In the closing minutes of last week’s Muscle Cars episode, we first saw the trailer for this Tuesday’s Dangerous Cars. Well edited, it seemed as though one of the boys had been seriously injured or seriously killed. Thankfully, their Facebook pages and Twitter activity show that they are all quite alive and well. Indeed, it would be big news if any Top Gear series had managed to end someone’s life. This week’s goal was to prove that certain vehicles had rightfully or wrongfully earned their reputations as death traps. Rutledge Wood arrived in a Chevrolet Corvair, Adam Ferrara in a 1974 Ford Pinto and Tanner Foust in a 1988 Suzuki Samurai.
They did everything except cross their hearts, to argue that each of their chosen chariots was safe. I find their interaction with the onboard cameras fascinating to watch. Adam’s a comedian and so a professional monologist; but the other two guys have consistently surprised me. They don’t just talk to the camera but facial expressions and reactions, make the audience feel like we’re in the cars with them. I don’t know if this is a learned or coached, but appears perfectly natural on screen. We don’t just experience their adventures vicariously but feel like we’re in the passenger seat next to them. That’s one of my favourite things about these shows, but I digress.
It’s not Top Gear without wanton destruction of something. So the boys and their accidents-waiting-to-happen were being sent to compete in a demolition derby. That is once they survived a little boot camp for their vehicles at the Willow Springs Raceway in California. Thankfully, the cars and drivers were smartly matched. Let me put it this way: if anybody else was driving the Samurai, when it did what it’s famous for…they may not have made it out, in one piece. They returned after a night to modify their cars; and hit an obstacle course that in turn hit them, in the simplest and most cost effective way I’ve seen thus far for this program. Who knew, that two dudes harnessed in the back of a flatbed truck, throwing a variety of clearance items at a third dude attempting to slalom an old car, could be so entertaining?
To keep with the danger theme, our attention was diverted to Rutledge and Adam, taking turns behind the wheel of an Ariel Atom. Yes, the same car that severely distorted Mr. Clarkson’s face in the OTG. Under the tutelage of professional race car driver Boris Said (and his fabulous head of hair), Adam finally added some finesse to his aggressive driving style. The loquacious Mr. Ferrara is more of the everyman among this gear-head cast. It was rather good to see an attempt to mould him into a more controlled driver. I don’t think there’s ever been an OTG bit like this and to forge its own legacy, the US series needs to produce more of such original pieces. The Stig then took the Atom around the track and set an astounding lap time. Not surprising since it’s less of a car and more of a stripped down missile. Nonetheless, an extremely impressive machine that probably made its way to more than one person’s dream car list. I’m pretty sure that somewhere there’s a Swedish team of mechanics wondering, “Vad i helvetet!?!”
We returned to the boys whose vehicles had been further modified for the demolition derby. It was fun to watch unless you happen to love your Corvair, Pinto and/or Samurai. A few genuine derby cars were added to the mix to get the action going. However, I don’t think the hosts’ cars could have survived a full-on collision from one of those monsters. In all, it was a wild episode. The vehicles lived up to their reputations and it was a blast to watch them spin, roll and smoke out their drivers. Once again, the guys regressed to kidhood as they teased, insulted, argued and played together. Certain things were probably staged but that’s because this is television, so grow up if you’re expecting otherwise. This may be The History Channel but Top Gear is no documentary programme. It is, as it’s always been: three guys who know a thing or two about cars, that get to drive some of the best rides on the roads. They also get paid to play the fool and have a good time. Go figure!
Veteran film and television actor Joe Mantegna was the guest for ‘Big Star, Small Car.’ He tweeted photos of himself on the set a day before the episode aired, and had a good time on the track, as well as in the interview that followed. He didn’t knock Patrick Warburton off the top of the leader board, but didn’t land at the bottom either. Rutledge and Adam answered questions on Twitter and Facebook during the episode. This show’s online presence has begun to come alive and at one point #TopGear was actually trending on Twitter. Dangerous Cars will air again on Thursday March 1, 2012 at 2:00 pm EST. Memorable quotes from the boys, in this episode were:
“That was completely my fault.” – Tanner Foust
“Again, it’s not that Adam can’t drive. It’s just he can’t seem to drive without hurting something.” – Rutledge Wood
“It’s not a fire! Trust me. I played a fireman on TV. I know what fire is, and I’ll be fine.” – Adam Ferrara