For 13 years, BBC’s Top Gear was not only the most popular automotive program on the planet, but with an estimated global audience of 350 million viewers, it was the most popular non-fiction TV show… in the world. But that all came crashing down in March when lead presenter Jeremy Clarkson punched a producer, leading to his dismissal at the BBC, with the rest of the cast and crew leaving with him in solidarity. And while Clarkson, along with presenters Richard Hammond and James May (and co-creater/producer Andy Wilman), landed a huge deal at Amazon Prime to carry on where they left off, the BBC is left with the rights to a billion dollar franchise, and very little else.
From the outset, the Beeb has assured the public that Top Gear will carry on, but finding a cast to replicate the chemistry between Clarkson, Hammond, and May is no small order. While no replacements for Hammond and May have been announced (there are rumors speculating that British model Jodie Kidd and F1 driver Jenson Button are likely candidates), we do know that Clarkson’s lead presenter role will be filled by long-time BBC presenter and car buff Chris Evans.
On top of being one of the most successful personalities in BBC history, Evans is also close friends with Clarkson, who made his first post-Top Gear interview on his morning show. And on top of the Clarkson connection, Evans’s affiliation with the show goes back years, where he’s been both the “Star in a Reasonably-Priced Car,” and lent his 1961 Ferrari 250 California Spyder SWB to James May. But the California isn’t Evan’s only classic. He’s a true gearhead, and if anyone can pick up where Clarkson left off, it’s him.
On the heels of his next big gig, Evans is thinning his stable of classics, and showing to the world that his taste in classics extends beyond vintage Ferraris. Here are 6 of Evan’s most interesting cars going up for auction (along with another look at the California Spyder), because what better way to get to know the next host of Top Gear than through his cars?
1. Ferrari 250 California Spyder SWB
Evans has done pretty well for himself over the years. So well, in fact, that he bought his California Spyder (the number two car, along with some of his other cars) at auction in 2008 for $11 million – at the time the most expensive Ferrari ever sold at auction. On top of being one of the most beloved Ferraris of all-time, it spent nearly 25 years as the daily driver of actor James Coburn. Compared to today’s prices, $11 million for a California Spyder is a steal. Unlike the other cars here, this one’s not for sale.
2. 1983 Fiat 126 Abarth
Thanks to its streak of political incorrectness, Top Gear has long been accused of “blokishness,” and there’s nothing ruder or says old-school bloke than this Fiat 126 Abarth, a buzzy, angry little hot hatch from the early ’80s. With its stubby styling and tiny Minilite wheels, Evans’s 126 sticks out against the other blue-chip collectibles he’s selling, but with Abarth pistons, camshaft, and exhaust, along with a better gearbox and carburetor, this little Italian econobox is probably loads of fun.
3. 1964 Daimler SP250 Dart
Believe it or not, this spindly, odd-looking roadster was considered to be England’s answer to the Corvette. With a fiberglass body, V8 engine, and a top speed of 120 miles per hour, tiny Daimler introduced the SP250 in 1959, believing that the car would be its key to success in the U.S. Unfortunately, Daimler was bought by Jaguar in 1960, which didn’t have much need for another sports car. The British Metropolitan Police in London bought around Darts for official use, and Evans’s car is one of them. It even still has its radio and siren.
4. 1998 Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Replica
An all-time classic, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang was the story of a professor (played by Dick Van Dyke) who turns an old, abandoned car into a magical flying machine. Built 30 years after the movie, Evans’s replica is faithful to the movie car right down to the smallest detail – it even has wings that fold out of the running boards.
5. 1966 Ferrari 275 GTB
As mentioned before, Evans is a huge Ferrari fan, and he’s letting go of no less than six of them at auction. While his ’71 Daytona Spyder and ’63 250 GT Lusso Berlinetta would be headliners at any other blue-chip event, his mint green 275 GTB is sure to be the star of the show. With a lightweight alloy body, and rare right-hand drive setup, the V12-powered Fezza is expected to fetch nearly $5 million.
6. 1970 Mercedes-Benz 280SL Pagoda
While there are dozens of bona-fide classics to come out of the ’60s, few have aged as gracefully as Mercedes’s 280SL roadster. With its removable “Pagoda” hardtop, the 280SL’s combination of luxury and sportiness helped make it one of the most beloved cars to ever wear the three-pointed star. Evans has had this car less than a year, but with a frame-off restoration back in 2008, it’s sure to be one of the finest examples in England.
7. 1967/1988 Jaguar XKSS Lynx Replica
Even when you have all the money in the world, sometimes a replica is as good as the real thing. The Jaguar XKSS was the road-ready version of Jaguar’s D-Type racer, and with just 16 built in 1957, it’s one of the most sought after cars ever built. The XKSS in Evans’s collection is a nut-and-bolt recreation of the real thing built by Lynx Engineering, right down to the Jaguar Cars Ltd. chassis plate. It may not be a real XJSS, but Evans’s car is probably better – it’s not so priceless that it’s impossible to insure and drive.
Like classics? It’s always Throwback Thursday somewhere.
Follow Derek on Twitter @CS_DerekS