Top Gear has no shortage of episodes that are guaranteed to stoke the adventurer in you.
As traveling options remain limited for much of the world, one of the best ways to replicate the feeling of setting out on an epic road trip is to watch one on TV. Top Gear, the motoring world’s favorite show, has no shortage of episodes that are guaranteed to stoke the adventurer in you to get you ready for your next road trip.
Whether you want to watch Jeremy, James and Richard forge a crocodile-infested river in Africa or navigate ice fields in the Northern Arctic, Top Gear’s specials are an incredible display of nature, engineering and TV production. In total, 11 different official Top Gear specials that have aired over a nine-year span. This article will take a look at some of the very best of those episodes that will get you motivated for your next road trip.
Let’s take a look at the best road trip specials.
The Africa Special
This Top Gear special is beloved by fans of the show everywhere. The journey takes the trio on a Victorian-inspired expedition in station wagons through Uganda, Rwanda and Tanzania to find the true source of the Nile River — the only catch is each car used in the show must have been acquired for less than £1,500.
Richard chose a very capable Subaru Impreza WRX Estate that held up through all of the route’s challenges — especially the nearly impenetrable mud of rural mountain Uganda. Jeremy chose a BMW 528i Touring that started out strong but predictably developed unsolvable electric issues due to the remote nature of the adventure.
Finally, James went with the truly “out of its element” lowered, sport-model Volvo 850R that not only encountered road clearance issues the whole way — but completely destroyed its suspension and lost its rear wheel towards the end of the second part of the episode.
Despite the car troubles, the truly remarkable scenery made this trip unforgettable. The trio starts their journey on the banks of the famous Lake Victoria; then make their way into the mountain highlands of Uganda; and finally end the trek driving through the staggering Serengeti of Tanzania.
“I’m going to put my hand on my heart and say that this is the best Top Gear adventure we’ve ever had,” said James May, on the final leg on their journey. “It’s a noble quest in a truly stunningly beautiful country full of utterly hospitable people.”
The Burma Special
If you have ever wanted to visit Southeast Asia, this incredible two-part special is for you. The episode takes the Top-Gear trio on a 1,200-mile trek through the remote reaches of Burma — also known modernly as Myanmar — in order to construct a bridge over the River Kwai in Northern Thailand. The episode’s plot is largely based on “The Bridge on the River Kwai” a 1957 epic war film depicting the historical setting of the construction of the Burma Railway in World War II.
This episode also stands out due to the vehicles the trio is forced to use. Instead of using typical cars or SUVs, the presenters are required to try their hand at long-distance lorry driving — the British name for the international equivalent of a delivery truck.
Both Jeremy and Richard choose an Isuzu TX, a well-equipped truck that offers all the trappings of a typical lorry. Going against the grain, James chose a Hino FB110, and while the Hino isn’t technically a lorry, its built-in crane becomes extremely useful for all three members of the group.
During the Top Gear adventure, the team’s route also takes them through the rural northern province of the Shan State — a mysterious region of the country riddled with civil war and conflict. However, despite the rumors, the trio is welcomed by a rural group for a night of drinking and festivities.
The Patagonia Special
As environmental regulations in Europe began to force the phase-out of mass-produced v8s, the trio heads to the absolutely stunning South American region of Patagonia in traditional small-block V8s. Far south of the equator, Argentina and Chile’s cold and wet weather climate takes the trio through high alpine passes, misty swamps and massive deserts to the “gateway of the Antarctic” Tierra del Fuego.
Jeremy chose a grey Porsche 928 GT that started out performing well — but ended up developing catastrophic electronic issues. Richard purchased a bright green Ford Mustang Mach 1 that from the start proved to be unreliable — losing steering and other vital components. It was definitely the worst car chosen by the trio. James, on the other hand, decided on a Lotus Esprit V8, that despite its low-profile and notorious reputation lasted till the end of the special, stunning all three of the presenters.
While Top Gear was filming the final leg of the journey, the group became caught up in a local controversy surrounding the number plate on Jeremy’s Porsche (H982 FKL). Locals in Southern Argentina claimed that the plate was a reference to the 1982 Falklands War in which British and Argentinian forces clashed over a group of islands off the coast.
As a result, the entire production crew faced relentless mobs that threw rocks, signs and other objects at their vehicles as they tried to flee the country. No matter what type of trip you’re in the mood for, these Top Gear specials will get you motivated to start planning your next post-quarantine road trip.
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