You've seen the trailer, now hear the stars of American version of Top Gear give Jalopnik some dirt on the upcoming show in an exclusive interview, including how two of them nearly died in the backseat of a Camry.
Top Gear is popular in America... or at least the British version is. This latest show will be the third attempt at bringing the show to audiences in the U.S. and it comes after NBC declined to produce the Adam Carolla-helmed version.
We spoke with the new Top Gear cast last Friday, before the trailer was released. Adam Ferrara, Rutledge Wood and Tanner Foust were crowded around a phone in a room in the Hilton. The chumminess on display in the trailer was noticeable in the phone conversation, but it wasn't quite as romantic and it didn't sound like they were wearing matching plaid shirts. A rep for the show later explained that trailer was cut for the Hollywood press, not car guys, so they picked a clip that showcased their chemistry.
Much of the discussion revolved around cars and adventures, with Ferrara summing up most of their stunts so far as "Foolhardy, stupid, but fun."
Those beater cars captured by Jalopnik readers filming earlier this year were part of a "Moonshiner's Challenge" previewed in the first trailer, which has the hosts battling in cars they bought for under $1,000 dollars. As with the British version, the producers seem to delight in making the hosts uncomfortable.
Wood says the piloting the T-Bird Turbo Coupe "was like driving in an ant bed for days."
But that's not the only challenge. On the phone the cast made reference to a more adventures, including a trip to Alaska.
"Tonight, the three of us are flying to Alaska. We've heard things like 'grizzly bears,'" says Ferrara. "We'll be camping for three nights, not just staged camping and (then) run off to the Radisson. We've heard thing like 'salmon suit' - like a suit made out of salmon fillets."
They've also transformed cars into paintball war machines.
"Since the Humvee's gone, we thought 'What could we make to replace it?' says Ferrara, who came up with the idea for the stunt and picked an appropriately awesome, bloated 70's El Camino, while Wood selected a salvaged Del Sol "because they're cheap, and you could hide guns on them."
Foust jokingly complained most of the ideas were created by producers sitting inside an office in Santa Monica, shipping the instructions to cast and crew who had to pull them off without serious bodily harm.
"We almost died the other day," Wood blurts out before asking the spokesperson for History, "Can we talk about that?"
"We decided to take the most boring car in America, the Toyota Camry, and we thought how could we make it more fun, and we realized it would be if we weren't driving it," says Wood.
So they created a remote-control Camry and strapped themselves into the backseat with someone else driving them. According to the cast, the battery cables connected to the actuators and controllers suddenly became detached, leaving the car unmanned with Ferrara and Wood in the backseat.
"We get about 30 yards and the car takes off, and now that the battery is off, the actuators can't release off the gas," says Wood. "We're flying off the road towards some trees and we make it about three inches from the tree and we stop...and then the car starts rolling backwards. There was a cliff. A gentle cliff, but there was vegetation. We'd have to tell people we died in a Camry."
Foust's above joke aside, the new Top Gear isn't just about beaters (although it seems to be the favorite topic of the hosts). As with the original, there will be car tests. We've already seen the hosts driving a Dodge Viper, Hyundai Genesis, Porsche Panamera, two Lamborghinis, a Mitsubishi EVO X and a Morgan.
They also hinted at a few head-to-heads including a BMW X6 against a Honda Crosstour and a Nissan Cube against Kia Soul, although neither sounds particularly exciting.
Both the presence of sunlight and the absence of English accents is a bit jarring to fans of the original, but the hosts also see this as a positive. Their show is different, even if it uses a similar format, because of their personalities.
"Adam's a muscle car guy... and Rutledge hits the heart of NASCAR and the south," explains Foust, who seems to represent everything else and prods Wood by pointing out "His people usually have fewer teeth than fingers."
The show will debut sometime in the fourth quarter of this year on History, which means they'll be shooting in studio in the next few months. They'll also be attempting the power tests, though no one will confirm or deny the existence of an American Stig.
"The idea isn't that we fill a role, there's no Jezza, no Captain Slow," says Wood before pointing out "but there's no Route 66 in the UK."
There's still a lot they have to prove, and the hosts are aware of this fact as they've confessed to reading the comments on Jalopnik and other sites. On the other hand, American automotive television is defined by Motorweek, which is unwatchable by anyone not on a slow morphine drip.