Review of Top Gear on History’s Continental Divide

Review of Top Gear on History’s Continental Divide

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!

Promo Still for Top Gear USA's Continental Divide

Promo Still for Top Gear USA’s Continental Divide

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.

From Top Gear USA's Facebook page 08-Mar-2012

Adam Ferrara poses with his porky passenger, Spamela Anderson

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.

Rutledge Wood's Tweet

Rutledge Wood’s Tweet

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.

Promo Still for Top Gear USA's Continental Divide 29-Aug-2012

Rutledge Wood pedals for his life in Continental Divide

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

  • You forgot to mention that the blue 2001 Town and Country suddenly morphed into a silver 1997 Town and Country with its roof chopped off for the lake-float. Still, an entertaining episode.

  • I totally missed that but wouldn't have recognised the model change anyway. A different colour, though? Geez.Watching it with my nephew a week later, he pointed out an ambulance that was clearly visible at the lakeside. If I'm not mistaken, someone was standing there watching the filming too. Woops.

  • * I've owned four different ASTRO mini-vans in my 40 plus some years of driving. I have NEVER,(I repeat: NEVER!), gotten stuck or wiped out in any of them. I have had jobs where I had to get in, irregardless of the weather (i.e. POLICE dept) or because I was the FIRST PERSON opening up a FEDERAL facility. It was also the van with the highest towing capacity, and the largest cargo space of ALL other mini-vans. The ASTRO VAN was the finest vehicle I've ever known, and other than normal snow tires in the winter, I required NO modifications what-so-ever. And the all-wheel drive ASTRO kicked asphalt over many full size, light butt, heavy nosed pick-ups. If I knew they would stop making the ASTRO after only a 20 year run, (Production 1985–2005), I would have never gotten rid of my last one. (200,000+ MILES). I was always hoping to come across a new or used one in good shape, but alias, since the plant in which they were made is gone, any chances of a new one are sadly gone. Sincerely, ……. SGT. E. G. ROCK

  • Good for you, Sarge. You must have been thrilled to see your favourite model getting some attention. Now if only it had been a four-wheel drive. Thanks for your comment!

  • Chasen

    Also Adam’s 2001 Chrystler Town and Country, on the last challenge, it turns into a 1998 Town and Country.

    • At least it wasn’t as bad as the original Vanishing Point, where they swapped a 1967 Chevy Camaro for a 1970 Dodge Challenge. Ha ha!