In pictures: the golden age of Top Gear

We celebrate the Clarkson, Hammond and May era of Top Gear by looking back at the best bits

  • The end of an era

    The end of an era

    © Top Gear

    It was the best Top Gear… in the world. The BBC’s motoring TV show is still going strong, but we reckon the era of Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May was its golden age. Join us as we remember the greatest adventures and pranks from this 2002-2015 period.

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  • Drive across America

    Drive across America

    © Top Gear

    In 2007, Clarkson, May and Hammond set off for a trip across America in a trio of American cars, each one bought for less than $1,000. The boys were run out of Alabama and shots were fired. It was one of the most memorable Top Gear challenges ever filmed.

  • Race to Monte Carlo

    Race to Monte Carlo

    © Top Gear

    Back in the day, the Top Gear challenges were genuinely tense and nail-biting. In 2004, Hammond and May raced Clarkson to Monte Carlo. Naturally, Clarkson drove a car – an Aston Martin DB9 – while the duo took public transport. It was the first of the big races.

  • Toyota Hilux indestructible test

    Toyota Hilux indestructible test

    © Top Gear

    Jeremy’s attempt to destroy a Toyota Hilux will go down as one of the greatest features ever on Top Gear. The tough Toyota survived an attempt to kill it with fire, drown it in the Seven Estuary and drop it from a tower block in Hackney.

  • Motorcycling in Vietnam

    Motorcycling in Vietnam

    © Top Gear

    The Vietnam special of 2008 is up there with the best episodes of Top Gear. Clarkson’s hatred of motorcycles made it even more memorable. They managed to ride across the entire country in eight days – and Hammond’s bike turned pink.

  • Visiting the ‘Baby Jesus’

    Visiting the ‘Baby Jesus’

    © Top Gear

    Only Top Gear would think of taking three open-top sports cars to the Middle East and following a star to Bethlehem. The Christmas special involved Clarkson, Hammond and May flying to Iraq and racing around an ancient Roman chariot track. They even saw Jesus. Kind of.

  • Ford Probe and knicker elastic

    Ford Probe and knicker elastic

    © Top Gear

    “The first Ford that I can remember that looks good enough to snap knicker elastic at 50 paces.” Briefly jumping back to 1994, Top Gear wasn’t afraid to make controversial statements. Clarkson went on to greatness. The Ford Probe didn’t.

  • St Petersburg special

    St Petersburg special

    © Top Gear

    Series 22 opened with the brilliant race across St Petersburg. Richard Hammond rode a bike. And fell off. James May drove a Renault Twizy. Clarkson somehow managed to control a hovercraft without killing anyone. And The Stig used public transport.

  • Amphibious cars

    Amphibious cars

    © PetrolBlog

    First they tried to sail their amphibious vehicles across an English lake. Then they went one step further by attempting to cross the English Channel. Hammond’s ‘Dampervan’ and May’s Triumph Herald were, quite frankly, rubbish. But amazingly they all managed to reach France in Clarkson’s ‘Toybota’. Brilliant stuff.

  • Rolling in a Reliant Robin

    Rolling in a Reliant Robin

    © Top Gear

    Jeremy Clarkson’s Reliant Robin in Yorkshire feature is destined to become a YouTube classic. It was Clarkson at his brilliant best.

  • The face of the Ariel Atom

    The face of the Ariel Atom

    © Top Gear

    Do an internet search for ‘Jeremy Clarkson Ariel Atom face’. Enough said.

  • Driving a Peel P50 through BBC TV’s offices

    Driving a Peel P50 through BBC TV’s offices

    © Top Gear

    Given the size of the Peel P50 (it’s the smallest car in the world), maybe Richard Hammond should have covered this feature. Instead it was left to Clarkson and the results were, predictably, brilliant. Even Fiona Bruce’s bottom got a mention.

  • Creating the P45

    Creating the P45

    © Top Gear

    We all enjoyed watching Jeremy Clarkson drive the mad-as-a-box-of-frogs P45 through the busy streets of London. Along with a shopping centre. A theatre. A library. A car wash. A petrol station…

  • The Botswana Special

    The Botswana Special

    © Top Gear

    All the cars featured in the Botswana Special deserve a medal. Clarkson’s Lancia and May’s Mercedes-Benz were good, but Richard Hammond’s Opel Kadett stole the show. He liked it so much, he did everything in his power to keep it looking good. He even christened it Oliver and brought it back to the UK.

  • Caravanning in the New Forest

    Caravanning in the New Forest

    © Top Gear

    James May and Jeremy Clarkson went caravanning in the New Forest. Seeing them racing a pair of caravan-towing crossovers was funny enough, but the scenes leading up to the race were superb. A classic episode.

  • Paying homage to the E-Type

    Paying homage to the E-Type

    © Top Gear

    For all the nonsense, mayhem and controversies, Top Gear does the serious stuff extremely well. So when Clarkson organised a celebration for the 50th anniversary of the Jaguar E-Type, it was soul-stirring stuff.

  • That Peugeot episode

    That Peugeot episode

    © Top Gear

    Top Gear’s feature on the history of Peugeot certainly divided opinion. In truth, if you look beyond the nonsense, Clarkson and May spoke a lot of truth. The only thing missing was a recognition that Peugeot has returned to form.

  • Creating the Hammerhead Eagle i-Thrust

    Creating the Hammerhead Eagle i-Thrust

    © Top Gear

    The Hammerhead Eagle i-Thrust was supposed to represent the start of an exciting future for the electric vehicle. Even with James May involved with the project, it turned out to be brilliantly rubbish.

  • Trying to outrun the British Army

    Trying to outrun the British Army

    © Top Gear

    Seeing a Mitsubishi Evolution VII being pulverised by the British Army was hard viewing. That was, until we discovered it was owned by a former drug dealer.

  • The ultimate test of the Skoda Yeti

    The ultimate test of the Skoda Yeti

    © Top Gear

    Clarkson subjected the Skoda Yeti to one of the most thorough road tests ever to appear on Top Gear. It involved a Ferrari, firefighters, ice cream, fire, dogs, tattoos and a helicopter. Skoda’s website crashed.

  • Creating the Hovervan

    Creating the Hovervan

    © Top Gear

    Turning a Ford Transit into a Hovervan and taking to the River Avon, what could possibly go wrong? Well quite a lot, actually.

  • Driving a Toyota Hilux to the North Pole

    Driving a Toyota Hilux to the North Pole

    © Top Gear

    In 2007, Clarkson and May drove a Toyota Hilux to the North Pole. Quite an achievement, although some people couldn’t look beyond the fact that the pair enjoyed a gin and tonic at the wheel.

  • Cars for pensioners

    Cars for pensioners

    © Top Gear

    Clarkson and Hammond decided it was time somebody built a car for pensioners. So they took a Fiat Multipla and set about converting it. As you do. Naturally, it was painted ‘hearing aid beige’ and featured a grille taken from a Rover. Brilliant.

  • The ambulances

    The ambulances

    © Top Gear

    Another feature that split opinion, but Clarkson’s attempt at being a paramedic in the back of a Porsche 944 being driven by The Stig completely stole the show.

  • A new breed of locomotives

    A new breed of locomotives

    © Top Gear

    We’ll gloss over the fact that two perfectly good cars were ruined during the making of this feature. In order to create a new breed of locomotives, Hammond and May chose an Audi S8, while Clarkson opted for a Jaguar XJS V12 to make his Sports Train.

  • The Bolivia Special

    The Bolivia Special

    © Top Gear

    Episode six of Series 14 was truly epic. May, Hammond and Clarkson were dropped in the Bolivian rainforest with the 4x4s they bought with a budget of £3,500 each. It was hard enough getting the cars off the boat, but the subsequent and quite literal highs and lows associated with getting to the coast were truly epic.

  • In Search of Driving Heaven

    In Search of Driving Heaven

    © Top Gear

    The trio set off to find the best driving road in the world. Seeing a trio of brightly-coloured supercars on some of the best stretches of road Europe has to offer was memorable. As was the Stelvio Pass. We should also give an honourable mention to the ‘Supercars do France’ episode.

  • The Source of the Nile

    The Source of the Nile

    © Top Gear

    We’re pretty sure this challenge would have sent the Auto Trader website into meltdown. Armed with a trio of £1,500 wagons, Clarkson, Hammond and May set off in search of the source of the River Nile. We couldn’t decide what we wanted more. Clarkson’s 5 Series, May’s 850R or Hammond’s Impreza.

  • Vauxhall Vectra review

    Vauxhall Vectra review

    © Top Gear

    ‘Trying to road test the Vauxhall Vectra is like trying to road test a microwave oven’, ‘said Jeremy Clarkson, back in 1996. He wasn’t too complimentary about a later update, claiming that if his company gave him a Vectra, he’d drive it into his boss.

  • Racing Transit at the Nurburgring

    Racing Transit at the Nurburgring

    © Top Gear

    Jeremy Clarkson set a lap time at the Nurburgring in a Jaguar S-Type. Later, Sabine Schmitz nearly kept her promise to beat his time at the wheel of a Ford Transit. A van at the ‘Ring – classic Top Gear.

  • The Britcar 24-Hour race

    The Britcar 24-Hour race

    © Top Gear

    Deciding they needed to burn the biofuel they planted in the previous series, Jeremy, Richard and James entered the gruelling Britcar 24-Hour race. The result was a tense and genuinely compelling feature. You could tell the boys put everything into this one.

  • The Argentina Special

    The Argentina Special

    © Top Gear

    Yes, that episode. Quite obviously, this was the most controversial Top Gear feature…in the world. A certain number plate on a certain Porsche 928 resulted in a certain amount of rocks being pelted at the cast and crew.

  • The £1,500 Porsche Challenge

    The £1,500 Porsche Challenge

    © Top Gear

    Another classic challenge, in which the trio were given a budget of £1,500 and told to buy a Porsche. Hammond and May played it safe with a 924 and 944 respectively, while Clarkson, predictably, went wild and opted for a 928. Clarkson’s Porsche did arrive in Brighton…on the back of an AA truck.

  • Budget Supercars

    Budget Supercars

    © Top Gear

    Is it possible to buy a £10,000 supercar and not face financial ruin? It all looked so promising when the trio turned up in Bristol in a Lamborghini, Ferrari and Maserati. Naturally, things didn’t go according to plan.

  • Back on Tour

    Back on Tour

    © The Grand Tour

    We could have gone on and on. There are many, many more classic Top Gear moments to choose from. Thankfully, Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May are still together and still making great television on The Grand Tour. You can find it on Amazon Prime.