Follow TV Tropes


Series / Scrapheap Challenge

Go To

A game show where two teams of engineering-minded people are set loose on a scrapheap 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).


Although it is a British series, they did an American version known as Junkyard Wars, which follows the original format of the show. There are also a number of spinoffs.

For the first ten seasons, was hosted by Robert Llewellyn, with a female co-host (Cathy Rogers for the first four, Lisa Rogers for the remainder). For the eleventh series the host is Dick Strawbridge, one of the two team captains from the first series.

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 seasons have 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 Rally

Four 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 total time taken to modify their vehicle and complete the challenge (Scrapheap Races Rally).

Scrapheap Challenge Roadshows

A number of teams build their machines at home and then come together to compete. The winners then takes on the Scrapheap All Stars, a team consisting of people who have previously competed on the regular show.

Contains examples of:

  • 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.
    Nosher: Yeah?
    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.
  • 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.
  • Advertisement:
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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!
  • 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; one team finally got the temperamental engine of their plane running, and launched it off the runway over the edge of the canyon....where it promptly plowed 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 seasons. Which can get confusing as Season 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.
  • Retool: The latest season is much closer to the 'Roadshow' format. Or to Geronimo.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Because no TV Tropes page is complete without a Terry Pratchett reference, note that during the tractor tug-of-war episode, one team named its machine "The Great A'tuin".
    • The concept and title of Scrappy Races allude to Wacky Races.
  • 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.")

Alternative Title(s): Junkyard Wars