliers for their own hobby operations and projects.
Availability
DVD; iTunes; Amazon Video; YouTube

Fire Trucks

Subject
Pierce 100-Foot Ladder Truck
Synopsis
Follows the assembly of a Pierce fire truck – and explores some of the technology behind its design.
Relevance
Hands on work. The entire vehicle is built by hand – including the welding. Seeing that kind of process in action gives valuable insight for an enthusiast to use in their own operations. Otherwise, it's a giant fire truck, so unless you have a need to restore a fire truck, there's not a lot that directly translates to car or light truck work.
Availability
DVD; iTunes; Amazon Video; YouTube

Armoured Cars

Subject
Armored Cars
Synopsis
Follows the conversion of a production SUV into an armored vehicle.
Relevance
This isn't an episode that is terribly relevant for the average enthusiast, however, it does give glimpses into a general process for modifying a car. It could be useful for anyone who was considering modifying, rebuilding, or retrofitting cars, but not indepth enough for restoration, restomod, or complete customization work.
Availability
Not available for purchase.

Season 3

Audi R8

Subject
Audi R8
Synopsis
Follows the manufacture of the Audi R8. Provides historical context, insight into the design, engineering, and the extremely high-tech, almost entirely hand built, assembly process.
Relevance
Although far more high-tech than an enthusiast could likely manage, this car is built almost entirely by hand. The only thing that keeps this episode from being more valuable is the fact that it doesn't give a very good look at the assembly process. It covers a lot of ground, but nothing in too terribly much depth. It does address both the design and engineering parts of development, which could be beneficial.
Availability
DVD

Chevy Volt

Subject
Chevrolet Volt
Synopsis
Follows the development of the manufacturing process of the Chevy Volt. Also looks at the design and engineering process that went behind the development of the car.
Relevance
This might very well be the most relevant episode in all of the Ultimate Factories seasons. It covers the development of the processes for putting the car together while touching on the design and engineering of the car, and how the car is designed for the assembly process. Basically, this is the only episode that explores how to develop your own processes. Although way outside the scope of an enthusiast in terms of size and technology, the concepts are still valuable to understand for applying to your own hobby.
Availability
DVD; iTunes; Amazon Video; YouTube

Rolls-Royce

Subject
Rolls-Royce Phantom
Synopsis
Follows the manufacture of the Rolls-Royce Phantom.
Relevance
Ah, the stately opulence of it all. This episode actually has a lot to offer the automotive enthusiast. The Phantom is built with precision by craftsman using craftsman's tools and skills, and every single detail is perfect. This episode takes a close look at that craftsmanship and how it's applied to produce an entire automobile, and provides you with plenty of inspiration and aspiration for your own work.
Availability
DVD; iTunes; Amazon Video; YouTube

Camaro

Subject
Chevrolet Camaro
Synopsis
Follows the manufacture of the modern Chevrolet Camaro.
Relevance
This one is straight forward. Not many special insights, but it does take you through the manufacture of the car from sheet metal stamping and engine machining through to final quality control testing. There are a few tidbits that are relevant for a hobbiest, such as the methods for connecting engines and transmissions and the way a chassis and body are married – although virtually everything is done with equipment that an enthusiast could never hope to gain access to or even emulate. The only real downside of this episode is that they focus on the V6 car instead of the V8. Weird.
Availability
DVD; iTunes; Amazon Video; YouTube

Porsche

Subject
Porsche 911 GT3
Synopsis
Follows the manufacture of the Porsche 911 GT3.
Relevance
The Porsche 911 GT3 is a race car intended for track use, but still street legal. This episode provides a smattering of details about the car from design, to engineering, to manufacturing, and in that regard, it holds some relevance for the performance enthusiast. The sad part is that it doesn't cover anything in great detail. The Porsche manufacturing operation is very automated, however, it is more of a small scale, almost boutique, operation, so it is a scale more easily understandable from the perspective of an enthusiast.
Availability
DVD

IKEA

Subject
IKEA
Synopsis
Follows the development and process of the IKEA manufacturing and distribution network.
Relevance
It shows design, engineering, manufacturing, and distribution. It provides insights into furnishings for a home, which may give you something to think about when considering office and shop furnishings – may. Otherwise, there's little relevance for an automotive enthusiast.
Availability
Not available for purchase.

NYC Subway Car

Subject
New York City Subway Car
Synopsis
Follows the manufacturing of a New York City subway car.
Relevance
It's a wheeled vehicle, but the similarities end there. It provides insight into electric vehicle propulsion systems, which is nice. It also provides insight into the most topical levels and steps of vehicle assembly, which is valuable as it is another take or perspective on the process.
Availability
Not available for purchase

Season 4

Dodge Challenger

Subject
Dodge Challenger
Synopsis
Follows the manufacture of the modern Dodge Challenger.
Relevance
Like the Camaro episode, this one is a straight forward – it just follows the manufacture of the modern Dodge Challenger. The one great highlight of this episode is that it details the build of the Hemi engine, which is fascinating to watch in a factory setting as much of the build is automated.
Availability
DVD; iTunes; Amazon Video

Eurofighter

Subject
Eurofighter Typhoon
Synopsis
Follows the manufacture of the Eurofighter Typhoon jet fighter.
Relevance
On the surface, there might not appear to be much that is relevant for the average automotive enthusiast, but that isn't the case. There are two areas that shine through brightly here: multiple factory assembly and factory conditions.
Multiple factory assembly is very similar to the way many enthusiasts work on their respective projects – especially the more involved ones that involve areas of speciality we either don't have ourselves, or don't have the resources to otherwise accomplish. Seeing how a assembly of a complex design like the Typhoon is managed across many factories with the added difficulty of language barriers can provide some insight into how to manage your own complex build.
The factory conditions in the Eurofighter Typhoon factories are virtually flawless, so seeing these kinds of conditions is helpful for creating your own shop to allow for high quality work.
Availability
Not available for purchase.

Dodge Viper

Subject
Dodge Viper
Synopsis
Follows the manufacture of the Dodge Viper.
Relevance
It's a Viper. Really, though, the Viper is entirely hand built from beginning to end. The real relevance is that this is essentially a well assembled, efficient, effective enthusiast's shop with better equipment and trained personnel. Of all of the episodes in Ultimate Factories, nothing comes closer to a hobby shop than the Viper assembly line. It's epic for ideas.
This line isn't as technologically advanced as the Lamborghini line, but, in some respects, it's easier for the average enthusiast to relate to it. The car is simpler and so are the methods for putting it together. This is a car that is really close to an American hot rod – and it's awesome to watch it come together. Like the Lamborghini episode, this one vies for the position of my favorite episode. Where the Lamborghini episode provides aspiration to achieve a higher level, this one provides inspiration to get in there and get started.
Availability
DVD; iTunes; Amazon Video

Mercedes Benz

Subject
Mercedes Benz 300 SLS AMG
Synopsis
Follows the manufacture of the Mercedes SLS AMG.
Relevance
This car is extremely high-end, but it's built in a nearly craft way on an assembly line, mostly by hand. It concentrates on innovative methods of craft building such as tools and techniques, making it invaluable to the average enthusiast trying to find ways to achieve their own goals through unique, creative methods. Although it won't necessarily provide you with specific ideas you can use, it does give examples of the way creative thought has been used to solve assembly problems, which may help you find different ways of thinking, as long as you are engaging in a program to teach you how to think, along with watching this episode.
Availability
DVD; iTunes; Amazon Video

Bentley

Subject
Bentley Mulsanne
Synopsis
Follows the manufacture of the Bentley Mulsanne.
Relevance
Precision and hand craftsmanship. The Bentley, much like the Rolls Royce, is all about high quality and detailed craftsmanship. As car crafters, there is no more important source of inspiration and know-how then to be able to see beautiful craftsmanship in execution.
Availability
DVD; iTunes; Amazon Video

Jack Daniels

Subject
Jack Daniels Whiskey
Synopsis
Follows the manufacture of Jack Daniels whiskey.
Relevance
The buildings and campus are awesome, but the whiskey making process itself has little to no relevance to the auto enthusiast beyond the fact that it is a manufacturing process.
That said, if you like Jack Daniels, or whiskey, or liquor, this episode may very well have a great deal of significance for you.
Availability
DVD

Coca-Cola

Subject
Coca-Cola
Synopsis
Mass production. This episode follows tremendous mass production of canned, plastic bottle, and glass bottle Coca-Cola.
Relevance
Absolutely none. It's very fascinating, but, really, there isn't any relevance for the car crafter. Maybe the concept of logistics, if only very loosely translated to your hobby.
Availability
DVD

Maserati

Subject
Maserati
Synopsis
Follows the manufacture of the Maserati GranCabrio, Quattroporte, and GranTurismo.
Relevance
The Maserati cars here, are hand-built, from beginning to end. They are built in an historic factory updated to state of the art. They aren't built on a time table so much as a sequence table in which the assemblers are expected to reach quality, instead of quantity standards.
There episode is an excellent representation of what an enthusiast should strive for in the execution of their own projects, in my opinion.
There are also some good ideas, including the use of a crane system which exemplifies the advantages of a rotisserie and a lift for enthusiasts. The best part is the atmosphere of the factory floor: it's the definition of a well-designed shop.
There are only a few, but significant, reasons this isn't my favorite Ultimate Factories episode. One, they spend too much time on car porn. I recognize that these episodes are also opportunities for the manufacturers to show their wares, but honestly, more time should have been spent on the showing how the car is built. Also, more time could have been spent discussing the development of the car as well. Otherwise, this is an excellent episode.
Availability
DVD; iTunes; Amazon Video

Aston Martin One-77

Subject
Aston Martin One-77
Synopsis
Follows the philosophy, design, engineering, and manufacture of the One-77.
Relevance
This is nearly a how-to video of how to create the perfect environment for the automotive hobby. If you have unlimited resources, here's your blueprint.
If you are into custom cars or want a better understanding of the process that goes into developing a car, this episode covers that as well. The body, the interior, the engine – although briefly explained, the philosophy of the execution is right there at the forefront and it is expressed eloquently.
The manufacturing is equally enthralling. They beat the panels on bucks, by hand. The entire One-77 is assembled in a clean facility built specifically, and only, to build this one car.
Whether you like the design or not, are a fan of British cars or not, this car and its entire execution are expressions of pure artistry, marvelous engineering, and exquisite craftsmanship at the highest level.
This entire episode, not just its subject, is beautiful art. This is my favorite Ultimate Factories episode. The only issue I have with it is that it isn't long enough. This could have been an entire mini-series and it would have been fascinating from beginning to end.
Availability
DVD

Jaguar XJ

Subject
Jaguar XJ
Synopsis
Follows the design and manufacture of the Jaguar XJ sedan.
Relevance
This episode really focuses on and accentuates quality from design through manufacture. It also explores some of the methods used by Jaguar to control quality on the XJ, which are highly valuable to the automotive enthusiast.
Availability
DVD

Season 5

Porsche Panamera

Subject
Porsche Panamera
Synopsis
Follows the manufacture of the Porsche Panamera and takes a look back at some of its design and development.
Relevance
This episode deals primarily with the manufacture of the Porsche Panamera in almost every area – however, it is light on the interior. The Panamera build process is reminiscent of many a car enthusiast's approach in that both the body and the engine are handled by different locations while the main assembly is handled at Porsche's main assembly plant.
Porsche is also a stickler for precision in execution – and nearly every portion of the car is assembled by hand – which makes studying this episode valuable for ways to improve your own efforts.
Availability
DVD; iTunes; Amazon Video

Mack Truck

Subject
Mack Titan
Synopsis
Follows the manufacture of the Mack Titan semi-truck, covers some of the Mack history, and even includes a peak at a factory race team.
Relevance
Like the Peterbilt episode, this episode doesn't focus on car manufacturing, but semis are very similar to cars – just larger – so everything translates. As the Mack Titan is built entirely by hand, this episode has some significant relevance for the car enthusiast and his or her own hobby shop.
Availability
DVD; iTunes; Amazon Video; YouTube

LEGO

Subject
Lego City Police Station
Synopsis
Follows the research, design, and manufacture of the Lego City Police Station and includes Lego history.
Relevance
Although fascinating to watch the product development process from beginning to end, there isn't a lot of relevance for the automotive enthusiast.
Availability
Not available for purchase.

Ford F150

Subject
Ford F150 Truck
Synopsis
Follows the manufacture of the Ford F150 Truck.
Relevance
This is real mass production. It's fascinating to watch and there is a lot of general assembly information to gain, but there is much less hands-on technique used in this assembly process.
The only negative about this episode is that it focuses a lot on truck porn: meaning there's a lot more of the F150 driving around than is necessary and subsequently, it eats into the time that could be spent on the assembly process.
Availability
DVD; iTunes; Amazon Video

Bacardi

Subject
Bacardi Rum
Synopsis
Follows the manufacture of Bacardi Rum.
Relevance
Like the other beverage episodes, this one holds little to no significance unless you are a fan of the beverage. If you are, this episode focuses primarily on the processes that occur before the bottling, and it's quite fascinating to watch the methods used to age and mix rum.
Availability
DVD; iTunes; Amazon Video; YouTube

Ducati

Subject
Ducati Multistrada Motorcycle
Synopsis
Follows the development and manufacture of the Ducati Multistrada.
Relevance
Although not a car and not, for the most part, focused on the details of the manufacturing, this is an excellent episode. It really highlights the development of a vehicle which is invaluable to the hot rodder and customizer, as well as any enthusiast who wants to get an idea of why a vehicle performs the way it does.
Availability
Not available for purchase.

Heineken

Subject
Heineken Beer
Synopsis
Follows the manufacture of Heineken Beer.
Relevance
Although interesting in its own right, like the other non-automotive episodes, it holds little relevance for the automotive hobby.
Availability
Not available for purchase.

Frito Lay

Subject
Frito Lay Snacks
Synopsis
Follows the manufacture of Lays Potato Chips, Doritos, and Funyuns.
Relevance
It's an interesting episode to watch if you like manufacturing. It may be interesting if you like chips. Its relevance to the automotive enthusiast, however, is extremely limited.
Availability
DVD; iTunes; Amazon Video; YouTube

Nissan GTR Supercar

Subject
Nissan GTR
Synopsis
Follows the design, engineering, and manufacture of the Nissan GTR.
Relevance
Nicknamed Godzilla for its ability to bring down the giants of the high performance world, the Nissan GTR is legendary. Although this episode covers far too much ground to go into any individual area with any depth, its overview of the vehicle lifecycle from concept to birth is excellent. This episode is one of the best in the series and is a must for the automotive enthusiast – especially the performance nut.
Availability
DVD

Lotus Evora

Subject
Lotus Evora
Synopsis
Follows the design and manufacture of the Lotus Evora.
Relevance
Hand-built to excellence in modest surroundings, the Lotus Evora is the perfect example to draw from for automotive enthusiasts. Although, obviously, well beyond the means of virtually every car fan in the world, the approach is still the most relatable to the experience of the average person in their garage or home shop. The entire facility covers less than 150 acres – including their own private road course which dominates most of the property. The approach used by Lotus is not the same kind of process used by any of the larger manufacturers, which is to say, virtually every other manufacturer in the world. If not for the sublime Aston Martin One-77 episode, this would be my favorite of the Ultimate Factory series.
Availability
Not available for purchase.

Williams F1

Subject
Williams F1 Racing
Synopsis
Follows the process used by Williams to both develop and maintain their F1 race cars.
Relevance
Lots of relevance here – especially for racers. Although way beyond the capabilities and financial wherewithal of virtually anyone, there is lots of important information here for managing a racing program. And if you are actively racing – especially campaigning – it's my opinion that you should have a racing program as managing a car you race can quickly and easily get out of hand.
Availability
Not available for purchase.

The MINI

Subject
MINI Coupe
Synopsis
Follows the development and manufacture of the MINI Coupe.
Relevance
The MINI is mass produced in ways that bear very little resemblance to the methods used by restorers and customizers, however, that doesn't mean this episode is without value. Quite the contrary. Although it only roughly covers it, this episode shows the process used to develop the MINI Coupe from design and engineering through integration into their manufacturing facility. That is very helpful to understand how to adapt different automobiles to your own complex restoration/customization process. Also, it takes a brief look at the MINI racing team, which gives – even if only the faintest idea – of how a race team integrates with a manufacturer.
Availability
DVD

World's Cheapest Car

Subject
Tata Nano
Synopsis
Follows the ideation, development, and manufacture of the Tata Nano.
Relevance
This episode is a secret pleasure of mine. The Nano is cheap – beyond cheap. The episode also focuses on the entire design and engineering process (although, rushed and incomplete, obviously). I find it valuable because it connects the dots between purpose and idea, design and engineering, and ultimately plant and manufacture. It's an imperative concept for anyone considering restoration, customization, or kit building a car.
Availability
Not available for purchase.

Learjet

Subject
Learjet 60 Business Jet
Synopsis
Follows the manufacture of the Learjet 60.
Relevance
Planes and cars have a lot in common. One of the areas that the enthusiast can benefit from is the fact that planes are often built to higher standards and in cleaner environments. The Learjet is built entirely in-house, which provides a great example for the fanatic that wants to do all their own work, and see that kind of work, and the kind of environment that produces it.
Availability
Not available for purchase.

Boeing 747

Subject
Boeing 747-8 Jumbo Jet
Synopsis
Follows the history, design, engineering, and manufacturing of the Boeing 747-8.
Relevance
Motor vehicles, whether they be semis, sports cars, trains, or airplanes have similar building steps. Really, there are only so many ways to make a moving box that hauls people. The Jumbo Jet, however, stretches that similarity. It's huge. It's so big, it's made in the largest factory in the world. It has four $20M jet engines. Yes, there is relevance here, and especially so in one area: the 747-8 is built by hand. Otherwise, you may find it a stretch to find information related to your car build in this episode.
Availability
Not available for purchase.

EA Sports: FIFA 12

Subject
EA Sports: FIFA 12 Video Game
Synopsis
Follows the design and engineering of EA Sports FIFA 12 video game.
Relevance
It's very interesting. It's not very relatable to a car.
Availability
Not available for purchase.

Swiss Army Knife

Subject
Victorinox Swiss Champ Swiss Army Knife
Synopsis
Follows the history, design, engineering, and manufacturing of the Swiss Army Knife.
Relevance
While fascinating and of more relevance than the food-related episodes, there isn't a lot of relevance for car nuts.
Availability
Not available for purchase.

Speed Rail

Subject
Alstom AGV High Speed Train
Synopsis
Follows the development, manufacturing, and testing of the Alstom AGV Train.
Relevance
It's a train, so relevance isn't quite as high as the car episodes, however, getting a feel for development and testing is critical for modification and customization. Otherwise, it's a fascinating episode about a vehicle, if not terribly car related.
Availability
Not available for purchase.

MV Agusta

Subject
MV Agusta F3 Sport Bike
Synopsis
Folows the development, manufacturing, and testing of the MV Agusta F3.
Relevance
This story explores not only the F3 Motorcycle, but the rebirth of MV Agusta. Its relevance lies in getting to see the development of a small operation, which provides some insights for automotive hobbiests just getting into restoration or hot rodding. It also takes a look at the development of the F3, which is helpful for understanding how to approach hot rodding your ride.
Availability
DVD

Guinness

Subject
Guinness Beer
Synopsis
Explores the history and follows both the manufacturing of Guinness Beer and the production of the Arthur's Day celebration.
Relevance
This is another case of not having much relevance to a car enthusiast's hobby, but very fascinating, none-the-less. If you put on car shows, it might provide some behind the scenes ideas as they follow the production of their Arthur's Day celebration.
Availability
Not available for purchase.

Bugatti Super Car

Subject
Bugatti Veyron
Synopsis
Follows the design, engineering, and manufacture of the Veyron.
Relevance
The Veyron is built similarly to the Aston-Martin One-77. Although the panels aren't formed by hand, the Bugatti Veyron is built in limited quantities in its own, special, craftsman-style manufacturing line.
The major difference between the approach of the Veyron and the One-77 is the Bugatti is built for speed. Ridiculous speed. The engineering for it – which the episode delves into – is incredibly fascinating. This car is essentially an air plane built to plant its ass firmly to the ground.
If you are into speed, hot rodding for the sake of speed and racing, this is the episode for you.
This episode is one of my favorites.
Availability
iTunes; Amazon Video; This episode is supposedly available in the DVD package "Ultimate Factories Car Collection," but it isn't

Swedish Supercar

Subject
Koenigsegg Agera
Synopsis
Follows the history of Koenigsegg, and the development and manufacture of the Agera.
Relevance
This is an excellent episode for car enthusiasts. The Koenigsegg operation is small, clean, and without any automation. It provides excellent insight into what a small operation looks and works like, and what it can produce.
This is definitely an artisan shop – and although beyond the reach of virtually any auto enthusiast – it is a very accessible operation for an enthusiast to draw inspiration from.
This is a must-see episode for any serious hobbiest.
Availability
DVD

Season 6

BMW X3

Subject
BMW X3 Sport Utility Vehicle
Synopsis
Follows the manufacture of the BMW X3.
Relevance
Automation galore is the heart of this assembly operation. It provides a look at precision automotive manufacturing, as well as what a well-lit, comfortable, and productive facility looks like.
Although not terribly insightful about any one process, it does look at the overall picture of the way BMW executes the build for the X3, which may be helpful for bringing together a complex restoration or hot rod operation.
Availability
DVD; iTunes; Amazon Video

Extreme Roller Coaster

Subject
Vekoma Rides Giant Inverted Boomerang Roller Coaster
Synopsis
Follows the development, manufacture, and assembly of the Giant Inverted Boomerang.
Relevance
There isn't a lot here that's relatable to the automotive hobby. That isn't to say it's not interesting, nor that there is nothing to be gleaned from this episode.
Working through the design, engineering, manufacture, and assembly of the roller coaster does give some idea of the process of product development and manufacture, and it does discuss design and engineering specifically for human beings – which, is what cars are all about. Beyond that, however, it's merely a fascinating episode to watch.
Availability
Not available for purchase.

Euro Luxury Cars

Review not available.

Megabridges Greece

Subject
Rio-Antirrio Bridge
Synopsis
Follows the design, construction, and maintenance of the Rio-Antirrio Bridge.
Relevance
If you've ever been curious about the bridges you drive over in your pride and joy, this could be an illuminating episode.
Outside of the most basic concepts of design, construction, and maintenance, there really isn't anything useful for the automotive hobbiest, but the episode is still fascinating, none-the-less.
Availability
Not available for purchase.

Season 7

Michelin

Subject
Michelin Tires
Synopsis
Follows the development testing and manufacture of Michelin Tires.
Relevance
If you're a tire aficionado like myself, then this episode is for you.
Although it never shows the Michelin assembly line, it does follow through the test procedures and the hand assembly of a tire from beginning to end.
The specialized equipment used in manufacturing automobiles has long been a fascination of mine. I often find myself comparing and contrasting repair methods and techniques to original manufacturing methods and techniques so that I can improve my own processes to re-create factory-quality work in my own hobby.
Tires are a place where that likely isn't a possibility – the processes are very dependent on specialized equipment you simply aren't going to have access to. For me, that just makes it all the more fascinating.
Availability
Not available for purchase.

Pyrotechnics

Subject
Howard & Sons Pyrotechnics
Synopsis
Follows the manufacture of fireworks and the production of a huge fireworks show.
Relevance
I wish I could say there was something to be gleaned from this episode for automotive enthusiasts, but beyond the very basic concepts of manufacturing and an appreciation for the proper handling and storage of combustible and other dangerous materials, there isn't a lot. It is a very interesting episode, however.
Availability
Not available for purchase.

Illy Coffee

Subject
Illy Coffee
Synopsis
Follows the manufacture of Illy Coffee from bean selection to packaging with side notes on the history of the company, development of the brand, and their scientific exploration of the coffee they use.
Relevance
Not much. Sadly, just not much. If you love coffee, then this is a wonderfully illuminating look at the way coffee is produced. Otherwise, the most significant thing you may glean is how to look at research into your own hobby and how to approach looking at sourcing parts, materials, supplies, etc for it.
Availability
Not available for purchase.

F18

Review not available.

Tesla Model S

Subject
Tesla Model S and Tesla Factory
Synopsis
Follows the development of the Tesla Factory that builds the Model S, as well as the manufacture of the Model S, itself.
Relevance
This is one of the most relevant episodes in the Ultimate Factories line-up.
Although I know there are some of you out there who are ardent EV fans, the truth is that the majority of us focus on gasoline-powered vehicles – and there is ample information here for everyone.
Like the Chevrolet Volt episode does for the development of the manufacturing method for the car, this episode focuses on the development of the factory – along the way, it shows how the car is built.
By approaching this episode the way they have, it provides keen insight into how to develop your own facilities – even if the scale and machinery used in a manufacturing plant are well beyond anything you'll be using in your own endeavor. The key here is that, as with anything else, it isn't necessarily how a process is done, but what the process accomplishes that can be adapted to another situation.
Availability
DVD

Mustang

Subject
2012-2013 Ford Mustang GT, Boss 302, and Shelby GT-500.
Synopsis
Takes a peek at the development of the 2013 Mustang and the manufacture of the 2012 Mustang.
Relevance
If you are a Mustang fan, I recommend watching this one. If you aren't, this is probably the least relevant of all the automotive-related episodes.
Sadly, this is more of an extended commercial for the Mustang and less a documentary of its manufacture and development.
It isn't that this episode doesn't look at any of the development, and it isn't that it doesn't look at any of the manufacturing processes, it's just that the view is so incredibly shallow and they spend most of the episode showing montages of the 2013 Mustang in various forms driving around on a race track. When they do talk about the development, it's mostly hyperbole and very little technical know-how. The discussion of manufacture is limited to briefly stating only some of the steps that go into the process, while showing more montages of the factory in motion – which, again, if you are a Mustang fan looking for a glimpse at how it was originally put together or specific techniques, you'll see some of that, but otherwise it's not very insightful.
I'm a huge Mustang fan, and the 2013 is one of my absolute favorites, but this episode is a bit of a letdown when it comes to seeing the nitty gritty factory side – and really, that's the whole purpose of this show.
Availability
DVD

Super Chopper

Subject
AgustaWestland AW139
Synopsis
Follows the development and manufacture of the AgustaWestland AW139 helicopter.
Relevance
Though not a car, the process for building aerospace vehicles is very similar to automobile assembly, especially for the kind of one-off builds that enthusiasts tend to do. While you won't get any insight into car building, you will get the opportunity to see into another realm of very similar processes and methods, albeit, with much, much higher standards. Basically, a perfect opportunity to get ideas to improve your own processes, procedures, and hobby enterprise.
Availability
Not available for purchase.

Mercedes Overhaul

Subject
Mercedes Actros Semi Tractor
Synopsis
Follows the development and manufacture of the Actros.
Relevance
Big trucks aren't that much different than small cars – as far as development and assembly are concerned. That is especially true if you work with full-frame cars.
As far as the episode itself goes, there isn't anything that makes it stand out amongst the others, but it is still an informative episode that's worth watching. If you love semis, you'll appreciate it all the more.
Availability
DVD

Lamborghini Aventador

Subject
Lamborghini Aventador
Synopsis
Follows the development and manufacture of the Aventador.
Relevance
The Aventador is the generation of Lamborghini that followed the Murcielago seen in season 2. This episode follows the design and manufacturing of the car, with some other development elements interspersed throughout.
This episode is rather ambitious, which keeps it from going into much depth, but in its focus on design, it explores concepts that are valuable to anyone's design process – if that plays a role in your hobby.
Availability
Not available for purchase.

Lexus LFA

Subject
Lexus LFA
Synopsis
Follows the development and manufacture of the Lexus LFA.
Relevance
Although it doesn't focus a great deal on manufacture, this episode is excellent if you do any sort of development work for your own car(s).
From my personal observations, one of the areas that hampers the results the greatest for hot rodders and customizers is a lack of understanding of the fundamentals and processes of development. This episode does a good job of providing a window into why that is.
With only 45 minutes or so to do it, the Lexus LFA episode takes a look at many of the areas the developers carefully evolved from ideas into a well-executed package, along the way, showing the process of assembling a low-volume, extraordinarily high-performance machine.
I can't recommend this one enough.
Availability
Not available for purchase.

Tecnogym

Review not available.

Season 8

Pagani

Subject
Pagani Huayra
Synopsis
Follows the development and manufacture of the Pagani Huayra.
Relevance
Where to begin...
This is the best episode for automotive enthusiasts looking to get an idea of how to build their own shop. Pagani's hand-built cars are built in a small shop, right alongside its parts, and development. Horacio Pagani even lives in the shop with the cars he develops and builds.
Not only is the operation small, and focused, but Pagani is a detail-oriented perfectionist. Which is exactly what someone attempting to restore or hot rod a car should be.
Availability
Not available for purchase.

Ferrari FF

Subject
Ferrari FF
Synopsis
Follows the development and manufacture of the Ferrari FF.
Relevance
This episode again, is more of an ad for the Ferrari FF than a peak under the hood of it assembly. That doesn't mean that it's without merit.
When not showing the car driving around in various artfully chosen environments, it explores the development process that went into the car and some of the manufacturing that goes into making it.
The FF episode is not as insightful as the 599 GTB Fiorano episode, but it does spend proportionally more time focusing on the development.
I will say that if you are a Ferrari fan, it's still a must-see.
Availability
Not available for purchase.

Gumpert Apollo

Subject
Gumpert Apollo Enraged
Synopsis
Follows the development and manufacture of the Gumpert Apollo Enraged sports car.
Relevance
This is an excellent episode for enthusiasts. Although not as small as the Pagani operation, this episode takes a look at some of the challenges of developing and assembling a low production, high-end race car for the street.
The Gumpert episode focuses on bringing together the many disparate companies over long distances to create a car similar in many respects to a hot rodder's dream.
Although it could use a lot more depth, it is an excellent episode none-the-less.
Availability
Not available for purchase.

Campari

Review not available.

Riva Yachts

Review not available.

Corona

Review not available.

Corvette ZR1

Subject
Chevrolet Corvette ZR1
Synopsis
Follows the manufacture and development of the ZR1.
Relevance
If you are a Corvette fan, this is an excellent episode, however, like many of the later Ultimate Factories/Megafactories episodes, this is half Corvette commercial. Unlike the earlier season 1 Z06 episode, this one spends a lot of time showing the Corvette driving around and talking about its performance.
Although a good chunk of the episode is wasted on driving montages, it does explore a small amount of its development and shows some assembly of major components, but not enough to qualify as seeing the vehicle being built.
Availability
Not available for purchase.

The Assembly Line

Review not available.

Wargaming

Subject
Wargaming World of Tanks and World of Warplanes.
Synopsis
Follows the development of World of Tanks and World of Warplanes.
Relevance
It might surprise you to find out that an episode that delves into the development of war video games has any significant relevance to the automotive hobby, but it does. Although developing a video game isn't the same as building a hot rod, the detailed design work that goes into these games is excellent inspiration for developing restoration methods and even better, the research that goes into these historical war machines sheds a light on how to go about researching your own restoration projects.
Availability
Not available for purchase.

Piaggio

Review not available.

Porsche 911

Subject
Porsche 911 Carrera S
Synopsis
Follows the development and manufacture of both the 911 Carrera S and its paint shop.
Relevance
This is more relevant automotive story, than in depth look into development and manufacturing – that doesn't mean it lacks value for the automotive enthusiast.
Quite the contrary.
This story speaks to the heart of automotive enthusiasts and gives a glimpse of how Porsche went about concurrently developing their then-newest 911 and a factory with which to build – at least part of it – in. That is a process I think many, if not most, enthusiasts can appreciate and benefit from seeing in action.
Availability
Not available for purchase.

Armored Troop Carrier

Review not available.

McLaren Supercar

Subject
McLaren 12C
Synopsis
Explores the development of the McLaren manufacturing program, provides a sneak peek of their racing program, and follows the development and manufacture of the 12C.
Relevance
This is finally a return to manufacturing for the series. While not as in depth as it originally was, the added insight into the rest of the company is actually more illuminating and this is a definite must see for automotive enthusiasts. In fact, it speaks to me like few of the others do because of the focus on restoration and racing in my own hobby.
Availability
Not available for purchase.

Bundaberg Rum

Review not available.

Airbus

Subject
Airbus A380 Airplane
Synopsis
Follows the development and construction of the A380.
Relevance
Although about not an automobile, this episode sheds some light on the general development process and because it is a vehicle, it helps to equate that development insight to a car.
Although not necessarily helpful for restorers, for hot rodders, this insight is invaluable because it isn't easy to find examples of technical development without resorting to an extensive education in engineering and/or the business side of product development.
Availability
Not available for purchase.

Almarai

Subject
Almarai dairy product manufacturing
Synopsis
Follows the process of dairy manufacturing from cow to distribution and includes a brief look at product development.
Relevance
This episode is certainly interesting, but as far as relevance for automotive enthusiasts, there really isn't much here. If you love dairy though, this may be right up your alley.
Availability
Not available for purchase.

Vestel City

Review not available.

Hero Motorcycles

Review not available.

Iveco HMV

Review not available.

Toyota Australia

Subject
Toyota of Australia manufacturing plant
Synopsis
Explores the functioning of Toyota's Australian plant.
Relevance
I really enjoyed this one.
This episode harkens back to the style of the original episodes and focuses on the processes within Toyota's Australian automobile factory, rather than primarily acting as a veiled advertisement for Toyota.
It follows the production of the Camry, Camry Hybrid, Aurion, and the AR engine. While it looks at the plant's assembly processes, it also explores the refitting the factory had recently gone through to support those production capabilities.
Availability
Not available for purchase.

BMW 6 Series

Subject
BMW 6 Series
Synopsis
Follows the development and production of the BMW 6 Series.
Relevance
This is another episode that harkens back to the original format of the show, focusing intently on the processes involved with development and production.
This episode does have a draw back as it either wasn't fully produced and not intended for distribution, or the production quality was just substantially below the others.
That said, the content is fantastic. Its look at the development side includes the car and its promotion, including car shows and private dealer introductions, as well as the car from concept, through clay model, and even engineering and manufacturing development. For the manufacturing it gives a light but coherent overview of the way the 6 Series is manufactured.
This is an episode I highly recommend.
Availability
Not available for purchase.

Bugatti Chiron

Subject
Bugatti Chiron
Synopsis
Explores the development and touches on the production of Bugatti's Veyron successor, the Chiron.
Relevance
I'm going to start off by saying this episode isn't even remotely as good as the one for the Veyron. They just don't dig as deeply into the subject matter.
It's only real value is to see some of the differences between the Veyron and Chiron, but in order to appreciate that, you really need to see the Veyron episode first.
Availability
Not available for purchase.

Need for Speed: Cars

Review not available.

Conclusion

Hopefully at some point, National Geographic will offer a collection for sale that includes every single episode. Until then, your only option will be to catch as catch can.

•   •   •

For more information contact National Geographic on the web at www.nationalgeographic.com, by phone 1.888.557.4450, or by email at custserv@natgeovideos.com.

U.S. Military Name Tapes Link