Top Gear (2002 TV series)/Series 5/Episode 6

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Episode 6

TG 2002 S5E6 - VW Golfs.jpg Jeremy Clarkson reviews some classic Golfs.

TG 2002 S5E6 - Challenge Board.jpg Cheap Porsche Challenge board.

TG 2002 S5E6 - Clarkson Golf.jpg Clarkson behind the wheel of a VW Golf.

TG 2002 S5E6 - Porsche Before.jpg Paul Anderson's Porsche 928 prior to filming.

Prod. code GFGA690F
No. 45 (since 2002), 607 (since 1977)
Runtime 59:36
Viewers 4.87 million
Prev ep. Series 5, Episode 5
Next ep. Series 5, Episode 7

Flaguk.png 5th December, 2004

Flagus.png 30th August, 2010
International Airdates

BBC World Logo Flag Small.png 19th January, 2005
Flagpl.png 22nd January, 2005
Flagnl.png 22nd April, 2005
Flagru.png 1st May, 2005
Flagca.png 4th December, 2005
Flagau.png 16th January, 2006
BBC Prime Logo Flag Small.png 26th March, 2006
Flagbe.png 7th October, 2006
Flagfi.png 10th June, 2007
Flaghu.png 17th August, 2009
Flagee.png 26th August, 2009
Flagcz.png 12th September, 2009
Flages.png 5th July, 2010
Flagde.png 8th May, 2011
Flagit.png 4th February, 2013
Flagjp.png 27th January, 2014

Dates may not be 100% accurate.

Series 5, Episode 6 of Top Gear aired on the 5th December, 2004. It was the sixth episode of [[Top Gear (2002 TV series)/Series 5|Series 5]]; the 45th episode of Top Gear since the show's 2002 reboot and the 607th episode overall, including compilations. It was the 598th episode since Top Gear entered national broadcasting in 1978, and was the 21st programme to air in 2004 out of a total 24. Series 5, Episode 6 was originally broadcast in 576i at a 16:9 Widescreen aspect ratio on British television channel BBC Two. The episode was presented by Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond, and James May, alongside The Stig. Cliff Richard was the Star in a Reasonably-Priced Car, in addition to blind army veteran and land speed record holder Billy Baxter also taking the Suzuki Liana around the track, with Clarkson as co-driver.

This episode is perhaps best-known for featuring Top Gear's second Cheap Car Challenge, the £1,500 Porsche Challenge, where the three presenters were tasked with finding a used rear-wheel drive Porsche for £1,500 or less and completing a series of challenges with them.

Synopsis[edit | edit source]

As narrated by Jeremy Clarkson:

  • How fast can a blind man get round our track?
  • How much Porsche can you buy for 1500 quid?
  • And Britain's most successful recording artist ever is in our Reasonably-Priced Car.

Series 5, Episode 6 begins with an unusually low, panning shot which switches from a floor-mounted TV displaying the Top Gear logo to a clearing in the audience, before stopping in front of a silver Volkswagen Golf GTI. Jeremy Clarkson then states how the car revolutionised the hot hatchback and how he voted for the Golf GTI in the Car of the Century poll held in 1999, before cutting to the episode's first film.

Volkswagen Golf GTI[edit | edit source]

Unabridged article: Volkswagen Golf GTI Film
Clarkson briefly overviews the history of the GTI marque up to 2004, evaluating how the car's performance deteriorated to the point it was outmatched by a diesel saloon from the same automotive conglomerate. He then decides to drive the new model, to see if anything has changed. Much to Clarkson's delight, he is impressed by the new car's increased performance and claims that the car has regained the "puppy dog enthusiasm" that was missing in the previous model. He also complements the car's practicality and its unassuming appearance, meaning that it can serve equally well as a family runabout in addition to its hot hatch credentials. Jeremy recommends the car over 4x4s, which at this point were the dominant choice for family transport.

Back in the studio, Richard Hammond gives a brief overview of the Golf's rivals. Each of them were driven around the Top Gear Test Track by The Stig, and their lap times placed on a special, smaller lap time board for hot hatchbacks. The Golf GTI was then taken for a lap.

Position Car Time Track Conditions
1 Honda Civic Type-R 1:32.8 Dry
2 SEAT Léon Cupra 1:32.9 Dry
3 Volkswagen Golf GTI 1:33.7 Dry
4 Renault Mégane Sport 225 1:34.0 Dry
5 MINI Cooper S Works 1:34.2 Dry

To the surprise of both hosts, the car fails to beat its older, rebadged brother (the SEAT Léon Cupra) and the aging Honda Civic Type-R. Hammond also notes that the Type-R is cheaper than the Golf, but Clarkson then remarks that Honda's brand image is not as highly regarded as that as Volkswagen's, and that on the whole, the Golf is the better package, deeming the car a "sensation". The camera then switches to James May, who begins reading out The News for that week.

The News[edit | edit source]

Unabridged article: The News (1st December, 2004)
Continuing on from the theme of hot hatches, May opens The News by unveiling the upcoming hot hatch version of the then-new Vauxhall Astra, the VXR. Though initially impressed by the sub-£20,000 price tag and the promised output of 240 brake horsepower, Clarkson derides the interior's appearance as resembling the "inside of a man's wash bag". Richard Hammond then talks about how DaimlerChrysler CEO Jürgen E. Schrempp had his armour-plated Mercedes-Benz S-Class limousine worth £500,000 stolen[1] in 20 minutes during a meeting in Stuttgart, before Jeremy Clarkson follows this up by mentioning that ex-KGB operatives have apparently been stealing[2] German car industry secrets during constant system breaches that they have been powerless to stop. Clarkson then proceeds to praise Vauxhall's announcement of a new Tigra powered by a 1.3 litre diesel engine, much to the bemusement of his co-hosts, before May diverts the conversation that the New Economics Foundation wishes to impose health warnings on 4x4s, similar to cigarettes. This, along with the prediction that by 2020 the 4x4 will become the world's third biggest killer, greatly annoys Clarkson. Lastly, Hammond shows the audience the Lada Kalina, the company's first true attempt at competing with contemporary brands, albeit against the Fiat Brava and Toyota Starlet, two cars which were out of production by 2004.

£1,500 Porsche Challenge, Part 1[edit | edit source]

Unabridged article: £1,500 Porsche Challenge
Recently, the producers gave the three hosts £1,500. They were then instructed to purchase a Porsche with the money that they were given. Once they had done this, they were to meet up in London's Exchange Square to see which of the trio had got the best deal. Hammond was the first to arrive, paying just £750 for his 1981 Porsche 924. May was next, with his 944, before Clarkson arrived in a V8-powered 928. Each of the trio complement and disparage each other's choices, before being handed a challenge envelope; veteran cars can go from London to Brighton, but can they? The distance is 70 miles, and predictably, it isn't long before Clarkson's 928 overheats for the first time. Springing various leaks, the car has 15 litres of water dumped into the engine bay before it sets off again, with James having to pull over after just 2 more miles due to a puncture. As May's tyre is repaired, Clarkson's 928 begins to leak fuel. After six hours, the cars are still in South London, and as May's windscreen trim peels off, Clarkson's coolant warning light comes on, forcing the trio to stop again. Another hour later, they are finally on the motorway, where the cars begin to find their feet. The only car which has yet to have a fault at this point is Hammond's 924, and after another hour, the pair of Hammond and May make it to Brighton Pier, where they are handed the second challenge.

This subsequent envelope stipulates that the trio are to modify their cars using the money left over from their initial purchase. Clarkson eventually arrives at sundown on the back of an AA lorry, where he is briefed on the task at hand only to be dismayed once he realises he's spent his entire budget on his car. Back in the studio, Hammond allocates points based on their performance thus far, before Clarkson introduces the episode's guest star.

Star in a Reasonably-Priced Car (Cliff Richard)[edit | edit source]

Unabridged article: SIARPC (Cliff Richard)
The first of the two guest stars appearing in this episode is Britain's best-selling recording artist, Harry Webb, who is perhaps better known by his stage name, Cliff Richard. At the age of "44" (in reality, 64 at the time), Cliff looks surprisingly young for his age, and is currently aiming for his sixth consecutive decade where he achieved a #1 hit, in a year which his calendar outsold[3] David Beckham's. After some small talk, Cliff talks about his car history, who started off with a Sunbeam Alpine before aiming for a more Americanised persona, choosing his subsequent cars in an according fashion. As a noted Christian, Clarkson is interested in Cliff's input in regards to May's theory about adopting a "Christian" driving stance when driving through London, to which Cliff agrees.

Out on the track, Cliff's most terrifying experience was during the preliminary laps in which he was driven around by The Stig, with concerns over the Liana's small, budget tyres. Cliff opines that stars should be given around a week to practice, before Clarkson shows the audience a brief clip of Cliff spinning out at the second-to-last corner during a practice lap. Cliff's actual lap is clean and non-eventful, and is complimented by Clarkson.

Position Star Time Track Conditions
11 Martin Clunes 1:50 Dry
12 Jeremy Clarkson 1:50 Dry
13 Cliff Richard 1:50 Dry
14 Lionel Richie 1:50 Dry
15 Patrick Stewart 1:50 Dry

Cliff places a respectable 13th overall, his lap time of 1:50 equalling several other stars, including host Jeremy Clarkson.

Restoration Rip-off[edit | edit source]

Main article: Top Gear (2002 TV series)/Series 5/Restoration Rip-off
This week, the candidate is an old Mini with a more illustrious history than most. Irish rally driver Paddy Hopkirk would drive another such Mini, prepared by John Cooper, to victory at the 1964 Monte-Carlo Rally, but it's this car, 407 ARX, with which he demonstrated the Mini's racing potential a year earlier. The car's current owner possesses the car's basic chassis and bodyshell, along with a majority of the period-correct parts the car requires, but it needs the extra push from the public so that it may live once again. Every tuned Mini since its creation, up to and including the "Cooper" trim Minis manufactured by BMW, owe their existence to this one car.

Star in a Reasonably-Priced Car (Billy Baxter)[edit | edit source]

Unabridged article: SIARPC (Billy Baxter)
At this point in time, Top Gear is often inundated by letters from nobodies who wish to have a go around the track in the Suzuki Liana. Typically, these letters are dismissed without any further action. However, this particular letter comes from a man named Billy Baxter, a former soldier who was blinded[4] in 1997 by a rare eye disease, and who aims to beat Richard Whiteley, the slowest driver on the board. With Jeremy Clarkson sat in the passenger seat, relaying the necessary visual information, the pair were able to successfully navigate the car around the track at speed.

Position Star Time Track Conditions
42 Johnny Vegas 1:58.6 Dry
43 Harry Enfield 2:01 Dry
44 Billy Baxter 2:02 Dry
45 Terry Wogan 2:03.4 Dry
46 Richard Whiteley 2:06 Dry

Amazingly, despite his disability, Baxter was able to get the Liana around the track 4 seconds quicker than Whiteley, also beating Terry Wogan in the process.

£1,500 Porsche Challenge, Part 2[edit | edit source]

After their troubled drive to Brighton, the three Porsches from earlier in the show were taken to the airfield and modified by each of the three presenters. Obviously, with Clarkson having spent all his money on his car, the task of modifying his car was more of a challenge, but all three presenters altered their cars and placed them under tarps, ready for adjudication from members of Porsche Club GB. James is the first to unveil his car, and although it looks identical on the surface, save for some bathroom sealant around the windscreen and some DIY fixtures on the interior, May spent the majority of his money cleaning up the engine to a professional standard, which draws some initial criticism from the other two presenters before they realise the judge would probably have a more concours-oriented criteria. Hammond is next to reveal his car, giving his 924 a sporting paint job reminiscent of Gulf Porsches from the past. He also replaced the gear knob with a chrome skull, added some track-oriented performance upgrades, a faux carbon-fibre hood with air intake, and stuck a "Turbo" sticker on the tailgate, despite not adding a turbocharger to the car. Clarkson, on his extremely limited budget, instead decided to coat his entire car in what was tantamount to "blackboard paint" as described by Hammond, who then proceeds to write Clarkson's name on the driver's door in white chalk.

The judges are somewhat impressed by May's engine despite having their reservations over his Tippexed switches and handyman fixes, mock Clarkson for his paintjob (which he describes as mimicking the SR-71 Blackbird and is somehow "better") and critique Richard's gear knob as "vulgar", to which Hammond counters as "bling". As the judges make their decision, May is handed another Golden Envelope from which he reads a new set of instructions, stating that The Stig is to take all three cars for a lap around the test track, with each presenting earning a point for every second under 1:35, and losing a point for every second under. The Stig struggles to start Clarkson's 928, which pulls away slowly in a cloud of smoke. The car eventually builds up quite the momentum, and is able to set a 1:45. May's car sets a 1:43, but pays a hefty price by spraying brown sludge all over his clean, polished engine. Hammond's car is slower than the latter, fitting in-between the other two. This is followed by the next challenge, 'Elevenses', where the presenters were tasked with creating the longest tyre streaks.

  1. Richard Hammond (Porsche 924) - 35 feet
  2. James May (Porsche 944) - 31 feet
  3. Jeremy Clarkson (Porsche 928) - 1 inch

Due to the latter's car lacking the necessary torque to perform smoking starts, Clarkson decides to do doughnuts instead, which he claims are "Tibetan" elevens. He measures the resultant streaks to a total of 42 yards, or 126 feet, but is summarily dismissed. A producer hands the trio a final envelope instructing the three to sell their car in the name of profit. Back in the studio, each of the presenters' performances are evaluated and calculated within a scoring table.

The Cheap Porsche Challenge
Host Bonnet Up Fuel Lonely Hearts First Total Elevenses Lap Concours Second Total Selling Final Total
JC -35 -90 10 -115 0 -10 3 -122 300 178
JM -5 0 15 10 15 -8 10 27 -100 -73
RH 0 10 0 10 20 -9 8 29 -1500 -1471

Despite gaining the upper hand, Hammond is unable to sell his car, thus going from a slight lead of 29 points down to a major deficit of -1471 points, thoroughly putting him out of the running. May sells his car for £1400, gaining £500 from his initial purchase, but still losing a further £100, demoting him to -73 points. Going into the final round as the underdog, Clarkson decides to bend the rules in much the same way as he did earlier by advertising his "Lonely Hearts" advertisements towards homosexuals, by selling his car for spare parts, netting himself £1200, and then having the engine and seats turned into functional pieces of furniture valued at a further £600. This not only results in a surplus of 300 points, but means Clarkson is the only host to finish the challenge with a positive points account of 178, and means he is the overall winner.

Reception[edit | edit source]

Contemporary[edit | edit source]

FinalGear[edit source]

On FinalGear, Series 5, Episode 6 was critically acclaimed, placing sixth in the FinalGear Best Episode Poll held from 2004 - 2006 to determine the best episodes of Top Gear at the time. The episode received 8 of the 231 votes cast.

Retrospective[edit | edit source]

Topgearbox Poll[edit source]

In September 2015, Series 5, Episode 6 would be voted[5] as the 94th greatest Top Gear episode of all time. According to Sean McKellar, the episode features "the ultimate cheap car challenge"[6] and is a must-see episode.

Further reading[edit source]

This article is intended serve as a basic summation of all the content depicted within Series 5, Episode 6, and deliberately omits or abridges certain details in order to ease reading comprehension and reduce overall page length.
For a fully detailed, in-depth analysis of this episode, please visit Top Gear (2002 TV series)/Series 5/Episode 6/Unabridged.

Airing history[edit source]

For a concise, detailed report on this episode's international airing history, see Airing history.

United Kingdom

Series 5, Episode 6 would premiere on BBC Two on the night of the 5th December, 2004. Unlike later episodes of Top Gear, the episode would not be repeated following its initial airing, though it would be edited down into a 45 minute version by Red Bee Media for usage on UKTV channels such as UKTV People and UKTV G2, where the episode began airing approximately 2 weeks after its premiere on BBC Two.


Internationally, the episode would first premiere on BBC World on the 19th January 2005, more than a month following its UK release. It would then be shown in Poland on TVN Turbo 3 days later in a longer form, before premiering in the Netherlands on Veronica exactly three months after that. Russia would air the episode in its own cut-down form on NTV from May 2005, before BBC Canada began showing the episode in Canada that December. Australia would air the episode early the following year, before BBC Prime gave the full-length episode its worldwide premiere that March. The episode would be reshown in a handful of countries thereafter, but would not premiere in many Baltic and Balkan nations such as the Czech Republic, Hungary and Estonia until as late as mid-2009, a full four and a half years after the episode was first shown in the United Kingdom. Italy wouldn't show the episode on its local version of DMAX until 2013 (though the country had previously aired the episode on BBC Prime), and Japan wouldn't air the episode on Fuji TV until January 2014, almost a full decade after its original UK premiere.

References[edit | edit source]