‘Top Gear’ – The Most Ambitious Challenges

Graham Host

For a strong 12 years, the infamous Top Gear team of Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond, and James May had adventures both bizarre and brilliant. Everything from botched attempts at diplomatic relations with India to being chased from Patagonia – the unorthodox presenters have done it all.

With a new show – and even more funding – on the way, it’s important to remember what they have already accomplished. Given a moderate sum of money and their combined levels of experience, intellect, and general good luck, there is nothing these three cannot achieve. Here are some of their more impressive tasks to date.

Amphibious Cars

A surprisingly inventive choice here. The Top Gear presenters were told to go off by themselves and each create a car that would also service as a boat. The rules were that it must operate as both car and boat without any outside interference. Hammond transformed a 1983 Volkswagen camper van into a narrowboat-style “dampervan.”

Top Gear Hammond Damper Van

May somehow converted a 1962 Triumph Herald into a sailing boat. Certain problems arose when the sails prevented him from going under bridges or tall trees.

Top Gear Triumph Herald Sailboat James May

While the other two took moderately novel ideas, Clarkson went with his personal motto of “POWER!!” and converted a Toyota Hilux. Choosing the Toyota was based on a previous challenge to see if it was truly indestructible – it was. Christened the “Toybota,” Clarkson attached a powerful outboard to the back and welded the doors shut against leakage.

Top Gear Toyota Hilux Jeremy Clarkson Toybota

Sadly, Hammond’s van sank quite quickly, and May would be set adrift by a slight breeze. Clarkson picked up Hammond and almost made it to the end only to flip and drown the car. May was declared the winner by virtue of survival.

The trio would later attempt to cross the English Channel with rebuilt versions of the cars in a separate challenge. This time, both Hammond and May sank and all three were forced aboard the new Toybota – now called the Nissank – and arrived safely in France.

The Robin Reliant Space Shuttle

One small step for man and one giant rocket for Top Gear – Hammond and May decided to create a space shuttle. May took care of the rocket as Hammond sought out their car. Deciding that the Robin Reliant had the best aerodynamics, the United Kingdom Rocketry Association (UKRA) viciously corrected Hammond.

Top Gear Reliant Robin Space Shuttle

Despite being slated as 12 days of work, four months of planning went into the project. Sadly, the rocket did not succeed as one bolt did not detonate properly, forcing the ship into an explosive crash.

The North Pole

Top Gear Polar Special Hilux Jeremy Clarkson James May

In the Polar Special, Top Gear actually performed a truly impressive feat – navigating to the magnetic North Pole. Racing with dogsled expert Matty McNair, Hammond went with traditional methods. Choosing the route of modern technology was Clarkson with his depressing companion of May.

Top Gear Polar Special Richard Hammond

While the adapted 2007 Toyota Hilux had more power and weight, it suffered from the deadly risk of breaking through the ice and drowning. The Hilux won by a small margin despite getting bogged down in ice boulder fields near the end.

Top Gear Polar Special Jeremy Clarkson James May Pole Winning
Arriving at the Northern Magnetic Pole

Electric Cars

Realising that cars were contributing to global warming, the three enthusiasts went about making their own electric version. Going by various names during the different iterations, the group slowly overcame a variety of problems.

Top Gears Electric Car

First was a low roof that “curved Hammond’s spine.” Then, the permanently depleted batteries had the group stuck in short trips. The final issue arose from an electric generator they installed to charge the batteries. It was loud and leaked enough fumes to risk killing them all. The end result did not go down well with Autocar for their impartial review.

$1,000 American Cars

Top Gear US Special Clarkson Hammond Cars

Realising that thousands of tourists hire cars for their holidays, Top Gear decided to change the idea. Instead of renting cars, Clarkson, Hammond, and May decided to buy cars, drive from Miami to New Orleans and then sell them again.

Top Gear car Hillary 2007

Over the course of their journey, they were asked to paint each other’s cars to get the driver shot, killed or arrested. Surprisingly, Hammond wrote “Hillary For President” on May’s car and almost had his friend killed. If the people then could see the voting booths now…

Finding the Nile

Top Gear Africa Special Cars

Given the often ridiculous antics the trio get up to, it’s easy to forget the talents Clarkson, Hammond, and May possess. Given £1,500 to buy an estate car, the three convened in Africa. They were charged with finding the true source of the River Nile. Along the way, the group transformed their cars into “mobile homes” and dealt with roads composed of speed humps and others of thick mud.

Top Gear Africa Special Mud Roads

Banding together, all three made it all the way to the end of the journey. It was only near the end that they encountered an insurmountable problem – only one person could find the source of the Nile. Ignoring the others and fighting only for themselves, the cars broke down near the very end and forced the crew to run. Taking his place in the history books, the founder of the source of the River Nile – James May!

Top Gear Africa Special Nile Source
Graham Host is a member of the Fan Contributor program. In his spare time, he enjoys the works of Terry Pratchett, DC Comics and a wide assortment of video games. Under no circumstances should he be fed after midnight.
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