Ranking every Top Gear special from worst to greatest (2023)

It’s only a few weeks now until the eagerly-awaitedGrand Tour debutson Amazon Prime, returning our beloved — if occasionally controversial — petrolhead heroes Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May to our TV screens.

And with the return of the iconic trio comes the restoration of spectacular road trips, the likes of which proved extremely popular during theirTop Gear run. In total, eleven specials were produced over an eight-year period, and over the course of their run, morphed into two-hour epics that swallowed up two nights of viewing.

So popular were the specials that theGrand Tour threatens to be nothing butextended road trips full of calamity and chaos.

So, to prepare for the inevitable mayhem that is about to come, here’s everyTop Gear special ranked in order from worst to greatest.

India Special (2011)

The India Special arrived during a period in whichTop Gear was suffering somewhat of a series slump. With the average viewership down from 7+ million in 2008-2009 to below 6 million in 2010-11, when watching the farcical trip across the Indian continent it’s not hard to see why.

Ranking every Top Gear special from worst to greatest (1)

Largely directionless, the hour-long programme knitted together a series of woolly scenes around a weak premise (a British trade mission) and relied far too heavily on several instances of forced humour. There was the odd chuckle (like James May’s errant autonomous lawnmower going AWOL), but, on the whole, the India Special deservedly goes down as the worst effort produced by Wilman and the team.

Middle East Special (2010)

This period of lacklustre programming also happened to include the next special on the list, the Middle East Special, which, although was a slightly sharper and tighter affair, still suffered from an over-dependence on engineered laughs.

Ranking every Top Gear special from worst to greatest (2)

(Video) All top gear specials ranked

It contained a bit more of the camaraderie for which the three presenters are renowned, but a relatively exciting start soon tailed off into incessant meandering through uninspiring scenery, and sadly ended in a thoroughly underwhelming fashion as the three lads delivered presents to… Baby Stig. Sigh.

It speaks volumes when the best part was James May suffering a potentially threatening head injury…

Africa Special (2013)

The African Special profited from a well-timed two year hiatus, being the first special since 2011’s Middle East venture, and it was far more reminiscent of classicTop Gearprogramming.

Ranking every Top Gear special from worst to greatest (3)

The premise — which had been shaky in the Africa and Middle East specials — was far more stable, and presented the trio with the genuinely interesting challenge of locating the true source of the Nile. This produced a number of laughs and exciting moments along the way, which included the now-infamous “We’ve just come into Jezza!”, as well as Jeremy’s woeful attempt at utilising a log as a handbrake.

Winter Olympics (2006)

The inauguralTop Gear special paved the way for the development of the feature, even if it didn’t quite follow the now-recognisable format.

It saw the trio attempt to run their very ownTop Gear Olympics with a predictable serving of utter chaos and abject failure, as they fired a jet-propelled Mini down a ski slope, raced a bobsleigh against a rally car and participated in a thrilling motor biathlon.

Ranking every Top Gear special from worst to greatest (4)

It wasa solid special and the banter between Clarkson, May and Hammondat its absolute finest; Richard Hammond building a barrier out of chairs at the bottom of the wrong slope being a memorable moment of calamity.

(Video) 10 BEST Top Gear & Grand Tour Specials

Bolivia Special (2009)

The Bolivia Special was an example ofTop Gear at its finest. Set against a beautiful backdrop, the three boys blundered their way along a tortuous route and drove their 4x4s to the absolute limit.

Ranking every Top Gear special from worst to greatest (5)

James May falling off a barge, Richard Hammond discovering a snake in his cab,the perilous trip along Death Road; and the epic final stretch when the boys barrelled down enormous sand dunes to the sea — this special had the lot.

Polar Special (2007)

The Polar special followed on from the success of the Winter Olympics and USA specials, and by now had transformed into the classic format which was followed practically unto the end of the series’ run.

Ranking every Top Gear special from worst to greatest (6)

James and Jeremy raced Hammond to the North Pole, car vs dog sled, in a contest fraught with peril (Polar bears and melting ice), tantrums (Richard Hammond) and gales of laughter (toilet-based shenanigans galore!). It was a truly epic piece of programming.

Patagonia Special (2015)

It garnered infamy for the events that unfolded towards the end of the trip, but the Patagonia adventure was a pretty solid special in its own right, minus the unsavoury drama.

Ranking every Top Gear special from worst to greatest (7)

The cars were magnificent, the trip took them through some spectacular vistas and there were a plethora of cock-ups along the route. The idea of ending up in Ushuia to play a car football match against Argentina also had the promise of sheer entertainment.

(Video) Top Gear : The Cool Wall (Best Moments) Part-1

Sadly, it was all marred by a group of Argentine nationalists who perceived Jeremy’s licence plate to be a direct reference to the 1982 Falklands War. Thus, the episode ended with the presenters and crew being hounded out of the country amid scenes of violence.

Burma Special (2014)

Another of the two-hour instalments as opposed to the earlier 60-minute specials, the lorry trek across Burma wasTop Gear at its best.

Ranking every Top Gear special from worst to greatest (8)

Whether they were causing mayhem in Rangoon, playing football on a motorway or making an absolute pig’s ear out of building a bridge over the River Koq, the drama rattled along at a terrific pace.

It is simply one of the most epic adventures undertaken.

USA Special (2007)

Despite its age, the USA road trip is still one of the finest specials to date. The premise of having to buy cars for less than it costs to hire them from the airport allowed for dozens of brilliant moments as the boys took their £1000 rides all the way from Florida to New Orleans.

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There was American Stig, Jeremy’s love of Florida (“everybody’s very fat, everybody’s very stupid and everbody’s very rude”), the roadkill challenge, the alligator-infested wood, and — who can forget?! — the infamous run-in with the gang of rednecks on a petrol station forecourt in Alabama.

Pure brilliance from start to finish.

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Botswana Special (2007)

Who can forget Oliver? The relationship that bloomed between Richard Hammond and his terrific little car was nothing short of beautiful.

Ranking every Top Gear special from worst to greatest (10)

In a trip that saw the trio cross Botswana in its entirety, in the most unfitting cars possible, the boys barely survivedtheMakgadikgadi Salt Pans, and undertook a hilarious route through the stunning Okavango Delta.

Somehow, in their fleet of woefully-prepared road cars, all three presenters made it, genuinely against all the odds. If anyone wants to try and count the number of times Jeremy broke down, feel free — you’ll need a day off work it was that many!

Vietnam Special (2008)

Okay, so it doesn’t technically involve any cars, but the Vietnam special is by far the most complete road tripTop Gear ever undertook.

From Jeremy’s initial reluctance to engage in riding anything that resembles a bike, the narrative develops into a astoundingly good road trip that contains everything you’d want from a TV show.

Ranking every Top Gear special from worst to greatest (11)

The boys buy each other comedy gifts, purchase tailor-made cashmere suits, get on the wrong train, crash into things, fall off their bikes, encounter the most terrible traffic, soar along breath-taking mountain roads, and generally have a bloody good laugh.

And then, when you think it can’t get any better, they have to transform their bikes into boats and sail for the finish line amid the myriad of islands in Bahang Bay. Absolutely stupendous.

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FAQs

Which Top Gear special is best? ›

Best Top Gear Specials
  1. 1 Africa. This was like the best special yet. ...
  2. 2 Vietnam. Between this and the Africa special it's hard but the Vietnam special has plenty of humour and is unique in its bike aspect and the history as well scenery is brilliant. ...
  3. 3 Bolivia. ...
  4. 4 Botswana. ...
  5. 5 USA. ...
  6. 6 Middle East. ...
  7. 7 Polar. ...
  8. 8 Burma.

What did Top Gear say was the worst car in the world? ›

The winner of Top Gear's Worst Car in the History of the World is the Lexus SC 430. Once they announced it, they delivered the car to Richard Hammond and stole his 1960's Ford Mustang as a joke.

What is the longest Top Gear special? ›

Top Gear: Bolivia Special

Why did Top Gear get rid of Jason Dawe? ›

Dawe was shown the door (sorry, that was terrible) due to things 'not working out', and Top Gear's executive producer Andy Wilman searched to find a young, lifestyle, trendy presenter to appeal to the show's young, lifestyle, trendy viewers. James May was obviously the perfect man for the job.

Did Top Gear actually build a bridge in Thailand? ›

Top Gear. In October 2013 the cast and crew of the British television show Top Gear constructed a bridge over the Kok as part of their Burma Special. The bridge was originally planned to be built over the River Kwai, but the River Fang which flows into the Kok was chosen "accidentally".

Who has the best lap on Top Gear? ›

The current fastest professional driver in the Liana is Daniel Ricciardo with 1:42.2.

What is the crappiest car ever made? ›

The 1979 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme, meanwhile, had an engine that exploded when it made 90 horsepower. But the most infamously dangerous worst car in history is the Ford Pinto. The only feature that needs to be discussed about this 1970s vehicle is its fuel tank. The Pinto famously featured an exposed fuel tank.

Did Top Gear get sued by Tesla? ›

Tesla attempted to sue the BBC show for libel following Clarkson's Top Gear film on the Tesla Roadster in 2008." Although the automaker didn't win the lawsuit, the Roadster's problems portrayed in Top Gear's segment were fabricated/scripted into a skit as "entertainment" even though it didn't reflect reality.

What is the most fatal car? ›

The 25 Vehicles That Have Been Involved in the Most Fatal Car Accidents
RankCarTotal
1Chevrolet Silverado8,777
2Ford F-1507,502
3Honda Accord5,368
4Toyota Camry5,023
21 more rows

Did Top Gear break any records? ›

"Top Gear's" large viewership set a Guinness World Record.

The series made it into the Guinness World Record 2013 Edition book for being the world's most-watched factual TV program. More than 350 million people in more than 200 countries watch the series, according to The Guardian.

What was the first Top Gear special? ›

Top Gear: Polar Special

What was the original Top Gear called? ›

Top Gear is a British motoring magazine and factual television programme, designed as a relaunched version of the original 1977 show of the same name by Jeremy Clarkson and Andy Wilman for the BBC, and premiered on 20 October 2002.

What does H982 FKL mean? ›

The locals had taken offense to the license plate of the Porsche, which read "H982 FKL". The protesters believed that the number plate was a direct reference to the 1982 Falklands War, fought between Argentina and the United Kingdom, and that it was a fake, deliberately designed for this specific trip to their country.

Did Top Gear lost viewers after Clarkson? ›

Series 22 was the last of the original trio averaging 6.49 million viewers, meanwhile the first series of the post-Clarkson era series 23 managed 3.89 which declined to 2.35 by series 26. With series 27 and 28 managing 4.46 and 4.76 respectively, so began the slow revival.

Did Top Gear really party in Burma? ›

Top Gear's Burma Special in which Jeremy Clarkson used a racial slur broke broadcasting rules, Ofcom has said. The show featured a segment showing the hosts looking at a bridge they had built on the River Kwai as a local man walked across it. Clarkson remarked: "That is a proud moment.

Why did Argentina get mad at Top Gear? ›

Jeremy Clarkson has joked about the number plate row that forced Top Gear to stop filming in Argentina six years ago. In 2014, Jeremy and the Top Gear crew were forced to leave Patagonia as the presenter's vehicle had a license plate that read H982 FKL, and was perceived to refer to the Falklands conflict of 1982.

Did Top Gear actually go to Iraq? ›

Because it was a BBC production the Top Gear film crew were prevented from crossing the Iran–Iraq border.

Why did Top Gear get kicked out of France? ›

Both Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond are known for their appetite for speed, so it comes as no surprise that the Top Gear presenters were caught speeding in France. It happened while the two television hosts were filming Top Gear's latest Christmas DVD called “The Perfect Road Trip”.

Who is the fastest Stig? ›

White Stig posted the fastest lap time of 1:44.4 around the Top Gear test track for the Star in a Reasonably-Priced Car segment, until his record was beaten by Formula 1 racing driver Rubens Barrichello with a lap time of 1:44:3, Clarkson then occasionally referred to this in his weekly introductions to the Stig until ...

Who is the fastest man on Top Gear? ›

Matt Le Blanc in 1.42.

Friends star, tuning enthusiast and the fastest ever man around our Top Gear track... so far. How you doin'? Matt navigates the Top Gear track in something with a little more power... the McLaren MP4-12C and a Stig.

Who is the fastest celebrity on Top Gear? ›

It's time for a new reasonably priced car and an array of celebrities to take it out on the track.
CelebrityTime (mins)
Louis Walsh1.47.7
Danny Boyle1.47.8 (w)
Al Murray1.48.1
Bob Geldof1.48.1
30 more rows

What is the lamest car? ›

  • The Corvair.
  • Zundapp Janus. ...
  • King Midget Model III. ...
  • Pontiac Aztek. ...
  • Plymouth Prowler. ...
  • The Chevy Chevette. ...
  • The Trabant. ...
  • Bricklin SV1. The Bricklin SV1 car, which debuted in 1975, is a like a bad DeLorean DMC-12 but without a cool movie like Back to the Future to redeem its reputation. ...

What is the ugliest American car? ›

List of the Ugliest Cars Ever from the US:
  • Packard Hawk (1958)
  • Plymouth Valiant (1960-66)
  • Mercury Sable (1986-91)
  • Chevrolet Avalanche (2001-06)
  • Ford Ranchero (1977-79)
  • Ford Pinto (1971-80)
  • Lincoln MKT (2010-14)
  • Ford Taurus Sedan (1996-97)

Has Top Gear ever crashed a car? ›

Some accidents are just plain funny. Hammond dropped his Subaru Impreza estate into a ditch during the Top Gear Africa Special several years ago, in quite a bizarre little incident.

Who Got Kicked Out of Top Gear? ›

Dismissal of Jeremy Clarkson from Top Gear

In response to this, over 1,000,000 people signed an online petition to try to get the BBC to reinstate Clarkson.

Who burned down Top Gear? ›

The presenters claimed that the fire was started by the hosts of the rival motoring show, Fifth Gear.

What car has no deaths? ›

The Honda Odyssey, Toyota Sequoia and Mercedes-Benz GL class were the large or very large vehicles that also had zero deaths during the study period. Small cars were far more deadly.

What car speed kills a human? ›

One estimate is that about 5 percent of pedestrians would die when struck by a vehicle traveling 20 mph at impact; about 40 percent would die for vehicles traveling 30 mph at impact; 80 percent at 40 mph; and nearly 100 percent would die when struck by vehicles traveling at speeds over 50 mph at impact.

Which car has zero deaths? ›

The nine models with zero deaths were: Audi A4 four-wheel drive, a midsized luxury car; Honda Odyssey, a minivan; Kia Sorento two-wheel drive, a mid-sized SUV; the Lexus RX 350 four-wheel drive, a midsized luxury SUV; Mercedes-Benz GL-Class four-wheel drive, a large luxury SUV; Subaru Legacy four-wheel drive, a 4-door ...

How scripted is grand tour? ›

The Grand Tour's executive producer has admitted that the series is actually "very" loosely scripted. While the show follows the casual nature of Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May's shenanigans on the road, some have wondered how spontaneous things are.

Is Top Gear scripted? ›

TOP GEAR remains one of the most popular motoring shows on TV. Fans of the show no doubt know that some of the scenes and segments are staged, however, it might come as a surprise just how much of this show is actually scripted.

Did Top Gear actually have a fire? ›

After an investigation, both the police and fire service deemed it had been started deliberately. The BBC made no statements regarding the incident but in true Top Gear fashion, it did become a joke on the show.

What did Top Gear do to Tesla? ›

Specifically, Top Gear misrepresented that: The Roadster ran out of charge and had to be pushed into the Top Gear hangar by 4 men. The Roadster's true range is only 55 miles per charge (not 211). One Roadster's motor overheated and was completely immobilized as a result.

Why did the original 3 leave Top Gear? ›

Later that same day, Hammond and May's Top Gear contracts officially lapsed. Reportedly, the duo refused to renew these contracts leaving them, from then onwards, off the team of Top Gear presenters. Both May and Hammond have publicly stated that they will not continue with the show without Clarkson.

Why did the old Top Gear stop? ›

The BBC decided to not renew Clarkson's contract any further meaning that he would no longer be a part of Top Gear. The fracas took place in the middle of the 22nd series of the show with a few episodes still left to film.

What replaced Top Gear? ›

The programme was conceived in the wake of the departure of Clarkson, Hammond, May and Wilman from the BBC series Top Gear and was originally contracted with 36 episodes over three years.
...
The Grand Tour
RelatedTop Gear (2002 series) (indirectly prior to 2016)
26 more rows

Is there a German Top Gear? ›

The German team was made up of the presenters of German motoring show D Motor (Sabine Schmitz, Carsten van Ryssen and Tim Schrick), while Jeremy, James, and Richard made up the British Team. The challenges were set on the Zolder circuit, in Belgium.

Has Top Gear ever used the backup car? ›

Outside of the specials, however, the back-up car was used once, during Series 13, Episode 5, as a result of James May's Ford Capri suffering from severe mechanical failure.

Why is Top Gear not at Dunsfold? ›

Clare Pizey, Top Gear's co-executive producer, said: "Once it was confirmed that we couldn't have a studio audience, Alex Renton and I knew we needed a big rethink. "A drive-in with no cars just doesn't work. An empty hangar at Dunsfold would give us zero atmosphere – and in any case, Top Gear needs a sense of scale.

Why did Top Gear Wear Chile Pins? ›

On another the Stig is on a Chilean flag. This is because it was Chilean people who helped them escape Argentina in the controversial 'Patagonia special'. The famous last corner in the Top Gear (revamped version) track is called "Gambon corner".

Why is Top Gear so short? ›

Series 30 of Top Gear was shorter than usual, consisting of just four episodes due to production issues which arose during the coronavirus pandemic.

Does BBC regret firing Clarkson? ›

BBC director general Tony Hall said he took the decision to end Clarkson's BBC career “with great regret”, 16 days after he was suspended following a “fracas” with a member of the Top Gear production team, but said the presenter had “crossed a line”.

Does anybody still watch Top Gear? ›

Top Gear's Viewing Figures Are Consistent, But Still Way Off The Clarkson Era. With an average of 2.7 million people tuning it to watch last Sunday's Top Gear, it was both good and bad news for the revamped show. First the bad: that's around the same as the second episode of last series.

Did Richard Hammond sink a boat? ›

Richard Hammond opens up about the moment his boat sank on The Grand Tour Scotland special: 'Nobody saved me! ' Hammond had a major accident on the Grand Tour Scotland special and Jeremy or James didn't help him out of it.

Did Top Gear really burn down a caravan? ›

Viewers saw a fire engine race into the site, with sirens wailing, as if the crew faced a real emergency - but the fire service involved have confirmed that the entire scene was set up. Scroll to the bottom of the page to watch the faked Top Gear scenes...

Which is the best Top Gear special? ›

Best Top Gear Specials
  1. 1 Africa. This was like the best special yet. ...
  2. 2 Vietnam. Between this and the Africa special it's hard but the Vietnam special has plenty of humour and is unique in its bike aspect and the history as well scenery is brilliant. ...
  3. 3 Bolivia. ...
  4. 4 Botswana. ...
  5. 5 USA. ...
  6. 6 Middle East. ...
  7. 7 Polar. ...
  8. 8 Burma.

Do they actually drive in Top Gear specials? ›

The BBC backed up its star presenter in a statement, insisting that Clarkson performed “all of the challenges you see him perform on Top Gear”. “When Jeremy, James and Richard are seen driving on the show, it is them driving, but on occasion, the crew may need to go back and get pick-up shots.

Which Top Gear special builds a bridge? ›

The bridge was constructed from bamboo, rope, rocks, and wire over a period of a week as the final challenge in Top Gear's Burma Special, which saw the presenters travel across Burma and Thailand in three lorries.

How staged are the Top Gear specials? ›

“It's almost entirely scripted. The three of them are pretty good friends off-camera, and they play their roles when the camera is on," jayman419 claimed. "But it is an entertainment program, not an informational program.

Which series is the Top Gear africa special? ›

Series 19 of Top Gear, a British motoring magazine and factual television programme, was broadcast in the United Kingdom on BBC Two and BBC HD during 2013, consisting of five episodes between 29 January and 24 February, and a two-part feature-length special involving a road trip in Africa, titled "Africa Special", ...

Why didnt Hammond Drive John? ›

Due to legal reasons, John was scrapped shortly after filming, and it couldn't even be sold as a car. Clarkson noted in 2020 that it was heartbreaking that they couldn't export John back to Britain.

Why did Top Gear get sued by Tesla? ›

Background. On Tuesday March 29 Tesla sued the BBC television programme “Top Gear” for libel and malicious falsehood. When Top Gear reviewed the Tesla Roadster, the episode that aired contained lies and misinformation about the Roadster's performance, behaviour and reliability.

Can Richard Hammond drift? ›

The clip follows Jeremy Clarkson congratulating Richard Hammond for learning how to drift (bottom of page) and celebrating the fact that he has someone to play with. James May, however, butts in to clarify that neither host is so proficient at drifting that they don't make a lot of mistakes.

Why did Patagonia not like Top Gear? ›

In 2014, Jeremy and the Top Gear crew were forced to leave Patagonia as the presenter's vehicle had a license plate that read H982 FKL, and was perceived to refer to the Falklands conflict of 1982. The Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?

Who was the very first Stig? ›

Racing driver Perry McCarthy appeared in 22 Top Gear episodes as the black-suited, original Stig. McCarthy was cast as the Stig following a chance meeting with Jeremy Clarkson at the 2002 launch party for McCarthy's autobiography, Flat Out, Flat Broke: Formula 1 the Hard Way!.

Do the Top Gear presenters sleep in their cars? ›

Even more especially when said cars, which aren't really up to the job as standard, have been modded so the presenters can sleep in them.... But they've also proved that it is just - just - possible.

How much does Top Gear make per episode? ›

The new motoring show will have the incredible amount of €220 million to play with for what is a three year 36-episode deal, working out at €6.4m (£4.5m) per episode.

Why did BBC cancel Top Gear? ›

Clarkson's offensive comments both on and off the air made the BBC question whether Clarkson should continue to host the show. However, the 'Fracas' seemed to be the final straw. The BBC decided to not renew Clarkson's contract any further meaning that he would no longer be a part of Top Gear.

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