Have you ever wondered what happens to the cars in Top Gear’s Specials after the cameras stop rolling? In the case of the Botswana Special, Jeremy Clarkson’s Lancia Beta stayed in Botswana, a YouTuber recently discovered.
Top Gear’s Specials are usually some serious fun to watch. Take a few idiot Presenters, make them buy cheap cars and then force them to embark on a dumb journey. The Top Gear Botswana Special aired on BBC Two in November 2007. The trio — then Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May — were given a tough challenge: Drive £1,500 two-wheel-drive cars without any off-road pedigree across Botswana. Hammond chose an Opel Kadett he named Oliver and May chose a Mercedes-Benz 230E. Clarkson connected with a Lancia Beta Coupe.
Clarkson and May quickly learned that their cars were too heavy for the trek ahead. They removed as many parts as they could, making their cars basically into low-budget sandrails. Through many shenanigans and breakdowns, the crew eventually made it to the Namibia border. All three cars were beat, but still running.
After the episode ended, Hammond imported his beloved Oliver to his home, where he’s kept the car in immaculate shape. But what about the other two? For years, Top Gear fans on sites like Reddit wondered about the fate of the Lancia and the Mercedes-Benz. Rumors circulated that the cars were crushed and disposed of. YouTuber Ryan Ball finally has an answer for part of the mystery.
Since Ball and his family moved to Botswana they’ve wanted to learn the fate of the cars from the Top Gear Special. They expected the cars to be in a salvage yard to the north where the filming ended. Turns out that the cars were apparently passed around and made their way back south. It took six months of research, but they finally found the Lancia.
Ball spotted the hinges from the gullwing doors mounted to the car for the episode, and the number plate matches, too. It looks like the production team put its doors back on before sending the car to its new owners. Sadly, 13 years haven’t been kind to the Lancia, and it now sits on blocks without wheels.
But that solves the mystery. The Lancia is still in Botswana.
If you’re curious about what flying and off-roading in Africa is like, give Ball’s Alaska to Africa channel a watch. If you’re interested in the Top Gear Botswana Special, the BBC has clips of it on its channel.
H/T - Austin Little