Whether you love it or hate it, there’s no way to deny that “Top Gear” is one of the most iconic and unforgettable car-centered TV shows of our time. It’s not only the fact that its cast dared to do what others couldn’t, but also that they went further than anyone else to prove how much they love cars.
While “Top Gear”s run on TV has been slightly shadowed by its several controversies, the scandal surrounding its original hosts’ exit, and the several changes which came afterwards, the show still provides us with lots of entertaining and exciting automotive moments to enjoy.
So what are the funniest and craziest “Top Gear” challenges? Did those go smoothly, or end up in disaster? Stay here to discover all about them!
The Smallest Car In The World
The smallest car was created with the Peel P50, but that would never stop “Top Gear”s Jeremy Clarkson from challenging himself to create something even smaller. His idea resulted in the so-called P45, which was introduced by Clarkson during the 19th season premiere, and didn’t take long to attract amused reactions from his co-hosts and the audience.
According to Jeremy, the P45 was just as street legal as any other car, to the point that it had license plates, four wheels, and a glass panel roof which didn’t give him more free space than a helmet would. Not paying attention to the skeptical looks from his co-hosts, Jeremy took it for a drive on the streets, encountering more than a couple of difficulties along the way, as the batches, lack of balance, and slow speed made evident that the P45 wasn’t his greatest idea.
Being terrified of trucks, vans and even small-sized cars on the highway could have logically demotivated anyone from driving the P45 further, but that wasn’t Jeremy’s case. It wasn’t until he tried to sell it as a revolutionary business idea in the show “Dragons’ Den” that it became obvious that the P45 wasn’t the exquisite invention he thought it was, but no one can deny it was an interesting and hilarious ride while it lasted.
It’s difficult to have a clear idea of what youth wants, especially if you don’t try to understand their perspective. Nevertheless, putting themselves in the place of other people wasn’t a problem for “Top Gear”s Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May, though things for them never go as planned.
Such happened in the second episode of the show’s 13th season, in which the three hosts enrolled in the Teenage Car Challenge with the simple goal of testing what it would be like to be younger than 18 years old again.
However, the lack of money became a worry in the first part of the challenge, as not only did they have to buy a car for less than £2,500, but had to improve it enough to impress girls. That wasn’t possible given how Jeremy couldn’t buy more than a water bed to put on the back of his car, while Richard’s money only afforded him a badly-fitting body kit, and James could only buy a stereo sound equipment
Little did they know those improvements wouldn’t last long, and they faced more hilarious situations as the episode progressed. After being unable to fix their cars convincingly and crashing more than once, it was clear that the challenge was more complex than expected. Even so, it was entertaining to say the least.
What could exactly go wrong with towing a caravan to spend a holiday in the countryside? For most people that wouldn’t be a problem at all, except if they are hosts of “Top Gear”.
The Caravan Holiday was featured in the sixth episode of season eight of the series, and started as a way to discover the reason caravans are supposedly trouble-attracting vehicles,. From then on Jeremy, Richard and James faced all types of unexpected circumstances, starting with the fact there was a long queue behind them as they couldn’t drive as fast as any normal car, then the Top Gear Dog fell sick in the middle of the trip, and the situation only worsened as James unwittingly crashed the caravan while leaving a petrol station.
That wasn’t the worst part, as an unprompted encounter with the police took place just before they crashed the caravan again, went on to being kidnapped for a couple of hours, then ran out of water, and ultimately set their and their neighbor’s caravan on fire. All of that left no doubts about the hilarity of the episode, though it’s up to debate whether the caravan was the real problem, rather than the drivers.
The Limo Challenges
Cutting two cars in half to make a limousine isn’t much of a good idea at all, but that couldn’t stop “Top Gear”s hosts from doing so in episode six of the ninth season. As Jeremy, Richard, and James all chose different cars to cut and stick together, which was a feat on its own as the resulting limousines surprisingly drove well without splitting in half.
Nonetheless, the complicated part of the challenge came when they tried to take J turns each, but their attempt resulted in several broken windows for Jeremy, a hit on the back of the head for Richard, and a loose wheel for James. The following evasive driving test didn’t turn out very well either, but at that point, it was too late for them to back down from going after the final part of the challenge, which consisted of each of them acting as limousine chauffeurs taking celebrities to the 2007’s Brit Awards.
Jeremy resulted in the winner of that challenge but not because he was the first to arrive at the event, but because he got the most media coverage of his limousine.
Amphibious Car Challenge
Jeremy, Richard, and James were always up for a challenge and that was more than clear when they came up with the Amphibious Car Challenge in season eight of “Top Gear”.
Though it might seem that the hardest part of the challenge was creating a car which could be driven on water, the greatest difficulty was keeping it afloat. While Jeremy managed to accomplish both things with his Toybota, Richard couldn’t do anything to keep his van boat functional for more than a couple of minutes. The episode saw him crashing his propeller against a ramp, then havoc broke out as his car began to sink, so not much was left to do at that point.
On his part, James was the first one to ‘sail’, but that didn’t give him any advantage, as he was stuck in the lake weeds. Afterwards, it didn’t take long for Jeremy to capsize.
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Given the lack of success at creating the perfect amphibious car, a second challenge took place in the second episode of season ten. Though this time the trio was better equipped to make their water vehicles work, the seemingly-impossible goal of crossing the canal to France with their car boats made it all the more hilariously difficult.
Season 15th saw Jeremy, Richard, and James create motorhomes, also known as campervans. Though the trio’s dislike for motorhomes was evident from the show’s beginning, this challenge didn’t turn out as badly as expected, with the highlight that the final creations were actually functional, even despite their funny size and the inconveniences they brought.
For this challenge, the “Top Gear” hosts came up with road-legal and comfortable campervans, with the condition that these had to be smaller than a normal one would be. While James took a safer route with his, Jeremy went out with all he had by building a motorhome so tall that it competed in height with the trucks he found on the road, though the encounters he had with those massive vehicles were unsurprisingly scary.
On his part, Richard’s motorhome was more conventional in size, yet the design of his so-called cottage was impressively home-looking, despite how hard it was to drive it while keeping it in one piece. The challenge was hilarious, to say the least, but also rather creative and somehow educational.
The Reliant Robin Episodes
The Reliant Robin proved to be one of the favorite cars of “Top Gear”s hosts, though not for being functional or small-sized, rather for its inconvenient and troublesome design.
As seen in episode four of season nine, the “Top Gear” trio enrolls in a mission to convert a Reliant Robin into a spacecraft. The launch was surprisingly successful, turning the Reliant Space Shuttle into one of the most memorable creations ever made in the show, even regardless of the fact it ended up spiraling out of control, eventually crashing down while being engulfed in flames.
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Later in season 15th, the show went a safer route with the Reliant Robin by having Jeremy drive it 14 miles. The lack of stability did its job though, so it wasn’t surprising when the Reliant Robin ended up sinking in a canal. The next episode saw the Reliant Robin making a comeback with The Stig behind the wheel, but that didn’t end up well either.
While the Reliant Robin and several other cars introduced in the show became laughing stocks for the hosts and audience, there’s no denying that all of the challenges were fantastic and special in their own kind of way, not to say fascinating for the audience.