Always Remembered RIP
Date registered: Dec 2005
Vehicle: 220SEb coupe & 500SL
Location: Derbyshire, England.
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Top Gear USA
The Top Gear telly programme has quietly become a global phenomenon. Recent figures suggested an extraordinary viewership, something in the region of one billion people across the globe.
This explains why Jeremy Clarkson gets mobbed on the streets of Dubai, why Richard Hammond is swooned over by housewives in Auckland and why James May will shortly appear on a series of commemorative stamps in Luxembourg. Well, maybe.
Only one country has been strangely resistant to the charms of three blokes cocking about in an old aircraft hangar - the United States of America. Until now.
Earlier this year, Discovery decided they wanted in on the Top Gear action, starting with 18 repackaged programmes using existing items from Top Gear UK.
'The show that popped out the other end was something familiar and yet rather different'
Accordingly, the plucky lads spent five days at the Top Gear base recording new studio links in a more, er, Yank-friendly way. Basically, getting Jeremy not to call them fat and stupid.
This, however, was a mere entree for Discovery's main plan: to make their own version of Top Gear on US soil. Their own studio, their own test track, even - since the UK boys were too busy and anyway, James May doesn't like places that don't serve a decent cup of tea - their own presenters.
That's why last year a brand new TG USA production team assembled deep in the Mojave desert to create a pilot show for their version of Britain's favourite almost-Bafta-winning car programme.
And, like their idea of what constitutes a decent cup of coffee, the American take on Top Gear wasn't entirely the same as the UKs.
Instead of a shabby hangar and a track built around airfield taxiways, they got a pit garage and a proper circuit.
Instead of filling the studio with 200 grunting Subaru drivers, they did without an audience.
And instead of The Tall One, The Short One and The Other One, they hired three rather different American presenters: Bruno, a professional drag racer with casual tales of crashing at 230mph; John, the super keen jock, blessed with quaint 'sir and m'am' good manners that only Americans can do; and Johnny, a former reality show winner with a nice line in weird humour.
But, to set the power laps, there could be no substitute - the Stig was flown to the US and stunned everyone with his blistering pace as he hammered a CLS55, Charger and Mustang around the circuit.
After two days' shooting, the show that popped out the other end was something familiar and yet rather different.
For one thing, filming in sunshine gives the show a glossy feel a million miles from another drizzle-sodden canter down a runway in Surrey. And shouting 'Bring on the Stig' just sounds cooler in an American accent.
If Discovery likes the pilot show, a series will follow. Then the US can enjoy a weekly shot of Top Gear, just like the rest of the world.
'61 Mercedes 220SEb coupe
'64 Land Rover IIa
'83 Mercedes 500SL