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Top Gear USA: 80's Power

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: 80's Power

Bill Crittenden
June 27, 2014


Season 5, Episode 3
Episode aired June 17, 2014

Like a fan of the 80's, I'm running a bit behind on things this week.  Anyway, the guys were supposed to buy a $5,000 car from the 1980's and go through a set of challenges to decide who got to drive a Ferrari F12.

I don't think it's a spoiler alert to tell you that they, whoever they are, weren't going to let Rutledge or Adam drive the Ferrari, is it?

As soon as the little Toyota MR2 hit the screen I called "Tanner."  I was a bit surprised it was Rutledge in the MR2 and Tanner in the IROC Camaro, the two seem like they'd have bought each other's cars.

Adam's car was perfect, a big, bad, and all black Buick Grand National.  Now, this is an interesting Top Gear question: just who makes sure the cars are fair in their pricing?  I can imagine a friend selling a much more expensive car for five grand on a favor.  But then I've also seen poorly modified cars go for cheap because they're no longer original and the modifications need repairs of their own.

Could Adam's Buick have been a little bit of both?

The car I would have picked would have been either a Toyota Supra of the 1896-1992 version (obviously an 80's model year for the challenge but I like the '91-'92) or, unable to find one, a Pontiac Fiero or a Fox body Mustang convertible of the later 80's.  I've just always wanted one of those three cars as long as I can remember.

I was born in 1980, so my memories of the decade are almost nil, and the cars I remember were the ones that survived into the 1990's.

Speaking of which, Lou Ferrigno makes an appearance on the program, which older people might remember as The Incredible Hulk but people of the CGI Hulk generation remember as "that bodybuilder guy on Celebrity Apprentice."  Hey, one way or another, I still recognized him!

It's pretty obvious that the Grand National is a classic, based on most big car shows and cruise nights I've been to.  They've been kept around, preserved, restored in a few cases, and generally loved by most.

The Camaro is a bit gaudy in red IROC form but also a classic car deserving of being in a car show if you can get it there (did you SEE all those old vacuum hoses under the hood?).  Part of the Camaro legacy, and a more respected part of pony car history than Mustang's II.

I haven't seen one in ages, but the MR2 is definitely a classic.  It just doesn't get the respect or attention as such from the mostly American car crowd that populates cruise nights around where I live, but as a fan of Toyota an original "Mister Two" deserves to be a showpiece.

Anyway, back to the show.  Spoilers, y'all!

Tests were for build quality, top speed, track times, and in a really cool test Lou judged a strength test that is basically sumo wrestling with cars.  The big laugh of the episode (aside from when Adam's car broke) was when Rutledge lit up the MR2's tires without moving either car and Adam says, "I think I'll start my car now."  Any fans of "American muscle" that like to give Japanese car owners grief should have that clip saved in a convenient spot.

The build quality test showed a bit of the prankster side of the hosts, and also just how little Rutledge can see without his glasses.  It also showed that nobody keeps a spare t-shirt around for Tanner, just in case Adam wants to give him a hug.

Of course, Adam had an unfair advantage in the sumo match, in this case it wasn't just his engine but the drag slick tires that kept him from sliding around on the shiny floor where they held the test.  Lou Ferrigno is a man of honor, he congratulated Adam on second place, and gave the Ferrari key to Tanner to have a bit of sideways fun against a professional drift 5th generation Camaro at the end of the show.

Best Driver:  Tanner.  It would have been Adam, but, y'know, cheater car.
Best Car:  Toyota MR2.  Also would have been the Buick Grand National, but, y'know, cheater car that blew up.
Episode Rating:  6/10.  Not an epic adventure, but still a lot of fun.



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