Top Gear challenges

Top Gear challenges

Top Gear challenges are a segment of the Top Gear television programme where the presenters are challenged by the producers, or by each other, to prove or do various things related to automobiles.


Novelty/stunt challenges

Novelty challenges and short stunt films are typically based on absurd premises, such as jumping a bus over motorcycles (instead of the more typical scenario of a motorcycle jumping over buses), or a nun driving a monster truck. These features have become much less prominent over the life of the programme (they were much more regular during the first four series); they have been superseded in later series by the How hard can it be?" and Cheap car challenges, which are much larger in scope.

  • How fast do you have to drive to be undetected by a speed camera? Series One, Episode One
  • How many motorcycles can a double-decker bus jump over? Series One, Episode Two
  • Can Grannies do donuts? Series One, Episode Three
  • Can you make an 'average' car into a 007/Bond car, for less than £300? Series One, Episode Five
  • Can Grannies do handbrake turns? Series One, Episode Six
  • What is Britain's fastest faith? Series One, Episode Seven & Ten
  • Who is Britain's fastest white van man? Series One, Episode Eight
  • Lotus give a Lada Riva a £100,000 makeover Series One, Episode Eight
  • How much faster will a car go if you strip it to save weight? Series One, Episode Nine
  • What to do with the worst car of all time, the Nissan Sunny? Series Two, Episode One
  • What is Britain's fastest political party? Series Two, Episode Two
  • What country makes the fastest supercar? Series Two, Episode Three
  • Can Ford's World Rally Championship pit team dismantle and rebuild a rally car faster than four women can get ready for a night out? Series Two, Episode Five
  • May oversees an attempt at the land-speed record for a caravan Series Two, Episode Six
  • A "race for the universe": Sci-Fi characters race around the Top Gear track Series Two, Episode Eight
  • Can The Stig achieve 100 mph on the 200m runway of HMS Invincible? Series Three, Episode One
  • How many caravans can a Volvo 240 jump over? Series Three, Episode Two
  • What is the best wig for driving fast in an open top convertible? Series Three, Episode Five
  • Which professor can do the best burn-out? Series Three, Episode Seven
  • Can a nun drive a monster truck? Series Four, Episode Two
  • Hammond and May play darts using real cars Series Four, Episode Four
  • Hammond makes fun of motorists that block yellow boxes Series Four, Episode Eight
  • Is the jet from a 747 enough to blow a car over? Series Four, Episode Eight
  • Can you parachute into a moving car? Series Four, Episode Nine
  • Olympic Games for cars: Long Jump Series Four, Episode Ten
  • How many bouncy castles can an ice cream van jump? Series Five, Episode One
  • Hammond and May play conkers with caravans Series Five, Episode Four
  • Historic People Carrier Racing Championship Series Five, Episode Five
  • Can a stretch limo jump over a wedding party? Series Six, Episode Four
  • Hammond oversees an attempt at the world record for the number of complete sideways rolls in a car Series Six, Episode Nine
  • Hammond and May play with life-size radio control cars made from real cars Series Seven, Episode Two
  • The Team try to get a Mini to beat a skier down a ski slope at Lillehammer Winter Olympic Special
  • Hammond oversees an attempt by the Stig at the nonexistent indoor world speed record Series Eight, Episode Six
  • Motorhome Racing Series Ten, Episode Six
  • Hammond converts a G-Wiz into a full-sized remote-controlled car Series Ten, Episode Ten
  • May oversees an attempt by Top Gear Stuntman at the nonexistent world record for car jumping in reverse Series Eleven, Episode One
  • May oversees an attempt by Top Gear Stuntman to replicate a corkscrew car jump, as featured in The Man with the Golden Gun Series Eleven, Episode Two
  • The Top Gear team (Britain) take on the hosts of D MOTOR (Germany) in a series of car challenges to decide the best motoring country Series Eleven, Episode Six
  • Hammond oversees an attempt by Top Gear Stuntman to beat rival show Fifth Gear's distance record for jumping a car while towing a caravan Series Twelve, Episode Seven
  • Clarkson plays British Bulldogs with the British Army Series Thirteen, Episode Four
  • Airport vehicle racing Series Fourteen, Episode Four
  • Clarkson drives a Reliant Robin from Sheffield to Rotherham (constantly flipping over) Series Fifteen, Episode One

Challenge reviews

A common theme on Top Gear is an approach to reviewing cars that combines standard road tests and opinions with an extremely unusual circumstance, or with a challenge to demonstrate a notable characteristic of the vehicle.

  • Drive until you get bored / Test: enjoyable travel. Clarkson claimed that Jaguars "ease the burden of travel"[1] and devised a test for the Jaguar XJ to see how far he could drive one before he got bored. He ran out of country before he got bored. Series Two, Episode Four
  • Lap of the M25 / Test: fuel economy. Clarkson drove a lap of the M25 in a diesel Volkswagen Lupo, while another driver used the petrol version to see which would achieve greater fuel efficiency. Clarkson was allowed to spend any money he saved over the petrol version on a gift at South Mimms services. He chose a small gold model of a cockerel, which made a reappearance in later series as "The Golden Cock"—the award given to the presenter who'd made the most embarrassing mistake of the year. Series Three, Episode One
  • Toyota Hilux destruction / Test: toughness. Clarkson and May used various methods in an attempt to destroy a Toyota Hilux, which included driving it into a tree which belonged to Churchill Parish, Somerset. The villagers presumed that the damage had been accidental or vandalism had occurred until the Top Gear episode was broadcast. After the BBC was contacted, the director of Top Gear admitted guilt and the broadcaster paid compensation.[2] Other tests on the Hilux included leaving it out in the ocean, slamming it with a wrecking ball, setting the cabin on fire and finally having it hoisted to the roof of a tower-block that was subsequently blown up. The heavily damaged (but still driveable) Hilux now stands on a plinth in the Top Gear studio. Series Three, Episodes Five & Six
  • London to Edinburgh and back again on a single tank of fuel / Test: fuel economy. Clarkson attempted to drive a diesel Audi A8 800 miles (1,300 km) on a single tank of fuel. Series Four, Episode Four
  • Minicab road testing / Test: toughness and practicality. Hammond and May worked as minicab drivers in order to subject a Renault Scenic and Ford C-MAX to a year's worth of hard abuse in one evening. Series Four, Episode Seven
  • Off-road up a mountain / Test: off-road ability. Clarkson tried to drive a Land Rover Discovery from the beach to the top of Cnoc an Fhreiceadain in Scotland, completely off-road. It was heavily criticised by environmentalists for the damage done by the vehicle's tyres. This stunt was memorable in that Clarkson left the mountain by helicopter with the Discovery's keys in his pocket, so delaying its removal from the hill. Series Five, Episode Three
  • 24 hours in a car / Test: comfort. Hammond and May spent 24 hours in a Smart Forfour to assess the marketing claim that the car is "designed like a lounge." Series Five, Episode Four
  • Car Football / Test: toughness and handling. Hammond and May, along with a selection of professional drivers, played a football match using Toyota Aygos. Series Six, Episode One
  • Road Test Russian Roulette / Test: random road testing. Hammond and May worked as ScooterMen[3] in order to road-test as many randomly-selected cars as possible—the catches being that they wouldn't know what they'd be road-testing, and that they had to do it in the presence of the cars' owners. Series Six, Episode Nine
  • Car Ice Hockey / Test: toughness and handling. Hammond and May, along with a selection of professional drivers, played an ice hockey match using Suzuki Swifts, while Clarkson acted as referee. Winter Olympics Special
  • Horse racing camera platform / Test: smooth ride. Clarkson reviewed the Citroën C6 and put it to work as a mobile camera platform covering a horse race. Series Eight, Episode Five
  • Car Football 2 / Test: toughness and handling. Hammond and May, along with a selection of professional drivers, staged another football match using Toyota Aygos against a new contender, the Volkswagen Fox. Series Eight, Episode Five
  • VIP chauffeur / Test: luxury. In Japan, May conducted road tests of the Mitsuoka Orochi and Galue, and used the Galue to chauffeur a Sumo wrestler and his manager to a tournament as a way to test if the car is "Japan's Rolls-Royce."[4] Series Eleven, Episode Six

How hard can it be?

A recurring feature on Top Gear involves the hosts undertaking a number of bizarre challenges involving cars. The segments involving the challenges are usually preceded by one of the presenters asking the audience and viewers: "How hard can it be?"

Lap the Nürburgring in less than 10 minutes... in a diesel

Clarkson took a diesel Jaguar S-Type to the Nürburgring with the aim of completing a lap in less than 10 minutes. Clarkson was being coached by Sabine Schmitz, a noted German racer. After consecutive unsuccessful tries, Clarkson managed to lap the Nürburgring in 9 minutes and 59 seconds, with Clarkson celebrating enthusiastically and showing the results proudly to his coach. Schmitz was still unimpressed, proclaiming that she could do that time in a van. She then proceeded to do a lap on the Nürburgring 47 seconds faster than Clarkson's time, using the same Jaguar S-type diesel Clarkson drove earlier. Series Five, Episode Five

Lap the Nürburgring in less than 9 minutes and 59 seconds... in a van

To celebrate the Ford Transit's 40th birthday, Hammond went to the Nürburgring to see if Clarkson's mentor from the previous Nürburgring challenge, Sabine Schmitz, could live up to her claim and do a lap in a diesel Ford Transit van in less than 9 minutes and 59 seconds. Despite all the modifications made to the van (removal of the passenger seat, spare tyre, tools, windscreen wipers Hammond, etc.), Schmitz was not able to do a lap time of less than 10 minutes, achieving a lap time of 10 minutes and 8 seconds. Series Six, Episode Seven

Convertible people carrier

The presenters were set the task of building a convertible people carrier. They succeeded in removing the roof from a Renault Espace and replaced it with a canvas fold-down top. The resulting vehicle was able to travel at 100 mph without losing its roof, and was driven through an animal park without any incident. However, a trip through a car wash resulted in the brand-new million-pound wash facility catching fire. Series Eight, Episode One

Present a drive time radio show

The presenters tried to host a drive time radio show on BBC Southern Counties Radio in Brighton, but ended up with many complaints from the listeners. This was mainly because Clarkson's travel bulletins focused on hounding motorists he could see dawdling on CCTV, rather than issuing the more normal information on the location of problem areas caused by such people and how to avoid them. Series Eight, Episode Two

Amphibious vehicles

Jeremy Clarkson's amphibious Toybota pickup.

The presenters were set the challenge of building amphibious cars, and using them to get to—and across—a two-mile-wide reservoir. Hammond transformed a Volkswagen camper van into a narrowboat-style "damper van;" Clarkson attached an outboard motor to a modified Toyota Hilux pick-up truck, which he dubbed the "Toybota"; while May, using the rig of a Mirror dinghy, turned a classic Triumph Herald into a sailing boat. Hammond's propeller broke off on entry to the water, and lacking effective waterproofing, the van quickly sank. Clarkson, with passenger Hammond, capsized at the pontoon finish line. May managed to sail across the reservoir, but slowly, and had to take an alternate route when on land due to a "low bridge." May was voted the winner by the studio audience. Winner: May Series Eight, Episode Three [nb 1]

Car interior design

Clarkson bought a 1996 Mercedes-Benz S280 and designed his perfect interior based upon his house. The car, dubbed "Anne Hathaway's Cottage," featured a wood-burning stove, kitchen chairs, a flagstone floor, and wood with a cement base (weighing approximately two tonnes), even plastering the door trim. James May and Richard Hammond then tested the car. A lack of seat belts and unsecured seats meant they tumbled around inside the car. Eventually, with May holding Hammond's seat, a 0–60 time of 35.4 seconds was established. Series Eight, Episode Four

Improve your lap time by 20 seconds

Sir Jackie Stewart claimed that he could cut down any of the presenters' driving time around a race circuit by 20 seconds, so James took him up on the offer and they used a TVR Tuscan at Oulton Park. Series Eight, Episode Five

Caravan holiday

Clarkson, May and Hammond went on a caravan holiday in Dorset to try and find out more about caravanning. The trio unsuccessfully tried to have fun and caused numerous traffic jams. May crashed the caravan into a bollard. Hammond and the Top Gear dog were "kidnapped" by an elderly female fan. Clarkson "accidentally" set the caravan and its neighbour on fire whilst trying to cook chips.[5] Series Eight, Episode Six

Kit car race

The presenters, based at Knockhill Racing Circuit in Fife, were set the task of building a Caterham Seven Kit car from scratch and drive past the starting line, faster than the time it would take The Stig to reach the track from the Caterham showroom in Caterham using a pre-built Caterham Seven Kit car. The presenters won the challenge because The Stig was arrested by the traffic police just 3 miles from the finish. Series Eight, Episode Seven

Roadies van challenge

The team decided to test some vans by being roadies for The Who. May picked a Renault Master, Hammond chose a Ford Transit, and Clarkson selected a Volkswagen T30 TDI 174 Sportline. After The Who's concert at Hyde Park, Clarkson, Hammond and May took some of their equipment 90 miles to the site of their next show. They concluded that the cheapest van for the task at hand should always be used. Subsequently, Clarkson admitted that the feature was not the greatest of ideas. After this challenge the presenters were then set the challenge of buying a van for £1000, the ensuence of which proved far more entertaining. Series Eight, Episode Eight

Road works in 24 hours

The presenters decided to speed up the road works on the D5481 near Bidford in Warwickshire. According to the County Council, it would take an entire week, but the Top Gear team achieved it in just one day (although they did have 32 men working with them). According to the film, Clarkson prevented them from having proper lunch breaks and instead fed them on the berries growing on the bushes by the side of the road. However, for tea, Hammond fetched fish and chips for all the workmen. The team worked through the entire day and night to get the job done. Series Nine, Episode One

Reliant Robin Space Shuttle

Hammond and May tried to convert a Reliant Robin into a space shuttle. They were given 12 days to build it[6] and help from the United Kingdom Rocketry Association. Eight tons of thrust were required to launch the Robin—the largest non-commercial rocket launch undertaken in Europe. The Reliant Robin took off; everything seemed to be working until a release bolt attaching the Robin to the fuel tank failed to detach. The combined result spiraled out of control and crashed on a nearby hillside. Series Nine, Episode four"

Growing petrol using tractors

The presenters decided to grow their own environmentally-friendly petrol by planting rapeseed in a field. For this challenge, each presenter needed to research and acquire a tractor. Each presenter then took part in a series of challenges at the airfield, including a "drag race," in which they raced each other while dragging something found around the airfield. In the end, it was discovered May had ordered the wrong type of seed, so they ended up with 500 gallons of Biodiesel which was later used for the Britcar 24-hour endurance race. Series Nine, Episode Five

Stretch limos

The presenters were sent out to buy normal cars that are available in Britain, then turn them into stretch limousines. Once the presenters had built their limos, they had to chauffeur three celebrities across London to the Brit Awards. Hammond chauffeured Jamelia in the MG F "Sports Limo," arriving with a stuck throttle. Clarkson chauffeured Chris Moyles using a greatly lengthened, dual rear axle Fiat Panda, arriving with only half a car after it split in two before reaching its destination.[nb 2] James May attempted to chauffeur Lemar in the "Salfa Romeaab" (a cross between an Alfa Romeo 164 and a Saab 9000); Lemar ultimately got frustrated and got out of the car after May repeatedly got lost. Clarkson claimed victory as he got one photograph of his celebrity published in a newspaper. However, as his co-presenters pointed out, the image appeared in Clarkson's own newspaper column in The Sun (to which he responded that they both also have newspaper columns that they could have used). Series Nine, Episode Six

Polar race special

In April–May 2007, Clarkson and May teamed up to race Hammond from Resolute, Nunavut to the North Magnetic Pole, taking the route set out in the Polar Challenge. The terrain in between is some of the toughest in the world—a mix of mountainous land masses and jagged sea ice where temperatures can drop to -65 degrees Celsius (-85 degrees Fahrenheit). Jeremy and James used a specially adapted Toyota Hilux pick-up truck, while Richard used a sled pulled by a team of ten Canadian Inuit dogs, driven by American explorer Matty McNair. In the end the truck won, although the sled overtook them at one point while they were crossing the first of two fields of ice boulders. Polar Challenge Special

The Hilux used by the camera crew would later appeared in Series Fifteen, Episode One, modified to be able to drive near Eyjafjallajökull volcano to obtain a lava rock.

Amphibious cars: redux

James May's amphibious Triumph Herald.

The presenters made a second attempt to use amphibious cars—this time to cross the English Channel. All three presenters modified their original designs: Clarkson created an amphibious Nissan pickup (the "Nissank"); Hammond used a new Volkswagen Transporter; May upgraded and used the same Triumph Herald he had used in the original challenge. May was unable to sail the Herald out of the harbour, sinking twice and damaging the vehicle beyond repair. Hammond's Transporter worked well initially, but the engine was damaged in rough seas, necessitating the use of an outboard engine. It eventually flooded and sank. Clarkson won, while carrying his co-presenters, in his "Nissank" on the trip. The presenters had aimed for Calais, but missed, finishing in Sangatte. They also attempted (and failed) to break the record set by Richard Branson for crossing the Channel in an amphibious vehicle. Series Ten, Episode Two

Driving a Formula 1 car

Hammond sets out to complete two laps around Stowe Circuit at Silverstone driving the Renault R25 Formula One car, which took both the driver's (with Fernando Alonso) and constructor's championship titles in the 2005 Formula One season. Series Ten, Episode Eight

Britcar 24-hour endurance race

Richard Hammond driving Top Gear's diesel BMW 330d in the Britcar 24 Hours.

In the previous series, the presenters planted their own biofuel crop, which was rapeseed. However, due to an ordering blunder made by James May they accidentally made 500 gallons worth of biodiesel. In order to dispose of it, they took part in the Britcar 24-hour endurance race at Silverstone Circuit using a modified BMW 330d. Arriving at the event, the team discovered that it was not an event for novices, as they had expected, but it was a fully professional endurance race and the team would be competing alongside actual 200 mph supercars. However, with help from The Stig, they eventually finished third in class and 39th overall, despite a fuel pump explosion, only just making the start, several fuel leaks, going off the track many times, and Hammond crashing into a Mosler. Series Ten, Episode Nine

Renault Avantime tuning challenge

The presenters were challenged to make an ordinary car lap the track as fast as a Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X, which has a time of 1 minute 28 seconds. They did not know what car they would have to work with. Despite May's prediction of a Hyundai Accent 3-cylinder diesel, the car was revealed to be a 2002 Renault Avantime. Notwithstanding various modifications—including wheels, tyres, brakes, the rear wing from an F1 car, and a wooden front splitter (which caught fire)—the presenters were unable to beat the Evo's time, however they did improve on the original time by 7.1 seconds. Series Twelve, Episode Three

From Basel to Blackpool on a single tank of fuel

The presenters were challenged to drive from Basel, Switzerland to Blackpool, UK on a single tank of diesel, in order to switch on the Blackpool Illuminations. Each presenter chose a car: Jeremy used a Jaguar XJ6 Diesel, and in spite of using every feature in the car, and driving uneconomically, managed to complete the journey. He was, however, beaten by Richard Hammond, economically driving a Volkswagen Polo BlueMotion. James May, driving a Subaru Legacy, failed to reach Blackpool in time to switch on the lights; however, he succeeded in completing the journey. Series Twelve, Episode Four

Make a car advertisement

James and Jeremy were given the challenge to create a simple, but effective, TV advertisement for the new Volkswagen Scirocco TDi. Several entries were made, including one stating while the Scirocco wasn't fast, but being economical, a rehash of a previous Golf ad, and one detailing a funeral (slightly spoiled by Clarkson). All were rejected, leading Clarkson and May to create separate ads. Clarkson won with references to World War II. Series Thirteen, Episode Seven

Build an electric car

The presenters were challenged to create their own electric car that would rival the G-Wiz. The first car, nicknamed "Geoff", was put through its paces in the city of Oxford, before being re-built as the Hammerhead-i Eagle Thrust. The Hammerhead underwent a number of safety tests at the Motor Industry Research Association, with the Top Gear trio attempting to fool the examiners by using simple camera trickery. It was then reviewed by Autocar magazine, with the team disappointed by the review, while making a reference to OFCOM, the telecommunications regulator. Series Fourteen, Episode Two

Build a snowplow

Due to the problems Britain suffered during the previous winter with snow, and local authourities not having the money to spend on road clearing equipment, the presenters came up with the idea of the Snowbine Harvester to save money, working on the theory combine harvesters were sitting idle during winter months so were readily available with a cheap conversion kit. The team fitted a snowplow to the front of a used Claas Dominator. It was also converted to a gritter using the grain chute, capable of blasting grit through the windows of nearby cars. A flamethrower was fitted at the rear, operated by Jeremy, and a Bovril boiler in the cab for James to counter the lack of heating. During testing in Norway, the team blasted grit through a house window, set fire to a man and ran into a car hidden by snow. They then successfully ploughed a road that had not previously been plowed that winter. Series Sixteen, Episode Five

Cheap cars

The presenters are given a budget to buy a used car conforming to certain criteria. The budget is typically around £1,500, but it has ranged between £100 and £10,000 depending on the type of car. Once purchased, the presenters compete against each other in a series of tests to establish who has bought the best car.

The presenters have no prior knowledge of what the tests will be, although they generally involve:

  • A long journey used to determine reliability and fuel economy
  • A lap round a race track, usually by the Stig, to determine performance. In some cases the Stig sets a time in a similar car and the presenters have to beat it.
  • An inspection to discover what is and isn't working or how much of the car is original
  • Spending any leftover change from the initial budget on repairing and/or modifing the cars
  • Selling the cars at the end of the challenge.

All three presenters are highly competitive; vandalism and sabotage, usually by Clarkson and Hammond against May, are commonplace, and any presenter whose car breaks down during a challenge will typically be abandoned to make their own way to the designated destination. Certain challenges since the African Cheap Car Road Trip have a had a back-up car made available for any presenter whose car breaks down and cannot be repaired. The back-up vehicle is generally a model that is loathed by all three presenters, or in some other way antagonistic to the current challenge.

Due to the controversial nature of some challenges, it is difficult to gauge who has been the most successful so far, but as a rough idea: May has won the most cheap car challenges with six victories, Clarkson has won four and Hammond three. Some challenges remain unclear, however, such as the £10,000 mid-engined Italian supercar challenge, where no presenter actually made it to their destination (although May came the closest). The winner of the £1000 police car challenge remains unclear as a result of Hammond eating the final results of Clarkson's Fiat, and declaring himself the winner.

£100 Car Challenge

The presenters were given £100 to buy a car that was road legal (had current tax and passed the Ministry of Transport test). This was to prove that a car could be purchased and driven from London to Manchester and back again for less than it would cost to take the train (around £180), even including the price of the fuel. Clarkson bought a Volvo 760 GLE, Hammond bought a Rover 416GTi, and May bought an Audi 80 1.8E. The challenge included reliability, fuel economy, stopping time, safety, price, and lap-time testing. Jeremy Clarkson won the challenge overall due to him buying his car for £1. Winner: Clarkson Series Four, Episode Three

Cheap Porsche Challenge

The presenters were given £1,500 to buy a Porsche. Clarkson bought a 928, Hammond bought a 924, and May bought a 944. The challenge included driving from London to Brighton, fuel economy, using the car in a lonely-hearts column, lap time, selling the car, and using the change from the £1,500 modifying the cars for judging by the Porsche Owners' Club. Clarkson won the challenge (despite bringing the most unreliable of the three cars) when he earned more by breaking down his car and selling it for parts.Winner: Clarkson Series Five, Episode Six

Cheap coupés that aren't Porsches challenge

Following the previous challenge[nb 3] the presenters were sent to buy coupes that weren't Porsches for £1,500. Clarkson bought a Mitsubishi Starion, Hammond purchased a BMW 635 CSi, and May bought a Jaguar XJS. The challenge included testing for reliability, top speed still working, comfort, lap time on the Millbrook Proving Ground, driving from Millbrook in Bedfordshire to Oxford, and an endurance race. Winner: May (Clarkson, by default)[nb 4] Series Six, Episode Two

Italian mid-engined supercars for less than a second-hand Mondeo challenge

The presenters were given £10,000 to buy a 1970s supercar, the requirements being that the car had to be mid-engined and Italian. Clarkson bought a Maserati Merak, Hammond bought a Ferrari 308 GT4, and May bought a Lamborghini Urraco. Various challenges included a lap of the Castle Combe Circuit and driving from Chippenham to Slough on a set amount of fuel. In the end, none of the cars survived the final journey: The Merak's engine exploded and the 308's electrical system failed, and the Urraco ran out of petrol with just one mile to go to the finishing point. No winner Series Seven, Episode Four

The GT4 used in this challenge was later bought and being repaired by Hammond, only have to be damaged again when he was in the Petrolheads, where he was being tricked and rammed on his car during a challenge.

White van man challenge

As a followup from a previous challenge, and as punishment for the poor reviews of the vans tested, the presenters were given £1,000 to buy a van and face a series of challenges. Clarkson bought a Ford Transit, Hammond a Suzuki Super Carry, and May an LDV Convoy box van. Tests included a drag race, how long it took to load and unload various items, tailgating a passenger car as close as possible, replacing their driver's side doors, length of time for a burglar to unlock their rear doors, and trying to outrun a police patrol car around their test track. Clarkson won the latter event, which also featured a spectacular roll-over by Hammond trying to achieve the Scandinavian flick whilst going round the first corner. Hammond, however, still won the overall challenge. Winner: Hammond Series Eight, Episode Eight

Road trip special—used American car for $1000 challenge

The presenters wanted to find out if it was easier to buy a car for a holiday rather than rent one, so each of them was given a budget of US$1000 to purchase a car, which they would take on a road trip across four US states, from Miami, Florida to New Orleans, Louisiana. Clarkson bought a Chevrolet Camaro, May got a Cadillac Brougham Sedan, while Hammond bought a Dodge Ram pick-up truck.

During their journey they were given a series of challenges, which included the cars being driven around a track by The Stig's overweight "American cousin," doing 0 to 50 to 0 without over-running the track and thereby crashing into a river full of alligators, and camping a night in a field eating only roadkill. They also had to paint slogans on each other's car in order to get them shot at or arrested as they drove across Alabama. When the three pulled into a gas station to refuel, they claimed a gang of rednecks attacked them with stones and chased them out of town.

Upon arrival at New Orleans, the three presenters found the city was taking a long time to recover from Hurricane Katrina and thus couldn't bring themselves to ask for money for their cars. They instead gave them away to people who needed them. In the episode's credits, the presenters were credited as "Cletus Clarkson", "Earl Hammond JR", "Ellie May May" and "Roscoe P. Stig". All of the other credited crew had their first names changed to "Billy Bob". Winner: Unknown Clarkson declared himself the winner and May as the loser (as he couldn't even give his car away). Series Nine, Episode Three

£1,500 two-wheel drive African cross-country car challenge

The presenters were sent to Botswana to buy a car that was not an off-road vehicle and had only two-wheel drive, which they would drive across the country, from the eastern border of Zimbabwe to the western border of Namibia (approximately 1,000 miles). The challenge included a drive over the Makgadikgadi Pan, which left Clarkson and May's cars filled with dust after they had been stripped of excess weight as to try to prevent their cars sinking through the thin surface, and over the Okavango Delta. This was to prove "to the people of Surrey that they don't need 4x4s in case there are leaves on the road." This challenge introduced a new rule that stipulated if any of the presenters' cars were to break down beyond repair, they would have to complete the journey in a substitute vehicle - for this challenge, a Volkswagen Beetle (the Beetle being the presenters' unanimous choice as their least favourite car). Clarkson bought a Lancia Beta Coupé, which was the most unreliable car of the lot. Hammond bought a 1963 Opel Kadett, which he named Oliver (consequently becoming the butt of jokes of the other presenters), while May bought a Mercedes-Benz 230E. Hammond felt such affection for his car that he subsequently had it shipped to the UK (which resulted in Clarkson and May making fun of him), and it now has the occasional cameo on Richard Hammond's Blast Lab. It also subsequently featured on the Top Gear 'Lorryist' challenge. All three made it to the Namibian border. Clarkson declared the Beetle as the winner, since it had no documented mishaps during the trip, much to the shock of Hammond, with which May answered "No, he [Clarkson] has a point!". Winner: None Series Ten, Episode Four

British Leyland did make some good cars after all challenge

In an argument with the producers of Top Gear, the presenters claimed British Leyland did produce some good cars after all. So, they were given a budget of £1,200 (of their own money) to buy a British Leyland car in which they would face a series of challenges, for which, instead of points, they would earn money back. Clarkson got a Rover SD1, Hammond bought a Dolomite Sprint, whereas May acquired an Austin Princess. Challenges included a variety of tests at the Millbrook proving ground, and seeing how far the cars could be driven while full of water. The boys also reproduced the intro of Money from the various squeaks and clunks their cars made. After all the challenges, Clarkson summed up the points and declared May the winner of the challenge, as not only did he get back all that he had paid, he made a £20 profit. Winner: May Series Ten, Episode Seven

Make a police car for a lot less money than the real police spend on their cars challenge

The presenters were all given £1,000 to buy a car and turn them into police cars able to surpass the Police's standard-issue Vauxhall Astra Diesels. Clarkson bought a 1998 Fiat Coupé 20V Turbo for £900, painted it in Italian Polizia di Stato livery (although the colour was wrong), and fitted it with "Boudicea" wheel covers. May bought a 1994 Lexus LS400 for £900 as well, which he painted in a traditional 'jam sandwich' livery, fitted with an air siren from an ice cream van, and armed with paint sprayers at the back. Hammond bought a 1994 Suzuki Vitara for £750, and equipped it with light bars and a self-deploying stinger on the front (actually several doormats stitched together with nails poking through). The presenters' cars were then put to test around the Top Gear track, which included beating the Stig's lap in the Vauxhall Astra diesel (coupled with extra points for flamboyance), clearing a crash site in less than two minutes, and then stopping the Stig in a police chase (the latter driving a BMW 7-Series) "Without using £125,000 worth of Volvo, the RAF, and 16 health and safety forms." The real police demonstrated how to stop a stolen car (the Beemer) using four Volvo V70 estates, boxing in the car to the side of the road, following the fulfillment of "13 separate health and safety criteria." All three cars were subsequently on display at the British Motor Show 2008. They all failed miserably except for the second challenge. Winner: Hammond (un-confirmed)[nb 5] Series Eleven, Episode One

Jeremy Clarkson's Fiat Coupé 20V Turbo.
James May's Lexus LS400.
Richard Hammond's Suzuki Vitara.

Can you buy an Alfa Romeo for £1000 or less without it completely ruining your life all the time challenge

The presenters' Alfas when the challenge ended. From left to right, Hammond's Spider, Clarkson's 75 and May's GTV.

The presenters were challenged with proving to the show's producers that in order to be a true "petrolhead," you need to have owned an Alfa Romeo. So, they were each given £1,000 to buy an Alfa Romeo. Clarkson bought an Alfa Romeo 75 3.0 V6 (for £450), Hammond bought an Alfa Romeo Spider 2.0 (for £1,000), and May bought an Alfa Romeo GTV 2.0 TwinSpark (for £995). The cars were put to a series of tests, which included participating in a track day at Rockingham Circuit, featuring their cars on a calendar which they must sell at a newsstand, and then lastly entering a Concours event for Alfas, traveling as far as 50 miles to get to the event area.

At the race circuit, the presenters were to gain a point for every car they overtook and lose a point each time they were overtaken. Optimistic about their chances on the track, the presenters were distraught to find out that their opponents were driving high-end sports cars and supercars. The challenge began "descending into a farce" as the crew were consistently overtaken dozens of times per lap. Alfa Romeo's reputation for poor reliability was reinforced as each car constantly broke down and fell apart. Jeremy's Alfa 75 was the least reliable of all the cars. Its flywheel bearings broke within minutes on the track, it quickly lost power steering, the seats collapsed, the exhaust fell off the car, and his brakes suffered severe fade. James' clutch barely worked in the first place and failed numerous times throughout the day. Hammond's Spider ran on three cylinders for the longest time before his water pump shattered, rendering his car useless. In the end, with both the Spider and the GTV out of commission, Clarkson attempted to overtake a Ford Focus (successfully) and careened off the course, landing on its side.

The presenters then had to prep their cars for a Concours d'Elegance competition. Due to the sorry state of their cars after the track day, the hosts had to salvage what was left of their vehicles. Jeremy decided to respray his car in Skoda Green, a color used on his Fiat Coupe in the Police Car Challenge. He made quite a mess of it, spraying the tires and wheels, as well as duct-taping the front end together. James meticulously cleaned his car, being careful to remove all the dust from the interior and bodywork. Richard re-upholstered his seats by stapling Jeremy's jacket to his seats. He also painted his wheels red.

Upon setting off on the 80 mile journey to the Concours, the horrid shape of the cars became even more apparent. Due to the shoddy situation of his water pump, Hammond had to manually pump coolant into his engine. Jeremy's gearbox was nearing the end of its lifespan. Soon after setting off, Hammond's water-coolant pump system completely broke and his engine died soon after. He was towed by James, who abandoned him after smashing into the rear end of his GTV one time too many and knocking off the number plate. Jeremy towed him the rest of the way with his dying car. They were then forced to sneak into the Concours, as every car had to enter under its own power. Jeremy refused to show the judges anything due to the terrible shape of his car and lied about his gearbox, while Hammond nervously pointed out the trashed remains of his seats and engine.

In the end, despite Clarkson and Hammond being given the lowest scores in Concours history (23.5 and 9, respectively), Clarkson was declared the victor (largely due to the his car's price), which pleased him greatly as it was his first victory in cheap-car challenges in three years.

It is unknown why Hammond got a lower score than Jeremy's 75, which was held together with duct tape and had numerous ramshackle replacement parts. It's possible that Hammond received such a pitiful score because his car refused to start, a major point deduction in Concours events.

Winner: Clarkson Series Eleven, Episode Three

Mercedes-Benz 600 vs Rolls-Royce Corniche Coupé challenge

Clarkson and May attempted to find out which of their classic luxury limousines—Clarkson's Mercedes-Benz 600 "Grosser" or May's Rolls-Royce Corniche—was better. So they brought their cars to the Top Gear Test Track for a series of challenges. This was not a real "Cheap Car Challenge," as Hammond didn't participate, and the presenters owned the cars prior to the challenge—not to mention the fact that neither of the cars involved were particularly cheap. They summarised the choice as "between 'Camp' and 'Camp Commandant' based on the previous owners of the vehicles they were using in the challenge Series Eleven, Episode Five

How much lorry do you get for £5000 challenge

Unable to understand how truck-driving can be so hard, the presenters each bought a second-hand lorry for under £5,000. May bought a Scania P94D, Clarkson bought a Renault Magnum and Hammond bought an ERF. After decorating their lorries, they were sent to Millbrook Proving Ground, where the first challenge was to successfully powerslide their trucks on a skid pan (as demonstrated by "The Stig's Lorry-driving Cousin").

After several attempts at attaching trailers, the second challenge involved driving round the Alpine handling course with their trailers loaded with various awkward loads (Hammond an unsecured Nissan March, May a wedding cake, and Clarkson hay bales and an electric fire) All three failed to get their cargo round the track, with Hammond's car breaking through the rear doors and falling off, and May's cake falling over. Clarkson's load unsurprisingly set fire to the trailer.

The next challenge featured the trucks, speed limiters removed, in a race around the two mile bowl of Millbrook to see which was fastest; Hammond won with his lightweight ERF hitting 90 miles an hour. The fourth test had each presenter attempting to perform a hill start with their vehicles, and to encourage them, prized possessions were placed behind each of their lorries. Jeremy, with his drum kit placed behind his lorry, was successful as his vehicle had a crawler gear. Oliver, Hammond's restored Opel Kadett from the Botswana adventure, was placed behind his lorry and he eventually forfeited rather than risk crushing it. May's grand piano was smashed when he failed to prevent his lorry from rolling backwards.

The final challenge, for speed, braking, and toughness had each presenter driving their vehicles through an obstacle at 56 miles an hour, and the winner going the shortest distance after hitting it. Hammond managed to stop his lorry in a shorter distance after driving through a mobile home than May did after driving through a structure built out of six hundred water coolers. Clarkson traveled the shortest distance, but was injured after driving his lorry through a brick wall. At the end, the "hopelessly complicated" scores were tallied, and May was declared the winner. Winner: May Series Twelve, Episode One

Vietnam road trip

The three presenters went on a trip to Vietnam where they were each given 15 million Vietnamese đồng to buy a "set of wheels" able to drive 1,000 miles from Ho Chi Minh City in the south to Halong Bay in the north. However, due to the car prices and the money they were given, the task was completed using cheap motorbikes. The goal was essentially to do in eight days what the Americans failed to do in the ten years of the Vietnam War.

As in previous challenges, the producers provided a replacement vehicle to any presenter whose vehicle broke down, in this challenge a Honda Chaly motorcycle decorated in a stars and Stripes livery with The Star-Spangled Banner playing on an iPod, causing much distress to the presenters due to the Vietnam War with America.

Clarkson emerged victorious by reaching the bar first Winner: Clarkson Series Twelve, episode Eight.

Finding the perfect car for 17-year-olds

With a budget of £2,500 each including insurance, the three bought cars that were "ideal" for 17-year-olds. Clarkson, Hammond and May bought a Volvo 940 estate, Hyundai Scoupe and Volkswagen Golf Mk III respectively. They were then given a series of challenges. Hammond was seen lying to insurers—due to his high-speed crash—after being asked about accidents, as the presenters agreed never to mention the crash on-air. Winner: Clarkson Series Thirteen, Episode Two

Seeking petrolhead heaven in three £1500 rear-wheel drive coupes

With a budget of £1,500, Clarkson, May and Hammond had to buy a rear wheel drive car. Clarkson bought a Porsche 944, May bought a Ford Capri (switched to a Morris Marina after the Ford broke down) and Hammond bought a Nissan 300ZX. They faced numerous challenges including trying to beat a 1 minute, 32.31 second lap time set by a Renault Twingo, and accelerating to 60 mph and then braking to 0 mph within 200 meters or risk destroying something belonging to them. May ended up destroying another one of his pianos. As a finale, they participated in an Andros Trophy ice race (which included F1 driver Olivier Panis as against heavily modified hatchbacks, ultimately being lapped several times (on one occasion, Panis referred to the Marina as "a shitbox"). May emerged victorious in the Morris Marina, which had a piano dropped on it in the end. Winner: May Series Thirteen, Episode Five

Buying a pre-1982 car for less than £3,000

Clarkson, May and Hammond were told to go to a car auction and buy any car for less than £3,000 that was built before 1982. Jeremy was poised to purchase a Ford Cortina, but he wanted a convertible and bought an Austin-Healey Sprite. Richard "went ugly early" and bought the first lot, a 1953 Lanchester. James May was set to buy a Bristol, which went over his budget in bidding, and because there was only one car after the Bristol he was forced to buy the last car of the auction—a 1977 blue Citroën Ami Estate. They were then told to go to Mallorca for a rally, with two challenges spread over two days. They were also given their co-drivers by the producers. Jeremy was given the head of Balaeric Rallying Club, who spoke no English. Richard was assigned to Brian Wheeler, a sarcastic dwarf mechanic. James was given glamour model and Page 3 girl Madison Welch.

Upon arriving in Mallorca, the presenters were horrified to find out that they were almost two days late for the rally, which was actually a five-day event, and thus had no chance of winning. They chose to bet £25 on whichever one of them had the best score at the end of the rally. Clarkson's malfunctioning gauges made calculating his speed difficult, James had to cope with Madison's severe lack of interest and navigating experience, and Richard's Lanchester proved incredibly unreliable, breaking down several times per stage and overheating constantly. While Clarkson was in the lead heading into the final day, May posted the most consistent lap times at the regularity track day and inched out Clarkson in the final challenge. After the challenge it was revealed that all three presenters liked their chosen cars so much they had bought them from the BBC.[citation needed] Winner: May Series Thirteen, Episode Six

Bolivia Special

The three presenters traveled 1,000 miles through the rainforests of Bolivia to the Pacific coast of Chile. They used pre-owned off-road vehicles, bought locally in Bolivia for less than £3,500 each. Hammond bought a tan Toyota Land Cruiser, which had been converted into a soft top convertible by a previous owner. Despite the car's reputation for durability, it turned out to be the most unreliable car, suffering multiple drivetrain and suspension breakdowns right from the start. It was damaged beyond repair on the sand-dune descent. Hammond nicknamed his Land Cruiser "Donkey." Clarkson bought a red Range Rover, which he believed had a 3.9-litre fuel-injected engine. However, when he showed his co-presenters under the bonnet, May noted it had carburettors, meaning it was only the 3.5-litre model, it turned out to be the most reliable, despite the car's reputation for being unreliable. May bought a red (although " the advert it was blue...") Suzuki Jimny with a 1.3-litre engine, which was the smallest of the three vehicles, and the most mocked. Despite this, May made no modifications, and it had the least breakdowns. One disadvantage of the Suzuki was its broken 4-wheel-drive system, which made it a "3-wheel drive system." Winner: Clarkson Series Fourteen, Episode Six

A track day car which is as good in the real world

The three were given a budget of £5,000 to buy a 4-door saloon that would be as good in the real world as it would be on a track day. The challenge was carried out in Germany. May bought a Mercedes-Benz 190E 2.3-16v Cosworth, Hammond an E36 BMW M3, and Clarkson a Ford Sierra Sapphire RS Cosworth. Challenges included determining their cars' top speed on an unregulated autobahn, interior space (by carrying a German Oompah band), and an ADAC evaluation of the cars. Despite winning previous challenges, the M3 came last here, revealing badly repaired accident damage. Finally, the presenters went to a circuit, where the cars were lapped by the Stig's German cousin. In the studio there were the results of three more unbroadcast challenges: points for each viewing of a track day video uploaded to YouTube, the economy run(which was not shown in television[7]), and the price test (each pound under the budget received one point). The £4,999 Sierra and the £3,990 M3 lost to the £2,990 190 E. Even though the M3 won most of the challenges, the fact that May's car was the cheapest to buy meant that he was the overall winner. Winner: May Series Fifteen, Episode Two

Campervan challenge

Bemoaning the fact that campervans are either the huge American style motor homes unsuitable for European roads or the tiny and cramped European models, the presenters were challenged to construct inexpensive campervans that would be comfortable to sleep in yet manageable on narrow twisting European roads. They had to have a sleeping area, a toilet and a cooking area. Clarkson constructed a three story Bauhaus inspired campervan on a Citroën CX chassis. May attached a roofbox with a sleeping bag on top of a Lotus Excel and Hammond constructed a collapsible cottage on the back of a Land Rover 110. Clarkson found his Citroën difficult to drive and nearly toppled over several times. May’s Lotus was cramped and Hammond’s design was cumbersome and impractical. Challenges included driving to a camp ground in Polzeath, Cornwall, changing into a wet suit inside the campervan, sleeping & “going to the bog” in their campervans, and cooking a meal. During the meal challenge, Richard set fire to his cottage. Later, the three took a trip to a beauty spot in Hartland in North Devon where Hammond and May "accidentally" rolled Jeremy’s Citroën over a cliff. Back in the studio, Clarkson protested but all three presenters reluctantly came to the conclusion that all of their designs were rubbish. No Winner Series 15, Episode Four

Three Wise Men Challenge

The three were given £3,500 to buy a 2-door convertible sports car, find their way to the birth place of Jesus, and provide Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh as per the Three Wise Men. Hammond bought a Fiat Barchetta, Clarkson bought a Mazda MX5 and James cheated and bought a BMW Z3 over budget for £3,966. The starting point was Iraq - which the three were unaware of until they landed. They were given flak jackets and helmets to get to their location. There was also at least one armed guard travelling with the group.

As has happened on previous challenges, a spare car was provided by the producers should any of the cars critically break down. In this case it was an Vauxhall Astra convertible - a car loathed by all three presenters.

During the challenge, May had a concussion in the middle of the desert, resulting in a trip to hospital. He was discharged later in the episode and continued the journey.

Upon reaching their final hotel, the three set out to buy gifts: Hammond bought a gold necklace of Jesus's face, May bought a bottle of Frankincense - in actual fact a bottle of hotel shampoo - and Clarkson was unable to find any Myrrh, so bought a Nintendo DS. After following a star they were led to a stable containing shepherds (who apparently arrived on quad bikes,) Mary & Joseph (although not identified as such,) and a manger. They presented their gifts, and asked to see the child, which was revealed to be a baby Stig.

Hammond's Fiat was voted the best by both Clarkson and May, to Hammond's obvious surprise. Winner: Hammond Middle East Special


  1. ^ After the show, Clarkson and May insisted that their own cars were best; Clarkson said the Toybota was best because it would have reached the finish if it didn't roll over at the last moment in a good time, but James hit back, saying that it wasn't a race, and the Toybota rolled over anyway.
  2. ^ He had been required to shorten it to comply with the maximum length of an unarticulated car allowed on a British road, and subsequently the join in the middle made out of masking tape wasn't very strong.
  3. ^ Clarkson: "We proved that you can't buy a Porsche for £1,500."
    Hammond:"Well, not one that you can actually drive, anyway."
  4. ^ On points, May won the challenge, but Clarkson claimed that the Mitsubishi was the better car. May & Hammond acknowledged that, but it was Clarkson that ruined it. So they offered Clarkson the win if he admitted that, 'he was a clot and ruined his car', which he did.
  5. ^ During the results, Hammond claimed that Clarkson got 98 points (if he had 100 he would win the challenge), and eating the paper saying Clarkson had "98 points," suggesting Hammond was hiding something. Clarkson claimed "Since I am not prepared to go through your stools in the morning, we have to conclude that the best car for the British police is a Suzuki Vitara with a doormat on the front."


  1. ^ "Series Two, Episode Four". Top Gear. 1 June 2003. No. 4, series 2.
  2. ^ "BBC stumps up for tree stunt". BBC. 2004-02-21. Retrieved 2006-01-09. 
  3. ^ "ScooterMan". Retrieved 2008-01-26. 
  4. ^ "Series Eleven, Episode Six". Top Gear. BBC Two. 2008-07-27. No. 6, series 11. "James May: Alan Partridge once said that Lexus is Japan's Mercedes-Benz, in which case the Mitsuoka Galue could be, but this is only a hunch, Japan's Rolls-Royce."
  5. ^ Topper, James (3 August 2007). "BBC admit Top Gear caravan blaze was a fake". Daily Mail Online. Retrieved 23 August 2010. "The BBC said that viewers would not have been misled as it was obvious that the sequence was "slapstick" with a "sitcom ending"." 
  6. ^ Bellicoso, Louise (2007-02-15). "Amazing space launch for ...Delboy's motor!". Buxton Advertiser. Retrieved 2007-02-21. "While the show alludes to a 12-day build, in reality, it took over 4 months to build the final product." [dead link]
  7. ^ Exclusive - the video you didn't see on last week's show.

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