14 Jan 2014

Why I Want To Live In A Top Gear Special

Top Gear is for many petrol heads the best show on television.  The format of the programme is well know and well liked.  But, for me, the best Top Gear episodes are the specials.

As an hour of TV it can hardly be bettered.  I love the cars, the tests, the banter and the challenges.  The only part of Top Gear I don't like is Star In A Reasonably Priced Car.  Maybe this is because I'm cynical and don't think stars exist any more, in the internet age.

But the soul of the show lies in the specials.  The occasional challenges where the intrepid trio buy inappropriate cars and drive them somewhere epic, like Bolivia, India, Syria or Vietnam.

To me the choice of the cars and Hammond, May and Clarkson's bonding, or otherwise, with them is what makes the specials special.

New cars are all well and good but the vast majority on Top Gear are out of reach of the vast majority of us the viewers.  The cars in the specials are cheap as chips and often come with several in-built problems and issues, which enhances the show.

I can spot the scripted and rehearsed scenes and I can spot the genuine surprise and joy when the trio come across some amazing scenery, or the help of barefooted locals, or when one of the cars splutters back into life.

I can live with the fact the presenters have a back-up team of mechanics, caterers and local fixers because watching a knackered old Mercedes W123 or Range Rover Classic bouncing around and being bashed about in a desert or jungle in pursuit of some daft goal is pure bliss.

It makes me want to do the same.

Not with the presenters of course.  That would be weird and slightly sinister but I'd love to be set some bizarre challenge where a couple of mates and I have to cross thousands of miles of awesome landscape with horrendous roads and in cars costing one or two thousand pounds.

It would be the pure, distilled essence of motoring.  Your choice of car would dictate how much fun, misery, enjoyment or spinal damage you cared to inflict on yourself.  And watching your mates going through the same journey in cars that they'd chosen, and living with the consequence of that decision would enhance the entire experience.

No matter how filthy, tired, annoyed or weary Hammond, May and Clarkson become on their specials you can always see that they enjoyed and were fulfilled by the experience.  Which is why we enjoy it.  The joi de vivre translates through to us the viewers.

I want some of that.  The escapism, the adventure, the sense of achievement, the comfort of having a crew on hand should something go wrong.  The joy of wringing a few thousand miles worth of life out of some beat up old car that would otherwise end up on the scrapheap.

Don't we all?

By Matt Hubbard