After a cracking debut last Tuesday night when motoring mayhem reigned supreme; many of us wondered what’s next for Top Gear on History. Over the weekend, it was revealed that the next episode would be Muscle Cars. Fans of that particular breed of car went wild and with good reason. If there is a food chain of American-made vehicles, then the spot for muscle cars is at the very top, reserved for predators only. They are heard, before seen; and their thundering engines grip automobile enthusiasts by our spinal columns. Love or hate them, like a lion’s roar, all and sundry know that they are coming: faster and meaner than anything else on the road. Only supercars can offer any kind of competition for performance; but when it comes to sheer intimidation. There’s nothing like an American muscle car, especially a classic in mint condition.
I thought the hosts lived out boyhood fantasies in last week’s Big Rigs; but this Tuesday, they went beyond that. Each had 2012 versions of the classic Dodge Challenger, Chevy Camaro and of course, Ford Mustang. The mission was to prove, which one was the Best Modern Muscle Car. They met classic versions of their vehicles at the Los Angeles River for the speed test: a two-way drag race. To say the boys were beside themselves, is putting it mildly. They laughed, shouted, hooted and hollered; and so did we. Then it was off to a Drive-In Movie Theatre in Riverside, California for a slalom circuit in its parking lot, to see which car had the best handling. Of all the contests these guys have done thus far, this one was the most ludicrous. We’ve seen them drive cars filled with water, manure and moonshine. However, an innocuous-looking box with wires provided a dimension of off-the-cuff hilarity, never seen before. It was magnificently juvenile. Here’s a sample of what each presenter said during:
“How’d I (twitch) How’d I do?” – Adam Ferrara
“I’m gonna poop.” – Rutledge Wood
“Ah! Ow, ow! Oh, it hurts! (bleep) No! (bleep) Ah! (bleep) Oh, my teeth! (bleep) Oh! (bleep) Finish Line, finish line, finish line! Aah!” – Tanner Foust
The muscle car adventure concluded at the Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. This final test was another NASCAR tie-in, which is quickly becoming intrinsic to this series. It was not only highly entertaining but did for Adam, what recent trips to the Daytona International Speedway have done for me. We totally get the NASCAR thing now. Those race cars are metal beasts and the left turns are pretty darned terrifying once you cross a hundred miles per hour. The mission to prove which of the three vehicles was the Best Modern Muscle Car wasn’t accomplished; but, that doesn’t matter. Picking a muscle car is like discerning your favourite flavour of ice-cream. There’s only one you really love and you love it forever. Some people love the Mustang. Some love the Camaro, while others love the Challenger. There’s no rhyme or reason; and certainly no way a TV show, even this one, could change their minds. This episode was a celebration of the muscle car itself. The cast may have been put through the wringer shocker, but they had a good time and the cars looked great.
Maintaining the muscle car theme, Rutledge and Tanner went to Dead Horse Point State Park, Utah for a distance race from Dead Point to the Colorado River. It was two enhanced 2012 Ford Mustangs versus two riders on horseback, for a (forty-six miles by car/seven miles by horse) relay race against a jaw-dropping landscape. This is something that could only be done in North America and thankfully in HD. However, I was dismayed by its end. Somebody must explain to me, why these driver dudes must adhere to speed limits, especially in such a desolate locale? This isn’t guerrilla film-making and it isn’t any old car show. This is Top Gear. Is there an endangered species of tumbleweed the authorities are afraid might get mown down by a speeding car? I can only speculate that the race would be over too quickly without impediments. Still, even that hypothesis feels like malarkey. Also Rutledge’s driving skills were previously seen in a Porsche Panamera, Aston Martin V-12 and Lamborghini Murciélago SuperVeloce. To watch him crawl along in the 2012 Roush Stage 3 Mustang was torturous. That piece had high production values but created more frustration for me than thrills, and the outcome just didn’t make sense. It could have been so much more than it was, so colour me disappointed.
The celebrity guest for ‘Big Star, Small Car’ was the popular, mellifluously voiced actor, Patrick Warburton. He did an excellent turn on the track and was quite relaxed for the interview with (his super-fan) Rutledge. He was genuinely stunned by his lap-time and that added an unscripted, organic element to the segment. Also, the live audience were a lively bunch that seemed genuinely happy to be there. In fact, the few studio/hanger scenes were smoother in this episode. The episode was very strong throughout and ended well. There is a definite evolution of improvement with this show and we must now wait impatiently for next week’s episode: Dangerous Cars on February 28, 2012. Adam and Rutledge interacted with fans on Twitter and Facebook during the episode. All was overseen by the History Channel’s online media guru. This has been really great for fans and new viewers alike. Well done, team!