No automobile manufacturer goes out of their way to produce a lemon. High-level brainiacs put time and care into creating cars that are supposed to take the world by storm. Unfortunately, some models do nothing more than become a passing cloud. In Cult Classics, the intrepid hosts of Top Gear on History presented the viewing audience with three vehicles that could have been contenders. Their main mission in San Diego, California was to prove which car was ahead of its time, instead of having been a waste of time. Rutledge brought a 1992 Subaru SVX, which featured a futuristic window design. Tanner proudly presented a zippy, little 1986 Merkur XR4Ti which he believed would “sell like hotcakes” if released on the market today. Adam was last to arrive in a Cadillac. No surprise there but unpredictably, it was the newest model of their mini-fleet: a 1993 Allanté. Their overall challenge was to sell their vehicles. The final sale price which was closest to the original list price would determine the overall winner.
“Gentlemen say it with me, “Eh!”” – Adam Ferrara
In Top Gear on History’s first season, there was an episode entitled Used Car Salesmen. They bought cars at auction and then sold them for a profit. It led to, in my mind, one of the best moments in this series so far. Before the studio audience, Rutledge Wood held an impromptu auction of the Lexus LS he couldn’t sell during the episode. In Cult Classics, they didn’t reinvent the wheel but took it to the next ridiculous level. They pursued every possible avenue in order to market their cars. Season Three’s previous two challenges were leaked to the press because fans literally stumbled across the cast as they drove past Police Cars in Michigan and Small Cars in Louisiana. On this occasion, the guys turned to their Twitter accounts, Facebook pages, Craigslist ads and message boards as part of their sales strategy. They bombarded many pairs of eyeballs for an entire day, to publicise the sale and Ron Baker Chevrolet where the sale would take place. The pièce de résistance would be individual live TV commercials on KUSI News Channel.
Before any of that, they had to prove each of the cars’ singular claims. The thirty-mile drive to a nondescript field, gave the cast a chance to wax poetic on their cars and heap shade upon their colleagues’ rides. There wasn’t much time to see any banter because we soon bore witness to insane tests on the cars…and their drivers. This is of course why the challenges came first because no matter how crappy your car may be, you wouldn’t want anybody doing these things to your car. The Caddy went first because of its (allegedly) groundbreaking Northstar suspension system. Adam had to drive at 50 miles/hour, over speed bumps with a case of unwrapped champagne bottles in the front passenger seat. His success was measured in unpopped bottles. Quite frankly, I was surprised that Adam didn’t get clocked by flying corks.
“Don’t eat it in my lap, please.” – Tanner Foust
Since Tanner boasted that the Merkur’s German engineering gave it exceptional speed and precision, his test had a Deutschland theme. He had thirty seconds to slalom a course marked with mugs of beer on pylons. Easy peasy for him, so to increase the difficulty, he had three fully grown German Shepherds as passengers. To make it even more interesting, he wore a necklace of bratwursts. The car looked pretty clean at the episode’s start but I suspect those dogs may have left some territorial marks after their wild ride. It also proved once again, that a seasoned professional can drive and freak out simultaneously. Rutledge was last to go but his Subaru’s test required the most preparation because it was on the largest scale. The car windows’ design meant that theoretically, you could drive through rainfall with the windows down and remain dry. This was put to the test with Rut squeezed into a onesie covered with kitchen sponges, a 4,000 gallon water truck and a revenge-minded co-host.
“You broke my [bleep] wipers.” – Rutledge Wood
Their next challenge was to elicit help to produce their TV commercials from the professionals at Jacob Tyler Creative Group. Each made a pitch to Les Kollegian (CEO), Charles Van Vechten (President) and Jose Alonso (VP, Creative). Adam took the historical approach, as in ancient history. Although I’m pretty sure that some preacher will borrow his visual of Adam and Eve running over the snake with an Allanté. (What? Preachers are capable of plagiarism.) Rutledge went ahead with his ‘tomorrow is yesterday’ slant; which would be perfect if you’re trying to sell the TARDIS but not necessarily a water-logged SVX. Unless of course, it came equipped with a flux capacitor; but I’ll spare you that piece of deep nerdiness. Tanner tried to push the ‘sex (and violence) sells’ angle. However, the ad execs didn’t want to be associated with a commercial that had explosions, a hot chick being tossed around in a drifting car or boob exposure at 7:00 am.
The next day, the guys unleashed their commercials upon the unsuspecting Good Morning, San Diego viewers. Rutledge stuck to his guns and tried to sell the “future, but back from the past” in an astronaut costume. Tanner had to do more with less, and by less I mean no swimsuit models. However, he did have Dave Stall in a Hawaiian shirt and a parking lot with room for doughnuts. Adam brought his A-game in a tuxedo with a classical quartet and doves. It seemed to be going well until…okay there’s a reason why W.C. Fields said, “Never work with animals or children.” All were soundly reminded as to why that makes sense. Eventually it was down to the art of the sale. My father sold cars for over forty years, so I know a good salesperson when I see one. Adam is a natural but doesn’t negotiate at all, ever. He’s an actor too, which is an asset since sometimes a perplexed or pitiful appearance is useful to get a buyer to spend more money than they intended. Poor Rutledge had terrible luck, and although Tanner had potential buyers, they were shallow-pocketed. The situation looked bleak until a surprise buyer suddenly made his presence known. The mathematical winner was declared, which meant that we had two losers.
“This is the first time I’ve ever not wanted to drive a BMW.” – Dax Shepard
Like the previous episode, the programme’s last segment was devoted to punishment. However, that term is used loosely. Actors Dax Shepard and Sean Hayes met them at Irwindale Speedway for a very special race. Not in a BMW 3-series or 7-series, but in a BMW 10-series. You probably didn’t guess it. A 325is controlled the steering welded atop a 740i that controlled acceleration and braking. Each loser host paired up with an actor who handled the steering. I don’t know how celebrities will feel about having to go through this kind of thing to promote their films on Top Gear, instead of lapping the test track in a little Suzuki. It’s a feat for such folks to put aside their self-consciousness for the sake of automotive tomfoolery. Then again, Dax was able to show off the 1967 Lincoln Continental that recently had Jalopnik readers salivating. Gearhead guests usually bring their prized rides to the Top Gear set but don’t get a chance to show them off to the folks at home. I think it’s time to put together a Top Gear celebrity drag race special. Ooh, can you smell the ratings?
I consider this to be a ‘kitchen sink’ episode because a lot of stuff happened. There were five locations, a water cannon, animals, humiliation, victory, defeat, celebrities, booze and poo. The soundtrack was perfect with big band and orchestral tunes for Adam, synth-pop for Tanner and a futuristic midi theme thrown in for Spaceman Rutledge. The beauty shots for the cars were well done as usual, even though the cars didn’t seem to be in mint-condition. The HD quality really shone during the action. Quite frankly, I deign to watch the show in blurry SD after being spoiled by this. The goodly gents at Jacob Tyler Creative Group managed to look dismayed and disinterested throughout their bit. Although, I suspect that they must have laughed at some points. It’d be hard to keep a straight face with some of the crazy ideas being thrown at them. Another aspect that reached a zenith in this episode was perviness. There was sausage molestation, double entendres, single entendres and a crotch hit, in slow motion no less. I’m not bothered because that’s how it is in the world of bromance. However, its presence shows that the cast seems to be very comfortable with each other. Also, we’re seeing new aspects to their personalities. The tough talking New Yorker is a bit of a romantic who’s not afraid to get elegant. The sweet country boy can be a bit of a diva, rather divo, when things don’t go his way. The race-car driver is a bit of a horndog, which came as no shock whatsoever.
One of the biggest pranks Top Gear ever pulled on its viewership is their challenges. The strongest truck, best first car, most dangerous car, best muscle car, worst car in China, best motorcycle in Vietnam and others have all been determined by non-scientific, non-quantitative and nonsensical methods. The vehicles used in the tests, in addition to their outcomes are all flavoured by the three hosts and the extent of cheating done by them. Oh, and they all cheat regardless of which side of the pond they’re from. The bottom line is that although these men give their all during the wacky tests of skill, courage and stupidity craftiness, it doesn’t matter who wins. It never has and never will because the audience is the true winner in all this. We got entertained for about an hour and possibly learned something in spite of ourselves. Live social media interaction with the cast was fun as always; and is a highly appreciated plus for viewers, especially for the fans. Next week’s episode is One Tank and claims that the boys are going green. This is a topic that interests me greatly and I look forward to it.