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Top Gear USA Season Finale: Strap on your Viking Helmets
If you want to find the most extreme winter off-roading on the planet, set your compass for Iceland, located in the middle of the freezing, seething North Atlantic. In Iceland, glacial ice does battle with volcanic magma, and the locals have evolved extreme vehicles to conquer these torturous conditions. American trucks once ruled supreme in Iceland, but nowadays Japanese nameplates dominate the driveways of most off-roaders.
Rut, Adam and Tanner want ‘Murcan trucks to reclaim Viking hearts and wallets, and were instructed to purchase the toughest American trucks they could find. When the hosts meet up in Iceland’s capital, Reykjavik, it’s clear there are still a few gearheads there who fly the stars and stripes high. Gathered in front of the cathedral are their monsters: Tanner’s ‘79 Ford Bronco with a big block and 44” tires, Rut’s vintage ‘73 International Scout with beefy axles and studded 44s, and Adam’s ex-Navy ‘84 Chevy K30 diesel turning tractor-like 49”-tall tires.
Just getting their mini monster trucks out of a city with European-sized streets may prove difficult; Adam, of course, chose the least maneuverable vehicle with tires taller than a 9 year old child. They head 30 miles to the old Viking Parliament, and enroute take advantage of endless black-sand beaches by testing their truck’s straight-line mettle the Yankee way: With a 1/4 mile drag race.
At the Parliament they receive their instructions: They are to drive to the 6000-foot summit of Eyjafjallajökull. If that name looks familiar, it’s because you’re drunk or you remember when this volcano erupted in 2010, disrupting air travel in Europe for almost a week. Despite several attempts, no vehicle has stood atop the freshly-laid, virgin rock at the summit. Let alone three buffoons in decades-old trucks…
One-hundred miles lie between the hosts and the volcano’s summit. After hours of steady elevation gain, rain turns into snow, lots of snow. Roads are buried in 15 feet of the stuff in places, which doesn’t much matter as the hosts can take advantage of Iceland’s national driving rule: You can drive anywhere so long as there’s snow under your tires. Tanner’s GPS can guide them as the crow flies, of limited help given the mountains and jagged rocks piercing the horizon. As darkness and snow fall, they are separated from their first night’s lodging by only a couple of miles– and a large, fast flowing river with steep banks on either side.
The next morning, greeted by precious few hours of sunlight and new snow, they set out towards their next night’s lodging, on the far side of by the aptly-titled Valley of Doom. And ultimately doomed to retrace their route down the valley, in darkness, Rut, Adam and Tanner, have just one more shot at summiting Eyjafjallajökull – by driving up and over a 20 mile glacier and over a different volcano whose eruption is 40 years overdue.
Morning sun reveals stark beauty and truck-eating crevasses, before afternoon fog terrifyingly obscures them. After a night in frozen cots, just 3000 vertical feet separates the hosts and their hard-working American trucks from the Volcano’s summit. Well, that and total whiteout conditions. Does old American 4x4 iron have the mechanical fortitude to contest some of the most extreme conditions on earth and conquer virgin ground? Do the hosts have the intestinal fortitude to risk life and appendage? Can Top Gear make Iceland love American trucks once again?
To find out, you’ll have to tune in, American fans of the Top Gear USA– it’s on History this Tuesday at 9/8 central. You can see older episodes on the History Channel Top Gear site and get breaking news on the Top Gear USA Facebook Page. Let us know what you think!