One of television’s funniest and most celebrated car stunts was fixed, according to the man who risked life and limb to film it. Broadcast in 2010, the Top Gear episode showing Jeremy Clarkson repeatedly rolling a Reliant Robin as he tries to negotiate the streets of Sheffield is often cited — with Basil Fawlty thrashing his Austin 1100 Countryman — as the most memorable extended car gag yet filmed. To many it was an example of the show at its best, combining anarchic comedy with peril and informative commentary.
Clarkson introduced the clip — ostensibly a test of the stability of the “second-bestselling plastic car in history after the Chevrolet Corvette” — on a 14-mile trip from Sheffield to Rotherham by saying: “I genuinely believe that what I am about to do is as dangerous as inviting your mum around for an evening on Chatroulette.”
Now the presenter has revealed that scenes of the car tipping over as it takes corners were rigged. In his review of the Reliant Robin, published in this section, he admits: “Now’s the time to come clean. A normal Reliant will not roll unless a drunken rugby team is on hand. Or it’s windy. But in a headlong drive to amuse and entertain, I’d asked the backroom boys to play around with the differential so that the poor little thing rolled over every time I turned the steering wheel.”
The admission will please some Reliant Robin owners. In the weeks after the show was broadcast, newspapers reported a spate of “Robin rollovers” — owners found their cars tipped over by unknown assailants during the night in apparent copycat attacks. Barry Cloughton, a great-grandfather, blamed Clarkson and branded his stunts “ridiculous, irresponsible and dangerous. Twice I found my car on its side in the driveway, and whoever is doing this thinks it’s funny, but it is very distressing.”
Clarkson also reveals that after signing with Amazon Prime to produce a new series of shows, all three presenters — Clarkson, James May and Richard Hammond — along with their producer Andy Wilman bought Reliant Robins as company cars. They paid “less than £15,000 for four cars”.
BMW i8 takes a last look in the mirrors as cameras give panoramic road view
“Mirror, signal, manoeuvre” may never be the same again. BMW has revealed a prototype version of its i8 supercar that uses cameras in place of mirrors to eliminate blind spots and give drivers a panoramic view of the road behind. In place of a rear-view mirror the car has a 12in-wide screen.
Video is stitched together using images from cameras across the top of the rear window and on streamlined, stubby stalks where the side mirrors would normally be. The wide field of vision means there’s no need to adjust mirrors. Replacing the side mirrors with cameras is said also to make the car more aerodynamic and to improve fuel economy.