- Botswana Special: The boys go to Botswana and buy a car for less than £1500 for a 1,000 mile challenge.
Challenge 1: Buy a used car for up to £1500. Mocking the use of “Chelsea Tractors” for delivering children to school and driving up leafy lanes, rules for the challenge stipulate that the car purchased to cross the spine of Africa has to be two wheel drive, and not designed in any way for off-road use. Clarkson buys a 1981 Lancia Beta Coupe, May a 1985 Mercedes-Benz 230E and Hammond a 1963 Opel Kadett, which he nicknames “Oliver”. Starting from the Botswana-Zimbabwe border, they must drive 1,000 miles (1,600 km) to the Namibian border. If at any time a presenter’s car breaks down and cannot be restarted, he must complete the journey in a Volkswagen Beetle. While the Beetle turns out to be a suitable vehicle for such a challenge, the Beetle is the presenters’ collective least favourite car of all time.
Challenge 2: Cross the Makgadikgadi Pan successfully. The first section of the Makgadikgadi salt pan has a thin solid crust, under which lies a mud like substance underneath. Almost immediately, May and Clarkson’s cars begin to break through the crust. Desperate to shed weight, they strip down their cars to the basic shell, removing most of the interior trim and most of the panels. Hammond’s car is light enough to cross the salt pan shedding only his spare tyre and radiator grill. Clarkson’s car breaks down frequently, seemingly with electrical issues. For day two on the salt pans, dust becomes the problem, rather than the “gunk” underneath the salt crust. May and Clarkson cover their faces and re-dress to avoid choking on the dust, as each driver was now open to the elements due to having a bare shell. Hammond does not have to take such measures as he did not drastically modify his car earlier.
Shortly before beginning their trip onto the Makgadikgadi Pan, the Top Gear trio informally encountered Botswana’s Vice President, Seretse Ian Khama, who displayed no qualms regarding the trio’s journey across the flats. However, he did seem taken aback by the fact that the trio were attempting this in their old, used, two-wheel drive cars.
Challenge 3: Time trials round a rally course by “The Stig’s African cousin”. Oliver achieves a time of 1:12 before being beaten by May’s Mercedes-Benz with a 1:06. Clarkson’s car however, fails to start, so The Stig walks away.
Challenge 4: Cross the Okavango Delta; the presenters are told to make their cars “wild animal proof”. May is able to replace several Mercedes-Benz parts, due to the car’s popularity in Africa. Clarkson however cannot find any spare parts for his Lancia Beta so he jury-rigs new doors from soft drink cans, wood and corrugated iron, and attaches a megaphone. May paints “All Adders Are Puffs” on Oliver, and “Lite Bite Cafe” on Clarkson’s Lancia Beta. At the same time, Clarkson and Hammond hide a cowbell as well as several cuts of meat (including a cow’s head) inside May’s car, to attract wildlife.
Final results: Both Hammond and May made it to the border before Clarkson, who had suffered two more breakdowns during the final run. Although Hammond’s Opel had survived relatively intact (the only major repair being the car’s electricals), and May’s car had hardly broken down at all, both Clarkson and May, to Hammond’s horror, declared the winner to be the Volkswagen Beetle, which had completed the trip with no documented mishaps at all.
Similar to the 2007 Polar Challenge Special, the show’s credits included each crew member’s first name replaced with the words “Archbishop Desmond” (e.g. “Archbishop Desmond Clarkson, Archbishop Desmond Hammond and Archbishop Desmond May…”), in homage to Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Nobel Peace Prize winner in 1984.
“Some say that he’s seen The Lion King 1,780 times, and that his second best friend is a Cape Buffalo. All we know is he’s not the Stig, but he is the Stig’s African Cousin.”