Top Gear: US Special

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Top Gear: US Special
TopGearUSSpecial.jpg
Format Motoring
Country of origin United Kingdom
No. of episodes 1
Production
Producer(s) Andy Wilman
Running time 60 minutes (TV Cut)
52 minutes (DVD Cut)
Broadcast
Original channel BBC Two
Picture format 720x576, anamorphic 16:9
Original airing February 11, 2007
Chronology
Related shows Top Gear
External links
Website

The US Special is the second in a series of special episodes of BBC motoring magazine Top Gear, first broadcast on February 11, 2007 on BBC Two, as part of the ninth series of the show, and released on DVD as part of the first Great Adventures box-set, which also contains the Polar Special. The DVD release cuts roughly eight minutes of footage from the original broadcast, including a segment featuring a drive through a rainstorm, when the Camaro's wipers failed, and footage from the first scene in which the trio purchase cars. Some music cues were also changed for copyright reasons.

Summary[edit]

Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond, and James May attempt to see if it is cheaper to buy a car for exploring the southern part of the United States for a week rather than renting one. Upon their arrival in Miami, the three were given US$1000 to buy a used car. Over the next several hours they discovered that there were very few usable American cars available at that price. Eventually, Clarkson bought a 1991 Chevrolet Camaro RS; Hammond a 1991 Dodge Ram 150 pickup truck; and May a 1989 Cadillac Brougham. The overall challenge would be to drive from Miami to New Orleans; at the end of this trip the cars would be sold to see which presenter could make the most money back. En route to their first challenge, the presenters discussed the foibles of their respective cars. It was soon discovered that May's Cadillac was the only one with working air conditioning, a point greatly appreciated in the Florida heat.

Challenges[edit]

  • Fastest Race Track Lap

At Moroso Motorsports Park, the three cars had to complete the track length in the quickest time possible. Since the presenters had never seen the track before, the cars would be driven by the Stig's American cousin, an obese version of the second Stig, which they nicknamed "Big Stig". Clarkson's Camaro posted the fastest time; Hammond's Ram was not only last, but came off the track due to poor brakes.

  • Top Speed, Bottom Speed

At the drag strip portion of the raceway's track, all three cars had to reach 50 mph, and brake as soon as they got to the speed. Ahead of them was a river, filled with alligators. The closest to the watery grave was, yet again, Hammond, by taking too long to reach the required speed and poor brakes.

  • Roadkill Rations

Each presenter was given $100 to buy something for their car that would "make the journey more comfortable", Hammond bought a grill, Clarkson bought a shower to replace his broken air conditioning and May bought a clothes rack. They were then told that they would be camping that night and dinner was whatever they could find dead at the side of the road. Hammond commented on how these new objects could be used, saying Clarkson could prepare the food by washing it, he could cook it, and 'James could dress for dinner'. Clarkson found a possum but May ran over it; they then found a tortoise but refused to kill it, instead setting it back towards a nearby swamp. Hammond found a squirrel which was collected and spent a while trying to figure out how he would "peel" it. As Hammond and May set up camp, Clarkson went to look for more roadkill; he came back with an enormous dead cow, placed on the roof of the Camaro, which May refused to eat. Later that night, Clarkson and Hammond successfully destroyed the Cadillac's air conditioning, much to May's annoyance.

  • Lethal Car Decorating

Prior to entering Alabama, the presenters were instructed to roller-paint each other's cars with slogans which might lead to them getting shot by the locals. May painted pro-homosexual slogans on Hammond's pickup, including "Man-love rules OK" and also added a "y" to the end of "Dodge" to make it "Dodgey" along with some "make up" at the front of the car, Hammond painted "Country and Western is Rubbish" on Clarkson's, and Clarkson painted "Hillary for President", "NASCAR sucks" and "I'm bi" on May's car. All three attempts were so successful at offending the locals that, in one of Top Gear's most famous moments, the presenters and the filming crew members were chased out of town by friends of the owner of State Line Convenience in Seminole, Alabama,[original research?] who pelted the crew's vans with rocks. After being pursued out onto the highways, the crew quickly aborted the challenge and removed the slogans using the t-shirts off their backs and Coca-Cola, before driving for the border as quickly as they could.

  • Selling Cars in New Orleans

The team eventually aborted this challenge after arriving in New Orleans and witnessing the remaining damage caused by Hurricane Katrina the previous year. The presenters decided to give away the cars for free to a Christian mission. However, while Clarkson's and Hammond's were given away, James May was declared the loser as he was unable to find any claimants for his car. Immediately after filming for that segment was completed, a lawyer threatened to sue Clarkson for misrepresentation after she heard the car wasn't a 1991 Camaro (it was a 1989 model) but would drop the suit on payment of US$20,000.

  • Final Results

Clarkson declared himself the winner and declared May the loser, although no points were given. They concluded that it was viable to buy, rather than rent, a car. Clarkson summed up the trip with his long-held opinion: "Don't go to America!". The team would later return to America in Series 12, Episode 2, the 2010 US East Coast Road Trip and Series 19, Episode 2.

Credits[edit]

Similar to the credits of the 2007 Polar Challenge Special and the Botswana Special, other than the four main presenters, who are credited as Cletus Clarkson, Earl Hammond Jr., Ellie May May, and Roscoe P. Stig, each crew member name is listed with the words "Billy Bob" attached to the start, a reference to the American redneck stereotype. The Production Notes section of the Top Gear website describes the creation and production of this episode as "one of the most gruelling shoots in Top Gear history, damn near finishing off several members of the crew through exhaustion."[1]

Reception[edit]

Both the BBC and the UK media regulator OFCOM received complaints about the scene with the dead cow; the BBC defended the programme saying that the cow had died several days previously.[2]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "US fly-drive special". BBC2. Retrieved 2009-04-26. 
  2. ^ McCathie, Charlie (2007-02-13). "Top Gear dead cow stunt garners 91 public complaints". Brand Republic.