Love it or hate it, Top Gear is a great British success story. Messrs Clarkson, Hammond and May have taken a little motoring show and turned it into a global brand. If I owned a hat, I'd doff it to them. But I don't, so I won't.
For me, Top Gear can blow hot and cold. The show is capable of moments of pure brilliance, but can also deliver periods of decidedly lukewarm output. For example, the ‘Star in a reasonably priced car’ feature is my cue to go and make a cup of tea and grab a Hobnob.
But some of the challenges have been brilliant and I was reminded of this during a recent trip to the Beaulieu Motor Museum in Hampshire. The museum is currently hosting a World of Top Gear exhibition which includes a massive selection of cars featured in recent challenges. This includes the sports cars used in the Three Wise Men challenge and the stretched limos used at the Brit Awards. Remember the “Salfa Romeaab’, Fiat Panda and MGF ‘Sports’?
Seeing the cars and the accompanying audio visual display reminded me that Top Gear can be brilliant. Here are my top ten sights from the exhibition. Enjoy.
Toyota Hilux destruction
They tried to kill it, but after floating it in the British Channel, slamming it with a wrecking ball and then blowing it up with a tower block, the Hilux stood firm.
Austin Healey Sprite
I remember Clarkson buying this in the ‘Buy a pre-1982 car for less than £3k’ episode and thinking that it looked rather brilliant. I haven't changed my mind.
James May bought this in the same episode and took part in the classic rally alongside Page 3 model Madison Welch. He liked the car so much, he subsequently bought it. Allegedly.
And here's Madison Welch and James May in the Ami.
Genuinely funny challenge. The Triumph Herald is understandably showing severe signs of rot, as is Clarkson's ‘Nissank’.
As used in the ‘Car Ice Hockey’ Winter Olympics special.
From the British Leyland episode. I have to admit that seeing a Triumph Dolomite Sprint and Rover SD1 trashed in the name of entertainment left me feeling a little cold. I should have worn a jumper.
Claas Dominator Snowplough
Although the feature was a little too forced and over the top, the actual thought of using a combine harvester as a winter snowplough seemed to make some sense.
The one fired off the ski slope at Lillehammer. It looked in remarkably good condition.
Land Rover 110 / Lotus Excel
The campervan challenge. The Lotus looked in very good condition.
Saving the best to last, the Renault Avantime, now with the F1 rear wing, although the fixing holes are still evident. The Avantime is a guilty pleasure of mine and seeing one in the metal did nothing to dampen my enthusiasm for this fabulous car. I'm off to search Auto Trader. Watch this space...
And on that bombshell...