Top Five: Top Gear Cheap Car Challenges

26 07 2009

Originally I was going to have an F1 list, but in light of Massa’s accident I’ve decided to go for some other Sunday fare; Top Gear. Today they’re having another cheap car challenge (£3000 pre-1982 cars), so I’m going to lay out my top five thus far.

1. Vietnam Special – 15 million đồng bikes

Right, well number one doesn’t involve cheap cars, but that’s just because they couldn’t afford them as it turns out 15 million đồng is only about £600. So, much to Clarkson’s chagrin, bikes were selected, or in Clarkson’s case, a scooter. What ensued was a mess of idiotic helmets, stupid presents, graffiti, excellent tailoring, a bike licence test, poor train selection, interesting cuisine, bike-boat conversions, and the constant threat of Bruce Springsteen.

2. £1200 British Leyland cars

In an ill-advised attempt to prove that British Leyland produced decent cars, the trio were armed with £1200 (of their own money) to purchase a good BL car. Clarkson naturally decided to go with a big engine, so bought a Rover SD-1 with a V8, which turned out to have worryingly large panel gaps, door sized ones… Hammond decided to go with the “hot hatch of the day”, Triumph Herald Sprint, which broke down within 200m of the start, and had a hole big enough for Clarkson to get his finger in, but not not get out. May went for an Austin Princess with collapsed suspension (my dad had one, don’t know if the suspension ever collapsed), and obscured windscreen-wiper spindles, apparently that last fact was the most interesting thing about that car. Anyway, after proving that they were slower than The Stig in a Datsun 120Y, and that the odds of a BL handbrake working were low, they proceeded to get eggy and wet. Turns out that the best car British Leyland ever made is in fact a beige Austin Princess with a brown vinyl roof. Good purchase from May, and my father.

3. £1500 two-door coupés that aren’t Porsches

Clarkson showed us why his engineering doctorates are only honourary by making a Mitsubishi Starion worse, Hammond attached a fridge to the front of a BMW after relying on a few too many sat-navs, and May got lost in a grandfather clock.

4. Botswana Special – £1500 non-Chelsea tractors

In order to show that you don’t need four-wheel drive to perform the school run, the boys were sent to drive across Botswana in two-wheel drive cars that hadn’t been modified to drive off-road in anyway. May almost drove into Zimbabwe in his Mercedes, Clarkson went a little Mad Max in his Lacia Beta coupé, and Hammond fell in love with an older woman; his Opel Kadett. What we learnt from their endeavour was, that lightness is the key to crossing the Makgadikgadi, a cow head won’t attract lions, the Top Gear crew should never make nature documentaries, and the best car to cross Botswana in (and therefore complete the school run in) is a Volkswagen Beetle. Although the overriding memory of this episode will be “OLIVEEEERRRR!”

5. £5000 Lorries

As the three boys knew nothing about lorries, this was a voyage of discovery. Clarkson learnt that he can’t powerslide a lorry, and if he tries he’ll get a gearstick in a delicate place. Hammond learnt that attaching a kennel to your lorry is never a good idea, and that he is too scared to drive up hills in case he hurts Oliver. May learnt how to scare the crap out of himself (literally), and that a gigantic pile of “gentleman’s literature” isn’t a suitable replacement for a piano. All three learnt that towing things will just lead to cake everywhere, a missing Nissan Micra, and fire. Everyone watching learnt, if they didn’t already know, that driving into solid objects is just plain stupid.

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