It’s not a North American event but it takes place in The Americas; the latest 2 hour Christmas special episode of Top Gear has Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May trekking through Patagonia (Argentina and Chile) to the very tip of South America and beyond.
In this episode the boys manage to trash a Porsche 928, Lotus Esprit and Ford Mustang as they traverse terrain that would challenge any fully rigged-out off-road vehicle.
What’s the Citroën connection you say? The saving grace in the storyline is that along the way they are trailed by a Citroën 2CV (actually a Citroëneta; – a notchback version of the 2CV manufactured in Chile and Argentina). Clarkson riles against it and the Citroëneta keeps catching up to them and passing by as all three are bogged down in one form or another.
The Citroëneta used a type AZ chassis with 425 cc engine developing 12 hp. Both the chassis and engine were made in France while the bodywork (in both 2 and 4 door versions) was designed and produced in Chile. The last of these “boot design” Citroënetas was built in 1973.
The Top Gear episode has raised quite a bit of controversy. So much so that enraged Argentinean locals threw rocks and chased the Top Gear team to the border after it emerged Clarkson’s Porsche 928 license plate was ‘H982 FKL’ – which many felt was a reference to the 1982 Falklands War that left hundreds dead. The shows producers insisted the numberplate was a coincidence and not a “deliberate act” of provocation.
What also may have sparked fury with environmentalists was the amount of damage they did tearing up pristine beaches, bogs, and even a dry lake bed. Even though Clarkson, Hammond and May’s antics seem more staged that most other Top Gear episodes, spectacular scenery abounds throughout the show.
Rather a sad episode not only for the unexpected ending but to see them abuse these classics. Particularly Jeremy Clarkson, who sitting behind the wheel of the 928 and says he has so much respect for the car because he drove one at 170 KM/ph racing to his father’s death bed. Had it not been for the car, he would have missed being with his Dad at his passing. Of course, like most Top Gear challenges, the cars themselves are ultimately given a a death sentence, but the way they trash the Porsche, Lotus and Mustang in this episode can make even the most die-hard Top Gear fan cringe.
Clarkson was also criticized for making light of an apology he was forced to make over his use of the racial slur “slope” during the show’s Christmas special last year. The controversial presenter admired a makeshift bridge during the Christmas special and said: “That is a proud moment, Hammond, but… is it straight?” Many took this as a sly reference to an episode when Clarkson commented on another makeshift bridge as a man walked on the structure over the River Kwai saying “That is a proud moment, but there’s a slope on it,”
Whatever the motives, in the end all the hoopla contributed to record ratings for the show. And the role of the Citroën, portrayed as the one vehicle that would get through anything, gave just credibility to the legendary durability and reliability of the 2CV.