'Top Gear' (USA) Recap: 'America's Toughest Car'

February 5th, 2013 10:01pm EST

Top Gear After looking for the nation's toughest trucks, the guys of Top Gear are now on the hunt for America's toughest car. There are only two rules for this search: each car has to be at least 20 years old and cost no more than two grand. Other than that, anything goes...of course, because this is Top Gear.
Before we get into tonight's episode, let us wish a very happy birthday to Adam Ferrara, who celebrated his special day last Saturday - by freezing his behind off in Iceland filming another segment for the show. Happy birthday, Adam. The things you do for our entertainment will never cease to amaze.
Now let's get to the action. Our heroes meet in San Bernardino to compare their choices for the contest. Rut arrives in a '90 Volvo wagon, which Adam describes as a "piece of crap." Adam's selection is a '92 Chevy Caprice, "another old person's car" according to Rut. That leaves Tanner, who shows up in a cloud of dust behind the wheel of a 1987 Toyota Corolla, which he has to enter through the passenger's door.
The first challenge is, obviously, a drag race - a practical must for any Top Gear head-to-head-to-head matchup. Tanner takes an early lead and cuts off Adam, while Rut just kind of hangs back and contemplates his Volvo's lack of power. Adam eventually passes "Race Boy" and wins the race, while Tanner gets bleeped. His ego might be a little bruised after that.
Challenge number two takes place at the shooting range of San Bernardino Sheriff's Training Facility, which Tanner lovingly describes as "a bullet strewn hellhole." As you can guess, this task requires shooting each other's cars with a shotgun, and seeing what happens. Tanner has way too much fun blowing out windows on Adam and Rutledge's cars, so Adam gets his revenge by annihilating the Corolla's driver's side window and putting a few holes in the driver's door, too.
But it gets worse for these veteran vehicles. A guy from the bomb squad (or at least that's what his shirt says) arrives with explosives to see if the cars can survive being blown up. Awesome fireballs ensue to go with the shooting damage. The challenge goes down as a draw. Our heroes still have to drive their newly remodeled vehicles on to their next challenge, and they shockingly all start, although they're much less pretty than they used to be.

The third act involves dropping the cars from a crane some fifteen feet in the air. Tanner's Toyota bats leadoff, landing hard on its passenger side. Adam drops his Chevy, which he's nicknamed "Shamu," and immediately celebrates hitting the dismount. Unfortunately for him, the impact breaks both motor mounts. Rut decides to jettison his Chevy rear end first, and it falls forward onto all four tires. It starts, though, and shockingly so do the other two cars.
That brings the guys to Glen Helen Raceway, but by the time they get there, their cars are understandably hurting, whether it's Adam's noisy driveshaft or Rutledge's loss of power steering. Their last to-do is an nasty obstacle course, with the last one standing being crowned the winner. Plus, they've got to do it without oil in their vehicles. Both Rutledge and Adam set their sights on taking out Tanner, but Adam quickly ends up as a "beached whale," taking him out of the competition.
Rutledge and Tanner vie for the lead, while Adam decides to mix things up by throwing things onto the course. In the end, though, it's the Toyota that stays alive the longest - and Tanner rams it into the Volvo and the Chevy in celebration. His showboating isn't without consequence, though, as the Corolla dies not long afterward.
As the winner of the competition, Tanner gets sent to Kentucky to match a Mercedes G 63 AMG - the vehicle of choice for the Russian mafia, apparently - against some hardcore military units. His objective is to get the Mercedes to a designated safehouse while being tracked down by members of the infamous 101st Airborne Division. Maybe it's good that he won. because he's probably got the best chance of survival against these folks. (Although watching Adam attempt this would have been immensely entertaining.)
It's our racing driver against a drone, some helicopters, and people who do this sort of thing for a living. Since there's really only one road for Tanner to drive on, there's not really any strategy to this game. It's all about speed. He finally wises up and decides to take the Mercedes off-road, but not for very long, and it doesn't do much good. Although he's heading "ludicrous speed" - obviously Tanner is a Spaceballs fan - Tanner drives right into an ambush.
So what did we learn from this week's episode of Top Gear? If you need a car that is both boring and can take a lot of punishment, buy a Corolla, and don't mess around with the Army. Until next time...
For more from Brittany Frederick, visit my official website and follow me on Twitter (@tvbrittanyf).
(c)2013 Brittany Frederick. Appears at Starpulse with permission. All rights reserved. No reproduction permitted.

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