Tropes A to C | Tropes D to G | Tropes H to Q | Tropes R to Z
Top Gear (UK) provides examples of the following tropes:
- Hammerspace: Clarkson pulls a hammer out of nowhere in Season Twelve to test the construction of a Lada. If one looks closely at that sequence, one can figure out how Clarkson did it. But on first viewing, it's awesome.
- Ham-to-Ham Combat: Clarkson and Simon Cowell... oh so much.
- Handicapped Badass:
- Sound guy Kiff McManus managed to hold his own while steering Jeremy's double-decker car during the Top Gear vs. D Motor competition despite his artificial arm coming off during one of the last laps. He once had a fight with a shark! He lost, which explains why he's missing an arm. Though one could say he won, which is why he is only missing an arm.
- One fan wrote in to say he could have done a much better lap than TV presenter Richard Whiteley (then the slowest on the board). Normally, such letters are simply thrown away, but since the writer was totally black blind they took him up on it, with Clarkson guiding him from the passenger seat. He indeed completed the lap, and faster, and so a lap time marked 'Blind Man' went on the board above Whiteley's.note
- Episode 6 of Series 17 featured a off road racing team comprised of former British soldiers who had fallen prey to IEDs while fighting in Afghanistan. The lead mechanic had lost both legs almost up to his pelvis due to repeated infections after he was injured, the co driver had lost an arm and both legs, driver was comparatively lucky having suffered "only a flesh wound", namely the loss of his left leg below the knee. They came second in class and plan to compete in the Paris-Dakar rally.
- Another trio of veterans appeared in an episode where Top Gear attempted to produce superior off-road mobility scooters. The three were largely limited to said scooters to get around, but happily took on the challenge of ascending a mountain. Despite several nasty spills, the teamwork and combat training of the veterans allowed them to cross rough terrain and muddy roads well ahead of the Top Gear crew. As was, Hammond was the only one of the Top Gear crew to even get there.
- Happy Dance: Jay Kay when Jeremy announced his time was the fastest on the board. He even won the 2008 John Sergeant Award, which is awarded to the celebrity who performs the best dance on learning their time in the Star in a Reasonable Priced Car lap. He was also the only celebrity nominated.
- Hassle-Free Hotwire:
- In the Second Hand BMW 325i Convertible segment, one challenge has professional car thieves try to steal their cars. Hammond's is started and driven away in less than ten seconds.
- In the '80s Hot Hatch segment, Jeremy demonstrates a flaw in Hammond's Nova's electronics which starts the system if the hazard button was removed and inserted upside down, which allows the car to be push started and driven away.
- Hates Being Touched: May is not a fan of touching people, and particularly of "man-contact."
- Hates Everyone Equally: One of the saving graces of the horrible things that Jeremy says about various groups is that he says horrible things about pretty much everyone. Except for Vietnam.
- Heavy Sleeper:
- Hammond claims to be one of these in real life.
- James May dozed off on-camera after the epic private plane/Bugatti Veyron race.
- Helium Speech: During season 16, the presenters used a tank of helium to test how well the roofs of their old convertibles had held up by placing each of them in their vehicle with an open tank. James and Jeremy's cars held in the gas, resulting in squeaky voices. Richard's heavily-modified vehicle allowed the helium to leak out, much to his disappointment.
- Her Code Name Was "Mary Sue": While riding the Vincent Black Shadow in the Season 13 "Race to the North," Hammond did most of his narration in the style of a radio drama about a motorcycle hero named "The Black Shadow."
- Heterosexual Life-Partners
- He Who Must Not Be Heard / The Voiceless: The Stig and Top Gear Stuntman.
- Hiding in a Hijab: Done in the Middle East special to keep Israeli officials from finding out the presenters had been through Syria. As per usual, it was a miserable failure.
- Hey, That's My Line!!: On two occasions, James has beaten Jeremy on, "Back to the studio."
- James has also stolen Jeremy's "And on that bombshell..."
- Hilarious Outtakes: As if you needed another reason to buy the DVDs....
- Hilarity Ensues: The predictable result of just about every task which the producers give to the presenters in any given episode.
- Hoist by His Own Petard: Getting run out of Argentina because of a number plate that appeared to reference the Falklands War. The team insisted it was all just an unfortunate coincidence but the trope fits regardless because of their reputation for similar Jerkass stunts.
- Holiday in Cambodia: Notably averted: in the Vietnam special they acknowledged it would be a disservice to history not to refer to The Vietnam War and its legacy, but at the same time they wanted to present the country as so much more than just "that place where a war happened".
- Largely by saturating the episode with on-location Scenery Porn to brilliant effect.
- Homoerotic Subtext: A favorite teasing point for the presenters.
- In Series 10, when Clarkson derides a bug-eyed car, and Richard says he loves it:
May: I'm with Hammond. [launches into an explanation]
Hammond: Oh God, when you said "I'm with Hammond," I thought you meant we were going out!
- Invoked by Hammond:
Hammond: Oh mate, I'll never be able to get that out of my mind, where I've just been. Jammed between Jeremy's thighs in a Dutch three wheeler.
- And again when encountering the town of Jezza during the Nile Special:
- Hood Hornament: During the Botswana Special, Jeremy Clarkson takes this one step further and decorates the hood of his Lancia Beta with an entire bull skull he found while traversing the Kalahari Desert.
- Horrible Camping Trip:
- Most notably, the caravan holiday segment, which started with an accident and a carsick dog and only went downhill from there. Eventually the trio's caravan was totally destroyed in a grease fire started when Clarkson tried his hand at cooking.
- Clarkson mentions this moment during a challenge involving custom camper vans, and as he's talking about the event Hammond is freaking out in the background because his camper is now ablaze.
- Hostile Show Takeover:
- Hot-Blooded: Richard Hammond
Clarkson: [watching Hammond do a fast lap on an unfamiliar track]
It's The Fast and the Furious
, this... the very furious, I should imagine, knowing Hammond. Hammond: Oh, for God's sake! Where's the bloody apex?!
- House Amnesia: In the Botswana special Jeremy and Richard try to prank James by leaving a cow's head in his tent, hoping it'll attract the wildlife. They then get pinned in said tent as a hippo waits outside. As they wonder if it's better to take a chance with the hippo or stay in the tent with the head, Richard Hammond realises, they're actually stuck with the cow's head in his tent.
- Hypno Fool: Averted. Hypnotist Paul McKenna hypnotized Richard Hammond when he appeared on the show in Series 4 but Hammond under hypnosis was still entirely himself, just bewildered by things he ordinarily has no trouble understanding, like which buttons and dials do what on a car. And how any car can possibly be faster than a Porsche.
- Hypocritical Humour:
- I Always Wanted to Say That: The lads' Renault Avantime has caught fire, forcing them to abandon their tuning efforts
This is something I've wanted to do— I've worked in television twenty years, never had the chance yet, okay, [pause for breath] May:
"Back to the studio." Clarkson Hey, That's My Line!
That's what I wanted to say! [May starts running and Clarkson gives chase]
May! May, you bastard! Hammond: [to the camera]
Yeah. What I thought I'd do is put the fire out, and then say— Clarkson: [over Hammond's shoulder]
"Back to the studio!"
- I Call It "Vera": Richard Hammond named his 1963 Opel Kadett "Oliver" during the Botswana Special.
- Idiot Ball:
- Each presenter has held it at least once, including the Stig. The presenters even have an award for the biggest cock-up of the year: the coveted Golden Cock award.
- Perhaps the best example is when Jeremy Clarkson put the lit bowl of a Porsche-branded pipe in his mouth after joking that it was a rear-engined model and thus the "hot bit goes at the back." Unsurprisingly, he burned his tongue.
- Clarkson also put Vaseline on the camera lens to make his police car footage look more "flamboyant." As you can imagine, it was not so much "soft-focus" as "impossibly blurry."
- And in the "cars as art" episode in Series 14, Clarkson stood behind a Formula One car primed to fire paintballs out of its exhaust, with nothing between himself and its crotch-level exhaust pipe but the piece of canvas. So, Clarkson used the idiot ball to launch idiot balls at his idiot balls...
- Idiot Savant: The Stig. Assuming he's actually human, of course.
- I Do Not Like Green Eggs and Ham: On the various specials, two presenters are usually quite thrilled about the upcoming challenge while a third is glum. The third presenter usually cheers up before the end, while one of the enthusiastic pair finds the adventure isn't what he expected it to be.
- The stick in the mud is usually James May, though in the Vietnam Special it was Clarkson. This opened up a world of comedic possibilities.
- I Know Mortal Kombat: In one episode, Jeremy Clarkson drove a racing car (a Honda NSX) around a track (Laguna Seca) he had done thousands of times in Gran Turismo 4 on the PlayStation and found it considerably more difficult in real life. Partly because he couldn't take the same risks when failure would mean time in hospital instead of restarting.
- Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: Clearly, Clarkson was the valedictorian, managing to miss every single target but chop down a tree instead. (See the Winter Olympics special)
- Implied Trope: Double subverted during the Bolivia special. Clarkson declares that he has apparently bought the one 80's-vintage Range Rover in the world that works reliably. Seconds later, they cut to Hammond admitting that he has apparently bought the one unreliable Toyota Land Cruiser in the world.
- Incendiary Exponent: Clarkson's a big fan of this trope. In one of the 2010 specials, he described plans for an Olympic opening ceremony in which everything was on fire—including the spectators.
More often than not, Clarkson accidentally sets himself on fire.
- Incoming Ham: Do you even have to be told it's Jeremy?
Clarkson: [from across the studio] That is DISGUSTING!
Hammond: Oh, dear! I fear Jeremy may be heading this way with an opinion!
- I Need a Freaking Drink: The finish line for the race-type challenges is almost always a bar, where the winners rejoice and the losers console themselves.
- Informed Ability: Subverted, during agriculturally related tasks, viewers are reminded how Richard's farming background means he's experienced in those types of tasks, and while he does end up doing them much quicker than the other two, typically he's done it far less effectively. Particularly trailer hitching...
- Inherently Funny Word: "Dingleberry".
- Innocent Innuendo: On discussing what it means to be "bling";
- Insane Troll Logic: Jeremy especially likes to indulge in this, to various degrees of exasperation and/or lampshade hanging by his co-presenters.
Clarkson: It also says here that since you're the youngest, you're going first.
Hammond: Right. I admire your logic.
- Placement on the Cool Wall often boiled down to this. The Prius was ranked "Cool" since "caring for the environment" could be considered attractive by women and the Lamborghini Gallardo was ranked "Seriously Uncool" because Jeremy bought one.
- In-Series Nickname:
- Jezza, Hamster, and Captain Slow - names which have been eagerly adopted by the fanbase (see above). Clarkson has also called May 'Slow' and 'Captain Horrid' and has referred to Hammond as 'Teeth' and 'Officer Barbie'.
- May has taken to calling Hammond and Clarkson "Pinky" and "Perky", respectively. Clarkson on his own, particularly if mechanical work is being undertaken is "the Orang Utan".
- Insistent Terminology:
- As of Series 15, Clarkson refuses to call the new Reasonably-Priced Car (the Kia Cee'd) anything but the "See-apostrophe-dee"
- Clarkson says any punctuation in a name out loud. When will.i.am of the Black Eyed Peas was the Star in a Reasonably Priced Car, he introduced him as "Will Dot I Dot Am".
- Dead animals must be "peeled" instead of "skinned".
- In early series, Clarkson pronounced 'Star in a rrrrrrrrreasonably priced car' with a sort of trilling, wincing R sound, and 'corrected' the others if they didn't do the same.
- In the Albania epsode, they were supposed to review three high-end luxury cars, but Bentley, who were supplying a Mulsanne for the review, backed out just before they were supposed to begin filming. As a backup, they get a Yugo to stand in for the Bentley and, to complete the illusion, refer to it exclusively as a Bentley Mulsanne, and reviewing it as such.
- Any reference to the Reliant Scimitarnote must be followed by a comment about how Princess Anne owns one.
- Insufferable Genius: Clarkson. Well — he's a lot smarter than he acts for the show, which can be startling when he appears on other shows.
- Insult Backfire: When James Blunt was the Star in the reasonably priced car it transpired that he owns a motorcycle rather than a car to which Clarkson responded "I didn't know you were a homosexual". Blunt's reply... "Yes, most of my songs are about you".
- Insult to Rocks: Even James can realise when his comparisons are being unfair:
May: And the gear change feels like it came from a mark one Vauxhall Cavalier... No, wait, that's not fair on the Cavalier.
- The Internet Is for Porn: I went on the Internet, and I found this.
Hammond: Have you been on the Internet again?
Clarkson: Yes I have. And I found this: [gestures to the screen]
Hammond: OH GOD NO! [flinches away]
- In the Back: Invoked by Hammond during the "drive-by" challenge of USA Road Trip special. Before his turn, Richard flips the targets (cutouts depicted the recently fired Stig) so they face away from him. When the other presenters ask what he's doing, he says he's turning them around "so I can shoot him in the back!"
- iProduct: The Hammerhead Eagle i-Thrust.
- Irish Travellers:
- May scolded Clarkson for using a hammer during the Caterham kit-car challenge, saying that it was "the tool of a pikey,". note
- See also the lorry challenge, where Clarkson uses the term too:
Clarkson: I think he's going to be quite cross with us..!
[Jeremy and James are pushing Hammond's Opel Kadett to the hill start challenge area]
Clarkson/May: [together, quietly imitating a despair-stricken Hammond] Nooo..!! [laughing]
Clarkson: Have you seen what he's done to the number plate?
[James leans back and peers at the "OLI V3R" number plate]
May: Oh, for God's sake..!
Clarkson: Personal plates. He is such a pikey!
- Hammond got one as well in Season 13, though he pointed to a pie and a key rather than say the offending word. Shortly afterward:
James: You're such a steak and kidney lock opener.
- In Season 21, when Richard was about to start a hillclimb in his Vauxhall Nova, Jeremy hung up a sign at the beginning of the course reading "Pikey's Peak."
- Ironic Echo Cut: An occasional voiceover gag.
Clarkson: [narrating] This is the Stevens-Duryea, which has eight clutches... and what kind of dullard would think that that was brilliant?
May: [looking into the engine compartment, fascinated] That's brilliant!
- Ironic Nickname: May, right before smashing his previous top speed of 253 mph in the upgraded Bugatti Veyron Super Sport:
- Irrevocable Message: According to May's humorous recap of events, the Porsche Panamera mail chase in Season 13 was one of these.
- Isn't It Ironic?: Possible aversion in the use of Bruce Springsteen's "Born in the USA" to enhance the Americanness of the replacement bike in the Vietnam Special.
- I Take Offence to That Last One:
- After James May has reviewed a Rolls Royce Phantom Drophead Coupe and commented that he thinks it suits him because it's stylish and contemporary.
Every time I see you, those are the words that pop into my head: stylish and contemporary. May: Thank you
..after other words like for instance: beige. Stannah Stairlift. The War, can anyone think of anymore? Homosexual. May:
I object to the beige.
- A quite serious example in the America special. Out of all the potentially-offensive slogans painted on their cars, it's the ones insulting country-and-western and NASCAR that offend one local to the point of threatening physical violence against the trio and essentially running them out of town.
Local: "NASCAR sucks"?! "Country-and-western is rubbish"?! Guess what, you're in a hick town, man!
- Jeremy rattles off a list of people someone claims Top Gear has offended.
Clarkson: The Daily Star, in an editorial, has said that we've upset the Scouts and the Catholic Church and they say that we can add those august organisations to other people we've offended including lorry drivers, Scots, Malaysians, Germans, blind people, anti-hunt protestors and smokers. I'm sorry... this sort of gutter-press claptrap gets just so far up my nose! How dare they?! How dare they suggest that we... would be rude to smokers?
- Jeremy, after he shows James the curtains in the rear windows of his Mercedes 600 during the Old Car Challenge. James says that curtains are for caravans, to Jeremy's utter horror.
- "It" Is Dehumanizing: When Jeremy announces that Richard is importing Oliver (the Opel Kadett from the Botswana Special), and they argue over whether to use "it" or "he". It's Richard who uses "it" as Jeremy and James use "he" to imply a gay relationship between Richard and the car.
- It Is Pronounced "Tro-PAY":
- Clarkson won't forgive you for pronouncing "Porsche" wrong.
Audience member: I like the Porsche [pronounced "porsh"]
Clarkson: Which [stressing it] "Por-SHUH" do you like?
- Whenever the Running Gag of James and the Dacia Sandero was brought up, the company's name was always pronounced as "day-see-ah". The actual pronunciation is "dat-cha".
- Though, back in Series 12, when the gag was used, it was still a few years away from Dacia actually televising ads for their cars in the UK. With little other option at the time - or just not bothering to look it up - James did what anyone would do: pronounce it phonetically and hope for the best.
- It's Going Down: Caravan? Morris Marina? Don't get emotionally attached: it's doomed.
- It's the Same, So It Sucks: Clarkson thinks this about the Porsche 911, claiming every new model is exactly the same as the last one. Hammond vehemently disagrees.
- I Was Quite a Fashion Victim: A 2012 episode looking back at the history of Saab featured footage from an episode of original-format Top Gear from The '90s involving Clarkson test-driving an experimental Saab without a steering wheel. Snarky subtitle captions constantly "apologised" for younger Clarkson's hair and clothes.
- Jerkass: Mostly Clarkson, but all three presenters have their moments from time to time. A favorite trick is for two of them to sabotage the efforts of the third during challenges.
- Jesus Was Way Cool: On at least two separate occasions, Jesus has appeared in the studio audience. Clarkson has said he hopes one day he'll be the Star in a Reasonably Priced Car.
- Just in Time:
- When Clarkson attempts to get around the Nurburging in under ten minutes in a diesel car (a Jaguar S-Series), he does it on his final attempt with a time of 9:59.
- When competing in the Britcar race in Series 10, the car undergoes a slew of problems before the race even starts. The team work overnight to get it fixed and running in time for the race. They lose their place on the starting grid and have to start from the pit lane, but they get the car into the race with seconds to spare.
- "Just Joking" Justification: They are notoriously fond of this, to the extent that comedian Stewart Lee, who loathes the programme, had a routine in which he wished that Richard Hammond had died for real in the dragster accident — then Lee would look at the audience and say quietly "Just joking. Like on Top Gear."
- Just Train Wrong: In-Universe. Jeremy fails to understand that a tender locomotive is not a 'sports train'.
- It's unknown how many of the stunts are scripted or "enhanced" — the caravan lighting on fire in the above-mentioned caravan holiday as an accident, but the attempt to put it out certainly was — but they call attention to the existence of the script themselves sometimes, including the disagreements. May has said that they never fabricate the results of their races or challenges, but they do shoot additional scenes to help tell the story. Specifically, the in-car shots during the races are all real, whilst the sweeping out-car panoramas are done after the fact (for example, the shots from the Veyron vs Cessna race were shot with the Stig driving the car back to Italy to return it). It would be impractical otherwise.
- One example: the "Blind Man" lap (see Handicapped Badass, above). When the blind viewer did his actual timed lap, he was guided by The Stig in the passenger seat. For the taped version shown on the air, the blind man drove around the test track with Jeremy Clarkson in the passenger seat, and the tape was edited to make it seem that it was Clarkson riding shotgun during the timed lap. Then again, it's only natural one of the other presenters would be spliced in over the Stig's instruction—if they didn't do that, they couldn't show the inside of the car without televising the Stig speaking.
- And another example: the Vietnam special presents Jeremy as inexperienced and relatively incompetent at riding a motorbike, even though in an earlier series (1995's Jeremy Clarkson's Motorworld) Clarkson had quite competently ridden motorbikes — in Vietnam! A clip is right here.
- Tesla Motors weren't amused when the show pretended that the electric Roadster had run out of charge when it hadn't. The figures quoted for the car's range were correct, but the car wasn't dead when Clarkson pushed it into a garage.
- An aversion: Autocar magazine really did "review" the Top Gear made Hammerhead Eagle iThrust, and really did say that its styling was 'unlikely to win fans amongst those of us blessed with the gift of sight'.
Viewer reactions to claims that elements of the 'hovercraft van' stunt had been staged tended to be along the lines of "You were stupid if you thought it was real".
- Kick the Dog: Hammond describes breaking a Ferrari as similar to this (he refers to it as like "kicking a rabbit") in season 20, episode 3, after he accidentally hit a bollard.
Hammond: Breaking a Ferrari is an especially bad thing. It's like... kicking a rabbit.
- Kids Prefer Boxes: Richard Hammond revealed that whenever he got a new appliance with a box, he couldn't get rid of the box because he wanted to play with it.
- Killed Off for Real: The original Stig, launched from an aircraft carrier.
- Kill It with Fire:
- The fate of the first Morris Marina to appear on the show.
- The cause of death of the Nissan Sunny in Series 2; also that of at least two caravans.
- Attempted on the Toyota Hilux. It failed.
- Kinda Busy Here: Averted. No matter what Clarkson's driving or how fast he's going, he always seems to have time to take a call from one of the other two.
- Know When to Fold 'Em: Clarkson, Hammond and May were driving to Chile, and tried to take a shortcut over the Guallatiri volcano, which reaches almost 20,000 feet into the air. At 17,200 feet, the hosts were suffering from hypoxia, and their cars were losing power due to lack of oxygen; they immediately turned around and took the long way around the volcano.
- Kryptonite Factor: James May can't focus on the task at hand when things, especially his tools, are out of order. Naturally, the other two take advantage of this whenever it might be funny.
- Lampshade Hanging: The presenters are aware of and often reference the fact that the average viewer at home could never get a car like the hundred-grand supercars they often review.
- The Lancer: Hammond to Clarkson, especially in earlier seasons. May and Clarkson are more of an Odd Couple.
- Large Ham: Clarkson. And he's proud of it too - when shown a parody of himself, he actually gave the guest (comedian Harry Enfield, Star In A Reasonably Priced Car for two episodes and the man who performed it) tips on how to better it by pausing as long as possible before delivering the scene-closing line.
- All three of the presenters can get in on it at times, even May!
May: [on the subject of tuning companies] What's more, we're British! We are the inventors of everything. It is time to brace ourselves, hasten unto the shed, and liberate ourselves from the abyss made dark by the lights of perverted German science!
- Laser-Guided Karma:
- Hammond and May are always just as helpful to Clarkson as he is to them.
Hammond: [after Clarkson's secondhand Porsche 928 has dropped out of sight]
Probably should go back and look for him, that'd be the caring thing to do, but... he wouldn't do it for me!
- Clarkson attributes May's (on the road) engine breakdown in the first amphibious car challenge to this, saying James was being punished for cheating (i.e., taking down his mast to go under bridges).
- Late to the Punchline: In the 2009 "car for a 17-year-old" challenge, when Hammond is getting an insurance quote for a teenage driver and claims to have had no accidents in the last five years, accompanied by a quick, guilty grimace at the camera. Humorous when you consider his line of work; funnier yet if you have seen the show; utterly brilliant when you remember he was nearly killed in 2006 in the infamous Vampire crash.
- Lazy Mexican: The guys invoked these tropes when joking about a Mexican sports car, and Richard Hammond in particular went far too far in "Joking" about them leading to the Mexican Ambassador to the UK making an official complaint. It didn't help that some of the jokes were about him.
- Leave No Man Behind: Completely averted on the various road trips and Specials, when a presenter's vehicle gets stuck on difficult terrain or suffers major mechanical problems, the other two presenters will often leave them to their fate.
Clarkson: Hammond, we're not the US Marines. We do leave a man behind.
- Left the Background Music On: In the charity special Top Ground Gear Force the music was provided by a military brass band, whom Jeremy had to stop before continuing his monologue. In a second instance he, May and Hammond were arguing and he went as far as destroying a trombone to achieve silence.
- After the Toyota Hilux destruct-test challenge, "La Resa Dei Conti" from For a Few Dollars More (which had been used extensively in the sequence and was previously a Recurring Riff) came to be associated with the Toyota alone.
- Also, on the Botswana special, the eerie strains of "The Man With The Harmonica" from Once Upon a Time in the West operated as a sort of musical metaphor for failure. (It came up quite a bit when Clarkson's disaster-prone Lancia appeared on screen, or during ominous shots of the Beetle following them).
- During the introduction for the Chevrolet Lacetti as the Reasonably Priced Car, any time Jimmy Carr was on camera was underscored with "O Fortuna".
- Left It In: When something goes wrong, one of the three members (usually Clarkson) will tell the production team to "edit that out" (even though they don't). An example is in Jeremy's P45 road test, where the P45 shakes violently several times, and Jeremy tells the production team to edit it out later each time it happens.
- Let's Get Dangerous!: In Season 7, Captain Slow (Ferrari F430) easily outran Hammond (Pagani Zonda) and Clarkson (Ford GT) on a winding mountain road in France, earning their mildly astonished respect. He explained afterwards that while he can indeed drive fast, he usually prefers not to.
- Let's Get Out of Here:
- Lightning Gun: The lightning generator used to test what would happen if a car was struck by lightning... with Richard Hammond in it.
- Literal Cliffhanger: Averted in the Bolivia special... but just barely.
- Literal Metaphor: When testing the all-electric Tesla Roadster's straight-line acceleration:
Clarkson: God almighty! Wave goodbye to the world of dial-up, and say hello to the world of broadband motoring! Twelve-and-a-half thousand RPMs... I cannot believe this! That's biblically quick. This car is electric, literally!
- Little "No": Hammond gives a dejected one after learning he's lost the race to the North Pole.
- Lock-and-Load Montage: Parodied in the "race across Japan" challenge when Hammond and May, preparing for a final charge, assemble their weapons with many a click and snap — but it's a pair of folding bicycles. For extra spoof points, they both look faintly ridiculous riding them.
- Loophole Abuse:
- Clarkson loves coming up with inventive ways to cheat in challenges and tasks, frequently resorting to Refuge in Audacity in order to win.
- They all resorted to this when challeging the German presenters of D-Motor and took it Up to Eleven to beat their counterparts from Top Gear Australia.
- Acknowledged in the Polar Special as why it is technically legal at the North Pole to drink and drive, not that people didn't complain about this anyway:
Clarkson: ...and, because we're in international waters, there's no drink-driving laws! And please do not write to us about drinking and driving because I'm not driving, I'm sailing!
- Lovable Rogue: Jaguar drivers, who apparently can get away with any misdemeanor because "he's got a JAAAAGG"
Clarkson: They're the sort of person who would go away for a weekend with his wife to a hotel and spend the entire time flirting outrageously with the waitress and it's okay because he's got a JAG!
Hammond: You can get away with anything! "I'm terribly sorry I ran over your dog..." [mimics gasp] "In my JAG!" [shrug response]
May: Is it fair to say, do you think, that no JAG driver is ever entirely trustworthy but it's in a really nice, likeable way?
- Lost in Transmission: In the introductory segment of the Honda Civic Type R review, Clarkson shows off how the boot of the old R could hold an excellent set of speakers. Cut to inside the car, where the chugging baseline drowns out his dialogue, until...
Clarkson: ...ten pints of Stella and a dollop of chlamydia.
- Made of Explodium: Homemade convertable top + automatic car wash = oops.
[the three take their convertible people carrier through a car wash]
Clarkson: Uh... it's on fire.
Hammond: What?! It can't be on fire! [looks] It's on fire.
Clarkson: It's on fire. Just run. Just run.
[the three run off... and after the film]
Clarkson: The thing is, we managed to set fire to something that's basically made of water!
Hammond: How did you do that? Did you see the owner of the car wash afterwards?
Clarkson: He was...
Hammond: Cross. Very cross.
May: He was especially cross when I rang him up and asked if we could have our three pounds fifty back.
- Made of Iron:
- The Toyota Hilux straddles the line between this and Determinator. Even after setting it on fire and setting it on top of a 241 foot building that was set for demolition, the engine still turned over. Post-crash Hammond is both. Cheat death and come out none the worse for wear, you might be able to join them.
- Clarkson's Volvo sedan from the very first Cheap Car Challenge, which despite its age and decrepit state smashed through the brick wall he was asked to drive it into at 30 mph (which actually became 40 due to a broken speedometer) and kept going.
- The Stig, who occasionally has driven a car that blew up on screen, got out of it, and walked away with not a scratch. The British Sports Car trip has a notable example.
- Surprisingly, James May's caravan airshipnote . It crashed and deflated several times, both on and off camera, battering itself against trees and the ground, respectively, yet the envelope and caravan were no worse for wear. It probably doesn't hurt that it was inflated with hot air instead of helium, and moves glacially slow, even for a blimp. Come to think of it, the caravan airship might be the only caravan that was sturdy enough to be wrecked by the Top Gear guys and survive, since both the airship and the caravan still exist.
- Mad Libs Catchphrase: The Stig's introduction always follows the same format: "Some say [humorous "fact"] and that [second "fact"]. All we know is, he's called The Stig" with the "facts" changing each week, often with the second being Ripped from the Headlines. Occasionally the second half of the catchphrase will be replaced with "He's not The Stig, but he is The Stig's [nationality/occupation/lifestyle] cousin!"
- The Magnificent: Clarkson styled James May "the slowest man on earth" on top of his existing "Captain Slow" monkier. May retaliated by bestowing the title "the world's least (sometimes "most") practical man" on Clarkson.
- Magpies as Portents: The presenters once discussed how dangerous magpies are for drivers because of having to do the superstition whenever you see one. The only problem being that each of the presenters have a different idea of what the superstition should be. Hammond's version of it has to be seen to be believed.
- Mala Proper:
- Clarkson often, who refers to the US president as "Obama Barack"
- May, who often uses the terms "Myface" "Mybook" "Facetube" and "Playbox".
- Manchild: Quantity: three. If there is a immature joke to be made, a prank to be played, or a simple activity to keep them happy (such as "demolish caravans"), the Top Gear presenters will be all over it.
- Man on Fire:
- In the Top Ground Gear Force charity special. During the Ground Force-style fast-forwarding bit a blazing man runs into shot and is put out with a fire blanket. It is never really explained. It's the Stig's gay cousin.
- Also caused when they attempted to convert a combine harvester into a snowplow, particularly by Jeremy's de-icer attachment: a flamethrower. When they unleash their creation on a village in Norway, one of the disasters they cause is to accidentally set a pedestrian on fire, though he doesn't appear to mind.
- Manly Tears: Jeremy Clarkson, of all people, after successfully completing the Britcar 24-hour endurance race.
- Hammond admits do this during the North Pole episode due to the psychological effects of the cold combined with severe mental and physical strain.
- Martial Arts Headband: Clarkson wears onenote near the end of the Japanese segment where he, driving the Nissan GTR, races Hammond and May, who are riding the bullet train.
- Mauve Shirt: Steve, the director of the "Top Gear Technology Centre."
- The Mean Brit: Clarkson is often seen as this, but he is actually quite affable in most interactions. The only times he tends to get really snarky are when someone is snarky to him.
- Medal of Dishonour:
- The Golden Cock Award, given to the presenter who did the most boneheaded thing during the filming of the show.
- During the Budget Alfa Romeos challenge, Clarkson proudly boasted that he'd set a record for the lowest-ever rating (23.5 out of 150) for an Alfa at a Concours event... for about two minutes, after which Hammond got an even lower rating (9 out of 150).
- Memetic Badass:
- Men Are Childish
- The Mentor: Sir Jackie Stewart and Mika Hakkinen have both given James May lessons on how to drive "properly." May explicitly compared both of them to Yoda in their respective sequences.
- Messianic Archetype:
- Some say, that he was born in a manger packed with farm animals, and wrapped in a swaddling white racing suit. To clarify, during the Christmas Special, where the 3 drive across the Middle East to Bethlehem as the "three wise men," the three eventually make it to Bethlehem to present their gifts to the baby Jesus only to discover him as a child wearing white racing overalls.
- Clarkson jokes about himself being this during the Middle-East special, as he has the initials "J.C."
- Metallicar Syndrome: In the Middle East Special, the hosts had to sneak across Syria. At first, they tried to modify their convertibles to more desert ready conditions. They painted their cars in various colours and added some accessories. When, they realize that it was too dangerous, they dressed up in burkas and drove down the roads. Their cars were still convertibles with crazy paint jobs and stuck out like sore thumbs.
- Minor Flaw, Major Breakup: May and Clarkson arguing about the size of a car's grille (that May thinks is too 'gawping'):
Clarkson: Yeah, listen, but Uma Thurman's got big hands. You're not going to say, 'Get out of my house', are you?
- Mistaken for Gay: In the first America special, at a gas station in Alabama. The resulting incident is not Played for Laughs in any way.
- Mood Whiplash:
- The Polar Special, being the most serious of the films they've made, is full of many serious moments that greatly contrast the usual humorous tone of the show.
- A scene with the presenters trying (and hilariously failing) to ski is immediately followed by a scene in which they meet Sir Ranulph Fiennes and see images of his badly frostbitten hand. He also explained that the effect of cold temperatures on people causes them to become tired and irritable. Despite being friends, the cold will make them all begin to hate each other and the hatred does become very real.
- At one point, they are also shown a picture of someone who forgot to properly zip up his trousers and ended up with a frostbitten penis! Cue some very nervous laughter as they're clearly trying to figure out if they're amused or horrified?
- The three presenters are faced with having to get into arctic water in order to practice survival methods should one of them fall in the ice during the journey. The three of them are all doing their standard "I don't want to do this" joke routine, when their survival instructor pushes Jeremy into the water. Cue Mood Whiplash in the same scene as Clarkson desperately struggles not to succumb to hypothermia.
- Pretty much summed up by Hammond, when he appears close to breaking point, and (apparently) quite seriously responds to his guide joking about putting him into one of the sled dog harnesses by stating that he has a shovel and they're the only people around for miles.
- A funnier example is during the "supercars do France" road trip, in which Clarkson declares the day to be ended on a perfect high note with a gorgeous sunset and a thrilling cruise along a motorway in stunning cars. One cut later and the three are having a harrowing wriggle through horrific Paris traffic. Clarkson tempts fate again by saying "I hope we don't have to go around the Arc de Triomphe". You can guess what happens next. Made all the better by hilarious soundtrack selection; more or less the equivalent of the Benny Hill theme, but very French.
- It happens in many of the overseas specials. In Bolivia the scenes on the Death Road are less "wacky" and more "hold me".
- In the Middle East special, after James is knocked back by a tow rope and injures his head on the rocky ground behind him.
- A variant occurs in the Vietnam special; rather than being in mortal danger half the episode, they spend a lot of the show simply being impressed by the scenery and the locals. Clarkson points this out at the end.
- During the Ukraine roadtrip, the trio spend most of the time trying to talk to locals and are mobbed by fans wanting autographs. However, The Final Challenge:
Your cars will each be given 23 litres of fuel, which because they're so economical should easily
be enough for them to cover the hundred or so miles to your destination, a town near the border with Belarus. Your challenge is to run out of fuel before you get there. This is something you'll want to do, as the town in question is called... Chernobyl
- On the way there, they frantically try to waste as much fuel as possible, make no jokes - or at least none that are about the disaster itself - and when James and Jeremy reach Pripyat and pass by Reactor Number Four, Geiger counters are clacking, the air seems washed of all colour, and Jeremy runs out of fuel within sight of the Reactor.
- The Patagonia Special is one of the more lighthearted road trips, until the last ten minutes of Part Two, when a group of nationalists arrive and the crew starts genuinely fearing for their lives. This could be considered Out-of-Genre Experience territory, as episode practically turns into a documentary about Top Gear at that point. Downplayed slightly because the incident was referenced in the introduction to Part Two, alluded to the narration, and was all over the news when it happened.
- Moral Guardians: The series is one of their favourite targets, as the Wikipedia page "Criticism of Top Gear" demonstrates.
- Morally Ambiguous Doctorate:
- Clarkson is technically a doctor of engineering, as Brunel University gave him an honourary doctorate for his bringing their namesake to the masses during Great Britons. He occasionally brings this up in an attempt to win arguments.
- May received an honorary doctorate (Doctor of Letters) from Lancaster University in 2010, so it's only a matter of time before both he and Clarkson start picking on the comparatively undereducated Hammond.
- Motor Mouth: Hammond on a buzz from carmelized coca leaves in Bolivia.
- Move Along, Nothing to See Here: The phrase "nothing to see here" has become a running gag, usually spoken by Jeremy when doing something suspicious.
- In the India Special, Clarkson says "nothing to see here" as he and Hammond disable May's air-conditioning.
- In the Alfa Romeo challenge, Clarkson says this as the boys try to sneak Hammond's car (which cannot run on its own power) into an Alfa concourse.
- In the P45 segment, Jeremy says it as he attempts to dump gasoline into a trash can.
- In the Rover James segment, Jeremy, Richard, and the elderly ladies in the car are clapping along to the song that plays on the radio when the police pass by their car. Jeremy rolls down the window and says "Nothing to see here".
- Mr. Fixit: Steve, the director of the "Top Gear Technology Centre," who became something of a Mauve Shirt after the Britcar 24-Hour Race.
- Mr. Fanservice:
- Richard (intentionally by the show) and James (unintentionally).
- Jeremy references Richard's popularity with the ladies (and men, jokingly) several times. He once claimed that he was glad to see girls at the front of the audience for the Star in a Reasonably Priced Car segment - as the star that night was Hugh Grant - since they usually go flirt with Hammond while Clarkson interviews the SIARPC.
- During a 60 Minutes interview, Jeremy stated outright (though somewhat tongue-in-cheek) that Richard Hammond was the reason Top Gear had so many female viewers, as "they all want to sleep with him."
- Ms. Fanservice: James may not have appreciated having glamour model Madison Welch as a co-driver for the Pre-1982 Rallying Challenge, but it's almost certain that a good number of male viewers did.
- Multi-Track Drifting: Various racing segments, often stunts done for the sheer hilarity. Racing double-decker cars with the top steering and the bottom accelerating and braking (the Top Gear vs. D Motor challenges), racing MPVs (people carriers), racing camper vans (RVs), racing airport vehicles, and racing buses (including "bendy buses" and double deckers!). And they were all awesome.
- Mundane Made Awesome:
- The intros often play into this trope.
Tonight: I wear some googles
! Richard Hammond falls down
a small slope! James May says hello
to a man
Tonight: A sausage gets burned! A sheep falls over! And our track is all wet! Clarkson:
Tonight: Richard Hammond buys a coffee! James May slips on some snow! And we show a picture of Steve McQueen (Actor)
Tonight: I wear a hat!
Richard wears a hat!
And James... wears a hat!
- Hammond and May racing against a letter being delivered by Royal Mail. Complete with dramatic shots of mail being unloaded from planes and sorted.
- In general some of their challenges and races could make for very mundane footage. These scenes benefit greatly from the editing and the background music. Top Gear is well recognized in the professional film and television industries as having some of the world's best editing and production values.
- My Car Hates Me: When the Alabamians started throwing rocks and they had to make a quick getaway, James May's car needed to be jump-started.
James: Oi! Jump-leads!
Richard: ...you're joking!
- My Country, Right or Wrong: The show, especially Clarkson, seems to go out of its way to make sure that the British cars (Leyland excepted, of course), are always the best.
- My Friends... and Zoidberg: During the British Leyland specialnote , Richard explains why British Leyland was considered to be so awful.
Hammond: [narrating] Now, for our younger viewers, we should explain why the Top Gear office thinks the three of us lost our marbles. See, some B.L. cars were quite badly built ... but most weren't built at all.
- My God, What Have I Done?: Jeremy says this word-for-word after getting carried away at a classic car auction and spending £3,600 on a tiny two-seater convertible. Subverted when he actually starts driving it, and realizes that despite going £600 over the allotted budget (meaning that he has to add the extra money in himself), he actually got himself a bargain.
- My Hovercraft Is Full of Eels:
- May attempting to ask directions in Romania with a phrasebook which has been purposefully mistranslated, leaving him saying things like "Let's buy a glass door with full double glazing" and "These boxes are not the same size" to the puzzled locals. Also, while not a mistranslation, the only German phrase May knows sounds like an example — it means "Naturally Hans is wet; he is standing under a waterfall."
"I use it all the time!"
- Jeremy learns some Ukrainian during their road trip across the country. While trying to buy food not made of fish, he manages to ask, "Where is you legs" and "I will eat your souvenirs".
- The Napoleon: At 5'7", Hammond is nearly a foot shorter than Clarkson and is probably the most pugnacious and thrill seeking of the three. Despite the short-jokes, Hammond's height is actually a rather average height. May and Clarkson (in particular) are just very tall in comparison. Oddly, this mirrors how Napoleon was roughly average size for his time (and was the same height as Hammond), but his bodyguards were all taller than him.
- National Stereotypes: All the time, especially employed by Clarkson and May. No-one really escapes. Some are classic ones while others specifically apply to the kind of cars different countries produce. In rough order of how often they are brought up:
- Germans are humourless and obsessed with technological superiority and mechanical perfection. The cars they produce reflect that: amazing feats of engineering, but rather unimaginative, a bit boring to drive, and quite expensive. Their culture is stuck in The '70s. According to Clarkson, they are also "still looking wistfully at Poland".
- Americans are loud, fat warmongers with no sense of taste either literal or metaphorical. They eat vast amounts of processed cheese and love the colour orange. The cars they make tend to be the polar opposite of German cars: laughably crude and cannot corner properly, but very stylish, powerful and fun to drive. Americans get so much vitriol that Clarkson sometimes adds a Pet the Dog afterthought such as 'but they did invent the Space Shuttle'. Clarkson also likes good American cars. He just thinks the people are somewhat crazy.
- The French are supreme in culture and cuisine and have a beautiful country, but are perpetually on strike or rioting and slightly xenophobic towards America and Britain. Their cars tend to be very badly made out of very cheap materials and so disintegrate over time, especially the trim.
- Italians are boisterous, emotional artistic types who wave their arms about constantly and their country has some of the best driving roads. Their cars tend to be pretty, fast and fun, even the small cheap ones, but have a tendency to be unreliable.
Clarkson: [in an article] Italy works like this. The people allow the government to make as many laws as it wants, so long as nobody has to obey them.
- Britain is a totalitarian, Orwellian dictatorship run by an interfering nanny-state government and the Health and Safety Executive, which serve to hold back a population that used to produce engineering marvels. The presenters will often say things like 'when this used to be a free country...'
- The Japanese are mostly the same stereotype as the Germans, but their wackiness and electronic-tuning-boy-racer subculture are sometimes referenced, as is Japanese Ranguage.
Clarkson: The people at Nissan asked us if the Stig could do a rap in the car, and we said "No, he likes easy listening. Oh, a lap!"
- The Finns are a race of quietly Crazy Is Cool Neat Freak Badass Drivers.
- The Australians are loud, brash and uncultured, and their country is inhabited chiefly by deadly animals and plants. Their cars are crude but very fun and very stylish, just like the Americans.
- The Swiss hate the car and do everything in their power to punish drivers and force people to use public transport.
- The Spanish are feckless and devote themselves to animal cruelty.
- The Koreans eat dogs and build cheap and nasty cars. Ditto Malaysia.
- The Dutch are cheerful, crazy omnisexuals on drugs.
- Albanians all drive stolen cars, and most of them are older Mercedes.
- The Mexicans are lazy and do nothing except sleep all day. They actually got into a bit of trouble with this one in 2011, with the BBC World News channel (which Top Gear does not air on) being yanked from Mexican cable in protest of Clarkson and Hammond taking this trope a bit too close to the line. The news section of the episode in which Clarkson and Hammond rag on Mexico was also cut by BBC America who, ironically, had just begun to proudly advertise that they now show Top Gear as it airs in Britian, only with commercial injected every so often and resulting in a 90 minute time slot, instead of cutting out 15 minutes of the show.
It actually resulted in a bit of an international incident as the Mexican ambassador to the UK, and the Mexican Congress, demanded an official apology from the British government (as the BBC is sponsored by the State.) Top Gear's producers ended up issuing a half-hearted "apology" (i.e. "This is our brand of humour, we're sorry you took it the wrong way.") However, what was once a niche show known only to cable subscribers and hardcore car enthusiasts, suddenly became a household name due to the national controversy.
The controversy became a running gag in the India Special, when Parliament supposedly suggested instead of India, they go to Mexico to apologise and Hammond suddenly had a very guilty look. Taken even further with Hammond's Oh, Crap! moment when Clarkson informs him he accidentally coloured his Mini with the flag of Mexico.
- Subverted in the Vietnam special, where the team show nothing but respect to the Vietnamese and are naturally horrified that the bogey-prize motorbike is emblazoned with the Stars and Stripes and is set to play "Born in the U.S.A.". It was a great big serving of Vietnam Scenery Porn, with Take That! jokes aimed at the Americans. Clarkson did make a joke about a dish containing dog, but it's kind of hard to keep that sort of thing up once you've met a man who lost his hearing in 1968 due to a flight of American B-52s. They also ate much more radical fare than dog on that trip.
- The bike itself is a shot at American patriotism reaching jingoistic proportions. So is the song. Bruce Springsteen was protesting how Americans got chewed up and spit out by their own culture, especially in the Vietnam War. Somehow, American revisionism has caused them to miss the point and keep missing it to the present day.
- Neat Freak: James May, to the point of quite possibly having OCD.
May: The only thing I keep in my car is a little paintbrush for cleaning dust out of the switches.
Hammond: You're scaring me, mate...
May: And I always like to have the air vents lined up so they're really completely symmetrical.
- Nerdgasm: Hammond's reaction to driving a tank.
Hammond: The first thing you need to know is: I have an erection.
- Never Live It Down: Invoked.
- Hammond will never let Clarkson get over his rather enthusiastic interview with Will Young.
- It's not as if Hammond will live down his accident, either. Despite promising to never mention it again, it does crop up from time to time. Hammond even does it to himself, saying at one point in their news item, "Can I please not be the one to try it?" when talking about some absurdly powerful car that was just being released at the time. Entertainment journalists don't seem to want to let Hammond forget it, either, since they've mentioned it in practically every article written about Hammond since.
- Hammond's infamous shout of "I am a driving god!"
- In almost every segment where Germany or a German car is the main focus, Jeremy will at some point mention and/or make a joke about The War.
- Never My Fault: Often. Particularly by Clarkson or Hammond, usually in challenges where they must cooperate on something.
- News Parody: Almost every episode has a humourous 'car news' segment, which often goes off on odd tangents such as alternate uses for tampons, the price of bull sperm, ridiculous road signs, viewer complaints and more - always done with a healthy dose of the presenters mocking each other.
- The Nicknamer: Clarkson, who constantly gives Hammond and May jokey epithets, including the famous "Hamster" and "Captain Slow." They're almost better known by those nicknames in some places.
- Nitro Boost: On one very memorable occasion, resulting in the following conversation:
Why don't we use nitrous? Hammond:
Do you remember what happened to the first Stig
He fell off an aircraft carrier. Hammond:
...yeah, we used nitrous.
- Noble Bigot: Clarkson in particular has made many homophobic and racial remarks on the show; he's also a patron for the charity Help For Heroes.
- "No. Just... No" Reaction: Word for word from Clarkson when May claims his car/dinghy 2.0 can do twenty knots.
- Non Sequitur Distraction: This is a stock gag on this show, Jeremy Clarkson (and occasionally Richard Hammond) going off on a long-winded, over-the-top rant at one of the others (usually James May), at the end of which May will react to only one small part of the entire rant.
- Noodle Implements: Subverted in the South America special in Season 14, when the producers give the lads a box containing a chainsaw, a couple of winches, rubber tubing, condoms, tampons, petroleum jelly, and Viagra. ("I know we're going to be in the jungle a bit together, but that's a bit extreme." "What kind of party are they planning?") As they head for the coast, the actual incidents requiring each of these are shownnote .
- Noodle Incident:
- During the season 10 episode 1 news segment, the presenters are talking about multi-tasking whilst driving. James starts to explain that he'd seen Jeremy multi-task, before being told by Hammond that he couldn't really talk about it on TV. We're not told what it is, but Jeremy says its not in the Highway Code. Outtakes confirm it is exactly what you think it is.
- Every time Clarkson goes on the internet he finds two things. The first makes the audience laugh (and Hammond cringe), the second gets shown by the cameras.
- No One Gets Left Behind: Averted. Their "code" is to leave the person who breaks down behind. Ironically, though Jeremy is first to follow the code when others break down, they often ignore it for him, because unlike the other two, he isn't very skilled at repairs.
- No Sense of Direction: James May. He had claimed that he has an electrical imbalance in his brain which causes him to visualize Britain upside-down. He's received another nickname because of this: Captain Sense-of-Direction.
- Michael Schumacher. After going incredibly slowly on the follow through, he went the wrong way around the tyres and got lost before Gambon.
- Nostalgia Filter: May did a segment in which he drove around and reviewed his bedroom poster hero, the Lamborghini Countach, and found that its merits consisted of a good engine note and good looks... and nothing else whatsoever, since shifting gears required a hammer for the shifter and a companion to help depress the clutch, it was impossible to see out of, and impossible to parallel park — except for a technique apparently developed by Lamborghini test drivers, which Clarkson demonstrated, that involved sitting on the door sill and driving while not actually inside the car.
In a Hilarious in Hindsight moment, Clarkson had done a piece three years previously on the Countach, in which he discovered pretty much exactly what May had to suffer through. Either he didn't warn May beforehand, or put him up to it deliberately. Also, Clarkson apparently thinks elephants are "nice to look at" in the same way a Countach is.
- Nothing Can Stop Us Now!:
- Pretty much summed up by Clarkson's favorite line: "How hard can it be?" Cue the inevitable disaster.
- This has happened often enough that, during the Africa Special, Hammond immediately shouted, "Don't say that!" after Clarkson said it in the face of pitting themselves against the (very) wilds of Botswana.
- Lampshaded by Hammond on returning from his crash: "Oh, how I've missed the pang of dread I feel whenever you mention the words 'How hard can it be'!"
- "Not Making This Up" Disclaimer: The crew stress repeatedly that what happens on their road trips genuinely happens. Hammond even included a selection of moments in one of his autobiograhphies called As You Do of the most common times people asked him "So did you really do X?" Of particular note is the incident in Alabama during the America special, which Hammond especially has emphasized did happen.
- Not So Above It All: James May. He constantly complains about the others' childish attitudes towards winning challenges, but when he wins, he's been known to dance around and flash the "L for Loser" sign with just as much enthusiasm. And while he tends to be the target of pranks, he is just as happy to pull a few himself.
- On occasions, he buys a really big, really fast car, floors it and out races Clarkson... leaving the latter absolutely gobsmacked.
- Not This One, That One:
- The tow car for the caravan holiday is a shiny! sexy! Lotus E-.... er, no, it's a Kia.
- Wow, Jeremy did an amazing job creating the body of their completely custom electric car, it actually looks like a real— oh... no....
- Obi-Wan Moment: By his own admission, Hammond had one just before his near-fatal jet car crash.
- Off the Rails: At least Once an Episode, usually during the News. On several occasions, Hammond has to remind Clarkson that they're still technically a car show.
- Oh, Crap!: By the carload.
- During the £100-car challenge, after Clarkson opens the envelope on the final challenge: crashing on purpose.
- The second part of testing the limos challenge, when May says they can only stop once they are out of range of... a water cannon. Cue this trope from Hammond, whose car has no roof.
You break out from a terrorist trap, slalom down the runway between strategically-placed cars belonging to members of the public, which you may not hit, steer around the stinger at the hammerhead and pull up, once you're out of range of the water cannon. Hammond: The what
- In the second amphibious car challenge, when Clarkson opens the golden challenge envelope and discovers they'll have to cross the English Channel.
Clarkson: Mine won't do that!
- You can see the precise moment they realize how screwed they are right at the beginning. The first time they had tried building amphibious cars, they failed miserably on a calm lake. This time:
Clarkson: You will now drive to... Dover... (Cue terrified expressions)
- When circumstances demanded a quick exit from a gas station in the Deep South...
- When Clarkson discovered that the Vietnam challenge meant driving the length of the country... on motorbikes.
- In the Vietnam Special, all three of them get one when they see the backup bike: a Honda Chaly mini-bike painted in Stars and Stripes livery, with two US flags and blaring "Born In The USA". Accentuated by a rumble of thunder and people running towards them in the distance.
- Clarkson gets another one in the Vietnam Special that same evening when his light dies while riding in the dark.
- One more from the Vietnam Special: while riding his Minsk on the beach in Hoi An and trying to ride it close to the waves, Hammond gets one when the Minsk dies and he hears "Born In The USA" blaring from the backup bike nearby.
Hammond: Not now! No! Not now! Not while that's there!
- The expression on Hammond's face in the car art episode after Clarkson tells him and May the Astra they've just sliced in half is actually a rental car.
- During the motorhome challenge, when Clarkson notices that a large lorry is about to drive past his own very tall and very unstable motorhome.
- At the beginning of the Middle East Special. "You have landed in Iraq..." Followed later in the same special by a challenge envelope delivered after they enter Turkey, and are happy about being "safe".
Letter: You idiots. You have just left a region [Kurdistan] where there is no war and entered a region where there IS war...
- Clarkson has one in whilst driving a Sportscar-train, happily declaring that he's travelling at nearly 80 and then realising there's a very large parked Diesel in front of him, causing him to slam on the brakes.
Clarkson:...Some poo's come out!
- One from the Bolivia challenge that leaves the trio speechless.
"Between La Paz and the Pacific Ocean, there is the Altiplano where the altitude will cause you to have a pulmonary oedema. Then there's the Andes where you'll have a cerebral oedema, and then the Atacama, which is 50 times drier than Death Valley. It has never rained. It's the driest place on Earth and there is no life, not even bacteria." [beat]
- During the Botswana challenge (driving across the entire country in cars), the Vice President hears about the challenge and goes to give his regards to the hosts because such a thing has never been attempted before. He then sees the cars they plan to use.
Hammond: You were smiling, you've just stopped...
- Hammond, May, and Clarkson had to drive through a wild animal sanctuary in their homemade and not very reliable convertible van. Before they went through the lion part, the gang found out that the lions had not eaten in two days.
- The trip across Ukraine was mocked as being terrifying...until they found out the end point was in Chernobyl. Jeremy got an extra one as his car ran out of gas in the middle of Pripyat, and true to the Top Gear Code, was left behind.
- Their harvester-turned-snowplow was being tested on a frozen lake in Norway, and one of the wheels broke through the ice.
Clarkson: It's not an emergency, just time to empty your bowels.
- Towards the end of Series 19, Episode 2, they all flee to Palm Springs (after using their tyres to create a giant phallus on a storm drain), then they all get one when they're given one final challenge: they have to race to the border with Mexico, and the last one to get there has to cross into Mexico and review the Mastretta MXT. (This was after the controversial comments made about the car and the country.)
- Richard has one at the end of the race when he sees Jeremy and James have beaten him to the border, and he will therefore have to enter Mexico.
- During the car rugby segment, Jeremy gets one during the second half when, while driving across the now-muddy pitch, finds himself unable to stop and about to crash into James.
- At the end of the Patagonia Special, from their unwelcome arrival in Ushuaia to their desperate retreat across the Chilean border was more or less one such moment after another, but to pick the topper, when word came through that a mob of 300 vehicles were lying in wait for the BBC's 30-vehicle caravan in the next town.
- In the first finale segment, Hammond gets a few when he receives his "prize" for the Classic Car Challenge: a place in the air show. Needless to say, it wasn't what he expected: a seat on top of one of the biplanes. He has a few of these before takeoff, and when the plane actually does take off. Cue a lot of screaming.
Hammond: Oh, dear God!
Why did my car have to work?! Why didn't I pick a Fiat?! This is about the least happy I've ever been! And I've been pretty unhappy!
- Also in the finale (the second segment), all three drive their SUVs to the Yorkshire Moors in dinner jackets, and learn the reason why: they have to drive to Broughton Hall without using any roads, where the North Yorkshire Carbon Management and Sustainability Trust is hosting an evening. They all get one of these when they find the last one to arrive has to recite the after-dinner speech. Cue Beat, then all three rushing to their cars in a panic.
- Ominous Latin Chanting:
- The music that accompanies the appearance of the VW Beetle in an episode set in Africa, the car one of them will have to drive if their own breaks down and can't be repaired. Ironically, the VW ends up doing better than the other three cars in the challenge.
- Lampshaded by Clarkson in his final recommendation to the people of Surrey at the end of the entire travail.
- Also, in the first episode of Season 8, when they introduce their new Reasonably Priced Car, and have several old and new celebrities drop by to set up a starting scoreboard. Jimmy Carr is introduced as 'The Prince of Darkness', and every time the camera cuts to him, or his driving, O Fortuna is played.
- One Head Taller: Jeremy to Richard. Demonstrated perfectly during a Christmas-time episode, where the show opens up on a close shot of Jeremy's face as he introduces their "Christmas elf," when the camera pans back to show Richard standing directly in front of Jeremy.
- Only a Lighter: In the Middle East special, when the cast are passing through a tense border check, one of the guards finds a lighter in Richard Hammond's car that is shaped like a rifle round, and is understandably pissed off by the carelessness of bringing such a thing.
- Only Known by Their Nickname: All we know is... he's called The Stig. Because...some say his first name really is "The".
- Only Sane Man: In the Ukraine episode, upon learning that their challenge is to run out of fuel before they reach Chernobyl, Hammond is the only one who makes modifications to his car in case he fails. Specifically, he tapes all the gaps on the doors and windows to prevent radioactive dust from getting in. Ironically, Hammond is the only one who does not enter the exclusion zone.
- OOC Is Serious Business:
- When the presenters and crew are chased out of a small Alabama town, the seriousness of the situation is brought home for the viewer when Clarkson is polite to the gathering mob in an attempt to defuse things.
- Later in the same episode, they see the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina once they reach New Orleans, and any idea of cracking jokes goes out the window.
- After James' head injury in Syria, Clarkson and Hammond are helpful towards him to give him a chance to get his bearings.
- James on the Bolivian "Death Road". Both his threatening to kill Jeremy with a machete, and his heartfelt plea to Hammond not to leave him.
- Also from the Bolivia special: While driving across a mountain range and suffering the effects of altitude sickness, Jeremy actually says that they're a team when Richard expresses his worry that his car won't make it if the other two don't slow down. Richard lampshades this, remarking that Jeremy's out-of-character sympathy for him "must be [because of] the altitude".
- Variation: You know they're taking professional rally cross seriously when the car has nothing inappropriate on it. No fake company logos, no punny phrases, nothing that looks innocent until they open the doors — nothing, just a blue pattern and James May's name. And then Clarkson and Hammond arrive to work the radio...
- Oop North:
- Locations in the north of England are featured fairly regularly. This probably has to do with Author Appeal, since Clarkson was born in Doncaster, May lived in Rotherham for most of his early years, and Richard Hammond's early journalistic days were spent working for the BBC's radio station in York.
- In the Polar Special, May and Clarkson pointed out they were the most northern people in the world...apart from chat host Michael Parkinson.
- Paddy and Freddie both have thick northern accents, which Chris has frequently commented on. This makes them difficult to understand to people who are not familiar with their accents.
- Open Secret: The identity of the second Stig was well known in the racing world long before Ben Collins outed himself.
- Ordered Apology: Defied. An Argentinian ambassador asked the BBC to apologize for Clarkson's numberplate in the Patagonia special. The BBC refused, and stated that they would air the episode as a fair representation of what happened.
- Out of the Frying Pan: During the Middle East Special, the hosts "escaped" from a county where there is no war (Iraq) to one where there is (Turkey). The producers were all too happy to point this out.
- Overdrive: The Britcar 24-hour endurance race. The presenters have to carefully balance speed with fuel consumption so they don't have to pit frequently for fuel.
- Overly Long Gag:
- Overly Long Name: The names of some of the Chinese cars Clarkson and May examine in Series 18 Episode 2, lampshaded by Clarkson.
- Overly Narrow Superlative:
- In the "Star in a Reasonably Priced Car" segment, Jeremy will often find some specific category for the guest that makes their achievement sound more impressive, such as "fastest Welshman (Rob Brydon)" or "fastest man with a bus pass (Roger Daltrey)".
- James May is the first man to go to the North Pole who didn't want to go.
- Damien Lewis was the fastest SIARPC to do the lap on snow. He was also the only SIARPC ever to do a lap on actual snow (despite Jamie Oliver's protests to the contrary), and he posted easily the slowest lap time that had ever been seen on the track.
- Paper-Thin Disguise:
- Le Parkour: In one of the challenges James May, in a car, races two traceurs. And gets beaten like a red-headed stepchild.
- Patriotic Fervor: To show Jeremy's euphoria for a well-made British car, he parked it on the edge of a cliff where cheerleaders dressed in British flags were dancing exuberantly, while a British-flag hot air balloon hovered close by and Supermarine Spitfires (the plane famous for winning the Battle of Britain) cruised past overhead.
- On the Cool Wall, supercars and hypercars are, by rule, always uncool because driving one is showing off. The sole exceptions are Jaguars and Aston Martins, both British. In fact, the latter even have their own fridge past the sub-zero section. Go figure. note
- Percussive Maintenance: Jeremy Clarkson's general attitude to car maintenance. ("Hammer.")
- Perspective Flip: The final 10 minutes of the Patagonia Special focused on the Top Gear film crew's attempt to Run for the Border with their expensive equipment, as the presenters and some staff were evacuated by plane shortly after the crisis began.
- Phrase Catcher: The Stig. See "Catchphrase".
- Pyrrhic Victory: In the arctic special, Clarkson and May set out with a modified car to race to the north pole against Hammond, who's using traditional dog sledding methods with the purpose of proving that arctic exploration doesnt have to be uncomfortable. Despite winning, Clarkson comes to the conclusion that while you can explore the arctic in a car, its still a gruelling and extremely torturous affair.
- Piano Drop: After recieving a letter from the Morris Marina Owners' Club, any Morris Marina that appears on the show will have a piano dropped on it, no matter how unlikely the circumstances.
- Picky Eater: Richard Hammond, in contrast to James May's Extreme Omnivore. In some of their visits to other countries, Richard has trouble finding food he can eat, including Japan (he does not like fish) and Vietnam (where food included snakes, among other things).
- Averted by the time of the Nile special, Hammond has no problem ordering the goat meat kebabs offered to him. Although this was probably because goat is a recognisable animal that is farmed in Britain (usually for wool and milk rather than meat, but still...), and is a common ingredient in kebabs ubiquitously available in England.
- Pimped-Out Car:
- When presenters or guests let loose with a profanity, their mouths will be pixellated (along with the audio being bleeped, of course), no doubt to prevent lip-readers from taking offence. Happens a lot during the "Star in a Reasonably Priced Car" segment, as the celebrity drivers often get a bit excited doing their fast lap around the Top Gear test track.
- The survival instructor in the Arctic episode, an ex-special forces guy, is described as "a man with a pixelated face".
- The Porsche-branded pipes were pixellated in re-runs, as the segment was filmed following a ban on smoking indoors. This elicited complaints.
- On one occasion, the show brought in a trio of professional car thieves for a test. They agreed under the condition their faces would be pixellated, which they were for a time, but the special effects person, whose car had apparently been recently stolen, soon relocated the pixellation elsewhere.
- Please, Don't Leave Me!: May to Hammond in the Bolivia special. Justified because May had to follow Hammond on Yungas Road at night with only two torches to light the way
- Plummet Perspective: During the South American Special on the North Yungas Road, also known as El Camino de la Muerte — The Road of Death.
- The Points Mean Nothing: The scores are having less and less influence over which presenter "wins" a challenge.
- Political Correctness Gone Mad: The show in general and Clarkson in particular are the direct antithesis of this trope, and frequent complaints are heard from the PC branch of the Moral Guardians. There's a belief among fans that there are actually people who watch Top Gear for the sole purpose of finding something to take offence at.
- The Pollyanna: Any presenter trying to defend the worthiness of the car he has chosen for a challenge in the face of mounting evidence to the contrary. Expect Blatant Lies and maybe a Verbal Backspace or two.
May: [trying to make the best of being stuck in a Morris Marina] Oh, come on! It's not so bad. Um... it's well-equipped.. no, it isn't well-equipped, to be honest, it's got one dial. It's tastefully upholstered... it isn't tastefully upholstered, really... it's brown. But the seats are velour. And look how well it's worn!
- Polar Madness: Demonstrated this during their expedition to race to the magnetic North Pole. Hammond, travelling via traditional dog sled, and Clarkson and May, travelling via a specially-built SUV, all demonstrated the effects of prolonged polar travel, thanks to the extreme cold and harsh terrain, causing the normally light-hearted show to take some darker turns. The car crew got hit particularly hard when they ran into a field of jagged ice that constantly hampered their attempts to dig through and forced them to repeatedly back track. At one point, May admitted in a later interview he seriously thought about killing Clarkson with a shovel. Hammond, meanwhile, had himself a "private weep" and threatened his guide Matty Mc Nair with death in a less-than-joking fashion. Before they even started, they were warned by no less than professional polar explorer Ranulph Fiennes that this would happen to them.
- Poor Man's Porn:
- Clarkson starts the News in 02.03 with a warning to parents:
Clarkson: You probably think that your teenaged children are buying these top shelf magazines to look at this kind of thing [shows picture of scantily-clad women], and you probably think that's normal, okay? Well, they're not. [turns the page] What they're actually looking at is that. [shows Citroën Saxo VTR advert] They're cutting out pictures of this sort of car and taking them to the lavatory.
- The way the three presenters talk about cars sometimes makes one wonder if they take Auto Trader with them to the lavatory....
- Porn Stash: In the "start on a hill without rolling backwards and smashing your most treasured possession" challenge of the lorry driving episode, the prize to the winner was "a year's supply of gentlemen's literature". We could clearly see it was a collection of top-shelf magazines. Later described as "a mountain of pornography". They actually broke James' piano leg off when putting it into position, and so they propped it up with the porn. After he backed over his piano, Richard and Jeremy decided they'd rather abandon the porn than to face James' wrath.
- Power Trio:
- James May: The Smart Guy and often teasingly referred to as "Captain Slow", because he does most things slowly and carefully, has a penchant for spending as much (or more) time ordering his toolbox as he does working with his tools (quite possibly a sufferer from obsessive-compulsive disorder), and often scolds the other hosts for being careless. Has a tendency towards Gosh Dang It to Heck! and Unusual Euphemism (when he isn't saying his catchphrase "oh cock"). Also, he plays piano. Definitely the superego.
- Jeremy Clarkson: A loud, brash Smug Snake. He's rude, likes explosions and luxury cars, is a devoted believer in Tim Taylor Technology, is exceedingly vocal in his dislikes, and let's not get into his politics. Almost certainly the id.
- Richard Hammond: A risk-taking adrenaline junkie prone to Cluster F Bombs... also most likely the id. But he's somewhat nicer than Clarkson and less pushy, and he seems to have a better rapport with the other two than they have with each other, so he may narrowly qualify as the ego.
- Power Walk: Sort of. If the three presenters are driving three cars, there will inevitably be at least one wide shot of the three in a flying-wedge formation.
- Prayer of Malice: In the Africa Special, when they use a raft to get their cars across a river (with crocodiles in it), Jeremy prays so that James's car will topple into the water. It doesn't work, but Jeremy uses his car (which was already on the other side) to pull the raft at full speed, almost sinking it.
- Later, two producers try to get the backup car on the raft, but it sinks immediatly, much to the amusements of the three presenters.
- Precap: In two senses. In the first episode of each new series, the presenters show previews of all the stuff that is to come that was already filmed for that season. The best stuff is saved for the actual episodes that they appear in. Additionally, nearly every episode has an introductory voiceover telling the viewer about the "main" features of the week's episode.
Clarkson: [Series 8, Episode 2] Tonight, I ruin the tranquility of the Yorkshire dales ... Richard ruins Iceland ... and we all ruin a local radio station.
Clarkson: [Series 10, episode 5] Tonight, The Stig tests a tube train ... Richard tests a pair of shorts ... and I try my hand at running.
Clarkson: [Series 13, episode 6] Tonight, Jeremy wears goggles... Richard falls down a small slope... and James says hello to a man!
Clarkson: [Series 15, episode 4] Tonight, I wear a hat... Richard wears a hat... and James wears a hat!
Clarkson: [Series 18, episode 4] Tonight, I wear a hat... James wears a hat... and Richard is behind a low wall!
- Spoofed in a Series 3 episode where the precap featured things they'd like to do (Queen Elizabeth II as the Star in a Reasonably-Priced Car, anyone?) but couldn't afford, because they were out of money.
- Precious Puppies: When they found out a dog is a better "girl magnet" than a hot car.
- Precision Crash: Played for laughs with "Careless Air", a company allegedly based next to their test track which specializes in transporting pianos by helicopter. Given their name, it's no surprise they drop a few. For some reason, the pianos seem to land solely on Morris Marinas.
- Precision F-Strike: James May, who is usually more of the Gosh Dang It to Heck! type, will drop one of these to show he means business.
[on the "Top Ground Gear Force" special, after Clarkson has destroyed May's shed. Again.] May:
What time is this programme on? Is it 10 o'clock? Clarkson:
Is it 10 o'clock on BBC2? Clarkson:
Are we beyond the watershed
You're a fu-- [hard cut to] Hammond:
- Presenter Appeal: A surprising number of the vehicles that come up for review are boyhood Dream Cars or contemporary vehicles that have captured the interest of one of the presenters.
- Pretentious Latin Motto: The motto of the Top Gear Police Department in Series 21 is "ambitiose sed ineptum". I'll let you work that one out yourself.
- Previously On
: Finally got one with the Africa Special in Series 19, the show's first ever two-part episode. In keeping with the grand tradition of the Mundane Made Awesome openings the show usually does, it has such epic scenes as Clarkson finding a bone in his kebab, Hammond buying an iron and a kettle, and May adjusting the cot in the back of his car.
- The Problem with Pen Island: Invoking this was a staple during the Clarkson/Hammond/May years; they've since taken it with them to The Grand Tour.
- It originated with racing challenges. Of course, a proper racecar needs names of sponsors on it. However, actual sponsoring was not allowed since the BBC is a public broadcaster. So sponsors were made upin such a way that their names turn into something dirty or offensive whenever only a part of them were visible after a door was opened. They included "Larsen's Biscuits", "Peniston Oils", "Amerdea du fromage, ("Merde du fromage" is roughly French for "shit of cheese", but the idiomatic meaning is closer to "bloody cheese"), "C'est les bien chat!", "Sophartel Industrie", Restaurant petit entree", Coq joli yaourt aux fruits" ("Happy Rooster fruit yoghurt" which becomes "cock yoghurt"), "Snorksan", "Buy Butter Sturdy", "Poole" and "Ask your doctor about a tetanus booster".
- During the art exhibition challenge, Hammond drives a van around Middlesbrough in an attempt to promote the art exhibit. The van had a sliding door that was left open to show one of the pieces, and Hammond had written on the side of the van "Top Gear Art for the masses".
- The Hover Van was designed at a facility in Penistone whose sign was mounted on a gate in such a fashion that it had to be split in the middle. It was the "Top Gear Penistone Engineering Workshop".
- The Ambulance Challenge features the rather makeshift "Top Gear Poorly People Assistance Headquarters".
- Taken Up to Eleven with the India Special, where they place large signs on the sides of the train (which later separated upon arriving on a train station) which read: "The United Kingdom promotes British I.T. for your company" and "Eat English muffins".
- There was a Top Gear Live Event with car soccer played with white Reliant Robins. The names of the two teams were written on the sides, of course in such a way that something else came out when a door was opened: When Saturday Comes and The Titans.
- Product Placement: Both parodied and lampshaded. But the presenters aren't shy about pointing out the ones that don't make the grade, as evidenced by the Cool Wall. It's The BBC; they are not supposed to advertise.
- Punny Name: During the Patagonia special James take a pretty heavy fall onto his back after being thrown by a horse and cracks several ribs. So naturally when his co-hosts follow through with the Running Gag of buying each other annoying gifts while on road trips, they get him a large toy horse that he names Brokeback.
- Quicksand Sucks: While trying to move the grounded barge that their 4X4's have been floated in on, Clarkson gets stuck in river mud and starts to sink, to much laughter from the other two. They eventually pull him out with one of their 4X4's and rope.