Top Gear — in the form we know and love — began airing on BBC Two in 2002, and over the ensuing 16 years it became required viewing for any serious gearhead. The show’s blend of offbeat humor, contrasting personalities, gorgeous cinematography, and amazing vehicles has even managed to bring many non-car fans into the fold, including the likes of Benedict Cumberbatch and Sir Michael Gambon.
Of all the hilarious and informative episodes, several stand out from the crowd, however, and they’re worth looking back on as the show faces an uncertain future. After firing Jeremy Clarkson and triggering the exodus of cohorts Richard Hammond and James May, the BBC relaunched Top Gear with a new cast led by Chris Evans, who departed after just one season. With a new cast and yet another revamp, only time will tell if Top Gear will find its footing again.
For your viewing pleasure, we won’t give away the endings or meat of our favorite episodes. Instead, we’ll give you just enough info to get the gist. We hope your interest will be piqued enough to seek the episodes out for yourself. Enjoy!
Although we had been watching Top Gear for a while before we saw the wanton destruction of the Toyota Hilux, we weren’t yet sold on the show. After this episode, though, we were hooked. Not only were we hugely impressed with the Hilux’ ability to just keep living, we were impressed with the creativity of the script and shot selection. On a larger scale, we consider this episode the beginning of the current Top Gear style. Putting a pickup on the roof of a building during a controlled implosion effectively separated modern Top Gear from the previous iteration. We truly believe it was that moment that marked the beginning of what we know now as Top Gear.
Top Gear‘s hosts spend a lot of time in cheap old beaters, but they also drive amazing supercars to even more amazing destinations. Even that isn’t always glamorous, though, as Clarkson, Hammond, and May found on this road trip through France. The cars — a Ford GT, a Ferrari 430, and a Pagani Zonda — were great, but living with them in the real world proved to be a challenge. From negotiating Paris’ legendarily treacherous traffic to trying to extricate the cars form a cramped parking garage, the Top Gear trio provided a more realistic portrayal of the supercar experience.
This episode combines two of Top Gear‘s best features: Clarkson’s metaphors (“the Lotus Exige is like putting a Saturn 5 rocket in a food blender”) and insane showdowns. There are a few car vs. military machine face-offs throughout the show’s history, but the Exige vs. Apache is one of the best. Not only do we get to completely nerd out over the Apache’s bonkers weapons systems — it can identify 256 targets from 8 kilometers away, pick the 16 most dangerous, and eliminate all of them — we get to watch the Lotus attempt to evade the helicopter’s missile lock. Does the Exige avoid certain death? Watch and find out.
We can always count on one of the trio to claim that a car is faster than a train, plane, boat, or any other craft from A to B. It’s a Top Gear hallmark. This time, it’s Clarkson suggesting the Ferrari 612 Scaglietti can get from the U.K. to Switzerland faster than his co-hosts can get there on a plane. No brainer, right? Obviously, the plane is faster… or is it? See, the catch is that Hammond and May will have to use public transportation to get to and from airports in the U.K. and Switzerland, while Clarkson only has to worry about traffic on the motorways. Can Clarkson’s 6.0-liter V12 grand tourer outrun a passenger jet?
We’ve all dreamt of a car that can transform into a boat, but for some reason, no major manufacturer has put such a vehicle in production. Well, the Top Gear trio has come to the rescue with its own amphibious cars. Predictably, each craft represents its creator’s personality. That means May chose a dainty convertible with a sail, Hammond chose a wonky van with a poorly-engineered propeller, and Clarkson bolted a massive engine to the back of a pickup. What could possibly go wrong? Everything. Everything could go wrong. And it does.