And now the end is near, as Top Gear USA faces the final curtain on its fourth season, which makes this Fountain of Youth a very appropriate title for the episode. The boys assembled in Naples, Florida with el cheapo alternatives to the kinds of cars people usually get when they want to feel young. Tanner Foust proudly presented a bright yellow 1998 Porsche Boxster. Rutledge Wood surprised everybody with a 1933 Ford Model A Pickup Rat Rod. Heck, even he looked surprised! Adam Ferrara, still nursing a separated shoulder took advice from Prince with a hot red 1993 Corvette and to his surprise wasn’t allowed to use The Stig as his designated driver. That honour fell to veteran stuntman, Mickey Gilbert, whose IMDB page reads like a bibliography of great American cinema. Yet, the old man still has the goods even if they were well past the Best By date.
“Eh!” – Mickey Gilbert
They set out on a 150-mile road trip from Naples to Miami and would face various challenges along the way. The first was a speed and handling test at The Naples Beach Hotel and Golf Club. Each man had to navigate a one-mile obstacle course where hitting flags induced a five-second penalty. The losers would get anti-gifts typical of a mid-life crisis: an instant mullet headband with matching jacket, self-tanner lotion with “stylish” sunglasses and a jet ski. All three runs were pretty bad, so the winner was more a matter of whose performance was the least terrible. Rut’s rat rod was a rolling wreck but managed to finish in one piece, if you could call it that. Mickey has *cough* an aggressive driving style, that made him a perfect stand-in for Adam. Let me put it this way: if Irving Zisman was as an actual person, he’d drive the course the same way Mickey did.
“I got in the moment. I can’t pass a puddle up. You know that.” – Tanner Foust (40)
Tanner, bless his heart, just can’t help himself when it comes onto shortcuts. For all the wunderkind driving he displays on this show, when he fails, it’s spectacular and so very destructive. Then again, he occasionally has a melt down and breaks stuff on purpose but that’s always fun too. The next test was set in the Everglades, and it’s something we’ve seen on this show before – automotive chicken. They had to get up to 50mph and brake. The winner was the one who stopped furthest away from the water…which was the home for alligators. I don’t know much about alligators, but don’t think they’re ever full enough pass up a free meal. So it’s understandable why Tanner was trying to remember the reason why they were doing this in the first place, and Rutledge preceded his run with prayer. Adam just old Mickey go along in his stead.
“He’s driving like it’s 3:30, he’s got to get to Denny’s by 4:00.” – Adam Ferrara (47)
After toying with gators, the boys arrived at the Homestead-Miami Speedway. What’s the point of a mid-life crisis car, if chicks don’t dig the car? So they brought in three ladies to be wooed by the cars. Just so there wasn’t any favouritism, the ladies got the ride in each of the cars. Unfortunately, the guys were there too and talked themselves out of impressing anybody, as usual. Before the final challenge, they spruced up their cars and in Rut’s case – the rat rod looked fantastic! Adam’s red Corvette was now properly outrageous, while Tanner tried to butch up his little Porsche to look like a race car but that didn’t happen. There was a huge spoiler on the back that should have increased the down force, but just made it downright ugly.
“It makes you look your age. That’s the worst part of that car.” – Rutledge Wood (33)
At a drag strip the guys had to race to keep their pink slips. They arrived to meet a number of vehicles ranging from Japanese imports like Honda Civics to performance vehicles like the Dodge Viper. In order to make sure that the Top Gear cars weren’t beaten too badly, the presenters chose their adversaries. Rutledge, Tanner and Adam/Mickey faced off against a Ford Focus ST, Chevy S10 Pickup and Honda Civic respectively. The cruel irony is that raced against cars that people sell during a mid-life crisis – not buy. Worse yet is that two of them lost! There was a genuine winner and two very sore losers. Actually I think there were two winners because Mickey looked like he had a really great time. It was great to see that even the older guys can still get out there and have a great time behind-the-wheel. He thrashed that Corvette and it was fun watching him do it.
This was a heck of a year for Top Gear USA and me too! Thanks to My Life at Speed and BBC Worldwide, I got to interview the cast and write previews for the episodes. It’s going to sound super-corny but they really are very cool guys and this season we got to see more of that. I was surprised that some lines made it into the episode and they took risks many times. Yes, there are still gags that were done by the UK version first, but it was still funny to see these guys make cars float and sink, as well as have a motorcycle adventure. Yet they’ve managed to have some original fun as well and give the audience at home a great time. We look forward to what’s on the road ahead in 2014 and adventures in store.