Asking me to pick my favorite (favourite?) Top Gear episode is like asking me to pick my favorite child—harder, actually, which you would understand if you knew my children. High on my list is Season 8, Episode 6, from 2006—Clarkson, Hammond, and May’s infamous caravan holiday.
Why do I love this episode? It’s the perfect distillation of the show’s tagline, “ambitious but rubbish.” What starts of as a sincere (if reluctant) attempt to embrace that which they despite—the hosts’ hatred of travel trailers and all things associated with them was well established by this time—ends, quite literally, in a pile of flaming wreckage.
For those unfamiliar, the three presenters set out with their £3,000 Elddis Shamal XL caravan towed by the Caravan Club’s 2006 Tow Car of the Year, the hopelessly underpowered Kia Cerato (known in the U.S. as the Spectra5). After holding up traffic, making Top Gear dog throw up, crashing the trailer into a bollard, arguing, throwing hats at each other, and discovering that the Kia is a lousy tow vehicle, the guys arrive at their first-class campsite, where they discover that there is absolutely nothing to do while caravanning. Mercifully, Jeremy’s attempt to pan-fry potatoes brings their trip to an abrupt and emergency-services-assisted end. The episode features a great deal of the road-going stupidity we love—to wit, one of my favorite exchanges:
CLARKSON: You held my hand there.
MAY: No, you put your hand next to the gearstick. I’ve got to change gear.
As a bonus, this episode features Clarkson’s drive of the blisteringly quick Vauxhall Vectra VXR, the hottest version of his least favorite car, in which he coins one of my favorite phrases: “Catastrophic understeer.” He also provides the best explanation of understeer I’ve ever seen: While speeding along in the Vectra, he gestures to the steering wheel then folds his arms, saying, “So that’s useless, then. I’ll just drive it like this.”
Rounded out with a run in the underrated Mazda6 MPS (known to us as the Mazdaspeed6) and an underwhelming-yet-successful attempt to set an indoor speed record with an F1 car (spoiler alert: 81 MPH), this episode contains everything I love about Top Gear U.K.
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