Lancia Beta From Top Gear’s “Botswana Special” Found by YouTuber01/20/2021
Almost 15 years ago, the Top Gear team went to Botswana. The presenters at the time—Jeremy Clarkson, James May, and Richard Hammond—were each given a budget of £1,500 (about $2,000 at the time) to purchase a two-wheel-drive vehicle with no off-road pretensions to make the trek from the African country’s eastern border to its western one, a claimed 1,000-mile journey.
Clarkson picked up a 1981 Lancia Beta; May, a 1985 Mercedes-Benz 230E. Hammond, meanwhile, snagged a 1963 Opel Kadett, which he famously named “Oliver.” In fact, Hammond’s fondness for the little Kadett led him to ship the car back to the United Kingdom following filming. Clarkson and May, however, felt no such kinship with their cars. Instead, the two left the old Lancia and Mercedes in Botswana, the former of which was recently found by YouTube user “Alaska to Africa,” who uploaded a video of the car in its current state. (Hat tip to Jalopnik for bringing the video to our attention. )
Per Alaska to Africa, the front-drive Lancia coupe still indeed resides in Botswana, though it is a bit worse for wear, with sun-faded paint, missing wheels, and a nearly stripped cabin. Still, this appears to be the very car Clarkson drove across the landlocked country all those years ago. Telltale signs include a pair of roof-mounted hinges for the custom gullwing door that was added to the car during filming—and removed after.
While it looks rather derelict, the Lancia still retains its engine and could theoretically be restored to a drivable state. Whether there’s value in taking such steps, however, is another story.
For better or worse, we don’t think this will be the last vehicle featured in a Top Gear special to suffer such a fate. In fact, we wager there are plenty of past vehicles from Top Gear specials sitting in heaps in other areas of the world, too. And there may even be more such examples in the future, as the hosts of the soon-to-be-launched Top Gear America—Dax Shepard, Rob Corddry, and Jethro Bovingdon—prepare to embark on their own automotive adventures. The series premieres on January 29, 2021, exclusively via the MotorTrend App. Be sure to subscribe to watch the series premiere and subsequent shenanigans, as well as to catch other great car shows, including earlier Top Gear episodes like, yep, the Botswana Special from 2007.
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