Spannerhead Dot

On the Theraputic Nature
of Top Gear Challenges

June 18, 2013 by Matt

We need these.

By “we” I mean car enthusiasts, and by “these” I mean Top Gear segments wherein the trio of Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May buy classic cars and subject them to a series of challenges, in the process often completely ruining their vehicles.

Watching bits like the Cheap Porsche Challenge (S5:E6, shown above), the Alfa Challenge (S11:E3) or my favorite, the Budget Supercars Challenge (S7:E4), I alternately double over with laughter at the hosts’ antics and cringe as they invariably subject the cars to gaudy paint jobs, cobbled-together modifications and thrash them around the track and on the street. Sure, the cars themselves aren’t expensive—the initial rules of each challenge specify the car must cost a pittance—but many of them turn out to be real diamonds in the rough, the kinds of cars enthusiasts would love to get their hands on and restore. It can be difficult to watch them “go to waste,” and it would be nearly unbearable except that the challenges are so amusing.

All that said, I think the challenges are good for car buffs to watch for another reason besides mere entertainment: As much as we revere our cars and the automakers that produced them, it’s good to be reminded, from time to time, that at the end of the day, they’re just cars. A Porsche, Alfa or Maserati can be dinged, scratched, abused and beat on the same as any other car; there’s nothing about a classic’s pedigree or reputation that gives it the kind of untouchable aura we risk bestowing on it if our only point of contact is through glossy car magazines or concours events. The TGUK challenges bring matters back into needed perspective even as their humor takes the edge off what would otherwise amount to a cringe-worthy desecration of our beloved classics.

Filed under: Media, Miscellaneous

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