Smith was a producer for regional division BBC Midlands in the 1970s, based at the Pebble Mill studios in Birmingham.
According to local newspaper the Birmingham Mail, he came up with the idea for Top Gear after looking out of an office window at the Pebble Mill Car Park.
“He thought the BBC should do a motoring and car show, with items on all motoring matters such as road safety and car tests,” Smith’s son Graham told the paper.
“The name would be Top Gear.”
It was actually Graham Smith who selected the iconic Top Gear theme tune, too: his father asked him if he had any ideas and “I suggested an Allman Brothers instrumental from an album I had.
“He said ‘Yes, that will do, write down the details’ and then he went into the BBC record library to make a copy.”
Top Gear first broadcast on 22 April 1977, originally as a monthly series presented by Angela Rippon and local news man Tom Coyne. BBC bosses in London were clearly impressed though: the following year, it was networked and broadcast nationally on BBC2.
Smith remained as executive producer on the show until 1983.