07th Jul2016

Let’s Talk About Top Gear

by Michael Chandler

top gear usa

Words by Michael Chandler

Some things happened while I was out.  Big things.  BBC Top Gear just wrapped up their first season post Clarkson, Hammond, and May; and Top Gear USA has been cancelled.  OH! And Chris Evans was let go/fired/what have you after that first season because of reasons that may or may not include arguing with producers, co-hosts, or a sexual assault investigation.  Whatever the reasons, he’s out and the Top Gear landscape is going to be different in the coming years.

Top Gear USA

Now I want to talk about Top Gear USA first, seeing as how 1. It’s dead and 2. I seem to be the only person who didn’t hate the show and wasn’t glad when it went away.  I’m still trying to figure out why it was so derided.  Was it because it was called Top Gear, but wasn’t the Top Gear everyone was used to seeing?  Was it the lack of studio segments and guests?  Car reviews?  Accents?  They had the films and challenges, which were pretty damn good, and it was arguably the best American car show on television.  Better than the “street racing” or “will they finish the build before the auction??” shows that serve as the other options.

Did it have its problems?  Oh yeah.  I liked the show, but I’m not an idiot.  Despite what it may look like, I’ll acknowledge the show’s flaws.  Here’s how every challenge went: Adam drove some giant American boat like someone with no regard for anything whatsoever, Rut drove something quirky for the sake of it being quirky,  and Tanner would be the boy racer in whatever garbage performance vehicle he could find.  They would deliver mail, make amphibious cars, try out the new crop of police cars, Tanner would win most of the challenges, and he would drive whatever super car the producers declared the “prize”.  Every.  Damn.  Time.  It became SUPER formulaic, and a bit boring, but the hosts gelled.  There were moments of camaraderie and genuine humor, something you’re not really getting from the other shows, with their hyper dramatized premises.

So it wasn’t Top Gear with Clarkson, Hammond, and May.  You know what?  It was never going to be.  Nothing, save for maybe their new Amazon show, will ever be that.  Not even their old show.

BBC Top Gear

Like the rest of you, I watched the whole season.  Unlike some of you, I waited until it was broadcast on BBC America, but that’s neither here nor there.  I watched, hoping that the massive hosting line-up would find some sort of equilibrium, or show signs of something like that.  Instead, we got a series where we barely saw some hosts, too much of others, and an after show which was better than the some of the episodes of the proper show.

I was really surprised by Rory Reid.  He was a superb presenter, one who showed genuine excitement to be driving and talking about the cars.  He also knowledgeable, something that can’t be said about other people on other shows.  And Matt LeBlanc was excellent as second chair.  In my opinion, he was better than Chris Evans.  Evans was too shouty, everything was in capital letters with him.  He was too wacky morning radio DJ, which was only amplified by LeBlanc’s quiet, subdued demeanor.  I felt Sabine was under utilized.  We saw her drive a Corvette Z06, an R8, and an A8… and that’s it.  Disappointing.  We saw Eddie Jordan break a small Mercedes SUV, and play the spoons on a train.  I think that’s about all we need from him.  Honestly I think the show can, and should, go on with Matt LeBlanc, Rory Reid, Chris Harris, and Sabine Schmitz.  And The Stig, that’s a given.  There’s definitely enough show for the four of them, and you don’t always need all of them at the same time.  A leaner cast would help the show flow better, but speaking of leaning out to help the show…

Why in God’s name were there two Stars on every show?  And why did that segment drag on for as long as it did every show?  I think that that had to have been either a concession the producers made to get Evans on as host, or a demand he made after he got the job.  Either way, it was awful and I hope they go back to the one star format they had in year’s past.  I did like Jenson Button coming on and driving a McLaren.  Maybe try and do more of that?  You could have Nico and Lewis crash AMG GTs into each other, Kimi fall asleep while driving a 488, and Kevin Magnussen drive an R.S. 01.  THAT is a segment that has some legs.  Tell me you wouldn’t want to see F1 drivers being interviewed while driving a supercar, then having to do a lap in a reasonably priced car.  BAM! fixed part of the show.  If that happens BBC, I expect to see my name in the credits and payment for my services.

 

Top Gear, et al., going forward is going to be different than what we’re used to, different than what we saw this season.  This time next year the old trio will have a season under their belt, and the BBC will have another season of Top Gear in the books.  Will The Grand Tour be what Top Gear used to be?  Will Top GEar find its footing?  Either way, I’m excited to see where this all goes.  What are your thoughts on all of this?  Join the conversation by leaving a comment.

And on that bombshell…

*Article and Photos are copyright of CAMautoMag.Com and their respective owners.

 

12th May2016

There’s A New Top Gear Trailer

by Michael Chandler

And it looks…  It looks like Top Gear.  It’s got some crazy escapades like chop top Reliant Robins and paintball with a Corvette Z06 and a Viper ACR.  It’s got supercars, and accents, and a tame racing driver.  I’m looking forward to seeing it.  I’m going to withhold judgement on it until I see a few episodes though.

*Article and Photos are copyright of CAMautoMag.Com and their respective owners.
29th Feb2016

What Are YOU Watching?

by Michael Chandler

top gear usa

Seriously.  I am beyond curious what you folks watch on TV, Netflix, Amazon Prime, YouTube, Hulu… Porn Hub, whatever you watch.  Normally, I’d expect to be deafened by everyone shouting “Top Gear!” at me, but since we’re between iterations I’m not sure that’s the case anymore.

As I’m writing this, I’m watching an episode of Fast N’ Loud.  Not my favorite show, but not the worst thing to have on in the background.  I’ve also been watching Diesel Brothers, which follows the exploits of the local boys at DieselSellerz.com.  Again, not my favorite but not the worst thing you could be watching.  That might be either version of Street Outlaws.  There is no doubt in my mind that they actually street race, but the product they’re putting out is not that.*

And in the bookcase next to my TV is quite the collection of DVDs.  There are a few old Best Motoring Internationals hanging out, and an ever growing stack of JDM OPTION!s .  While on the subject of sweet media from Japan, I’ve got an external hard drive that contains Initial D in its entirety, as well as a little series called Wangan Midnight and a ton of Maximum Tune.

So what are you guys watching?  Let us know in the comments.

*Article and Photos are copyright of CAMautoMag.Com and their respective owners.
*Street racing/drifting/whatever is also dumb, and illegal.  We don’t condone it, and we don’t want to hear about you doing it.  So, don’t…
08th Jan2015

The Man, The Myth, The Beard: Rutledge Wood

by Michael Chandler

 

topgear2014_rutledge_gallery_5-P

Photo Credit: Matthew McDermott, History Channel

 

He’s big, he wears plaid/flannel shirts, has an impressive collection of cars, and has a melon the size of Europa.  He is Rutledge Wood, and he is one of the hosts of Top Gear in America.  Rut is one of us: he likes/owns weird cars, builds many cool projects, is a motorsports fan, and is willing to sit down and chat with fellow gear heads.  We caught up with him at SEMA last year to get a quick interview.  Unfortunately, my phone (which I was using to record the interview) died before I could get my first question out.  BUT I did take notes!

Rutledge came upon the opportunity to co-host Top Gear while he was working as a correspondent on NASCAR Race Day on SPEED.  He’s a NASCAR fan, but his first race was in 2005.  I asked him what his favorite NASCAR tracks were, past and present.  His answers? Riverside for the classic, but the modern tracks were a toss up between Atlanta Motor Speedway and Texas Motor Speedway.  His favorite NASCAR moment wasn’t a race, but it was going down the hill at Bristol in the snow!  Remember folks, it’s the little things.  Speaking of little things…

Rutledge Wood at SEMA 2014

Rutledge, talking about The Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. Photo credit Michael Chandler, CAMautoMag.com

 

His least favorite Top Gear challenge involved many little things.  It was the nightmare fuel challenge that was the rat helmet.  *shudder* On an infinitely lighter note, his favorite challenge vehicle was the big single turbo, 2JZ powered Scion xB, which he bought because who wouldn’t want that in their garage?  He also bought the school bus snow plow doom bringer from the Snow Show episode.  Again, who wouldn’t want that??  I asked him for any bits of information about the upcoming season and he wanted to tell me everything, the look was there in his face, but he said that there was too much good stuff coming down the pipe.

And finally I asked about the bearded man behind the bearded man on TV.  In the first season he came clean about his love for Hondas.  I asked if he was still a Honda guy, and he is.  He’s also a VW guy, and a Chevy guy, and a MOPAR guy.  He’s a car guy.  A car guy who’s gone through 75 cars like a boss.  Ok, with that knowledge in hand I asked him what his favorite car is and what mode of transportation was his favorite outside of the car.  Favorite car is a resto-mod ’57 Bel-Air, a total cruiser.  And his favorite mode of transportation is the car.  The plane is convenient, but nothing beats the car.  And finally, if he’s running out the door and has to grab something to sustain himself it’s going to be a protein bar with a cup of coffee or some juice.

Ladies and gentlemen, he is a mythic creature.  A loathsome offensive brute, yet impossible not to look at.  He’s just like us: he works hard, works on awesome cars, and goes home to his family every night.  The only difference is he’s worked as a NASCAR correspondent and now he’s hosting Top Gear.

Words by Michael Chandler, photos as credited
*Article and Photos are copyright of CAMautoMag.Com and their respective owners.
15th Nov2010

Top Gear USA: What to expect

by Michael Chandler

We are less than one week away from the premier of Top Gear on History Channel, and those of you who didn’t go to the screening like Trent and I did might be wondering what to expect? Well, since I can see the description of the premier episode on the guide of my cable box let me tell you. Here’s my take on Top Gear USA.

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11th Nov2010

Top Gear USA Preview

by Trent

top gear usaWhile down at the SEMA Show in Las Vegas, Mike and I had the opportunity to preview the new Top Gear program on The History Channel. The first show airs November 21st, but we got to see some of it last week. Read ahead for my impressions. (more…)

Off
20th Oct2010

Top Gear USA on November 21st

by Trent

So it may not be as good as the original as hard as they try, but who’s excited for Top Gear USA? Me! And Mike! Click ‘Continue Reading’ to see a trailer for the new show debuting November 21st on History Channel. (more…)