A Game Show where two teams of engineering-minded people are set loose on a scrap heap to build machines for the challenge of the week. The teams are allowed 10 hours at the scrapheap to build their machines and one hour of "Tinker Time" before the challenge for some final adjustments. The challenges include flight, fire fighting, throwing cars, remote-control car fighting, car-sumo wrestling, digging, building tanks and that's just the tip of the iceberg. For some challenges, specific items would be given to the teams (eg, manual coffee grinders for wind-powered coffee grinders) or hidden in the scrapheap (eg, steam engines and boilers for steam-powered cars).
Running alongside it and also covered on this page was a Transatlantic Equivalent known as Junkyard Wars, which mostly followed the same format. There are also a number of spinoffs.
The pilot was hosted by Sally Gray who was replaced by Robert Llewellyn once the main series started alongside a female co-host (Cathy Rogers for the first four, Lisa Rogers for the remainder) who carried it through the first 10 series. The eleventh one was hosted by Dick Strawbridge, one of the two team captains from the first series. Junkyard Wars meanwhile was hosted by multiple people throughout its run including George Gray (season 1), Tyler Harcott (season 2–5) and Rossi Morreale (season 6-7) alongside Cathy Rogers (season 1–3), Karyn Bryant (season 4–5) and Bobbi Sue Luther (Season 6-7).
This final series changed the format significantly. Three teams had four weeks at home and £450 to build their machines. A fourth team consisting of the host, his off-sider, and someone who competed in the earlier series has 10 hours and £450 to build their own machine. The home teams compete and the winning home team takes on the host's team.
Scrapheap Races and Scrappy Races RallyFour teams build a vehicle at home that has to pass a strict roadworthiness test. Over four weeks they drive their creation to a different scrapheap each week and modify it for that week's challenge. The winner is based on points awarded (Scrapheap Races) or the total time taken to modify their vehicle and complete the challenge (Scrapheap Races Rally). Lasted 3 series.
Scrapheap Challenge RoadshowsA number of teams build their machines at home and then come together to compete. The winners then take on the Scrapheap All Stars, a team consisting of people who have previously competed on the regular show. Aired as a series of TV specials
Contains examples of:
- Achievements in Ignorance: Occasionally, a team will win by complete accident, or at the very least because the other team was even further from the goal than they were. For example, in the "Aerial Bomber" episode, neither team could get their remote-controlled bomber to function properly, with Three Revs a Minute's aeroplane having a temperamental engine and the Mothers of Invention's blimp subjected to being blown around by the wind due to inadequate motors, and both teams having issues with their transponders, but the Mothers' blimp managed to catch a stroke of luck as the winds blew it almost directly over the target site, allowing them to score the closest hit and therefore win.
- Awesome, but Impractical: Many of the more elaborate and creative builds failed hilariously.
- Bait-and-Switch Comment: When the teams in Scrappy Races are getting their vehicles tested for roadworthiness:Inspector: Sorry, slight problem.
Inspector: For other road users. You've passed!
- Boring, but Practical: Goes hand-in-hand with Awesome, but Impractical above: oftentimes, the simpler, less complex vehicles have a greater chance of winning due to the lack of mechanical complications.
- Building Is Welding: Many, many episodes included scenes of the teams welding their machines together. In one episode of the American spinoff Junkyard Wars, one team got so enthusiastic about their welding that the sparks started a fire on the set.
- Catchphrase: Barley Pickers have a habit of saying "Proper job". When they made it to the grand final, where they faced the team that won last year's competition and their contraption tore itself apart, they called it a "Proper failure", as the other team's one also failed, but not nearly as dramatically as theirs had.
- Cool Old Lady: Diane of The Mothers of Invention was in her 70s and on a team with her son and his friend. As she wasn't the team captain she was often the one poking around the scrapheap.
- Covered in Mud:
- In Lisa Rogers' first episode, The Stinger shows her being tackled into the mud pit that had been used to test the vehicles.
- Richard from "The 'Much Bunch'' got showered with mud when a track slipped from their mud runner.
- Crossover: There was one Britain vs USA crossover with Junkyard Wars. While no British teams appeared in the US series, two US teams did appear on the UK series. The NERDS were the first (and with a later special episode, the last), The MuleWrights were a last minute substitute when the Barley Pickers (a team of farmers) couldn't travel to the US filming site due to agricultural quarantine.
- Deliberately Monochrome / Stylistic Suck: The segments which explained the basic science and principles of the vehicle the teams had to build were made to look like an old educational programme.
- Don't Try This at Home: In the challenge to build a Mine Sweeper, Storm Force team member Martin gives this message while tearing off the tyres of a Volkswagen.Don't try this at home, kids. Especially not on daddy's car.
- Early-Installment Weirdness: The pilot and the first series had a very different format with fixed teams competing for points rather than the knockout format used for most of the run. They also embraced more of a post-apocalyptic aesthetic with booth Llewellyn and Sally wearing a seemingly Mad Max inspired outfit consisting of googles, a leather jacket and deliberate messy hair.
- Epic Fail: Normal failure is par for the course, but you sometimes get this. And it's glorious when it does, such as the horribly dangerous Mini-flinging trebuchet that bent, buckled then disintegrated when they tried to fire it. A cannon built by a team of British Army officers managed to fire its barrel instead of its slug downrange. (for once muzzle velocity actually meant speed of the muzzle, rather than speed of slug at the muzzle).
- Machines incorporating hydraulics tend to fail disappointingly (the Pink Slider seized up and ceased to slide) or spectacularly (the Mighty Muncher's hoses separated, spraying coolant and hydraulic fluid everywhere).
- Freeze-Frame Bonus: The notice on Bowser's house in series 2 of Scrappy Races, which begins:☠️ WARNING
The occupant of this house is a biker.
He hates Salesmen, Beggars, Conmen and bill collectors.
You have been warned!
- Gearhead Show: Teams compete to produce a machine for Task X using random scrap and some expert advice. A giant catapult, say, or a train.
- Hurricane of Puns: Several builds just lend themselves naturally to this, such as the American episodes featuring tanks and paddlewheel boats.
- Irony: The opening credits showed footage of various engineering feats, culminating in shots of Concorde and the Space Shuttle. By the end of the series, both of these had ended up on the scrapheap themselves.
- Kayfabe: The heaps have been salted with useful trash, but the most blatant was when a team found a partial roll of Mylar for a flying challenge. Whenever possible the item seeded was sourced from a specialist salvage. The crew stocking the yard also removed items that would make things too easy. This was sometimes done for purely practical purposes: for a challenge involving a steam engine, for example, improvising a boiler would be near impossible and dangerous, so a few certified ones would be 'planted' amongst the genuine junk. Likewise, that grubby old aircraft propeller you just found would have been a dirtied-up new one for safety reasons. A longer explanation can be found here
- Occasionally averted. For instance, in the rocket episode of the Junkyard Wars version, the narrator tells the viewer point blank that solid-fuel rocket engines have been hidden in the junk. Similarly, in the monster truck challenge, new Monstertruck tires had been put in the junkyard. Other times, items will simply be provided to the teams, such as helium for the flying challenge.
- This was also inverted in a classical aviation themed special; materials and parts which wouldn't have been available in the early days of aviation (which included certain steel alloys and plastics, but interestingly not aluminium) were either removed or marked as off limits.
- Letting the Air out of the Band: Scrappy Races series 2: As the Tartan Starlets succumb to physical exhaustion in the firefighting challenge, the background music (bagpipes) slows to a halt.
- Happened during the "Remote Controlled Bomber" episode as well; Three Revs a Minute finally got the temperamental engine of their plane running, and launched it off the runway over the edge of the canyon....where it promptly ploughed into the ground due to not getting up enough speed.
- Loophole Abuse:
- The Barley Pickers' entry for Scrappy Races didn't have to pass the Single Vehicle Approval test that the other competitors' vehicles did, because as farmers they could get it classified as an agricultural show vehicle.
- When designing 'underwater cars', one team realized that only the cars needed to be underwater, and not the drivers. They put the driver on top of the car, so he would be above the surface, eliminating the need for an airtight compartment.
- One competition was to create vehicle-mounted demolition machines, with the judging being based on who could knock down a wall faster. Both team's creations failed to work properly, so they ended up completing the challenge by backing the trucks they were mounted on into the wall.
- Market-Based Title: Junkyard Wars in the United States; which was also the name for the American remake that aired in between the British made series. Which can get confusing as series 3 of Scrapheap Challenge is also season 5 of Junkyard Wars.
- Monowheel Mayhem: One episode had the teams constructing monowheels and racing them round a test track.
- My Car Hates Me: Since the machines are built with scrap components, it's all too common for them to break down at the worst possible moment. This was a particular problem in series 2 of Scrappy Races, where the Tartan Starlets and Cops 'n' Bodgers were plagued by mechanical failures, and in one race the Chaos Crew's twin-engined van made it through all the obstacles only to grind to a halt ten metres short of the finish line.
- Nitro Boost: The Megalomaniacs used one in their speed trial on Scrappy Races, but it wasn't enough to win them the race.
- Not Cheating Unless You Get Caught: Teams regularly swipe stuff from each other's lots, incurring no penalty from the hosts aside from a few snarky remarks. In most cases the "Theft" was setup by the TV crew for dramatic effect, with both teams asked if they would allow it.
- Ramming Always Works: In a game where the challenge is to break a wall down, one team got frustrated with its wrecking ball's slow performance and decided to start ramming the wall down. This led to a ramming contest.
- Reality Is Unrealistic: While the scrapyards are all real locations, the piles of parts and metal were ‘carefully’ laid out by the program’s staff, as in reality, breaker’s yards are typically much better organised.
- The latest series is much closer to the "Roadshow" format. Or to Geronimo.
- The US version got renamed Junkyard Mega Wars for its 6th and 7th season and introduced a format much closer to the first series of Scrapheap Challenge with fixed teams competing for points.
- Suspiciously Similar Substitute: Each team in the second series of Scrappy Races (other than the returning Chaos Crew) seems to have been chosen to correspond to one in the first series:
- Knuckleheadz for the Megalomaniacs: A team of bikers led by a captain who'd previously appeared on the main show.
- Tartan Starlets for the Green Goddesses: A team of students whose build is based on an iconic small car.
- Cops 'n' Bodgers for the Barleypickers: A team working at the same job, whose vehicle is styled to reflect that job.
- Tim Taylor Technology: A lot of the vehicles in the "Scrappy Races" spinoff were rebuilt with much larger engines than they were designed for — or, in the case of the Chaos Crew's entries, additional engines.
- The Watson: The hosts in the earlier series.
- Wrench Wench: Some of the female techies looked quite appealing in coveralls. (One such team actually called themselves "The Wenches with Wrenches.")