Ah the 1980s! It felt like just two, not three decades ago – but it is and those of us who remember the LA Olympics are officially old. Top Gear USA’s ‘80s Power is for all of us who remember the ‘80s and tries to figure out which car from that decade is the ultimate, but they could only spend $5,000 each. The winner would get to drive one of my all-time favourite Ferraris – the F12 Berlinetta. The rest of the show’s budget probably went into the special effects for the cast introductions. That’s not a complaint mind you because they were very entertaining! Rutledge arrive first in a 1988 Sup Toyota MR2, a car they’ve mentioned a few times before on this show but not always in a complimentary fashion. Adam stayed true to his Adam-will-pick-a-Buick-if-he-can form with a 1986 Buick Grand National that he called “a working man’s supercar.” While Tanner may not have brought the best car but he certainly won the prize for best entrance (because Knight Rider) in his 1988 Camaro Iroc-Z. The boys talked about their cars as they drove to the first challenge and as always, ragged on the others’ vehicles of choice. I’m no expert on American cars from that era because in my country we had Ford Lasers, Cortinas, 120Ys and other European models, seeing as we drive on the right side of the road and all. So this time around I have no opinion on the cars whatsoever except that thanks to the episode preview on My Life at Speed, I already knew who won. Bah, I’m not angry because I wrote the thing so let’s just have some fun, eh?
“This is Iron Maiden, Poison, Whitesnake, all wrapped into one rolling piece of Americana with some smokin’ back tires.” – Tanner Foust
On the way, they passed an actor whose career peaked in the ‘80s and now makes appearances to joke about that very fact. Pay your bills, señor. They arrived at the Stoner Creek Car Wash to test which car had the best build quality. Each man donned a shirt covered in popping candy. Seriously, the Pop Rocks didn’t see this as an opportunity to get a ton load of publicity? Anyway, they had to wear the shirts while going through the car wash, in their cars of course. Still, any Top Gear challenge involving water is probably going to make me laugh until I cry and this was no exception. My face was hurting but it hurt so good, I didn’t mind at all. This new level of pranking/cheating was glorious. After presumably vacuuming the cars, they set off the Californian desert and passed a comedian who was best known for demolishing fruit and worst-known for his political views. The next challenge was to see which car could get closest to its original top speed in just one mile. There was a lot of fancy maths going on. I’ll take their word on that one too. At long last and one man down, they arrived at Willow Springs Raceway for a truly ‘80s inspired test. They had to lap the course with a passenger engaged in activities from that period. Whoever crossed the finish line before the passengers completed their task was the winner.
“Children! I work with children!” – Adam Ferrara
The final challenge was at Ferrigno Fit in Santa Monica, a fun game of sumo wrestling with cars and presided over by Lou Ferrigno. This was absolutely fun to watch but I got the most joy from seeing how genuinely awestruck the guys were with the famous muscleman. Heck, I would have been giddy to meet him. Lou Ferrigno, man! Between him and the F12 Berlinetta parked right outside, the boys were so fired up that I forgot that I already knew who won, which also coincided with my pre-episode prediction when I heard which Ferrari was up for grabs. Credit to them (and insomnia) for making me forget. It was pretty ridiculous for us to believe that they didn’t recognize the ‘80s personalities on the roadside, but this were probably the only missteps in the episode that set up a real treat for Formula Drift fans who still have hope that Tanner will return to the series.
“Did you give him a phone book to sit on so he could see over the wheel?” – Rutledge Wood
After the tried and true Top Gear film celebrating the Ferrari F12 Berlinetta’s magnificence (Gosh, I love this car) they moved the action to the Sonoma Raceway for a drift battle between Tanner in the Ferrari against Conrad Grunewald in his 700+hp Camaro drift car. Conrad freaking Grunewald, people! It was a brief but nice hat tip to the Formula D community. Taken as a whole ‘80s Power was a lot of fun and despite the kitschy stuff may have been one of the best they’ve ever done. The next episode was Snow Show.