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Top Gear USA: American Muscle

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Topics:  Top Gear
Opinions expressed by Bill Crittenden are not official policies or positions of The Crittenden Automotive Library. You can read more about the Library's goals, mission, policies, and operations on the About Us page.

Top Gear USA: American Muscle

Bill Crittenden
June 5, 2014

Season 5, Episode 1
Episode aired June 3, 2014

After a DVR error delayed my watching of this episode, I thought that perhaps the ol' DVR made another error as the episode seemed to jump into the action in such a way that made it feel like I missed the first couple of segments.  But the intro reassured me that I hadn't.

I kinda like this jump-right-into-the-action idea, as it really sets a good pace and it might help capture some new audience members who hang over from whatever show is on before Top Gear.  Despite a painful first season, this show has grown and adapted into something very different from its origins and what its name implies but now stands on its own as a very good, often very funny, automotive program.

This week, the guys had to take resto-mod cars through some challenges and the two not eliminated got to race at the NHRA Gatornationals in Florida.

Rutledge's car was a bit bland in the paint department, but the 1972 Charger was definitely a good choice for not being a predictable Corvette, Mustang, or Camaro.

Speaking of predictable Mustangs, Tanner's 500 horsepower Eleanor Mustang was a bit lacking in the power department for a "muscle" car, and a bit gaudy in my opinion, but this car went over well with my wife.

The other predictable car, Adam's 1968 Camaro, had a proper restomod engine swap pumping out over 700 horsepower.  The roll cage ruined the "resto" part of the equation, but probably necessary with that power.  Why put six figures into a non-stock build if you're only going to take it a little bit out of Hyundai Genesis territory?  This was, to us, unquestionably the best car there.

The laugh-out-loud moment of the show was in that Camaro's introduction, when Adam compared its engine noise to Chewbacca.  Top Gear needs to make a short clip of this so that it can be shared with the world!

The rest of this is a major spoiler, and I recommend you watch the episode first.

Of the off-track challenges, let's skip right to the flies.  Seriously, a box of flies?  That had to require a bit of explaining when the cars were handed back over to their owners.  I wonder if there are still flies occasionally buzzing around their interiors?  And it's not like it was a Ford Focus they picked up from Hertz, these were lovingly, expensively, crafted cars seemingly on loan from private owners.  Who DOES that to a car like that?

Once the challenges were over, and Tanner & Rut were the picks to go drag racing, their cars were swapped for a drag pack Dodge Challenger (Rut) and a factory racer Mustang (Tanner).

Drag racing really isn't "my thing," but the black, Viper-engined Challenger with huge Hoosier tires was just cool as hell.  Dodge ought to play up its drag racing history more in its mainstream marketing.  A street legal "drag pack" Challenger with a regular interior, Hemi V8, and fat street slicks would be a wonderful sight at so many cruise nights.

Of course Tanner was going to win the best-of-three race, but the really impressive driving was by Rutledge, getting a little overenthusiastic launching into the third race and scraping the back bumper in a wheelstand, but still keeping it off the wall.  I thought he was going to land on the wall, and when he didn't I was sure he was going to spin it.  Neither happened.

Exhibition races are about putting on a show, and Rutledge definitely brought the entertainment to that event as well as the program this week.

Best Car, Street:  Adam's 1968 Camaro
Best Car, Strip:  Drag Pack 2011 Dodge Challenger
Best Driver:  Rutledge Wood
Show Rating:  7/10.  I'd watch that again sometime.

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