The backbone of the TopGear specials has always been the toughness of the challenge, from the frozen North Pole to the desolate salt pans of Botswana to the jungles and mountains of South America. But, this year, we’ve taken on our biggest challenge of all: sorting out the British economy.
Let me explain. A few months ago, Mr Cameron said our nation must become a favoured trading partner of India: currently, we do more business with Ireland than with this country of 1.2 billion people. TopGear, we thought, could help solve this problem with a trade mission, flying the flag for UKPLC. Our plan was to drive across India, drumming up interest in British goods, advertising the peerless standards of British skills, British nous, British Britishness. We would make the Indians think: “No, we shall not buy mayonnaise from Belgium, but Angel Delight and Kendal Mint Cake from the British.”
Usually, on TopGear challenges, we give ourselves a pitiful budget of a couple of hundred quid for each car. But, this time, Britain’s reputation was at stake. We couldn’t be seen sitting in a puddle of engine oil by the side of the road. You don’t see Prince Andrew cracking out the spanners on his foreign visits.
So we thought we’d spend a bit more and buy three cars that represented the best of British. With their budget of seven grand each, Jeremy and Richard excelled themselves, Jezza picking up a 1995 Jaguar XJS 4.0-litre – the Celebration edition, no less – and Richard buying a tidy Mini Cooper.
But James, in his OCD idiocy, decided he wanted a Rolls-Royce. Unfortunately, the only Rolls-Royce you can buy for seven grand is a 1976 Silver Shadow…
The success of our mission lies not only in how the cars coped, but also whether Britain’s balance-of-trade deficit is rectified. We’re not being unrealistic: we know it won’t happen immediately, but if Britain’s trade with India reaches an even keel by, say, Easter, we’ll be happy. And maybe, just maybe, the knock-on effect will be that other car shows from around Europe will also visit India, and then the economy of the entire Eurozone will pick up, too, and then China will be forced to cut its prices as the global balance of trade shifts, and, before we know it, the world’s economy will be restored. We set out with a modest ambition – to help Britain’s balance-of-trade deficit – but this TG special could have truly global repercussions. If it does, we don’t want any plaudits. Just watching the show will be thanks enough.
Be sure to catch the India Special on 1st February, 11:30pm only on BBC Entertainment.