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Top Gear “Patagonia Special” cars shredded to nut size in “hush-hush” operation

Friday, April 5th 2019 - 09:00 UTC
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BBC's Top Gear team that visited Argentina, Jeremy Clarkson, James May and Richard Hammond BBC's Top Gear team that visited Argentina, Jeremy Clarkson, James May and Richard Hammond
Clarkson's Porsche and the alleged provocative license plate H982FKL Clarkson's Porsche and the alleged provocative license plate H982FKL

Imagine three top-line sport vehicles, worth tens of thousands of dollars, from some of the most famous world brands coming to their proud end rolled over by caterpillars and shredded to pieces no greater than nuts. And the vehicles did not belong to drug dealers or arms trafficker or were part of some US extravagant show.

In effect they belonged to the BBC's Top Gear team that back in November 2014 was planning a two chapter special on Argentine Patagonia, the first to be aired for Christmas. But the experience almost ended in tragedy when the three vehicles, Porsche 928, Lotus Esprit and Ford Mustang Match 1 cruised southern Argentina with Jeremy Clarkson's Porsche displaying license plate number H982FKL.

This triggered an immediate reaction from the Argentine Falklands/Malvinas war veterans who believed it was a specific provocation in direct reference to the 1982 Falklands war, from where an Argentine invading force was expelled after a 74-day conflict which left almost a thousand combatants and three Islanders dead.

But it also left a deep spirit frustration in Argentine public opinion because since early school children are taught that the Falklands and other South Atlantic islands, belong to Argentina and not to Britain, and for a great number of war veterans UK is the “usurper” and to the most radical ones brings back memories of dead comrades, plus on edge anger and bitterness.

Thus Clarkson and this team mates James May and Richard Hammond faced growing disenchantment that turned violent when the Porsche's plate number, H982FKL appeared online.

By the time they were approaching Tierra del Fuego the convoy had been stoned several times and protestors laid siege to the hotel in Ushuaia where Top Gear was resting. The Malvinas veterans declared the Brits “persona non grata” and pledged to “roast them”.

All this was obviously closely reported by the British and Argentine media as a saga of “great challengers” and “offensive provocateurs” respectively rapidly leading to a diplomatic spat.

As a result of the subsequent protests the production crew decided to suspend filming prematurely and allegedly flee to neighboring Chile abandoning the fleet of top models at Tolhuin.

Clarkson said at the time: 'I've been to Iraq and Afghanistan, but this was the most terrifying thing I've ever been involved in.'

Autoblog an Argentine website recalls the incident and has rebuilt what happened since. Apparently the vehicles were rescued by the police and deposited in a Rio Grande (Tierra del Fuego) garage with a 24-hour guard, because the Malvinas veterans wanted to set them on fire.

However a couple of years ago Argentina and UK apparently agreed in a hush-hush operation “to compact” the cause of the Top Gear incident. At a junk yard in Rio Grande, with the attendance of Argentine Federal Police, Customs, Gendarmerie, local Justice, members of the foreign ministry and British embassy envoys the three vehicles were effectively shredded and compacted. No pictures, no phones, all present had to turn in their cell phones before the end show. An only member from the Argentine foreign office recorded the event in a tablet.

According to Autoblog, Andy William ex Top Gear producer, and current manager of The Grand Tour, and close friend of Clarkson claimed the cars. But Argentina refused believing they could be used as “war trophies” in UK further inflaming the situation. Likewise keeping the trophy in Rio Grande was becoming a growing uncomfortable situation fearing a “nationalist” torching in some anniversary date.

Autoblog also reveals that on an initiative of the Tierra del Fuego government the convoy was offered protection while the Top Gear crew escaped to Chile during the night, but somehow they were ambushed and stoned in Tolhuin. However there was an only victim, Argentine citizen Norberto Rivero who had his trucks contracted by the filming crew of Top Gear and was part of the convoy. Rivero refuses to be interviewed on the events because apparently he signed a confidentiality accord with the BBC.

Futher more Autoblog reports that despite the “Patagonia Special” final chapter includes the epic escape from “enemy territory” and apparently a champagne celebration in friendly Chile, the truth is that Clarkson, May and Hammond were really in Buenos Aires and at the time of the Tolhuin ambush on a British Airways flight to London.

Lose strings of the Autoblog report are also interesting: in Clarkson's Porsche other license plates were found such as “Hi Vae” and “Bellend”, which are believed were to be part of the planned final “Patagonia Special” show, normal practice of Clarkson's jokes about the country visited, including the Falklands war plate reference.

Likewise Top Gear had programmed a soccer match with cars, involving Fiats manufactured in Cordoba painted with the Argentine color, sky blue and white stripes. Gary Linker from the England side at the 1986 Mexico World Cup admitted to have been invited for the match but left Argentina when the scandal came to light, and the game was never played.

Likewise the Justice system in Tierra del Fuego acted with “extraordinary parsimony” despite having more than sufficient evidence to begin action against Clarkson for the different license plates with which he circulated in Argentina and were recorded on video. The Clarkson case was filed as happened with those involved, and filmed, in the stoning of the vehicles at Toulhin and which injured Rivero.

Autoblog comments that five years since the Patagonia incidents, in Argentina there are no traces of evidence or charges pending.

Four months after the Patagonia Special, hot tempered and provocative Clarkson lost his job in BBC. Although it was not a spectacular incident, he hit a crew member, it was an opportunity to have him removed given the accumulation of diplomatic complaints about his attitude and comments on visited countries including racist slur referred to African specials.

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  • golfcronie

    “ Tens of thousands of $” Don't think so as some Argentine official would snap them up as a bargain.5 yrs in a garage rotting away no doubt.

    Apr 05th, 2019 - 12:17 pm +1
  • Twistedsanity

    There were quite a few injuries from broken glass, a family member was there in an official capacity with the top gear team, Clarkson and the top bods all got airlifted out very quickly and left all the others to run in fear of their lives and take all the equipment and personell while being attacked by the Argentinians and pelted with stones, and yes, it was discussed in some detail and that numberplate was just an unfortunate oversight, it was not in anyway intentional (difficult to believe with Clarkson but very true on this occasion), interestingly though when they all drove to the North pole on a different episode and you saw the special forces soldier with his face blanked out push Clarkson into the freezing water through a hole in the ice it was totally unscripted and was done as Clarkson was being his usual moronic self, the soldier was severely reprimanded afterwards but did it to try and get Clarkson to realise the seriousness of the undertaking

    Apr 07th, 2019 - 07:00 am 0
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