From the Top Gear Team
On land-of-the-free Top Gear, we spent the whole show in the good ole US of A, as we sent Jeremy, Richard and James across the pond on a massive interstate road-trip.
Our presenters touched down in sunny Miami amid a heady cocktail of bikini-clad beach babes, colourful art deco buildings and drug-related gangland violence. They were each given an extremely tight budget of $1000 and told to go off and buy themselves a car in which to embark on an epic road trip, stopping along the way to compete in a series of challenges.
It turned out that finding a car for that sort of money is pretty tricky. Especially if your picky about such things as bullet holes in the windscreen or shrubs growing through the radiator grille. Eventually, though, Jeremy managed to lay hands on a Chevrolet Camaro, Richard landed himself a very utilitarian Dodge Ram pick-up, and James turned up in a Cadillac as large and wobbly as Liberace's waterbed. The target destination was revealed to be New Orleans, which was over 700 extremely hot, red neck-strewn miles away.
The first stop along the way was the Moroso Motorsports Park, which is unusual in the US because it's a racetrack that has both left and right hand turns. Each car was put through its paces by none other than the Stig's super-sized US cousin.
The next challenge was simply to camp out for the evening. There was, however, a small catch - they were only allowed to eat road kill. After several hours of foraging, all they managed to turn up was one slightly mouldy squirrel.
The next morning the presenters faced their final challenge: to drive their cars across Alabama without getting shot. This might sound relatively easy, but before they set off they were allowed to paint slogans on each other's cars. James ended up with 'Hilary for president' scrawled along the side of his Caddy, Jeremy's Camaro had the words 'Country and western is rubbish', and Richard's pick-up bore the legend 'Man love rules OK'. These sentiments didn't go down too well with some of the locals and, to cut a long story short, we were lucky to make it to New Orleans with our lives.
First shown on: 11/02/2007
Production Notes: USA Special
This was Top Gear's version of the great American roadmovie. It drew on such undisputed classics as Thelma and Lousie, Sideways and National Lampoon's Vacation, with a little bit of Deliverance thrown in for good measure. It started as an idea for another two-part cheap car challenge, and just grew, and grew, to become a programme in its own right. It was also one of the most gruelling shoots in Top Gear history, damn near finishing off several members of the crew through exhaustion. Here are just a few of the things that went on behind the scenes while making Top Gear USA Special.
• The night before setting off on their journey, the presenters stayed in a prestigious and, as it turns out, very image-conscious hotel. Unfortunately its valet parking assistants hadn't seen a lot of Top Gear and when Jeremy arrived in his battered Camaro he was somewhat rudely asked to leave and never to return.
• The cow that Jeremy found, rather that being hit by a passing truck, actually died from natural causes. Sadly, it had died several days previously and, after spending some time in hot and humid conditions, wasn't exactly at its freshest. In fact, it smelt like Satan's own air-freshener and was leaking unmentionable fluids from every orifice. These fluids found their way onto upholstery, clothes and camera equipment. The smell was so bad that pretty much everything that got cow juice on it had to be burnt or buried deep underground.
• The idea for a US fly-drive film had been batted about for a while, but had always been intended as just a regular two-part film about the presenters buying some more knackered old cars. However, it quickly became apparent that this was something a bit special, and it naturally grew and grew to fill an entire programme.
• The challenge where the presenters had to drive their cars across Alabama without being killed was developed from an idea we called 'The Texan Smart car challenge'. This was a game where you had to drive a pink Smart ForTwo as far across Texas as you could without being beaten up.
• One of the toughest sections of the shoot to arrange was the circuit challenge with the Stig's fat US cousin. The problem was finding a track in that region that actually had proper corners. You see, the southern states are the home of NASCAR - a hugely popular form of stock car racing, where large numbers of people with names like Earl and Billy-Bob drive at speed on big oval-shaped tracks. These drivers can go their whole careers without ever having to turn right. Eventually we found the Moroso Motorsports Park, which had the added benefit of being infested with alligators.
- Jeremy Clarkson
- Richard Hammond
- James May
- Pat Doyle
- Executive Producer
- Andy Wilman
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