The motoring show first aired in 2016 after the trio’s acrimonious departure from the BBC had ended their wildly popular tenure as hosts of Top Gear between 2002 and 2015.
Nominally a review programme, Top Gear became known for its ever-more madcap and improbable stunts in their hands, apparently undertaken to “test” the durability of the vehicles in question but really having a great deal more to do with the hosts’ appetite for reveling in carnage for the sheer hell of it.
While the blokey, boot-cut conservatism of Clarkson and his familiars might not be to everyone’s taste, their exploits remain sensationally popular and together these Falstaffs of the forecourt have risked their lives beyond all reason to deliver some of the most spectacular and inventive feats of destruction British television has ever seen.
Here’s our selection of their 10 most ludicrous escapades.
10. Bugatti Veyron versus RAF Eurofighter Typhoon
Series 10, episode 3, 2007
Hammond races the £1m sports car against the £67m twin-engine jet, capable of hitting speeds of 1,500mph, along the runway of RAF Coningsby in Lincolnshire for no very good reason at all.
9. Homemade stretch limosines
Series 9, episode 6, 2007
The chaps were tasked with building their own stretch limos by carving existing cars in half and welding them together to create surreal new “luxury” models.
Clarkson chose a 1992 Fiat Panda, May a 1994 Saab 9000 (and an 1996 Alfa Romeo 164) and Hammond an MG F. Chris Moyles, Jamelia and Lemar (remember him?) were the celebrities lucky enough to be ferried around in the resulting abominations.
8. Toyota Aygo football
Series 6, episode 1, 2005
Hammond and May (alas, not the chancellor and PM) play five-a-side using two fleets of the Japanese city car to make two teams, nudging a giant rubber ball goalwards in a closely fought match ending 2-1 to the former.
7. Destroying the indestructible Toyota Hilux
Series 3, episode 5, 2003
Clarkson attempts to reduce the pick-up truck to scrap metal by ramming it through the alleyways of Bristol before reversing it into the sea, dropping a family caravan on it, attacking it with a wrecking ball and finally torching it in desperation.
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6. Amphibious cars
Series 8, episode 3, 2006
The hosts turn three clapped-out old bangers into boats with the goal of making it across the two-miles of water making up Rudyard Lake in Leek, Staffordshire.
Hammond turns a 1983 Volkswagen T3 campervan into a houseboat, May converts a 1962 Triumph Herald into a sailboat and Clarkson attaches an outboard motor to a 1989 Hilux, a vehicle he appeared to take particular relish in torturing.
5. Double-decker car racing
Series 11, episode 6, 2008
Clarkson, Hammond and May take on their German counterparts Sabine Schmitz, Carsten van Ryssen and Tim Schrick from D Motor in a race around Belgium’s Zolder circuit driving cars with duplicate models welded to the roof. The upper car steered, the lower controlled the brakes and gears.
The British contingent of course make the requisite Churchillian postures and war jokes, even touching down on “neutral territory” via Spitfire.
4. Caravan leaping
Series 3, episode 2, 2003
The show’s obsession with the inherent absurdity of the motorway-blighting caravan was a recurring theme and the use of a Volvo 240 Estate to leap a line of five of them, Evel Knievel-style, made the disdain especially clear.
See also the 2004 caravan conkers stunt, in which presenters swung the mobile homes at one another from giant hydraulic cranes, replicating the timeless playground contest on an industrial scale.
Series 4, episode 4, 2004
A similar idea was the firing of old cars into a disused quarry with the aid of a gas-powered launcher, altering the angle to better hit a target painted on the base of the pit, the game marrying medieval siege warfare tactics with classic pub darts.
As perfect an illustration of what Top Gear was all about as any.
2. Airship caravaning
Series 14, episode 3, 2009
An even grander assault on the much-maligned caravan, May proposes removing them from the roads entirely by converting them into old-fashioned Zeppelins.
Flying over the fields of Norfolk, he is able to grill sausages in the sky before causing a major incident when he drifts into Norwich Airport’s aerospace – a disaster worthy of the county’s favourite son Alan Partridge, himself a major fan of the show and not above using its accompanying magazine to berate his ex-wife Carol over her new boyfriend’s Renault Megane.
1. Reliant Robin space shuttle
Series 9, episode 4, 2007
Top Gear took Clarkson, Hammond and May from the North Pole to Bolivia. The closest they ever got to outer space was building a shuttle to blast a rusty old Reliant Robin into the atmosphere. Delightfully absurd.
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