The Hellhole

Monday, May 18, 2009

A Tale of Two Top Gears

Months ago, BBC America finally started promoting the upcoming release of Top Gear: Season 10. I already had three seasons (10, 11 and some of 12) that I'd bought off iTunes but we were excited to have the official DVDs, so Alan pre-ordered it months ago. We thought this pre-order would work the same as on Amazon, where they time the shipping so that you get your item on release day or the day after. This turned out not to be the case, as April 21 came and went with no Top Gear in our mailbox, followed by a Clarksonless April 22, a Hammondless April 23, a Mayless April 24 (ha-HA! a pune!) and a similarly bleak and joyless 25, 26 and 27. And so on.

We became anxious.

Days passed with no shipping notification from BBC America and each day, the Bowman household grew more tense. Then one Sunday, over a week after the official release, I was watching television when a Top Gear DVD commercial came on and at the very end, "...available from BBC America, Amazon and Best Buy!"

"BEST BUY?!?" I shrieked. "Alan! There is Top Gear at Best Buy!" Why the bloody hell didn't they SAY SO in the first place?!? Less that five minutes later we were at Best Buy, with Alan looking in the new release section and growing grumpy as no Top Gear was apparent.

"I SEE IT!" I yelled, nearly bowling over some soccer mom looking at Disney movies, as I dived for the television section and seized our copy. Harmony was restored throughout our universe.

We have watched each show half a dozen times, with extra viewing for the British Leyland challenge, where - among other brilliant tests - ride quality is measured by suspending a colander of raw eggs over each driver's head, with points for unbroken eggs and points off for every broken, yolkless shell.

By Wednesday of the next week, we at last had a ship notification and days and days after that, our original preordered copy of Season 10 arrived. We don't care, though, because we enjoyed evening after evening of glorious Clarkson-, May- and Hamster-filled fun in the meantime. Which brings me to


Since we have a spare, unopened DVD, I shall give it away to a worthy recipient. If you care to enter, leave a comment or e-mail me with the worst, most awful, piece-of-shit car you ever owned (or were compelled to drive by uncaring parents). Worst car* wins best car show. And even if you are not a car enthusiest, you will LOVE this show. Alan will write a testimonial to this. I'm somewhat of a gearhead - I'd rather do my own work on my car than turn it over to a service department, I care about displacement and gear ratios and whether or not there might be a limited-slip differential, I...oh well, trust me, Alan is exactly the opposite and he loves this show as much or more than I. Your prize pack will include a souvenir t-shirt from Conyers, Georgia and an autographed picture of Mister Fusspot!

<--- Mister Fusspot.

But not this picture.

An official one.

* "Worst Car" shall be deemed worst as esteemed in the sole opinion of The Mistress of The Hellhole, and shall not be subject to debate. For example, extreme pompous dorkitude (the SmartCar) shall be automatically rated far worse than heartwrenching beauty coupled with horrendous unreliability (Alfa Spider).


  • If you haven't seen Top Gear, I simply can't recommend it enough. It is easily the best car show on television, and probably one of the best shows on television, period. The production values are incredible, and the three presenters are just a lot of fun to watch. Those of you who know me know that I'm not a car person, and I'm probably a bigger fan of Top Gear than Helly (who is a legitimate gear head).

    To illustrate the point, this is a video of MotorWeek testing a Porsche 911. And here is Top Gear testing a new Porsche. Watch the MotorWeek clip first, then Top Gear, and you'll see that there is just no comparison.

    By Blogger Alan, at 8:47 PM  

  • I bought a 1976 beat-up old Pinto in 1987 for $600 from a college friend. Here's the fun part: I LOVED that car! I think I sank a total of $500 bucks into it over the time I owned it and I drove it all over the place. It was KIA when I got T-boned at an intersection when I failed to yield while turning left.

    By Blogger Topcat, at 6:54 AM  

  • Back in the olden days, I was forced to be half-owner of a 1958 two-toned, green Chevy. It was the ugliest car I have ever seen in my life! Plus, it hated me. It made ominous engine noises every time I drove it, the transmission slipped every time I drove it, the trunk lid inexplicably opened as did the rear passenger side door....Of course, none of these things ever happened to the other individual - just me. Once, while driving my mother to the grocery store, the damn thing suddenly stopped - DEAD- on the highway, in traffic. When a nice policeman stopped to present me with a ticket, I explained the car just quit. Of course, he hopped in and it started right I took Momma on to the store, and home with no more incidents. I have never been so glad to see a car traded-before or since.


    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:55 AM  

  • My cars were not crappy enough to win this contest as evidenced by the answer comments. Do the losers get a puppy slideshow of pictures on your blog? :)

    By Blogger A Margarita, at 9:00 AM  

  • I had a car once that had the clicky thing that controlled the brights positioned in such a way that if you were turning the steering wheel, even slightly, you couldn't turn off said brights.

    So, you'd inevitably shine your brights at oncoming motorists and not be able to stop.

    By Anonymous Heather, at 2:36 PM  

  • I had a 1984 Chrysler LeBaron automatic that I bought in 1989. My family's motto: "You can have a real car when you have a real job." Well, trust me, the job was VERY real (county mental health worker) and the car was a real piece of junk.

    It is no mystery why Chrysler is being bailed out yet again (didn't that happen in the 1970s...??). It couldn't happen to a more pathetic company.....The paint job was horrible. My emergency brake went, then the radiator started leaking, the transmission died, and my car got rear-ended twice so it looked pretty sweet by the time I was done with it. There were problems with the electrical system and it leaked oil.

    I had this car 1.5 years before I went off to Japan and was absolutely relieved to take the train and drive a bike as my main modes of transportation.

    I now have a 10 year old Nissan Altima which has had very minor issues by comparison.

    By Blogger basil, at 6:16 PM  

  • Two words: Cherry Bomb.

    More words: With its very helpful, apparently union member clutch assembly, which, equally helpfully, take breaks at random times.

    You know, like making, say a left turns across multiple lanes of oncoming traffic.

    Past that, if Russell reads your blog, this discussion is moot.

    The Russtang pwns all. It had duct tape and exploded coke all over it.

    Not that kind, the drinking kind.


    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6:46 PM  

  • When I was going off to college my parents let me drive their van. This van had been acquired for a family of 6 to ride around in.
    Dogde Caravan from somewhere circa in the 1980's.

    One exciting adventure I recall includes my sister. We were making the drive from Athens, GA to Toccoa, GA. This drive takes a little over an hour. In a van it takes an hour plus fifteeen minutes. During the last twenty minutes of our drive, my sister and I had a brake failure. This was before the days of cell phones. I didn't feel like walking to our grandparents house (which was the destination) so I was trying to make this car work. I tried to just glide through all the intersections. I tried not to ever apply brakes, because I was afraid we would run out of gas. I kept us going through many, many unsafe intersections. At the final driveway into my grandparents house. I think my sister had to tell me frantically to apply the handbrake because we would have never otherwise stopped.

    I would not make a good race car driver. My car was not even that bad. But I did manage to drive several miles to my grandparents' house on faulty brakes.


    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:49 PM  

  • I don't have any pictures, but my parents bought a 1972 Mercury Cougar, for $600, when the bus service to my high school stopped. I drove it to school, and at night, my brothers drove it to deliver pizzas. As you can imagine, it smelled just delightful in the morning when I took it to school.

    It's the only car that I've ever owned that had fully power steering. The only problem was that there was something sharp somewhere along the line, so occasionally when you'd be making a turn, you'd cut through the fluid line and you'd lose all of your power steering fluid and barely be able to turn the car when you were in the middle of an interesection. It happened at least five times. The car also hesitated before it would go, when you would step on the gas pedal. There are two dangers to that: the first, the car didn't go right away when you wanted it to; the second, the car was very powerful, so that when it did go, it would GO.

    I drove the car for maybe four years, and then my dad resold it for the same $600. Old pizza smell included. Yum!

    I can't complain that the outside was all beaten up or anything. I don't recall any major body damage. It's that power steering issue that was the killer. Although, unlike the car I have now, the driver's side window worked. ;)

    I really like my new old Aztek, but this window deal sucks. That, and the fact that the car has to warm up before I can get it to back out of the garage. Oh, and it oozes oil. But, it has GREAT cup holders and the air conditioning is really cold. So cold, that when I'm on the freeway and it's 103 outside, every so often I can feel a brief breeze of cool air. Oh, but when I stop at a signal, brrr, the air is fine. ;)

    By Anonymous Flippy, at 4:40 AM  

  • These comments are entertaining. I was reading your mom's and got to the word "two-tone" and thought, there's a potential win, right there. I've only had four cars in my life - first the 1984 (I think) Ford Escort, which I inherited from my parents when I moved to Athens in 1990. I loved that little car so much. But it started developing transmission problems and I eventually traded it for a Mercury Tracer, which I think I picked out because it was the closest affordable thing to what I'd already had. Years later, I sold it for a few hundred bucks to one of my students, who ended up putting nearly $1000 into. Then followed my carless years when I rode my bike, or used Mark's pickup. Then when Anthony was on the way, we got my favorite car that I've ever had, a brand new silver 2003 Saturn Ion. That was perfect car until it got totalled on the way to Helly's house less than a year after I'd bought it. I replaced it with another Saturn, gold this time, but I immediately scraped off its side mirror and put a hole in the body just behind the left headlight. Backing out of the garage. And I think the car knows I don't love it like its predecessor, and has given me a whole slew of problems ever since. I've never had a car I've had to repair so much, especially in such a short time - it's got less than 70,000 miles still. First the long thingies under the wheels had to be replaced, and then replaced again, and then the driver's seatbelt got hung up in a way that required replacing the entire door, and sometimes it won't start unless I sit in the car and wait patiently for at least fifteen minutes. I'm not submitting this for a win - after all, apart from the big gaping hole, oh yeah, and the missing hubcap, it's not really a Dorkmobile - I mean, it's just ONE tone. I just felt like contributing anyway! I'm definitely going to check out Top Gear - maybe next time I'm at your house, which will be . . . Saturday!

    By Blogger Nancy, at 10:38 AM  

  • My first car was a 1979 Ford Granada. Here is a pic (astoundingly, the one shown is the same model I had -- a 1979 four-door model).

    The car shown, however, is much more beautiful than mine was. Why is that? Because mine was GOLD. Not just gold (and not even sparkly gold -- FADED gold), but gold with a tan interior. A more horrible color combination cannot be imagined.

    On the positive side, it was powered by a 302 V8 engine, so there was lots of power there to satisfy a young speed demon. I just looked ridiculous in it. It was really a pretty nice car except for that horrid color.


    By Blogger Phil, at 8:55 AM  

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