After surviving their trip to Sturgis, the boys of Top Gear are back and posing an important question: “Can cars float?” Not well, if you ask the hosts of the UK version, who famously tackled amphibious cars not once, but twice. But that’s not going to stop our guys from giving it a similarly well-intentioned but disastrous go.
Starting in Buffalo, New York, they must first pick their rides to be transformed. Adam is looking for toughness, so he selects a Jeep Wrangler. Rutledge opts for a Volkswagon Cabrio, because a convertible means he won’t be stuck in there if the thing sinks. He readily admits this is “the least manly convertible ever made, next to the Miata,” and we’re inclined to agree with him, if only because the music played over his driving montage makes him seem like he’s come straight from playing the best friend in a 90’s sitcom. Then there’s Tanner, who rolls up in a Plymouth Conquest, because it’s fast – a must for any vehicle driven by Tanner Foust. If you ever see him in a Nissan Micra, the world may be ending.
The guys allegedly work through the night to convert their cars – unlike the UK edition of this challenge, we don’t get to enjoy them arguing with people or lighting things on fire, which is a huge missed opportunity – before getting together to compare creations. Rut has merged his Cabrio with a traditional boat, resulting in “two engines, two steering wheels, and a lot of paint and glue.” Tanner’s “Turboat” arrives with plenty of sound and fury, signifying nothing. It doesn’t look much different except for the rear wing and rudder at the back. But by far it’s Adam who takes the cake, already on the water as he shows up having married Jeep to airboat. His emergency brake is a brick. And he looks so happy, it’s like he’s already won.
After Tanner tries to “Jackie Chan” his way into the Turboat and fails, it’s time for a series of land-based challenges. The first is to set the fastest time in a trip to the midpoint of the Buffalo Skyway, while reaching 50 MPH. Rut nearly goes deaf, loses his life preserver, and still does 0:36.50. Tanner obliterates that time with a 0:27.40. Adam’s already limping Jeep takes its sweet time, and can’t reach the speed requirement in the 19 minutes it’s on the bridge.
Can any of these cars survive a slalom course on an uneven street? Tanner’s rolling smokehouse bats leadoff with a time of 0:22. Without much of a suspension or a reverse gear, Adam doesn’t like his chances, and with good reason: he has to get out and push the Jeep to complete the turn at the halfway point. His final time is 1:08, and then he gets penalized for damage to his vehicle, raising it to almost two minutes. It’s up to Rut to give Tanner any sort of a challenge, and hope for that goes out the window when the top of the boat half of his Cabrio falls down and creates a new hat for him. All you really need to know can be discerned from the expression on Tanner’s face: his jaw hanging open, staring at the Cabrio as if to say, ‘I have no idea what I’m watching.’
With Tanner up two wins to none for anyone else, it’s on to an endurance challenge – driving from Buffalo to Lake Ontario, where they’ll finally head into the water. “Adam is going to die,” Tanner declares, though he doesn’t seem particularly broken up about it. While he remains alive, Adam’s Jeep does kick the bucket, leaving Rut and Tanner to go on without him. He somehow resurrects it and eventually rejoins them lakeside, where everyone contemplates if they can make it the 35 miles across the lake to their finish line in Toronto. “Let’s get a beer and come back tomorrow,” Tanner declares. At least they’re not waiting for slack water.
Tanner’s Turboat is the first into the water, making it also the first to lose steering and start to sink. “As much as he annoys me, I couldn’t let the little fella drown,” Adam tells us, and the Jeep charges to the rescue. This quickly degenerates into the two vehicles hitting each other and spraying each other with water courtesy of their engines, while Rut looks on like a bemused parent on a school playground. The bearded one slowly eases his Cabrio into the lake, not long before the Turboat officially goes under upside-down, just like Jeremy Clarkson’s Toybota. Mere moments later, the Jeep is suddenly and swiftly swallowed up as well, leaving the Cabrio the only boat floating.
“I don’t think we’re going to make it to Canada,” Rutledge declares, while Adam and Tanner can only laugh at their shared misfortune. After they’ve been rescued by the Cabrio, our trio of would-be seafarers decides to attempt to cross the finish line anyway, With nothing to do, no food, and no navigation, it’s a hopeless journey – and it comes to an end about halfway when the engine dies. Tanner chickens out, calling a friend to hitch a ride and leaving his co-hosts to fend for themselves.
However, Adam and Rut are able to coax the Cabrio back to life, and mount one last attempt to complete their final challenge. Twelve hours after they set off, they see Canada for the first time, and with its last gasp, the amphibious car makes it to shore. Too bad that the guys are about to be deported for not having their passports on them. But the important thing is that they accomplished one of the most legendary Top Gear challenges…and that somebody slaps Tanner upside the head for quitting on his team.
(c)2013 Brittany Frederick. Appears at Examiner with permission. All rights reserved. No reproduction permitted. Visit my official website and follow me on Twitter at @tvbrittanyf.