Post by Kasey Kagawa

Top Gear, in case you didn’t know, is a British show. It’s broadcast on a British network, made in Britain, by Brits, and for a British audience. That means that the show will be made from a British point of view, which means that they will mock all and sundry that isn’t perceived as British or generally European as being subpar and designed by monkeys that live in a shed, particularly things designed and made in “the Colonies,” and will portray Americans as being fat, dumb, and having a preference for cars being large sofas with wheels. American Top Gear fans, myself included, take this in stride, as it’s part and parcel of the show’s humor (or humour, if you will) and with the knowledge that if it was an American show about British cars, we’d be just as eager to mock them for the positively ancient designs that their auto industry had, right before it went completely belly-up, and their seeming inability to reconcile their Pax Britannia days with their current position as the bridesmaid to the USA’s bride.

But recently things have taken a rather ugly turn. Clarkson, in his The Good The Bad The Ugly DVD, put what he claimed to be a V8-powered Ford Mustang GT against an actual horse around a quarter-mile oval track. The horse won handily, but then it would, as it was painfully obvious in the video that the Mustang Clarkson claimed to be powered by the 4.6L V8 was actually the 4.0L V6 base model, with a horsepower rating of 210 versus the 300 HP the V8 mill puts out. Yes, that’s a blatant lie, but it’s a Clarkson DVD, which as we’ve seen from past performances, have all the neutrality of an Ann Coulter speech on Democratic moral values, so seeing him go from stretching the truth to outright lies, while unfortunate, isn’t exactly unexpected.

Top Gear, however, has always managed to temper Clarkson’s rantings with some facts and solid points from the other two presenters. This week, though, that all ended. Hammond, in his review of the Shelby GT500, places it on a chassis dynamometer, and measures the horsepower to see if it actually makes it to its rated 500 ponies, and is rather disappointed when it only produces 447 HP. A crushing blow to the Shelby, then. Well, not quite.

Chassis dynamometers measure horsepower and torque from the actual wheels of the car, instead of the flywheel of the engine, as in an engine dynamometer, which is what the Ford Motor Company used when they had the engine independently rated by the Society of Automotive Engineers. Now, since that power has to travel through the transmission, the differential, and the tires, some of that power will be lost along the way. Roughly 10-20%, actually, and if you subtract 10% from 500 HP, you get 450, which is suspiciously close to the number that Hammond got on the dynamometer at the Top Gear test track. The men who brought the dynamometer to the track would know this information, but they neglected to put that information into the show, presumably because it wouldn’t make the “point” they wanted.

Guys, I love Top Gear. So it breaks my heart to say that I will no longer watch the show until they publicly apologize for the inaccurate information presented on their March 4th, 2007 show. If you feel strongly enough about this, email them at top.gear@bbc.co.uk to tell them how disappointed you are. I sure will be.

(EDIT: Check out the video for yourself here: Top gear Shelby GT500 3/4/07 [YouTube]

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Kasey Kagawa

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