Don’t forget all – Top Gear USA is back on UK screens with another double bill: this Friday, BBC Three, 7pm.
In the first episode, in celebration of America’s love of all things tough, the boys from across the pond attempt to crown the baddest heavy-duty pickup sold stateside, Tanner races a boat in the tough-looking Local Motors Rally Fighter and the tough-to-spell-his-last-name comedian Bill Engvall is the Big Star in a Small Car.
The best-selling vehicle in the United States is a Ford pickup, as it has been for the last 28 years. Trucks are as ‘Merican as Twinkie Pie and the citizenry’s relationship with them isn’t platonic – Americans love their pick-me-ups, and the ones they love the most are the biggest, baddest, longest, widest, heaviest, most chrome-addled Texas Cadillacs with the most leather and absolute worst fuel economy possible. Rutledge, Adam and Tanner each select their favorite 4X4 heavy-duty diesel offering from Chevrolet, Ram and Ford and head towards the high desert. These trucks have 2,215lb ft of torque among them, something like the energy potential of a small nuclear device. A number that big that requires big tests, big things to pull on and big lapses in judgment.
Tanner Foust gets his hands on the internet-designed Local Motors Rally Fighter and takes it deep into the swamps of Louisiana to find a location suitably inhospitable – and a machine wild enough – to challenge this truck-car-thing’s off-road prowess. If standing water, muck, and crocodiles weren’t enough, Tanner lines the Rally Fighter up against a boat powered by a very large and supercharged V8 that doesn’t seem to care much whether there’s water under it or not.
And in the follow-up, Adam, Rutledge and Tanner engage a different set of four-wheel drive transfer cases when they set out to find the best 4×4 five-thousand bucks will buy.
Rutledge scrounges up a Navy-tough Chevy Blazer, Adam a more modern and OJ Simpson-approved Ford Bronco and Tanner a trail-rated but very carburated Jeep CJ-7. The reputations of these 4x4s were forged on battlefields, desert racecourses and the toughest off-road trails found stateside. A tour through a state park should be a breeze then, right?
Death Valley holds a special and terrifying place for any person who has attempted to cross it in any vehicle without perfect reliability, robust build quality or air conditioning. Show up lacking any one of those three things and at best you will exit, if you exit, looking like beef jerky. What better place, then, to begin an epic journey in weathered vehicles that will wind through the mountains, dunes and rock-strewn trails of the Mojave desert en route to glitzy and glamourless Las Vegas.