Cheap Car Challenge
One of the recurring features on the British television series Top Gear are the Cheap Car Challenges, in which the presenters are given a budget (typically around £1,500) and must buy a used car conforming to certain guidelines. Once purchased, the presenters compete against each other in a series of tests to establish who has bought the best car. The presenters have no prior knowledge of what the tests will be, although they generally involve a long motorway journey to determine reliability, and a race track event to determine performance. There is also the recurring element of the presenters having to spend their change from the initial budget on improving the cars. There have been seven Cheap Car Challenges so far.
Series 4, Episode 3 - The Top Gear £100 Car Challenge
Jeremy Clarkson Volvo
Clarkson's car: Volvo 760 GLE V6
Hammond's car: Rover 416 GTi 16v
May's car: Audi 80 1.8E
In the previous week's episode, the Top Gear production office was very angry at them for driving nothing but fast and expensive cars, and as a result, they only had a few days to find a car for 100 that was tax-and-tested to do this challenge. Jeremy got a Volvo 760 GLE, James got a Audi 80, and Richard bought a Rover 416 (without a radio as the others pointed out).
Challenge 1 (Motorway journey): The meeting point for the presenters was Toddington Services, on the M1 motorway. Clarkson was first to arrive, followed shortly by May and Hammond. The three were told to drive north on the M1, then switch to the M6 motorway, arrive at the Old Trafford stadium, and then finally to proceed back to the Dunsfold studio. The only significant event of the trip was a breakdown of Jeremy's Volvo; a belt snapped, knocking a plug out of the radiator, costing him 1 point. All three cars made it back to the studio.
Challenge 2 (Fuel economy test): Calculations were done to see the fuel consumption averaged by the three cars over the return journey to Manchester. The target was 30mpg; Jeremy's Volvo only averaged 20, losing another 10 points; Richard's Rover did only marginally better at 23mpg, but May's Audi averaged 35mpg.
Challenge 3 (Timed lap): The Stig took each of the cars on a fast lap of the Top Gear test track, the target being a time of 1:50 seconds. Richard's Rover lapped the track in 1:42, James' Audi in 1:46, and Jeremy's Volvo in 1:48.
Challenge 4 (Braking): The three cars were all tested for braking power, by testing whether they can stop from 60mph in the distance required by the Highway Code (60 yards). The Audi stopped in 40 yards, the Rover in 48, and the Volvo (equipped with fully-functioning ABS brakes) in 34 yards.
Challenge 5 (Electrics): Each car lost a point for every electrical item that is found to not be working. Richard's Rover was found to have 3 electrical faults, James' Audi was found to have 4, while Jeremy's Volvo was "all broken" with 12 faults.
Challenge 6 (Crash test): The presenters had to crash their cars at 30mph into a wall. 10 points were lost if the presenter dies, 5 for each broken bone and 1 for each blood injury. The only injury was done to Jeremy, later revealed by Hammond with an X-ray, who broke his thumb. Jeremy had crashed at about 40mph because his speedometer was broken and he incorrectly guessed how fast 30 mph was.
Final challenge (Price): Each car gained a point for every pound saved from the original budget. James revealed that he purchased his car for £75, Richard's Rover cost £80, while Clarkson shocked everyone by revealing that he bought his car for £1. (The car had been purchased from a dealer who would otherwise have paid £150 to have the car scrapped.)
Final results: With the £1 Volvo factored in, Clarkson won with 99 points (from 0), May came in second with 40 points, and Hammond finished last with 30 points.
Series 5, Episode 6 - The Top Gear Cheap Porsches Challenge
Clarkson's car: Porsche 928S
Hammond's car: Porsche 924
May's car: Porsche 944
In this episode, the three presenters were each given £1,500 to buy a cheap Porsche. Jeremy purchased a brown 928S ("Underneath its rust beats a heart of pure arthritis"), James got a white 944 and Richard bought a blue 924. James and Jeremy comically referred to Richard's Porsche as "The one with the van engine", referring to the fact that the Porsche 924 was originally intended to be a Volkswagen with an existing 2 litre VW engine.
Challenge 1 (Bonnet Up): All three Porsches had to travel from London to Brighton. Each driver was penalized 5 points every time the bonnet was raised during the trip. Richard's 924 and James' 944 (loose parts and all) arrived at the seaport, while Jeremy's 928S had to be towed due to radiator problems. James lost 5 points for a blow-out which was later determined to be a breakdown, while Jeremy was penalized 35 points for seven mechanical problems.
Challenge 2 (Fuel Economy Test): The target was 25 mpg. Each driver was rewarded 5 points for every mile per gallon over the target number, or penalized 5 points for every mile per gallon less. James' 944 did an even 25 mpg. Richard scored 10 points, as his 924 did 27 mpg. Because Jeremy's 928S did 7 mpg (largely due to a leaking fuel tank), he lost 90 points.
Challenge 3 (Lonely Hearts Column): Each driver had to place an ad on a singles column of a newspaper. Five points were awarded per reply. James got 15 points for three replies. Richard received no points for his ad. Jeremy scored 10 points for two replies, at which point Richard observed that the ad was posted on the Men Seeking Men section.
Challenge 4 (Concours): Using the change from the £1,500 budget, each driver had to modify their Porsche by any means to improve it. Then, each Porsche was inspected and judged by two independent members of the Porsche Owners' Club of Great Britain. James used bathroom and kitchen tools to fill some gaps on his 944 and hired someone to detail the engine. Aside from a lowered suspension and low-profile tires, Richard added a flaming paint scheme, a skull gear stick, a non-functional hood scoop and a Turbo rear emblem on his 924. And because he had nothing left of the £1,500 he spent on his 928S, Jeremy simply had it repainted with black primer.
Challenge 5 (Lap): With The Stig behind the wheel, each Porsche had to make one lap around the Top Gear track in under 1:35. One point was gained for every second under the target time, or lost for every second over. Jeremy's 928S did 1:45 and James' 944 did 1:43. Richard's 924's lap time was 1:44, as can be worked out from the scoreboard back in the studio as he has lost 9 points.
Challenge 6 (Elevenses): The challenge was to see which Porsche can generate the longest number 11 skid mark on the track. James did 31 feet, while Richard did 35 feet. Jeremy's 928, with a "V-6 3/4" engine and an automatic transmission, was unable to do a straight burnout; instead, he did donuts on the track, which were disqualified.
Challenge 7 (Selling): Each car gained a point for every pound gained from price appreciation or lost a point for every pound lost from depreciation from the £1,500 budget. James revealed that he sold his 944 for £1,400 - losing 100 points, while Richard admitted that he had been unable to sell his 924; thus losing 1,500 points. Jeremy then revealed that he sold his 928 for £1,800 by dismantling the car and selling the parts for £1,200. At the same time, he converted the engine into a coffee table with the seats as the accompanying chairs and sold the set for £600.
Final results: Clarkson : 173, May : -73, Hammond : -1471
Series 6, Episode 2 - The Top Gear Cheap Coupes That Aren't Porsches Challenge
Clarkson's car: Mitsubishi Starion Turbo (Widebody)
Hammond's car: BMW 635CSi
May's car: Jaguar XJ-S HE
After the previous series' Cheap Car Challenge, they decided to buy another set of coupes for £1500, but with the condition that it wasn't a Porsche.
Challenge 1 (Top Speed Challenge): The presenters met at Milbrook Proving Grounds, where they were set their first challenge, to attempt to reach 140 mph on the Banked Circle High Speed Bowl. The BMW went first and managed 115 mph, even though the speedo claimed 110 mph. James went next, and on the first attempt the radar gun failed to generate a reading, but on the second attempt, the Jag reached 140 mph (although the engine blew up in doing so). Jeremy and the Starion went last and he got up to 119 mph, with the help of an overboost function on the turbocharger.
Challenge 2 (Ride Quality Challenge): The trio had to drive their cars over a stretch of severe Belgian cobbles with a bowl of water on their laps. James went first and despite having the Jaguar, still got quite wet. Hammond was next, spilling more water. Clarkson, being the only driver of a Manual Transmission car, ended up getting soaked when the car bounced upwards.
Challenge 3 (Hill Challenge): The Stig drove the three cars around a steep hill-climbing circuit, with a target time of 1:05. The BMW (1:01) and Starion (1:00) significantly outperformed May's ill Jaguar (1:09).
Challenge 4 (Journey): The team travelled from the race track to the QI Club in Oxford. Jeremy's Starion has no breakdowns, Hammond's BMW has a brake-light failure and James' Jaguar suffers 5 breakdowns (4 being engine-related and the other one a wiper failure), not even reaching Oxford.
Challenge 5 (Fuel Economy Average): The cars are also tested for fuel economy, with 20 mpg being the target. Hammond's BMW manages 21 mpg, earning a point. Clarkson's Starion does 17 mpg, losing 3 point, and May's Jaguar only manages 8 mpg.
Challenge 6 (Endurance Race): The three were told to spend the change from their initial £1500 budget on equipping their cars for a race event, the exact nature of which was not revealed to them until later: the three had to take part in an offroad derby, on a farm. Hammond had £250 left over, and fitted his car with a home-made chin spoiler, a big rear wing and side exhausts, which weren't connected to the engine. James ended up spending almost all of his change on fixing the engine of his XJ-S, which had taken a considerable beating over the course of the previous challenges. he had £10 left for a tin of paint that wasn't big enough to cover the whole car. Jeremy Clarkson had a new paint job done on his car, and fitted a highly uprated turbocharger (claimed to be from Pentti Airikkala's rally car) to his Starion. However, he did not consider upgrading the cooling system and suffered frequent breakdowns, eventually giving up after only 49 laps. After much pushing and shoving (dubbed 'Hammond Bashing'), Richard completed the most laps of the Rally (82) due to his exuberant driving, however, the transmission went on the BMW. James finished the Rally first, but he drove so slowly that he completed fewer laps than Hammond (80). He finished first, yet lost.
Final results: James May narrowly won the challenge with 52 points over Hammond's 47, despite the mechanical failures. Clarkson is last with -5. After arguing with Clarkson over whose car is actually better, May decided to offer him the title, but only if he admitted that "I'm a clot and I ruined my car" due to the destruction of his Starion being entirely his own fault.
Series 7, Episode 4 - The Top Gear Italian Mid-Engined Supercars For Less Than A Second-Hand Mondeo Challenge
Clarkson's car: Maserati Merak (supposedly SS, see Challenge 3)
Hammond's car: Ferrari 308 GT/4
May's car: Lamborghini Urraco P250 (in extremely horrible condition)
The group was told to buy a used Italian supercar for £10,000 and drive from Bristol to the Spearmint Rhino (a famous strip club franchise) in Slough, with challenges along the way. Clarkson bought a misbadged Maserati Merak, May bought a broken-down Lamborghini Urraco which arrived on a tow truck, and Hammond bought a Ferrari 308GT4 with rust problems.
Challenge 1 (Main Challenge): The three were supposed to drive from Bristol to the Spearmint Rhino gentleman's club in Slough. In addition, they were not allowed to use the M4 motorway to get there, but the M4 corridor was permitted. Any breakdowns along the way would result in point deductions. In addition, they were only allowed one 25-liter fill-up. Breakdowns happened along the way, as May's car ran out of electricity five times, including the start, which even included a stop outside a school at lunchtime later on. After Challenge 5, the fuel tanks of each car was emptied and filled with a fixed amount, which required an average consumption of 17 mpg to reach the destination.
Challenge 2 (Lap Time Challenge): A detour to Castle Combe Raceway allowed the cars to be tested around the track. The three have to drive faster than the 1:35 time set by the Stig in a Vauxhall Astra with a diesel engine. Every second ahead meant gaining points, while every second behind meant losing points. In the process of finding the fastest of the three, leakage occurred with May, Hammond broke his rear view mirror off, and Clarkson kept shouting at his car, while losing the brakes and coolant at the same time. Lap times: Clarkson - 1:54, Hammond - 1:43, May - 1:58
Challenge 3 (Horsepower Challenge): The cars are put on a 450hp-max dynamometer to determine how much horsepower had been lost from their date of assembly. As a result, the more power lost, the more points lost. Hammond lost 61hp, from 255 hp, May lost 103 hp, from 220 hp, and Clarkson, who found out that his Merak "SS" only had a £38 SS badge on it, lost 110 hp, from the new figure of 190 hp.
Challenge 4 (Insurance Quote Challenge): The three were asked to call for insurance quotes. Every 100 pounds sterling over £500 resulted in a point deduction. Clarkson lied and claimed to be a doctor (which he attempted to ratify with his honorary doctorate of engineering), which allowed him a £300/year quote. Hammond claimed that he was an after-dinner speaker, getting a £1000/year quote. For being honest, however, May got a £5000/year quote.
Challenge 5 (Tune-Up Challenge): In a Chippenham service station, the three had to race against each other to change the spark plugs and oil. It fell apart immediately, as Clarkson struggled with the spark plugs, as he "has never held a spanner in his life," May went slowly, as usual, and Hammond had some "height issues." Clarkson finished in 1h 13m 2.5s, Hammond finished in 1h 13m 2s, and May was still working on his car at the end of the challenge.
Challenge 6 (Parallel Parking Challenge): In Marlborough, the three had to parallel park their cars between a Ford Mondeo and a Nissan Primera. Clarkson managed it in 1:00 flat, Hammond did it in 1:38.7, but due to a prank played by Hammond and Clarkson, which involved moving the Mondeo closer into the space, it took May 3:20 and several crashes to manage the task.
Final results: No one made it, as Clarkson's car blew its engine up and Hammond's and May's cars had complete failures of the electrical system (although Hammond's car was initially believed to have run out of petrol). As a finale, May's car caused a traffic jam just outside Slough. The results were therefore dismissed, as the cars were described as "useless".
Series 8, Episode 8 - The Top Gear White Van Man Challenge
Clarkson's car: Ford Transit
Hammond's car: Suzuki Super Carry
May's car: LDV Convoy
As "punishment" for the lacklustre review of vans earlier in Episode 8, the producers of the show gave each host £1000 and told them to buy a van, write the company name on the side (Top Gear Couriers LTD, though Clarkson typically misunderstood it as Top Gear Furriers LTD), and bring it back to the Top Gear test track for a series of tests. Clarkson stuck with what he "knew" about vans (i.e. very little) and played it safe by buying a Ford Transit. May, adhering to the "bigger is best" theory, bought a LDV Convoy. Hammond was ridiculed by arriving in a Suzuki Super Carry (also known as a Bedford Rascal).
Challenge 1 (Drag Race): The trio undertook a classic quarter-mile Drag race. The test was to show that a White Van Man can't waste his time with a tool (in this case, a van) that isn't quick enough. Hammond's Super Carry soundly defeated the other two, due to his mid-engined layout and lightweight frame. Clarkson came in a sound second, while the weight and acceleration of May's van put him in a distant (and noisy) third.
Challenge 2 (Loading/Unloading Test): The trio had to load a selection of items into their van, drive to a pre-marked area, and unload their cargo. Included in the cargo load were mattresses, vases, and an illegal immigrant. Clarkson complained about doing manual labor, May tried to bribe his "illegal immigrant" to work for him, and Hammond had "a size problem, and his van was pretty small as well". May arrived first at the line, but Clarkson parked directly behind him and unloaded first. May finished second, while Hammond was third, having eventually had to strap the two mattresses to the van sides.
Challenge 3 (Tailgating Test): The most important skill a van driver must have is the ability to sit on the tail of the car in front. With that statement, the trio had to tailgate behind a specially equipped Ford Mondeo that will measure how far they are from the back bumper. Hammond's flatnose Super Carry allowed him to win the challenge, whilst Clarkson manages to ram the chase car, as he had to lean out of the window and misjudged the distance. May was later penalized four million points because his Convoy wasn't able to keep up with the chase car.
Challenge 4 (Changing a door): Mimicking van drivers' cost-cutting ways, the trio had to replace the door of their vans with a used replacement door. Clarkson bemoaned more manual labour, so he unsurprisingly cheated by using May's Convoy van to rip off the door. He then used gaffer tape to hold the new door into place. Richard followed the rules and manages to replace his door. May took too long and was unable to finish the challenge. Later on, Clarkson was penalised by the audience because he never properly attached his door to the van, and eventually conceded first place to Hammond.
Challenge 5 (Burglary test): To see how well their vans can stand up to a break-in, "Thieving Ian," Top Gear's "tame car thief" (in the manner of their tame racing driver, The Stig) attempted to break into each van. Thieving Ian was unable to get into the Super Carry and gave up at 1:30. By breaking a window on one of the doors on the Convoy, Thieving Ian managed to get inside in 34 seconds. By simply punching in the lock, Thieving Ian managed to break in to the Transit in just 10 seconds.
Challenge 6 (Police Evasion): "Detective Inspector Stig" would pursue each van in a Vauxhall Astra panda car after a 20 second delay in a car chase challenge. "Fingers" Clarkson went first, whilst noting that 80% of 1970s British bank robberies were committed with Ford Transit vans. He lost his taped-on door, and was stopped short of the finish line. "James Kray" went next. As the Convoy had issues of acceleration and weight, D.I. Stig managed to catch him quickly. Hammond went last, but a misjudged attempt to use the Scandinavian Flick at the first turn caused the Super Carry to overturn onto its side.
Challenge 7 (Man with a Van ad): As a final test, the trio had to write a Man with a Van ad and report back on how many responses they got. Neither May nor Clarkson received any responses, while Hammond got one.
Final results: Hammond won with 21 points, Clarkson was second with 10.5, and May came third with -3,999,993.
Series 9, Episode 3 - The Top Gear Road Trip Special - Used American Car for $1000 Challenge
Clarkson's car: Chevrolet Camaro
Hammond's car: Dodge Ram
May's car: Cadillac Brougham
After a holiday (vacation) that ended up with a burning caravan, the three thought that going on holiday was a good idea. As a result, on their trip to the United States, the three were given $1000 to find a used car, the idea being that it is possible to buy a car for less money and stress than renting one. The goal was to get from Miami to New Orleans, with challenges along the way.
Challenge 1 (Fastest Race Track Lap): The Stig's American cousin, "Big Stig", raced each of their cars around a Florida racetrack. Clarkson's car came first, May's car, with its slow acceleration, was expected to come last, but finished in second, while Hammond's pickup truck, after a good start, came last. While the presenters were talking, immediately after Hammond's time, "Big Stig" didn't manage to make the track's first corner again at the top speed of Hammond's pickup and ran off the track.
Challenge 2 (0mph-50mph-0mph): This challenge was made more interesting as the end of the track where the acceleration-brake contest took place was crossed by a river filled with alligators. Clarkson's car, with the fastest acceleration and best brakes, stopped on the track just before the end, while May (much to his relief) ran a little over onto the verge. Hammond was concentrating too much on his speedometer and only just realised to brake when he looked up and saw the track was about to end. Because of this, he ended up down the bank just short of the river, and had to climb out of the side window. (Although this challenge looked outrageous - it was safe due to the fact of tyre marks on the end of the track making out that the cars had allready been tested)
Challenge 3 (Buying a luxury item): The team were given $100 to buy themselves an item to make the journey more comfortable - they were driving in extremely humid and hot conditions, and Hammond and Clarkson's cars had no air-conditioning. Hammond purchased a grill, May bought a coat rack for his car, while Clarkson bought a shower and cool-box.
Challenge 4 (Roadkill): The contestants had to spend the night camping, but were only allowed to eat whatever they could find at the side of the road. Clarkson found a possum, but May ran over it before he could pick it up. Because of this Clarkson punished him by pranging the back of his car. The only item they found before camping was a dead squirrel, and had no penknife with which to "peel" (skin) it. Clarkson went to see if he could find anything else, and came back after a long time with a cow on top of his car - so much to the presenters' surprise that Hammond thought he had been in the sun too long and was hallucinating. In the night, Clarkson and Hammond deliberately broke May's car's air-conditioning, as they felt he was acting too smug about having the only car with functioning air conditioning.
Challenge 5 (Car decorating): The team had to decorate each other's cars with slogans which might lead to them getting shot or arrested in Alabama, gaining points for each injury caused to another presenter. May painted pro-homosexual slogans on Hammond's truck ("Man love rules OK" in pink), Hammond painted "Country and Western is Rubbish" on Clarkson's, and Clarkson painted "Hillary for President", "NASCAR sucks" and "I'm Bi" on May's car. All three offended locals, and the presenters claimed both they and the crew members were chased out of town by friends of a local garage owner. There was a brief loss of picture but the radio transmission between the three show that something was going on when the pickups chasing them tore right past them, and according to video phone footage, the team then pulled to the side of the road and hurriedly removed the slogans with Coca-Cola, abandoning the challenge.
Challenge 6 (Sell car): The team were originally going to sell the cars in New Orleans, and the winner would be whoever made the most profit. However, after seeing the damage caused by Hurricane Katrina, the team decided to give away the cars for free to families through a Christian mission. However, while Jeremy's and Hammond's were given away, James May was declared the loser as he was unable to find any claimants for his car. It later transpired that Clarkson was threatened by a lawyer representing the mission as the car provided was not as previously agreed, and that a gang chased them away from "their street".
Final results: Jeremy declared himself the winner, and declared May the loser. No points were given.
Series 9, Episode 6 - The Top Gear Build a limousine challenge
Clarkson's car: Fiat Panda
Hammond's car: MG F 1.8 VVC
May's car: Alfa Romeo 164 LS and Saab 9000 CSE V6 - joined together.
Challenge 1 - Building the limo. Displaying their rather limited skills (as demonstrated in previous car-converting challenges), all three suffered several mishaps during this process, though the cars were not totally unveiled until the second challenge.
Challenge 2- The presenters each drove other's cars. Clarkson's Panda, dubbed the "Giant Panda," was stretched to roughly 45 feet of length, with driveability suffering as a result. His method for transporting the passengers to the back (via a Great Escape-style trolley system) through the length of the remarkably still three-door Panda provided May and Hammond with considerable amusement. May referred to this as "An ingenious solution to a problem that should never have existed in the first place." Hammond's MG's convertible hood no longer came close to being adequate, and May was struck with an arrow while Clarkson and Hammond played games in the cold rear of the car. May's car, in keeping with its 'dual car' design, was fitted with a non-functional sauna in the Saab end of the car, and 'the Sistine Chapel' (painted ceiling, marble decor, chandeliers and a working fountain) in the Alfa-Romeo end. The Saab end had been designated the front, but the fitting of the sauna meant that Clarkson suffered from a severe shortage of headroom when driving. However, the car provided plenty of entertainment through its independent rear-wheel steering when Hammond unwittingly released the steering lock, and had to jump into the Alfa rear/front to help Clarkson. He was further hampered when the Alfa's steering wheel came off.
Challenge 3 - Evasive Driving part 1 The cars had to do a J-turn as quickly as possible and get hit by the paintballs as little as possible. Clarkson's car was far too slow and cumbersome to perform a J turn, Hammond's convertible resulted in him sustaining several headshots, and May foolishly attempted to switch to the other end but was hit in the genitals while outside the car.
Challenge 4 - Evasive Driving part 2 The cars had to perform a slalom, avoid damage from a water cannon and a 'Stinger' spike trap. May completed the challenge the best, while Hammond also finished successfully, but got extremely wet. Clarkson had considerable trouble due to the Panda's size, thus hitting the Stinger. Clarkson himself was then rendered helpless by the water cannon when he decided to get out to change the flat tyre.
Challenge 5 - Chauffeuring at the Brit Awards The presenters had to chauffeur three celebrities to the 2007 Brit Awards. Clarkson carried Chris Moyles, Hammond delivered Jamelia and May drove Lemar. Clarkson had to shorten his car so that it was legal and roadworthy (but was still eight feet longer than a London bus). Though it broke at the splice point during the journey, Clarkson simply drove the partial car to the red carpet ceremony and successfully delivered his celebrity. Hammond delivered his slightly frustrated celebrity in spite of suffering throttle problems, while May so exasperated Lemar by getting lost that Lemar left the car and walked away.
Final results: The winner was to be the person whose car appeared in the most newspapers and magazines the following week. Neither May nor Hammond had any photographs; Clarkson won by virtue of having one photograph printed, although, as his annoyed co-presenters pointed out, it was in Clarkson's own column in The Sun newspaper. Clarkson pointed out that the other two had newspaper columns of their own, but they hadn't thought of doing the same.