The original Top Gear started in 1977 as a monthly 30 minute TV series produced by BBC Midlands, based at Pebble Mill and broadcast in the Midlands region only. It replaced an almost-forgotten series called Wheelbase that was part motoring programme, part motorsports round-up. Top Gear was a more prim and proper series than you might expect; it covered not only new car road tests but other motoring-related issues such as fuel economy, safety, the police, speeding, insurance, second-hand cars and holiday touring. It was presented by Angela Rippon and Tom Coyne, who was front man of the local evening news programme, Midlands Today. In the first edition, Angela Rippon drove from Shepherd Bush in London, to the Pebble Mill studios in Birmingham, reporting on driving conditions en route. Other items covered in the first programme were speed traps, fuel economy, strange new road signs and an interview with the Transport Minister; all heady stuff for 1977.
|The Man, The Legend, THE POSE|
|'The build quality is so bad I'm having to hold the windscreen in'|
The Top Gear team was also responsible for a number of other special programmes including coverage of the bi-annual British Motor Show, London Motorfair, and the Lombard RAC Rally. Its coverage of rallying was the only sport not controlled by BBC Sport in London for many years.
Despite enduring criticism that the show was overly macho, encouraged irresponsible driving behaviour and ignored the environment, the show pulled in huge audiences becoming BBC2's Top viewed programme with audiences over 5 million from 1988. Remember, this is the original Top Gear we're talking about.
|'Can you get that old Honda out of shot please'|
|Would you buy a used car from this man? Er...|
|Sorry, did I say vaguely annoying?|
|It's a little-known fact that Jeremy Clarkson was Ray Doyle's stunt double in The Professionals|
In 2001 the show was cancelled by the BBC to be relaunched in the one-hour-long, studio-based format thats currently shown.
|I really can't see why mean get all hot & bothered about Vicki Butler-Henderson|
|Nope, still don't see it|
|Still don't get it-ah.|
The show's opening theme music from the very first programme in 1977, was The Allman Brothers Band instrumental Jessica, from their 1973 album Brothers and Sisters (although remixed versions were used on the show after 1999). For much of the original series' lifespan, Elton John's instrumental Out Of The Blue from the 1976 Blue Moves album played over the closing credits. The opening and closing titles music were suggested to Executive Producer Derek Smith by his son, Graham who had the two albums at home.
'And tonight on Top Gear, Chris Goffey tests the new Fiat Uno, while William Woollard goes to Switzerland to report on the Geneva Motor Show and pose with one foot on the slam panel of some new cars.'