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'Top Gear' Is Coming to America: The Hosts Preview History Channel's New Car Show

by Nick Zaino, posted Nov 18th 2010 1:50PM
New 'Top Gear' hosts'Top Gear' is finally ready to drive across America.

The American version of 'Top Gear' debuts Sun., Nov. 21 at 9PM on The History Channel, after five years of development at different networks.

Trying to sell a car show in America may seem like a no-brainer, but the show has a lot to live up to in its British counterpart, which is immensely popular in the UK (a 'Top Gear' festival kicks off in Dublin at the end of the month) and on BBC America. It's such a big phenomenon that '60 Minutes' covered the British show last month.

American television networks have long wanted to bring the format stateside, but unfortunately, attempts by both the Discovery Channel and NBC failed. Finally, the History Channel picked it up.

But Top Gear' fans were skeptical about creating an American version at all. One famous fan, Jay Leno, even wrote an editorial titled "I Hope We Don't Ruin 'Top Gear,'" worrying that it wouldn't be as critical and useful with its car reviews.

And since so much of the BBC show's success had to do with the chemistry of the three hosts (Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond, and James May), fans wondered if that could ever be replicated.

The History Channel's 'Top Gear' will be hosted by comedian Adam Ferrara, stunt driver Tanner Foust and automotive journalist Rutledge Wood. There are those who think that the trio can't possibly come close to the sarcastic charm of Clarkson, Hammond, and May. But if the TV Squad interview is any indication, the American 'Top Gear' won't fail because its hosts aren't having a good time.



We spoke to them by phone from the 2010 SEMA Show in Las Vegas, where all three were huddled around their publicist's cell phone, which, according to Tanner, had hearts all over it.

The original Top Gear has such a specific and particular chemistry, how do you go about duplicating that?


Adam: Nick, this is Jeremy Clarkson ... I'm sorry. We're just hoping to be ourselves in that context. I think the chemistry we have is, we kind of like hanging out with each other and being guys. And the fact that they gave us cars and a budget to do it just enhances it. We're not trying to imitate those guys because you can't. So we're just pretty much trying to be ourselves in that environment.
Rutledge: The real chemistry is that it's three guys who get to go out and have fun, and we are three guys that get to go out and have fun together with cars that aren't ours and we get to do insanely stupid things with them. And it's also kind of boyhood dreams that you've had all your life. You sit around one day and go, wouldn't it be cool if we each took a thousand bucks and just beat the hell out of a car and the last man standing won? So it has a lot of that kind of fun flair to it, also.

How would you say this differs from the original then? Is there a particular bent or angle to it that separates it?


Tanner: Yeah. I think that we've got better teeth than the other three hosts. No, I'm just kidding. That was Adam.
Adam: Tanner Foust!
Tanner: Fundamentally, the format's similar, and there's a lot of things that are similar to that show, but American car culture, we're really unique. We have a unique take on things. We have pickup trucks, we like muscle cars. We like all those things, and ... right now Rutledge is hugging me and it's making me feel uncomfortable.
Rutledge: Sorry. I'm sorry, Nick. Go ahead, Tanner.
Adam: I told ya not to wear the cologne.

That's not the way to force the chemistry, I think.

Tanner: No. A bearded face on my neck is creepy. I'm just going to say that. But there's a huge difference in the American car culture versus the rest of the world. When we watch the U.K. show, as brilliant as the show is, it doesn't hit the heart of what is a huge American car culture. And that's something that, in shooting this show, it's a very cool thing to beat up on pickup trucks and to have fun with muscle cars and to kind of revel in the loudness of a V-8 instead of dislike it. So there is a fundamental difference there that's sort of celebrated with this show.

'Top Gear' on HistoryYou have a lot of guest stars on this show, as the original did. Were there any moments from taping this season that stand out for you? Buzz Aldrin or Ty Burrell or Kid Rock?

Rutledge: The guests that came out were really great and all got out there and really pushed it. But, for me, I got to interview Tim Allen who, on the automotive food chain, is so high up there for a guy that just loves cars, through and through, old, new, or whatever. He's also a guy who really respects the history behind cars and how this country's changed around them and what they mean to this country.

And it was so cool to see, he's a guy who really wants, we were talking earlier, we all want GM to succeed. It doesn't matter if you like Ford or Dodge, it's important to this country. And he's a guy that and sees what it means, and I think it's also going to be cool, for people that watch History are going to get to see Tim Allen go crazy about what he loves so much about cars.

Dominic Monaghan was on the show, and he had the most elaborate description of what a perfect vehicle could be to him that I've ever heard in my life. That's what's going to be so cool. The best tie-in is that the first show History ever had on was a show called 'Automobiles: Corvette' and we get to kind of bring it all back after all the success they've had, with that same love of cars. And I think it's going to make total sense, you know.
Adam: And the nice thing is, I got to interview Michelle Rodriguez, and she was just so cool. She can drive and she was a lot of fun, and she was really just kind of breaking our balls, which was pretty cool. And we got Buzz Aldrin. We got a guy who's been in space who did our show. How cool is that?

What did he do again? I'm looking over the episodes again...

Adam: Buzz Aldrin? There's this thing called the moon?

No, I mean on the show. I know who Buzz Aldrin is, I just mean on the show what did he do?


All three: [laughter]
Tanner: He went around our track.
Adam: We did an interview with Buzz and then he did a lap around our track. In a segment we like to call "Big Star, Small Car" where we take a big celebrity and put them into a tiny car, which is a Suzuki SX4.
Tanner: It's kind of a cool thing. You see from the UK show, and all of these celebrities, 10 of them from this season, go around the exact same track in the exact same car, and it's funny because it's in a small car, maybe they think they're going to get in an exotic or something like that. But ultimately you get to see the competitive side of every single one of these celebrities. Maybe you've never seen Michelle Rodriguez -- well, maybe you have because of 'The Fast and the Furious' -- but maybe you haven't seen their competitive driving side. You have a camera on them as they're racing a car full speed around track. It's really cool to see kind of how into cars all these people are, and to take them away from their normal Hollywood element.
Adam: And they want to talk about their cars, too. Brett Michaels brought pictures of all his cars. Giant dogs and cars and dirt bikes. Everyone just wants to tell their stories about their cars.

Is the American Stig any different from the U.K. Stig?

Rutledge: Way faster.
Tanner: I would imagine that he has better teeth, also. Just to be completely blanketed here. I actually don't know. I'll say this: The Stig legitimately does not talk, won't shake my hand, won't look at me. But he seems really nice. Or she. To be honest, I don't know if it's a he or a she. I haven't asked him to dance, either, so that would have, you can kind of tell whether they lead or not. That's a really strange answer. I'm sorry, Nick. I got lost there for a second.
Adam: [faintly in the background] Can you hear us, Nick!
Tanner: Let me wrap that back up.
Adam
: You've wandered too far again. Time for the blue pill!
Tanner: Umm... He is silent and he is very, very fast. And he's dressed in all white.
Adam: And not a lot of guys can pull off white.
Rutledge: Especially after Labor Day.

Adam, what is your automotive background?


Adam: I got into cars through my father, because that was the only time you could really spend time with pop. So I really got into, he would fix the cars and I would hold the light. And we quickly figured out that that was the peak of my mechanical ability, was holding the light. And my first car was an 81 Dodge Aries K that I got from the dead relative inheritance program from my grandfather. I didn't feel bad about my lack of mechanical ability because there's nothing you can do to an 81 Dodge Aries K.

What I took away from my father, I still remember this story, is, he built our house, as well. He was very mechanically inclined. And he built a circular driveway. He was fighting with my mother about it, because my mother didn't want a circular driveway, and my father said, "I don't ever want to have to back up."

Adam FerraraWere you intimidated by this show?

Adam: I had done another show for History called 'The United States of Cars.' It was a pilot that didn't go. And then when they called me again to ask if I had heard of 'Top Gear,' I was a big fan. And when they said that they were remaking it again, I got a chance to meet the producer, the guy who actually made the show, and then I met these two guys, and when they said they didn't want to recreate the show, they just wanted to make an American version of the show, that's when I really got excited about it.

Still, it's a daunting task, being a fan of the show myself, and we have a lot to live up to. But I think the fact that History is allowing us to be ourselves in that context, we're really up for the challenge because we really do love the show as much as everybody else does.

How are you as a driver?

Adam: I am cloaked in the protective cloak of ignorance. I launched a '76 Coup DeVille. And I didn't know you could die. So I think I got away with one. Tanner summed it up great when we were going around the track the first time. He said, look ahead, and then your natural survival instincts will tell you how much to hit the breaks. Then he took a beat and said, "But I don't know if you have that."

How are you fitting the show into your schedule with 'Rescue Me' and stand-up?

Adam: It's a juggling act, but busy is good. 'Rescue Me,' our last season is coming up next year, and hopefully our next season for 'Top Gear' will be coming up pretty soon.

'Top Gear' and The StigOK, these questions are for Tanner. Was it hard to adjust to a studio coming from stunt driving?

Tanner: Certainly being out in the cars and doing the stunts is really natural and fun for me. But the studio side is basically what everybody does between driving, it's just talking cars. And that's what I've been doing now for my whole life. Before being a professional driver, I was the friend in the group of friends that annoyed everybody by talking too much about cars. Anyone who's a fan of 'Top Gear' or considers themselves a car enthusiast has been told they talk too much about cars. So it's just a format.

And when we're in the studio, it's a place where everybody can geek out on machines that maybe they normally wouldn't get to talk about. Like Rutledge's four-speed Volkswagen pickup truck, a diesel, that he grew up with and still thinks is the greatest car on the planet. He's showing me a picture of my first car, which is an '83 Civic wagon. That one looks much nicer than the one that I had, though. I think that kind of stuff is fairly natural. Being in a Lamborghini going a hundred miles an hour is my coffee. That's my vice, for sure. That's what I really love to do. But talking cars, that's a lifestyle that I've had since birth.

And when the cameras started rolling, that didn't affect you at all? It was pretty natural?

Tanner: I think it's interesting, even just doing these interviews and hanging out with Adam and Rut here, whether the camera is on or off, it's virtually the same things are happening. We're having the same conversations and we're picking on each other. And Rutledge is going right through my photos on my phone which makes me a little bit uncomfortable right now. [laughter in the background] But you know, it's a great thing. We don't have to act a role. Isn't that lucky? ... We just get to be who we are.

TannerHas the show allowed you access to technology you were itching to look at or hadn't had access to before?


Tanner: Technology? I don't know. I mean, a lot of the cars we drive are thousand-dollar cars. And so we go out there and sometimes pick a car on a budget. I did get to live out a childhood dream. I grew up a skier, and I had always wanted to mix driving and skiing, and I did get to ski, basically, a Mitsubishi Evo down a powder run at Mammoth Mountain. Which was just epic. I have gotten to exercise some of those things.

But, you know, this show has been really cool. There isn't a car show in the U.S. that puts things on screen as well as, in such a beautiful way, as the producers of BBC and History. And that's a real unique opportunity to be a part of that ... American history is so directly correlated with automotive history. And our unique automotive culture is different than the rest of the world. We like pickup trucks, and the rest of the world really doesn't. We like loud muscle cars, and so it's cool to celebrate those and to have it documented in a way that's so incredible to watch. I'm really excited to be a part of it, for sure.

Is there anything you did on the show this season that was more challenging than what you've done as a stunt driver before?


Tanner: Challenging from a driving standpoint? In some cases, yes, because things are done for real in this show. [laughs] With 'Fast and Furious: Tokyo Drift' we're supposed to be drifting through Tokyo but we're really in L.A., and you run over to craft service to get some red vines between takes. But when we're going through an adventure in Alaska, trying to figure out what the toughest pickup truck is, we're actually in Alaska sleeping in the back of pickup trucks.
Adam: [shouting in the background] And no craft service!
Tanner: Which Adam is still bitter about, actually, months later, which I find bizarre. So when it's done for real, it raised the stakes all around. So it's nothing like stunt driving.

I have a couple of questions for Rutledge, as well. Did you get to use any of your building skills on the show?


Rutledge: My building skills. I built a house on the back of a pickup truck. That would be my only real skill there.

I had seen in your bio that you liked to rebuild cars. I didn't know if there was an aspect of that you were bringing to the show.

Rutledge: We had a great Southern road trip where we experienced the joys of what it would have been like to have been a moonshine runner. And my '87 Ford Thunderbird Turbo Coup, the seller did not mention it had been sitting about 18 months before I bought it. And I don't know if you've ever owned a Turbo car -- they don't care for that. They don't like to be sitting around just coating everything in oil. So it broke down every chance it got. And I was able to fix it once on a roadside with a ballpoint pen. I had to poke a bunch of holes in the thermostat so it would keep having water go through. And then the other time I blew a heater hose, probably because it was trying to overheat, so I turned on the heater to try to cool it down, that old trick. I'm in 90-degree weather with the heat on, just sweating it out. And then I had to make a trip to AutoZone.

You're used to reporting on NASCAR. Is it a big difference for you, now that you're covering everything from thousand dollar cars to Lamborghinis on this show?


Rutledge: You know what's so cool is, the way I got into NASCAR was really the same way I got into 'Top Gear.' I've just always loved cars. My dad grew up on Route 66 and he bought and sold cars at his parents John Deere International Harvester dealership. So that's how I got into cars, and just the love of it.

For me, being a 'Top Gear' fan, my job in what I do with NASCAR is just to try to make the drivers real to people at home, to fans, and to serve as that bridge. And because of my love of cars, it's really easy to do, because all of those guys love cars.



So, when it came to 'Top Gear,' it was really a great fit for me to get to come out and get to show my love and enthusiasm about cars. Because I've had some weird stuff. I've had a Bricklin, I don't know if you know what that is. It was an odd Canadian car, it was like the predecessor to the DeLorean, except that it was made of fiberglass. And a huge, huge failure as a brand, much like DeLorean was. But the Bricklin was a 75 SV1 that one of my friends gave me and I sold it for, I think fifteen hundred bucks. It was leaking gas. We couldn't start it, it was leaking so much gas that day we thought it was going to catch on fire. I've owned, I think I might have beat 50 now, because right now, I own seven cars. Two of which are driving, currently. So, that's not a good ratio. But it's funny. We always talk about the fist cars we had and we hope we get to do something fun with those one day. But the first car Tanner ever had was an '83 Civic wagon, which is the same project car I've been working on for the past eight months. It just kind of cracks us up that it's kind of come full circle for us.

And are you going to continue to report for RaceWay?

Rutledge: Oh yeah. I'm actually headed to Texas tomorrow afternoon. So I'll be out at the track all weekend. Love Texas Motor Speedway. It's a good time. And I do think it'll be cool because NASCAR fans love racing, they love the history of racing and I think for them to get to come over and watch a show on History.

'Top Gear' on HistoryOn that '60 Minutes' segment about the British show, it was kind of strange -- they brought up that people were kind of offended by some of the sketches. And even by some of the danger. Do you think there's a similar thing that might happen with this show?

Tanner: I'll tell you what, my mom saw the winter special when they drove the car to the North Pole and she called me, literally upset, "You are not gonna do something like that! They could have died!" And I was like, "Mom, that's a great point. Hopefully, I won't do that." It's like, the old pie in the face is funny, but if you drop a brick on my head, it's not as funny.
Adam: Oh, don't kid yourself. That's funny.
Tanner
: I hope we'll avoid some of that. To be honest, we're talking like normal people about cars, and we haven't held back about things we like, things we didn't like ... If we start the show by saying tonight on 'Top Gear,' we show you that the PT Cruiser is the best car ever made, and people started booing -- so we may offend a couple of PT Cruiser owners along the way. Clarkson's one of those guys who likes to stand out, to stand out. And he'll tell you that if you read any of his books or you see him in any of his kind of more political sort of voices. We don't have an agenda besides go out and have fun with cars. And History has been really supportive of that love and to help us come up with different things. And tell you what, to look outside and to see those five yellow taxis, of these awesome, incredible, exotic things.
Adam: Nick, you can't see it, cuz you're on the phone. But there's a Ferrari, there's an SLR, there's a Mercedes, there's a Lamborghini, there's a Porsche and a Bentley.
Rutledge: And they're all formerly owned by Jennifer Lopez.
Adam: Really? That's why the ass is so big.
PR person
: [In the background] Don't print that, Nick!
Adam: But they're all painted yellow, and they have 'Top Gear' on the side of them. And that's pretty cool. But the annoying thing is, we arrived in a van.

I have one last question for everybody. With the U.K. 'Top Gear,' I know a lot of people who are fans of that show who are not necessarily big fans of cars or racing. Do you think the American version will have a similar appeal and reach past the sort of hardcore automotive fans?

Tanner: Yeah, you know, Andy Wilman, the executive producer of the U.K. show said that 'Top Gear' is basically a glimpse into the male mind, and I think it's true. It's funny for men to watch it, but amazingly, 45 percent of the demographic for the U.K. show is women. It is just kind of a glimpse into the competitive nature that every single human has here, so it's really about three guys having a good time, and the cars, you're right, are kind of the catalyst for that or the bystander for that.
Adam: What did they say [on '60 Minutes']? It's part buddy movie, part car show, part reality show? It's one of the most unique shows on TV. Just by the way the thing is built. And it's pretty cool to do an American version of it.
Rutledge
: And we really do think that people are going to get to see the American version and why it makes sense. And just like my mom and wife, who watch the U.K. show, we think they're going to enjoy watching the U.S. show and have as much fun with it.

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Stacy R Hennessey

THIS SHOW SIMPLY ROCKS MAN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

March 14 2012 at 9:29 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Spatula

I read this article after watching the first two episodes. After watching the show, I came to the conclusion that these three guys actually know anything about cars and don't really care about cars since there is no real enthusiasm in their delivery. They woodenly read from cue cards. After reading this article it turns out that at least two of them know something about cars. Never would of guessed that.

December 06 2010 at 2:51 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
dick

Hey,

Isn't that Digger from Nascar?

No, it's Rutledge Wood,

Dude get some effing personality and a voice-what is it with the "Mars Attacks" way you sound?

MEH-meh-meh-Eh-Meh-Eh?

November 22 2010 at 2:39 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
teltech54

Knowing America it will probably be just one long commercial. It will never be anything like Top Gear UK

November 21 2010 at 8:23 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
nico toscani

This will be pure garbage. The ONLY reason the original Top Gear works is because of the hosts. Adam Ferarra? Really? Was Pauly Shore unavailable?

November 21 2010 at 7:56 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Jim Foley

If you are unaware, All in the Family,Sanford and son, and most of Norman Lears sitcoms of the 70's were English shows that were Americanized!

November 21 2010 at 7:54 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
adamaugust75

first thing is first history ch. hired the first 3 guys to walk in the door 2nd thing why don't history and BBC team to have top gear u.k. been showen in the state's the big thing i can say we will not see is shit talking about cars like the u.k. dose and the u.k. has done a lot of things what are they going to do the same thing just with a dodge, ford, chevy come on i will watch just to see how lame it is o and one last thing did you see that they copy u.k.and have the same stage yeah way to go history ch. you suck

November 21 2010 at 7:33 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
djtonydee

BELIEVE IT OR NOT...I LIKE (LOVE) TANNER ON "BATTLE OF THE SUPERCARS"

November 21 2010 at 7:32 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Nick

The further dumbing down of the once relevant and mindful History Channel. Stupid, faked and irrelevant "reality" shows have no merit on a channel that's supposed to be for people that are actually interested in history. Television SUCKS!

November 21 2010 at 7:16 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Jim

So this is not a history channel anymore? Now it's just another cheap reality show network, huh?

November 21 2010 at 7:06 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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