For a generation of car enthusiasts today, there was one TV show that was fundamental in shaping their tastes and perspectives on cars. BBC’s Top Gear was one of the most important pieces of television ever for any motoring fan. Fast laps, supercars, and most importantly of all, road trips.
The 2003 to 2015 run of the show produced some of the best quality motoring content we’ve seen. Road tests were informative and thorough, the challenge episodes were stupidly funny and the relationship between the 3 presenters was relatable and witty. It had all the ingredients for a successful TV show.
Road trips were some of the best episodes. Often called “Top Gear Specials”, this saw the trio of Clarkson, Hammond, and May embark on an adventure to some far-reached place where they would all purchase a certain category of car and hit the road. This would often bring the funniest moments on the show, so here’s what we think was the best special of them all: the Patagonia Special.
Top Gear Specials Were Better Than Normal Episodes
The Top Gear specials, as they’re known, were often much more entertaining and longer length than the usual Sunday night airings. Sometimes split into two parts, but it would see the presenters embark on an adventure outside the normal studio setting.
This would become a great way of showing the audience at home the presenter’s personalities they felt relatable and funny something which is essential for good television.
Despite being almost entirely scripted and written by Richard Porter, now one-half of Smith and Sniff, the specials had a great feel to them. It was a chance to see different parts of the world whilst also enjoying the simplest moments shared with a car.
The specials allowed for the presenters to develop inside jokes and funny gags that they could keep running throughout the whole series. It was almost as if by your third or fourth special, you felt like you were part of the crew.
Top Gear specials became widely revered for being better than the normal episodes. While a lot of people did still enjoy seeing Clarkson thrash around a racetrack in a Bugatti Veyron or something similarly as exotic, we were also just as entertained watching Richard Hammond smiling in a beaten-up Opel Kadet in the middle of Africa.
Clarkson, Hammond, and May Were Irreplaceable
Perhaps the most important thing throughout the whole Top Gear series specials was the relationship shared by Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond, and James May. This Trio was as we know now an integral part of Top Gear.
As a brand, it has since lived on and taken on various hosts some long-lasting some not so. But the most important thing was that the original 3 were so relatable and provided dry British humor when we needed it most.
Their intoxicatingly funny friendship was enough to keep viewers returning every week. So it’s no surprise that when they would go on to start The Grand Tour, they would focus most of their content on road trips and episodes that had the same sort of feel as the Top Gear specials. This was the kind of TV they enjoyed making most.
This relationship does come across in the new show. Now, The Grand Tour only puts out feature-length special road trip-type shows. It’s obvious that they feel that their audience responds and connects with these episodes better. For good reason, they’re arguably the most fun to watch and by far the most entertaining.
It’s also a testament to changing times. If anyone wants to watch a car review they’ll often hop over to YouTube and see a flood of them.
The Patagonian Argentina Special Was The Best
While you may not think that the ending of this Top Gear special was the best, what certainly was incredible were the landscapes and roads that the three presenters drove on along the trip. The 11th in the series of top gear specials took place in the breathtaking region of Argentinian Patagonia, one of the world’s most strikingly beautiful places.
The presenters must buy three V8 cars as a celebration of the engine as even back then in 2012, they were being targeted for destruction by environmentalists. Jeremy chose a now infamous Porsche 928 GT. Hammond chose, unsurprisingly, a piece of American muscle in a Ford Mustang Mach 1. May chose a characteristically unreliable Lotus Esprit.
During the next 2 hours of the show, the 3 would explore some of the wildest and most remote places in the Patagonia region. Empty roads and some non-existent ones too would eventually put the three V8s to the test. The reason we think it’s the best is due to the impressive landscapes and not just for the real-world controversy that followed.
This epic road trip would take them through Bariloche, a famous Argentine ski resort. They even went through the small farm where Butch Cassidy lived, something which Jeremy was very happy about.
The landscapes they would see would include deserts, snowdrifts, and gorgeous mountain ranges. Among all the Top Gear specials, Patagonia felt like it had the most varied offering in terms of viewing pleasure.
Clarkson uses the word “mesmerizing” to describe the stunning Andes mountain range that splits Chile and Argentina. The cars provided no shortage of laughs as well. One of them had an important detail that would come back to bite them. Despite joking about how they had little to no diplomatic skills, at one point in the episode what would occur was completely unexpected and quite dangerous.
The Top Gear Porsche Falklands Numberplate Controversy
For those of you who weren’t aware, the episode ended abruptly, something which doesn’t really happen in Top Gear specials. So here’s your spoiler alert if you haven’t yet watched it. Jeremy’s 928 GT wore a British number plate, as did all the other cars on the trip. However, the problem was that the numberplate it wore was H982 FKL, a standard format of UK registration for a car its age.
The 982, taken as a reference to 1982. And the FKL, taken as a reference to Falklands. Here’s a little history for context. Britain and Argentina fought a war, starting in 1982, over the British colony of the Falklands Isles. This was enough to stir up a whole load of controversy. For Argentinians, it was the only war they had ever fought in, so, tensions were high.
The episode ended with the Top Gear crew getting ran out of the country after angry protesters took a nasty decision to pelt their cars with rocks and other sharp objects. The Top Gear lawyers have since fought two court cases to prove that they did not change the number plates to provoke anything. Despite this controversial ending, the Patagonia special is the most memorable one to date.