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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 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prominent over the life of the programme (they were much more regular during the first four series); they have been superseded in later series by the "How hard can it be?"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.
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.
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 Jeremy Clarkson, though sometimes Richard or James, asking the audience and viewers: "How hard can it be?"
Series Five, Episode Five
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, and then lapped the Jaguar 47 seconds faster than Clarkson's time.
Series Six, Episode Seven
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 2005 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 Eight, Episode One
The presenters were set the task of building a convertible people carrier. They succeeded in removing the roof from a 1996 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.
This was the 100th episode but no-one in the crew realized this at the time and was only pointed out later by fans of the show.
Series Eight, Episode Two
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 Three
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 1983 Volkswagen camper van into a narrowboat-style "damper van;" Clarkson attached an outboard motor to a modified 1989 Toyota Hilux pick-up truck, which he dubbed the "Toybota". May fitted a 1962 Triumph Herald with a mast and sails. This caused clearance problems on the road and he had to take an alternative route when on land due to a "low bridge." Hammond's dampervan was very heavy and slow on the road, and quickly sank after entering the water. Both the Herald and Hilux performed well in the water. May was voted the winner by the studio audience. Winner: May [nb 1]
Series Eight, Episode Four
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 tons), 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 Five
Series Eight, Episode Six
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 while trying to cook chips.
Series Eight, Episode Seven
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 Eight
The team decided to test some vans by being roadies for The Who. May picked a 2005 Renault Master, Hammond chose a 2006 Ford Transit, and Clarkson selected a 2006 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 Nine, Episode One
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 Four
Hammond and May tried to convert a 1992 Reliant Robin into a space shuttle. They were given 12 days to build it and help from the United Kingdom Rocketry Association. Eight tons of thrust was 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 Five
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 Six
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 a 1996 MG F "Sports Limo," arriving with a stuck throttle and having to assist her exit with a pool ladder. Clarkson chauffeured Chris Moyles using a greatly lengthened, dual rear axle 1993 Fiat Panda, which as originally engineered had not been road legal, and 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 the front ends of an 1996 Alfa Romeo 164 and a 1996 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).
Polar Challenge 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.
The Hilux used by the camera crew would later appear in Season fifteen, Episode One, modified to be able to drive near Eyjafjallajökull volcano in Iceland to obtain a lava rock.
Series Ten, Episode Two
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 1996 Nissan pickup truck; Hammond used a new 1981 Volkswagen Transporter; May upgraded and used the same 1962 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 the fastest crossing of the Channel in an amphibious vehicle.
Series Ten, Episode Eight
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 Nine
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 2003 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 Twelve, Episode Three
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, using only the price difference from that ordinary car to a used Lancer Evo. 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, overnight full service, the exhaust of an unknown TVR, the rear wing from an F1 car (which was later taken off), 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 Four
The presenters were challenged to drive from Basel, Switzerland to Blackpool, England, on a single tank of diesel, in order to switch on the Blackpool Illuminations. Each presenter chose a car: Jeremy used a 2007 Jaguar XJ6 Diesel, and in spite of using every feature in the car, and driving uneconomically, completed the journey. He was beaten by Richard Hammond, economically driving a 2008 Volkswagen Polo BlueMotion. James May, driving a 2008 Subaru Legacy, failed to reach Blackpool in time to switch on the lights, though he succeeded in completing the journey.
Series Thirteen, Episode Seven
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 it was 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 Fourteen, Episode Two
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 Sixteen, Episode Five
Due to the problems Britain suffered during the previous winter with snow, and local authorities 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 snowplough 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 ploughed that winter.
Series Seventeen, Episode Four
The presenters believed that train travel in the UK is too expensive, and the main reason is that trains are expensive to build. They first of all converted a 1990 4.0 Jaguar XJS to work on the railway, before building carriages from old caravans for the varying classes of passenger (first, second, "scum") and a Buffet car using wheels from Permanent Way trollies. The Jaguar was unable to pull the four "carriages" due to their weight, and the Jaguar's rear-wheel-drive. The presenters split into two teams, with Clarkson taking the Jaguar and promising to build a "Train GTI", and Hammond and May converting a four-wheel-drive 2001 Audi S8 to pull the existing carriages.
The presenters (with their respective creations) then raced from "near Leicester" (Leicester North) to "near Loughborough" (Loughborough Central) on the Great Central Railway with a number of railway experts as passengers. Clarkson won the race despite having been caught behind Hammond and May at times and almost colliding with a Class 08 shunting locomotive, with the Buffet car on Hammond's and May's train catching fire, and then "scum class" being hit (and destroyed) by passing diesel locomotive D123 Leicestershire and Derbyshire Yeomanry.
Series Eighteen, Episode Four
The presenters are tasked with creating their own off-road mobility scooters for rambling in the Welsh countryside. Clarkson builds an eight-wheeler with two engines from two electric scooters, with lawnmower wheels. May makes an electric wheelchair and Hammond creates his machine from a mobility trike and a petrol powered builders' wheelbarrow, with a single wheel at the front and crawler tracks at the back The task ends with a race in the countryside against three wounded soldiers. Only Hammond manages to finish the race, with Clarkson's scooter falling down a hill into a set of trees, and May aborting the mission and getting stuck outside a pub near Crickhowell.
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:
All three presenters are highly competitive; vandalism and sabotage 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 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 guide: May and Clarkson have won the most cheap car challenges with seven victories and Hammond has won 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.
Series Four, Episode Three
The presenters were given £100 to buy a car that was road legal (had current tax and an MOT certificate). 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), including the price of the fuel. Clarkson bought a 1988 Volvo 760 GLE, Hammond bought a 1991 Rover 416GTi, and May bought a 1989 Audi 80 1.8E. The challenge included reliability, fuel economy, stopping time, safety, price, and lap-time testing. Clarkson won the challenge due to him buying his car for £1. Winner: Clarkson
Series Five, Episode Six
The presenters were given £1,500 to buy a Porsche. Clarkson bought a 1983 928, Hammond bought a 1980 924, and May bought a 1984 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 Six, Episode Two
Following the previous challenge[nb 3] the presenters were sent to buy coupes that weren't Porsches for £1,500. Clarkson bought a 1991 Mitsubishi Starion, Hammond purchased a 1983 BMW 635 CSi, and May bought a 1982 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 concession)[nb 4]
Series Seven, Episode Four
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 1974 Maserati Merak, Hammond bought a 1979-built (1983 late-reg) Ferrari 308 GT4, and May bought a 1974 Lamborghini Urraco. Various challenges included a lap of the Castle Combe Circuit, changing the oil and sparkplugs of their cars 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, the 308's electrical system failed, and the Urraco ran out of petrol with just one mile to go to the finishing point. Clarkson summarised the results with "yes, you can buy a mid-engined Italian supercar for less than a second-hand Mondeo, but for the love of God, don't!" No winner officially. Hammond on points
The GT4 used in this challenge was later bought and being repaired by Hammond, only to be damaged again when he was in the Petrolheads, where he was tricked and rammed during a challenge.
Series Eight, Episode Eight
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 1992 Ford Transit, Hammond a 1994 Suzuki Super Carry, and May a 1999 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 while going round the first corner. Hammond, however, still won the overall challenge. Winner: Hammond.
Series Nine, Episode Three
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 1989 Chevrolet Camaro, May got a 1989 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, the station's owner called a gang and 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 could not 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 could not even give his car away).
Series Ten, Episode Four
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 4×4s 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 1981 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 1985 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 "[he]'s right!". No winner
Series Ten, Episode Seven
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 1981 Rover SD1, Hammond bought a 1972 Dolomite Sprint, whereas May acquired a 1978 Princess. Challenges included a variety of tests at the MIRA 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 Eleven, Episode One
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 first demonstrated how to stop the stolen car 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 displayed at the British Motor Show 2008. Winner: Hammond[nb 5]
Series Eleven, Episode Three
The presenters were challenged with proving to the show's producers that in order to be a true "petrol head", you need to have owned an Alfa Romeo. So, they were each given £1,000 to buy their own Alfa Romeo. Clarkson bought a 1989 Alfa Romeo 75 3.0 V6 (for £450), Hammond bought a 1984 Alfa Romeo Spider 2.0 (for £1,000), and May bought a 1996 Alfa Romeo GTV 2.0 TwinSpark (for £995). The cars were put to a series of tests, which included participating in a track day on the Rockingham Motor Speedway road course, featuring their cars on a calendar which they must sell at a newsstand, and then lastly entering an Alfa Romeo exclusive Concours d'Elegance event, traveling as far as 80 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. None of the presenters managed to overtake a single competitor - Clarkson rolled his car attempting to overtake a Ford Focus.
In a side challenge, each presenters had to create a calendar featuring their cars which was to be sold at a newsstand, however, none of the presenters' calendars managed to sell even a single copy.
After the track day, the presenters then had to prep their cars for a Concours d'Elegance competition. Jeremy decided to respray his car in Skoda Green, a colour he used on his Fiat Coupe in the Police Car Challenge. James meticulously cleaned his car, being careful to remove all the dust from the interior and bodywork, and Hammond re-upholstered his seats using Clarkson's leather jacket.
During the journey to the Concours, Hammond had to manually pump coolant into his engine via a rotating handle which eventually broke, seizing his engine. He was then towed by James. After crashing into James a few times, James got fed up and abandoned him. Clarkson helped to tow Richard despite his gearbox nearing the end of its life, and May's engine bay was sabotaged with cheese. After the judges finished, James was awarded 74 out of a possible 150 points while Jeremy and Richard were given 23.5 and 9 respectively - the lowest scores in Concours history.
Clarkson was declared the overall victor (largely due to the car's low price), which pleased him greatly as it was his first victory in cheap-car challenges in three years. Winner: Clarkson
Series Eleven, Episode Five
Clarkson and May attempted to find out which of their classic luxury limousines—Clarkson's 1969-built (1973 late-reg) Mercedes-Benz 600 "Grosser" or May's 1972 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 did not participate, the presenters owned the cars prior to the challenge, and 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. Winner: Clarkson
Series Twelve, Episode One
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 EC11. 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 Micra, 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, although May and Hammond promptly ran over and trashed the drum kit. 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, although the production crew had already damaged it while positioning it.
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 Eight
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 minibike decorated in a stars and Stripes livery with Born in the USA by Bruce Springsteen playing on an iPod (redubbed with The Star-Spangled Banner in some versions), causing much distress to the presenters due to the Vietnam War with America.
Clarkson emerged victorious by reaching the bar first. Winner: Clarkson
Series Thirteen, Episode Two
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 1995 Volvo 940 estate, 1993 Hyundai Scoupe and 1994 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. Winner: Clarkson
Series Thirteen, Episode Five
With a budget of £1,500, Clarkson, May and Hammond had to buy a rear wheel drive car. Clarkson bought a 1991 Porsche 944, May bought a 1983 Ford Capri (but switched to the 1977 Morris Marina backup car after the Ford broke down) and Hammond bought a 1991 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) 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 Six
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 a 1969 Austin-Healey Sprite, although he accidentally used some of his money to buy it, as he bought it for £3,600. Richard "went ugly early" and bought the first lot, a 1953 Lanchester LJ 200. 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. Winner: May
Series Fourteen, Episode Six
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 "..in the advert it was blue...") Suzuki Samurai with a 1.3-litre engine, which was the smallest of the three vehicles. Despite this, May made no modifications, and it had the least breakdowns. One disadvantage of the Suzuki was its open differentials, which made it a "3-wheel drive" Winner: Clarkson
Series Fifteen, Episode Two
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 1985 Mercedes-Benz 190E 2.3-16v Cosworth, Hammond a 1996 E36 BMW M3, and Clarkson a 1989 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 two more unbroadcast challenges: points for each viewing of a track day video uploaded to YouTube, and an economy run. The last test was based on price - each pound under the budget received one point - meaning that the £4,999 Sierra and the £3,990 M3 lost to the £2,990 190E. Winner: May
Series Fifteen, Episode Four
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 1988 Citroën CX chassis. May attached a roofbox with a sleeping bag on top of a 1987 Lotus Excel and Hammond constructed a collapsible cottage on the back of a 1984 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 although James had the least amount of problems with his campervan (the only one being space), all of their designs were rubbish. No winner
Series Fifteen, Episode Six
The boys attempt to prove that old British sports cars never deserved to be killed off by the hot hatch. Jeremy buys a 1974 Jensen-Healey, James buys a 1989 TVR S2 and Richard buys a 1994 Lotus M100 Elan. The trip involved going to the places where all their cars were "born", beginning at the Lotus factory in Norfolk, then onto the Jensen factory in West Bromwich, before finishing at the TVR factory in Blackpool. There was no winner, as the team said that all of their cars were the best. No winner
Series Sixteen, Episode Two
The three were given £3,500 to buy a 2-door convertible sports car, find their way to the birthplace of Jesus, and provide Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh as per the Three Wise Men. Hammond bought a 2000 Fiat Barchetta, Clarkson bought a 2000 Mazda MX5]] and James cheated and bought a 1998 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 1.6 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 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
Series Sixteen, Episode Four
The three were given £2,000 to buy a four seater convertible car. However, they all buy the same car: a BMW 325i. Hammond bought a 1987 model for £1,600 which had done 94,318 miles according to the milometer, and had aftermarket wheels, aftermarket alarm, a lower suspension and extra locks fitted. Clarkson bought a 1988 model for £1,950 which had done 137,488 miles and had a paving slab in the boot and May a 1989 model for £1,900 with no modifications. Clarkson decided to turn the challenge into a test to see how different the three supposedly identical cars had become over time, so the trio ignored the producer's challenges and devised their own.
First there was a drag race which Hammond was unable to take part in as his car broke down due to the alarm (for which he was deducted 1,000 points): accelerate to 100 mph then stop again. May won comfortably as his car proved to be in better mechanical condition to Clarkson's. This led to Clarkson claiming that speed is not everything and May disagreeing, in stark contrast to their usual opinions. Next the cars were examined by a forensics team to test the condition of their interior. Clarkson's car contained crisps, leaves, and his own dried skin, which he claimed was not disgusting at all and lost no points. May's car was in worse condition with nasal mucus, scabs and saliva costing him 30 points. Hammond again fared the worst with saliva, blood and nasal mucus losing 30 points and, worst of all, feces losing another 1,000 points. Next, thieves attempted to steal all three cars: Clarkson and May's cars were still there after 20 minutes, but Hammond's was stolen almost immediately losing him yet another 1,000 points.
The trio were then required to lap the Top Gear Test Track in their cars, trying to match the Stig's time done in a modern BMW 325i. Clarkson recorded the fastest time despite blowing his engine, followed by Hammond with May slowest. After that, the three cars were filled with helium and the presenters were required to sit in them to test for leaks. Clarkson and May's voices went high and squeaky due to the gas, but Hammond's did not as it had leaked out, once again leading to a 1,000 point deduction. The cars were then inspected to determine how much money was needed to restore them to showroom condition. May's required £5,500, Hammond's £7,500 and Clarkson's £11,000. Finally the presenters decided to form a stunt driving team in front of a live audience at the Essex County Fair (this did not count towards the points challenge), they all collided almost immediately.
When the points were tallied up, May won easily due to his car being in the best condition so having the lowest restoration cost. Clarkson narrowly beat Hammond to second place as his far higher restoration cost was marginally outweighed by Hammond's numerous thousand-point deductions. This led Clarkson to conclude two things: "all identical cars aren't necessarily identical" and "Richard Hammond, who buys more used cars than any man alive, is useless at buying used cars." Winner: May
Series Seventeen, Episode Two
In order to determine which hot hatchback was the best, the trio were told to bring one to the Italian city of Lucca. Clarkson brought a Citroën DS3 Racing, May a 2010 Renaultsport Clio Cup and Hammond a 2011 Fiat 500 Abarth, which the other two claimed was neither hot nor a hatchback. The first challenge was simply to drive out of Lucca, which proved extremely difficult due to the narrow maze of one-way streets with no signposts. Clarkson got out first, followed by Hammond (who had abandoned his car to find the way out on foot), while May ended up stuck on top of the city wall.
Next, they had to drive to Canelli picking up seven items on the way: a branch of a cedar tree, ice cubes, a photo of as many people as possible getting into their car, a CD from a service station (without leaving their car), a bicycle, a vine and a dog. Clarkson completed the scavenger hunt first with all the items correct. Hammond was next, but with a toy dog instead of a real one, the branch of a larch instead of a cedar, and no CD. May was last again and his ice cubes had melted. May got 12 people in his photo, Clarkson 13 and Hammond got 14 by opening the sunroof and having them stand up with their heads sticking out.
Finally, the presenters had to drive a lap of the Circuit de Monaco during the Monaco Grand Prix weekend in their hot hatchbacks. Clarkson posted the fastest time, followed by Hammond with May slowest. When the points were totalled up, Clarkson was the clear winner, followed by May, while Hammond had all his points taken away for abandoning his car in Lucca, failing to get three of the items properly, taking his photo with the people not fully inside the car and turning up with a car which wasn't a hatchback. Winner: Clarkson
Series Seventeen, Episode Seven
The three were given £7,000 to buy a reliable British classic car and use them on the streets of India. Jeremy bought a 1995 Jaguar XJS 4.0 Celebration Edition, James bought a 1976 Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow and Hammond bought a 2000 Mini 1.3L. As in previous challenges, a backup car was also present, a 1979 Austin Allegro. Challenges included bringing Western-themed goods with their cars and building a stall to promote them, A mountain rally and modifying their cars to be better able to tackle the dangerous mountain roads.
Series Eighteen, Episode Seven
The three criticise the sheer amount of money people have to spend just to play golf, and they claimed that you can invest less money in car racing, or in this case, rallycross. To prove this, each presenters must find a cheap, race-worthy car and modify it so it can be race-ready. Clarkson bought a BMW 328i, Hammond bought a Citroen Saxo 1.6 VTS, and May bought a Toyota MR2. Hammond was the most successful of the three, finishing third in two heats and coming second in the final, ahead of Clarkson. Meanwhile, May was the least successful, finishing last in two heats and third in the "loser's final". The trio then conclude that you can go motor racing with less investment than golfing (all the cars, including race modifications, costs less than £2000, whereas golf costs more than that). No winner
Series Nineteen, Episode Six and Seven
The three were given a budget of £1,500 to buy a second hand estate car in Britain which they would then be using to find the source of the River Nile in Africa. Jeremy bought a 1999 BMW 528i, James a 1996 Volvo 850 R and Hammond a 2002 Subaru Impreza WRX. The Backup car was a 1998 Ford Scorpio,a car loathed by the three of them. The starting point was a small town in Uganda. After traveling to Lake Victoria, which many people think is the source of the River Nile, the boys noticed, that Lake Victoria is fed by several rivers that come from different locations. After a look on the map, the three found some other lakes further south which could be the source of the Nile. So they started their long drive south. After sleeping in a really poor hotel the boys decided to convert their cars into "mobile homes". Hammond installed a little kitchen, Jeremy a cooling box full of beer, and a toilet on the outside of his car, and James a little garage complete with tools. All of them also installed some sort of bed. After a long drive through Africa, which showed that Hammond made a clever choice with his all wheel drive Subaru in view of all those dirt tracks, and several "modifications" (the guys were stealing bits from each other's cars to modify their own car) the boys were getting closer. Whilst driving over some rough dirt tracks the cars suffered a lot. There were several punctures and Hammond broke his wishbone on the passengers side. During the night, he was able to fix it so they could finish their journey together. But the Producers then told them, that only one could find the "Source of the river Nile" and so only one could find his name in the history books. This meant a final race between the three. Even though Hammond was making the best progress on the rough roads and dirt tracks thanks to his AWD Subaru, May was the first to find the true source of the river Nile which made him the winner. Winner: May and two other blokes