Since its debut in 2002, the near-perfect mix of cheesy car facts, performance reviews and dry British humor has made Top of the line a global hit among die-hard car enthusiasts and casual fans alike. In addition to testing cars, making incredible mini-documentaries and inviting celebrities to take to the track, hosts take on numerous challenges around the world in special episodes. They often take affordable used cars for the trip or the challenge. In most cases, they end up modifying it to suit their needs, and the results are always resourceful, out of the box, and often wild.
However, some of them are so crazy that we feel they deserve a special mention, and that’s exactly why we compiled this list. Don’t forget that the three original presenters of Top of the line—Jeremy Clarkson, James May and Richard Hammond—are the ones who made the show what it is today, so for this list we’re focusing on the custom cars that were in the show before Jeremy Clarkson left Top of the line and the trio split up. Let’s get into the list!
ten Burma Special: Jeremy’s Sports Truck
Let’s start with a big one, shall we? The Burma Special may not be the best trip, but it sure is a once-in-a-lifetime trip. The trio used used trucks to travel through Burma (aka Myanmar) to Thailand. Jeremy Clarkson went with an Isuzu TX for the Quest, but of course the trucks didn’t cut it, so they converted them.
Jeremy, being Jeremy, took the sporty approach and made a convertible truck! It now has a white paint job with blue Shelby-like stripes running through it, a faux 6.3-litre AMG badge and luxurious housing in the same color scheme.
9 Homemade limousines
Listen to us. The trio made their own versions of limos from cheap cars. One of them used a 1996 MG F as the driving element and attached a long body to the rear. Oh, and just like the MG F, the whole limo is convertible. The second limo was a 1992 Fiat Panda converted to a limo that was 7 feet longer than the legal limit on the road.
Finally, the trio made a limousine consisting of a 1994 Saab 9000 CS V6 on one side and a 1996 Alfa Romeo 164 on the other. The person who built this aptly named it the Salfa Romeaab. Now we’ll leave it up to you to wonder who did what…or you can watch the episode, which we highly recommend.
8 Rover James
The Rover James is a creation that still haunts many car enthusiasts who have seen the spectacle in their dreams. All kidding aside, this time the guys took a Fiat Multipla and turned it into something suitable for older people. The boys oversimplified the interior with an imprecise but reassuring speedometer and a minimalist GPS that goes to stereotypical preset destinations like the nearest hospital and bingo house.
The car ended up stripped of all doors with huge bus mirrors strapped to the sides, and let’s not talk about Jeremy’s parking locator and the contingency that keeps them from going the wrong direction.
seven Mini ski jump
The concept of this project alone is ridiculously absurd. The trio strapped a rocket onto a Mini and eventually attempted a ski jump. But the whole context surrounding it is also quite delusional. The Winter Olympics Special is a very interesting version of Top of the lineand you should check it out if you haven’t.
They also play ice hockey with a Suzuki Swift, but none of that is as crazy as the rocket-powered Mini.
6 Richard Hammond’s Chevy Ambulance
This episode of Top of the line saw the hosts trying to make a better ambulance than the one used by the government. Richard Hammond went with the Chevy G20 (the A-Team had one) and turned it into an outside nuclear waste disposal van. But inside there are things you would see in an ambulance like a bed and other medical equipment.
Not only that, but Richard added a dual-purpose nitrous oxide button; one of them is to give the 5.7-liter small-block Chevy V8 some extra juice, and the other reason is just too diabolical to mention here. We’ll leave it up to you to watch the episode, if you haven’t already.
5 Jeremy’s RAMbulance
Let’s stick with Ambulance, because Jeremy did something even worse and more interesting at the same time. In classic Jeremy Clarkson fashion, he opted for an old Porsche 944 Turbo to turn into an ambulance. After figuring out how the patient would actually fit into the so-called ambulance, Jeremy went crazy with the mods.
He used the Bee Gees Song “Stayin’ Alive” for the ambulance horn for reassurance and a little help with CPR. And then there’s the ram bar up front. We are at a loss for words.
4 All amphibious cars
Before the Hovervan, we got a glimpse of the three hosts’ genius for making amphibious vehicles in the 3rd episode of Season 8. The ideas were pretty compulsive, to say the least. Richard Hammond got himself a Volkswagen motorhome, turned it into a houseboat and named it “Dampervan”.
Clarkson took a modified Toyota Hilux and added an outboard motor in the back. However, the only person to rise to the challenge of crossing a two-mile-wide reservoir of water was James May with his classic Triumph Herald which he converted into a sailboat.
3 Jeremy’s motorhome
A silhouette is enough to recognize this emblematic motorhome. People would normally extend the length of their motorhome or buy a longer one if they needed more space. But as you guessed, “normal” doesn’t work for Jeremy. He bought a Citroën CX Break and built a three-storey motorhome on it! Kitchen amenities like toaster and grill? He has it. Accommodation to sleep? Two hammocks on the top floor. Jeremy even included a “Japanese Contemplation Zone” on the middle level.
You name the installation, Jeremy has it. All he has to watch out for are strong winds, low stuff like wires and gates, and big high-speed semi-overtakes.
2 The hovercraft
The Hovervan Mark 1 was a complete failure. The two 90-horsepower BMW motorcycle engines in the Ford Transit didn’t have enough lifting and pushing power to go anywhere. But the host’s second try had the power of 600 horsepower to sustain the hovercraft at the top.
James also replaced the skirts with stronger skirts. The gentlemen’s new creation still had a lot to work on, so no one will be waiting outside Top of the line‘s shop to buy one. But as a concept, it’s something we find really captivating.
1 The Vampire Dragster
The Vampire Dragster is undoubtedly one of the most infamous and memorable cars in Top of the line the story. It’s the one Richard Hammond crashed during a test high speed, after all. The incident around him was one of the worst things that could happen.
But the car itself is one of the fastest ever shown at the show. It could theoretically travel at speeds of up to 370 mph! It’s basically a skeleton roughly shaped like a dragster bolted to a Bristol-Siddeley Orpheus turbojet engine. The Thing had held the British land speed record at 300.3 mph (483.29 km/h) since 2000.