The Grand Tour will see Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May return to our screens this autumn with a new globe-trotting format.
While their BBC show was filmed in an old aircraft hanger at Dunsfold Aerodrome, the new programme’s studio is to be a gigantic tent which will be set up in a different location every week.
“Thing is,” said Jeremy Clarkson, “We’ll be travelling the world hosting each episode in a different country, from a giant tent. It’s a sort of ‘grand tour,’ if you like. So we’ve decided to call it ‘The Grand Tour.’”
During their Top Gear days the trio were famous for their international challenges that saw them take a variety of vehicles to some of the world’s most spectacular location.
In honour of the new show’s globe-trotting format and to celebrate some of those previous adventures we’re taking a look back at some of the best Top Gear challenges, and a couple of the worst.
Have we missed your favourite? Get in touch and let us know.
The trip that set the template for all those that followed. In an attempt to see if it was cheaper to buy a car than rent one for a week-long holiday in the US, the team bought a Chevy Camaro, Dodge Ram and Cadillac Brougham for $1,000 each. They travelled across the southern states taking part in race challenges and an attempt to cook their own meals from roadkill. In its most controversial segment the gang painted a variety of slogans on each other’s cars praising homosexuality and Hillary Clinton and insulting Nascar and country music. The stunt saw them confronted by a group of angry locals at an Alabama petrol station who hurled rocks at the crew, although it was later claimed the scene was staged.
Possibly best remembered for Hammond’s tortured cry of “Oliver!” as he tried to stop his beloved Opel Kadett sinking in an African river. The trio were given £1,500 to buy a car that would take them 1,000 miles through Botswana. Alongside Hammond’s Kadett, Clarkson opted for a Lancia Beta coupe and May went for Mercedes-Benz 230E. After buying the cars the team stripped them down to allow them to cross the barren Makgadikgadi salt pan, leaving them without doors or windows. They then had to bodge new panels from roadside scrap to keep them safe as they passed through the Okavango Delta among a host of wild animals. After the episode Hammond shipped Oliver back to the UK to add to his personal car collection.
In recognition of the domination of two-wheelers on the country’s roads, the three opted to buy motorbikes - Clarkson a 1960s Vespa, Hammond a 125cc Minsk and May a Honda Super Cub. They then attempted to ride them 1,000 miles across mountainous terrain, contending with terrifying traffic and torrential rain. As well as attempting the local bike test they bought lurid handmade suits and gave each other inappropriately large gifts that they then tried to transport on the back of their bikes. As well as the usual wrangles to keep their unreliable vehicles running, the final task saw them convert their bikes into boats in order to reach a floating bar in the spectacular Ha Long Bay.
Another 1,000-mile trek, this time through Amazonian rainforests en route to the Pacific coast of Chile. To handle the terrain the trio spent £3,500 each on 4x4s - May selecting a Suzuki SJ413, Clarkson a Range Rover and Hammond an ancient Toyota Land Cruiser. Famously, after dealing with the flora and fauna of the rainforest the presenters took to the treacherous Yungas Road. Known as Death Road, the narrow pass to La Paz has cliffs to one side and huge sheer drops to the other and saw Clarkson encounter another vehicle on a particularly narrow and crumbly section of the road. Having survived that they then attempted to climb the Andes, reaching heights of 17,000 feet and taking Viagra to combat the effects of altitude sickness. Like Vietnam the episode was more about the journey than set challenges.
And the worst...
Set the challenge to promote Britain to the people of Indian, Clarkson, Hammond and May take a selection of quintessentially British cars on a tour of the country - a Jaguar XJS, Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow and a Mini Cooper. It featured challenges in Mumbai, Jaipur and Dehli including a trade fair, motorsport challenge and a game of cricket. The episode was, even by the presenters’ own admission, a pale imitation of previous efforts with little of the natural feel of other trips and some painfully contrived and staged (even for Top Gear) set pieces..
The last of the trio’s Top Gear road trips was meant to see them take V8-powered coupes on a 1,600-mile trip through South America to the southernmost city in the world.
It was surrounded by controversy after the team abandoned their cars and fled the country after being attacked. The trouble arose when local Argentines claimed the numberplate on Clarkson’s Porsche 928GT made reference to the Falklands War and attacked the filming party. Top Gear denied the plate had been chosen deliberately but the controversy over the incident overshadowed an otherwise dull retread of the road trip formula and marked an ignominious end to the trio’s time on the show.