Texas, Alaska, Death Valley. Though still in its infancy, Top Gear on History has fully embraced the concept of auto challenges on a grand scale. Naturally, they would do so in vehicles quite ill-suited for the task. This week, their aim was to discover America’s toughest minivan by recreating the pioneers’ journey over the Rocky Mountains. Their path would took them over two hundred miles with the first one hundred and fifty on roads. The last leg of their journey was off road and ended at an alpine lake. What could possibly go wrong? On a mildly interesting note, there was no plug for Craigslist which has previously been credited as their main resource to locate wrecks cars. Rutledge Wood in a 1999 Chevrolet Astro minivan wasn’t so jarring. True, Adam Ferrara’s smile wasn’t quite as bright when he pulled up in a 2001 Chrysler Town & Country. However, Tanner Foust? Oh, man! He drove a Ford Aerostar that dated back to his childhood? The previous owners must have loved the vehicle very much, since it was in pretty decent condition after all these years. (I kid because I care…and can.) Onwards ho, with the review!
Four challenges were completed in addition to their trek over the Rockies. There was a surplus of danger without them purposefully doing something stupid. Luckily, the versatility, speed and hauling tests seemed designed to get any puerile behaviour out of our hosts’ systems. The first one took the boys in their mommy-mobiles to an ice rink. There they played Minivan Curling. It was one of those times when Top Gear shagged Jackass and had a baby with top-notch idiocy sans the nudity and bodily fluids. After all, History Channel does have standards. At the halfway mark of their adventure, the second test was one of speed. They had a quarter mile, two-way drag race but had to remove their back seats after the initial dash. It was a highly entertaining segment, although none of their vehicles had more than 215 Horsepower. The comedy came from how slow they were. One thing though, the person who handles continuity should get a memo since the Aerostar’s backseat went missing from one shot to another.
Now with ample space and some modifications to butch up the vehicles, their next task was to transport farm animals. This entire contest was slapstick brilliance: from getting the livestock into the minivans, gagging along the drive and arrival at their destination. The boys did very well with their ‘passengers’ and each other, after saying goodbye to the smelly quadrupeds. It was now time for their most dangerous endeavour yet: up and over the mountain range. To be quite honest, it was rather frightening to watch. We know that Bolivia‘s Yungas Road is far worse. However, this cast was driving in snow and one of the vehicles had a major disadvantage – rear wheel drive. This was the catalyst for a very exciting piece of footage; where the three worked together to get out of a potentially fatal situation. It was proven what good drivers they all are, despite the vehicular destruction we’ve seen in this series. When push comes to shove, these guys can handle it.
The last challenge was to cross a freezing cold lake in their minivans. Now, I know it’s a TV show and some now-legendary Top Gear craziness was staged but here they flatly lied to the viewers. They just “found” stuff to modify their vehicles…overnight…including body work…at the foot of the Rocky Mountains? Bollocks! Yet, I suspended my logic and ignored the blatant attack on my intelligence, to enjoy the superior foolishness of this race. Oh yes, it was nothing but ridiculous fun from our men in wetsuits. The stan armada is definitely going to buy this episode on iTunes ASAP. Jokes aside, this was a marvellous challenge-centric episode.
As a result of the episode’s forty-nine minute or so running time (without commercials), there were no auto review or ‘Big Star, Small Car’ segments. There studio bit at the very end was scripted and stilted (as usual), but thankfully short. However, the magnitude of what they accomplished in the episode mustn’t be eclipsed by the very few missteps. They crossed the Rocky Mountains – in minivans! The cast came together very well and played off each other beautifully. The editing, photography, soundtrack and logistics were excellent. As far as I see, wins all around. The three hosts did a great job responding the viewers’ queries, along with smarty-pants comments throughout the episode, on Twitter and Facebook. Effective use of social media could go a long way to building its fan base. On Saturday March 10, 2012 there will be a mini-marathon of three new episodes, starting at 9pm EST with Muscle Cars, Continental Divide and last week’s Dangerous Cars. Memorable quotes from the boys, in this episode were:
“Tell me I don’t look good in this wet suit!” – Rutledge Wood
“Don’t push me sideways! Don’t push me sideways!” – Tanner Foust
“Turns out she has Irritable Bowel Syndrome and I couldn’t take it.” – Adam Ferrara