Clarkson, Hammond and May: A look back on 17 years of amazing stunts and vehicular awesomeness

<b>HIT MOTORING TRIO FOR SA:</b> Catch former Top Gear stars Jeremy Clarkson (centre), James May (left) and Richard Hammond in action in Johannesburg later from June 12 - 14 2015. <i>Image:</i>
<b>HIT MOTORING TRIO FOR SA:</b> Catch former Top Gear stars Jeremy Clarkson (centre), James May (left) and Richard Hammond in action in Johannesburg later from June 12 - 14 2015. <i>Image:</i>

In all of my years following Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond, and James May along their epic adventures and car skits, I’ve only ever seen Clarkson shed a tear on television twice. Twice!

But that’s exactly what happened when the curtain finally closed on the set of The Grand Tour earlier in April and the three trio, whom have been entertaining us for the past 17 years, called time on this chapter of their careers. It wasn’t easy to watch, especially having witnessed them grow as a unit, from Top Gear to The Grand Tour.

As a final touching moment the BBC allowed the trio to use footage from their Top Gear era as part of a montage. Truly special.  

The final montage

It was a spectacular journey. And trying to box their adventures and endeavours into a select number of moments is a sin all in its own. How do you choose standout moments from 17 years of memories? How do you justify your selection when you know for a fact that the moments are legion?

Could we, as the Wheels24 team, possibly be content with the below list? In short, no. Because this trio is, and will always remain, an endless source of great motoring moments that will live on forever.

In line with the trio's final montage, we list five Top Gear moments for your viewing pleasure.

If you have any fond memories of our esteemed subjects, please email us. We'll publish a list of great Grand Tour moments soon...

Five standout Top Gear moments:

1. The indestructible Hilux, S03E05

The second iteration of Top Gear started in October 2002 but it wasn’t until the second season of the revamped series that May joined Clarkson and Hammond. In the fifth episode of the third season Clarkson took it upon himself to destroy a Toyota Hilux. Yes, a mission to destroy the bakkie.

Did he succeed? Uhm, yes and no.

The bakkie was tortured, to say the least, and was subjected to being drowned in the ocean, driven into buildings and trees and smashed by a wrecking ball. The three-part video of this destruction has garnered just under 32 million views on YouTube and is regarded as one of the finest moments in television history.

2. Reliant Robin Space Shuttle, S09E04

This has to be one the most hilarious episodes of Top Gear. Hammond and May were tasked with converting a 1992 Reliant Robin into a space shuttle and only had twelve days to complete the project. The duo met up with engineers and rocket scientists to turn the project into a reality and on the final day things were finally ready for launch.

The experiment would not be to get the Reliant Robin into orbit, but just high enough to detach it from the rocket and then having it land on a runway. As the rocket took off, with all the smoke and noise associated with a real rocket launch (not that theirs wasn’t real, but you know what we mean), the two pair were more excited than kids in a toy store! Until it was time to release the car from the rocket...

Sadly (or amusingly), the car came crashing down like a meteor, resulting in a huge unplanned explosion.

3. The Greatest Driving Road, S10E01

Road-trip enthusiasts and sports car fanatics had a dream come to true when the trio took three sports cars on a mission to find the best driving road in the world. Clarkson commandeered a Lamborghini Gallardo Superleggera, Hammond a Porsche 911 GT3 RS, and May drove an Aston Martin V8 Vantage N24.

Sounds amazing, right? Well, only if you’re Clarkson or Hammond. See, May’s car was a fully-fledged racing machine and had no aircon. He was sweating like a pig and at one point sat butt naked, drenching himself in water while driving. It was hilarious seeing him sweat and the other two could not stop themselves for laughing at his expense.

The group eventually finds the best driving road in the world, according to them, in the form of the Stelvio Pass in the Province of Bolzano, Italy.

4. Hot Hatches in Italy, S17E02

Hot hatchbacks are supposed to be exactly what their names suggest - little runabouts perfectly suited for urban environments. And that’s why our favourite motoring presenters took three of these cars on (another) journey across Europe, covering Italy and France. As always they were given a set of challenges to complete along the way; the last being to complete a lap of the Monaco Grand Prix.

Clarkson, driving a Citroën DS3 Racing, had a view of the track with then-Formula 1 supremo, Bernie Ecclestone, next to him, Hammond, in a Fiat 500C Abarth, had Red Bull team principle Christian Horner for company, and May, in a Renault Clio Cup, had Frenchman and former Renault boss, Flavio Briatore, to give him some pointers (sigh, the language barrier).

When it came time for the three men to tackle the track alone, Clarkson quickly dispensed of his colleagues and was out in front when his second, and final, lap of the Monaco GP began.

It was magical to watch and Clarkson, being a big F1 fan, made the most of the opportunity to top his buddies against the clock. Clarkson posted a fastest time of 2min15, Hammond did a 2min20, and James a 2min21. It was at the end of his two laps that Clarkson got a bit emotional. The first time I saw that side of him.

5. British Tribute, S20E06

We were all pretty astounded when we found out just how great Britain’s contribution to the automotive world was. We knew that it wasn’t in any way miniscule but to actually see British vehicle production come to life was an altogether eye-opening moment.

Clarkson, Hammond, and May, all driving a version of perhaps the best British sports car of the modern era, the Jaguar F-Type, introduced Britain’s contribution as best as they possibly can. And it all came together with a great variety of automotive genius. F1 cars, trucks, lawnmowers, ice cream vans… you name it and it was probably there. The convoy of three F-Types drove past Buckingham Palace and were shocked when they arrived at The Mall to see the vast selection of vehicles parked there.

It’s an episode that can’t be described, but which should rather be seen to be understood. You’ll appreciate it so much more.

Charlen Raymond is the editor of Manskap.

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