Is there anyone on the planet who has never heard of Top Gear? The British version of the famous TV series was first broadcast in 1977. A program devoted exclusively to cars. And at the time, it was like a magazine, with new car reviews along the way. The show was revived in 2002 with Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and Jason Dawe with Andy Wilman as producer. Dawe was later replaced by James May from the second series, and the rest is history.
Of course, there were many controversies leading to the original presenters leaving after the BBC decided not to renew Clarkson’s contract. But it’s hard to believe that this actual car show would become the most watched TV show in the world, but it did. Thanks to a great lineup of presenters and some pretty hilarious excursions they took us all on.
One of the segments on the show called the “Cool Wall” may have been interesting, but we think they misclassified a few cars. One in particular is the Chrysler 300C, and here’s why.
The Top Gear panel that got it wrong
It was around 2001 that Jeremy Clarkson came up with some radically new ideas for reviving the Top Gear program. He wanted to make it in the studio and bring a fun factor into it. So he threw to the powers that be, and put his thumbs up to keep going.
The revised show was an entirely new format. It moved away from simple car reviews, to include comedic car challenges, fun trips to exotic locations, and timed celebrity track rides. The results were astonishing, the number of visitors went stratospheric.
Watching contestants shifted from pure gearheads to gearheads and their families, to just about anyone into light entertainment. And as the show’s popularity grew, so did its budget. Therefore, the stunts, challenges and long journeys just got better and better.
They even seized an airport in the UK to film the series. Transforming hangars into studios and creating elaborate sets to increase the drama of the shooting. Lotus Cars helped them design the Dunsfold Aerodrome race track there. A place where the Top Gear presenters could take expensive borrowed cars and have endless fun. Fun fact: It’s also the track that McLaren has used over the years to develop many of its cars.
Jeremy Clarkson was the anchor host and he brought in Richard Hammond and James May. And this effective lineup immediately brought success on the show. The three TV personalities became the staple food for families in the UK every Sunday evening until 2015.
The show was extremely entertaining, the three different characters worked extremely well together, bringing fun, mayhem and madness to each show. And the audience loved it. Top Gear became a worldwide hit, making all three multimillionaires at the same time.
The infamous ‘Cool Wall’ and the Chrysler 300C
One of the new segments they introduced to the show was the “Cool Wall.” If you’re not familiar with it, learn how it worked here. The three presenters gathered around a huge bulletin board. They divided the large board into a series of categories, labeled at the top, from left to right. The categories were ‘Seriously Uncool’, ‘Uncool’, ‘Cool’ and ‘Sub Zero’. The trio pinned photos of certain cars in the various categories, after a short discussion about each car.
Now we have to say that they didn’t always agree. Jeremy would judge a car’s coolness by how much he thought the car would impress British actress Kristin Scott-Thomas, or news anchor Fiona Bruce. James May would focus on the practicality, and Richard had performance and driving skills in mind. And very often, Jeremy would put a car at the very top of the board, just out of reach of his colleagues.
Supercars were automatically considered ‘Uncool’ or even ‘Seriously Uncool’ because the team thought that “There are very few people who can actually afford them”. Still, the Koenigsegg CCX was ‘Cool’, because it was scary. Diesel cars can’t be “cool” because “their sole purpose is to save money.” And anything with a Skoda badge was “Seriously Uncool,” not for any particular reason.
And one of the funniest lines of all was on Hybrids. They were initially considered “Uncool” but were later moved to “Cool” as “environmentally conscious women will probably go for a man who cares about the environment.”
They argued a lot about Audis and BMWs, which would invariably end up on the “Uncool” pile, along with American cars. Richard Hammond once became so frustrated when they were reviewing a BMW M6 that he ate the photo.
During its run, the team must have placed hundreds of cars on the board. And they were heavily criticized for their choices. But one car in particular, which we think got a really bad deal on the show, is the Chrysler 300C. It appeared in Episode One of Series Six. And they even created a new category for it. They called it “WBSU,” which translates to “Way Beyond Seriously Uncool.”
Our verdict on the Chrysler 300C
We disagree with their harsh assessment, and here’s why. The 300C is a great sedan. Its square lines, high waist and shallow windows give it a cool, muscle-car-esque look. Privacy glass elevates the car’s gangster look, which is why Chrysler sold so many black ones. From the front, it could easily be mistaken for a big-money Bentley. And from the back, it looks like he just got back from a bank robbery.
Inside are generously proportioned, and the 300 seats are very comfortable. Okay, the finish may not be up to par with its German rivals (the 5 Series and A6), and it may not be in the same league as them, but it has everything you need for a long, enjoyable journey. And it’s a lot easier on the wallet.
This is the real reason why we think the UK’s Top Gear team is so wrong. A small badge on the trunk of the car gives it away. Chrysler put a Hemi engine in it. Initially a 5.7, and later a 6.1 liter V8. This turned the cool family sedan into a real muscle car; the SRT8 model. A car that not only looks fantastic, but also performs very well. The SRT can hit 100mph in five seconds and blast its way up to a dizzying 168mph. That sure is ‘Cool!’