Top Gear (series 3)

Last updated

Top Gear
Series 3
Country of originUnited Kingdom
No. of episodes9
Original network BBC Two
Original release26 October (2003-10-26) 
28 December 2003 (2003-12-28)
Series chronology
Series 2
Series 4
List of Top Gear episodes

Series 3 of Top Gear , a British motoring magazine and factual television programme, was broadcast in the United Kingdom on BBC Two during 2003, consisting of nine episodes between 26 October and 28 December; [1] a compilation episode featuring the best moments of the series, titled "Best of Top Gear", was aired on 4 January 2004. [2] This series saw the departure of Perry McCarthy as "Stig", [3] with the role taken over by Ben Collins as a new "Stig".


The series' primary highlight was a feature in which the presenters tested the strength of the fourth generation Toyota Hilux by putting it through several destructive tests before maintaining it as a museum piece in the studio until the 22nd series. The Hilux destruction tests later caused the programme to pay compensation for damages that were made, following inquiries by a parish council.


No. in
ReviewsFeatures/challengesGuest(s)Original air dateUK viewers
(millions) [4]
211 Ford GTBMW 5 SeriesPorsche 911 GT3 Can the diesel Volkswagen Lupo get better mpg than the petrol version? Martin Kemp 26 October 2003 (2003-10-26)3.32

Clarkson heads to Detroit to find out how good the heavily-anticipated Ford GT handles against all its competitors, before finding out how well a diesel Volkswagen Lupo fares against its petrol version by doing a lap of the M25. Elsewhere, Hammond tests out the Porsche 911 GT3, May defends the BMW 5 Series, and the Stig drives fast with the trio's Jaguar XJS on board HMS Invincible with disastrous results. Meanwhile, singer and Spandau Ballet bassist Martin Kemp, tries to see is he is better than Ross Kemp when he takes the Liana for a lap of the track.

Note: The final appearance of the original Stig, Perry McCarthy, was a scripted scene by the production staff.
222 BMW M3 CSLBMW M1BMW M3BMW M5 Volvo 240 attempts to jump four caravans • Best 2 seater sportscar: (Porsche BoxsterBMW Z4Honda S2000) Stephen Fry 2 November 2003 (2003-11-02)3.41

Black Stig is gone, and in his place is brand new, White Stig, who is quick to get to work by seeing how fast the BMW M3 CSL is on the track after Clarkson tests it out. Meanwhile, the trio head to the Isle of Man to find out which old BMW sports car is the best - the 1970s M1, the original M3, and the second-gen M5 - before testing out three two seater convertibles on the Isle - the BMW Z4, the Porsche Boxster and the Honda S2000. Finally, a Volvo 240 tries to jump five caravans side-by-side, and Stephen Fry discusses the advantages of driving his London Taxi before seeing how he fared in the Liana.

Note: First appearance by Ben Collins as the new Stig, following the departure of McCarthy.
233 Bentley Continental GTSubaru Legacy Outback Saab 9-5 Aero versus a BAe Sea Harrier • How to Escape from a Sinking Car • Top Gear Survey Rob Brydon 9 November 2003 (2003-11-09)4.02
Clarkson is unimpressed when he manages to secure the rights to test out the Bentley Continental GT, while he compares the hot Saab 9-5 Aero to an aeroplane. Meanwhile, May finds out whether the aristocracy will go for the Subaru Legacy Outback, Hammond investigate the dangers of being in a car that is sinking in water and how to quickly escape such a scenario, the Stig races a Saab around the track against a Harrier Jump Jet, and the results of the Top Gear Survey are in. Finally, Rob Brydon becomes the first Welshman to do a lap in the reasonably priced car.
244 Lamborghini MiuraLamborghini CountachMini Cooper S WorksLamborghini Gallardo Lamborghini Tribute Rich Hall 16 November 2003 (2003-11-16)4.59
Top Gear celebrates the 40th anniversary of the Lamborghini by looking back at some of the classics by the company, including the 1967 Lamborghini Miura, an improved 1971 SV, the Lamborghini Countach, while there is a look at the Lamborghini LM002, Clarkson tests out the Lamborghini Gallardo, and the Murciélago is back to set a time on a dry track. Meanwhile, Hammond tests out several versions of the Mini Cooper S - the BMW-official Works Cooper S, the third-party tuned Hartge Cooper S, the Digi-tec Cooper S and the wild 275 bhp (205 kW) BBR Cooper S - while American comedian Rich Hall improvises a country song about a Rover 25 before seeing how he fared in the reasonably priced car.
255 Mazda RX-8Fiat Panda Is the Toyota Hilux really indestructible? • Hammond searches for future classic cars Simon Cowell 23 November 2003 (2003-11-23)4.80
Clarkson sees how tough a Toyota Hilux pick-up truck truly is by putting it through a series of tests, including driving it through Bristol and nearly losing it to the sea, before returning to the test track to see what else it can withstand. Elsewhere, he tests the Mazda RX-8 on the track, while May drives the Fiat Panda up in Hertfordshire, and Hammond looks at several cars deemed to be good investments as future 'classic' cars. There's also the task of finding which is the best wig for a fast drive in an open top convertible, while Simon Cowell stops judging future singers to see if he can be judged the best at driving fast in the Liana.
266 Citroën C2Renault Mégane CCPeugeot 307 CCAston Martin V8 Vantage (1977)Holden Monaro Is a Toyota Hilux really indestructible? – Part 2 Sanjeev Bhaskar 7 December 2003 (2003-12-07)5.40
May sees what else can be done to prove that a Toyota Hilux is tough by placing the same Hilux from the last episode on top of a tower block due for demolition. He also reviews the Aston Martin V8 Vantage and discusses how British supercars differentiate from those elsewhere in the world, while Hammond sees whether the Renault Mégane CC and the Peugeot 307 CC are good hard-top convertibles, and Clarkson reviews the successor to the old Citroën Saxo, the Citroën C2, and takes a drive in Australia's first contribution to the motoring world - the Holden Monaro. Meanwhile, Sanjeev Bhaskar is the latest star to drive in the reasonably priced car.
277 MG XPower SVPorsche Cayenne TurboMercedes-Benz SLR McLaren Which professor can do the best burn-out • What is the best British car: (Rover 75Morgan Plus 8Noble M12) Rory Bremner 14 December 2003 (2003-12-14)3.35
The beautiful and powerful MG XPower SV hits the track, but Clarkson is less impressed with it, while he also sees how good the off-road abilities of the Porsche Cayenne Turbo are by taking it to Bovington, Dorset. Meanwhile, Hammond travels to South Africa to review the Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren, there's a burn-out contest between Heinz Wolff, Brian Sewell and Colin Pillinger, and the presenters see which car is the best British car - the Noble M12, the Morgan Plus 8 and the Rover 75. Elsewhere, Rory Bremner impersonates voices for car adverts before seeing how he fared on the track in the Liana.
288 Mercedes-Benz 280SLNissan MicraAston Martin LagondaAudi TT Top Gear Generation Game Johnny Vegas 21 December 2003 (2003-12-21)3.15
Hammond sees how good a Nissan Micra is in comparison to a Boeing 737 (BBJ-2), while Clarkson tests out the Audi TT V6 after dressing for it, before seeing if car designs peaked in the '60s by testing out a '60s Mercedes-Benz 280SL (W113). Elsewhere, May drives the crazy and bold 1970s Aston Martin Lagonda, there's a duel-out between 5 of Hammond's modern cars versus 5 of Clarkson's older cars in a 1/5-mile drag race, and comedian Johnny Vegas proves he can drive fast in the Liana, even when he has no driving licence.
299 Chrysler CrossfireSmart Roadster (Brabus V6 Bi-Turbo)Jaguar XJ6Honda Civic Type RHonda NSX Type R Top Gear Awards 2003 Carol Vorderman 28 December 2003 (2003-12-28)4.24
It's a Cut-Price version of Top Gear this episode, after the budget for the series has been exhausted. The trio shoulder on regardless, with Clarkson driving the Chrysler Crossfire, Hammond handling a Smart Roadster Brabus V6 Biturbo and the Honda Civic Type-R hot hatch as well as the Honda NSX Type R Supercar, and May reviewing the Jaguar XJ6. The trio also host the Top Gear Awards for 2003, while Carol Vorderman sees if she can do better than (the late) Richard Whiteley, when she takes the Liana around the test track.

Best-of Episodes

TotalNo.TitleFeatureOriginal air date
S2CEThe Best of Top Gear: 2003Best moments from Series 34 January 2004 (2004-01-04)
A look back at some of the best moments from Series 3, including how much was done to the Indestructible Toyota Hilux, and the demise of the Original Stig.

Criticism and Controversy

Hilux Toughness Challenge

Following the broadcast of the fifth episode of the 3rd series, the BBC was contacted by the Churchill Parish in Somerset in regards to the tree that featured in the segment where Clarkson was proving the sturdiness and reliability of the Toyota Hilux. Up until the episode had been broadcast, villagers had presumed that the damage had been done accidentally or by vandals, until they watched what had happened on the show. After the BBC was contacted, the director of Top Gear admitted guilt and the broadcaster paid compensation. [5]

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  1. "Top Gear Series 3". 20 October 2003.
  2. "Best of Series 3". BBC. 25 January 2004.
  3. "Top Gear Black Stig". 20 October 2003.
  4. "Weekly Top 10 Programmes". Broadcasters' Audience Research Board.
  5. "BBC stumps up for tree stunt". BBC. 21 February 2004. Retrieved 9 January 2006.