The Patagonia Special is a two-part Top Gear Christmas special, which aired as part of the show's twenty-second series. The special is the second that Top Gear has filmed in South America, after the Bolivia Special. Although originally presented with a challenge to drive from a hotel in Bariloche to a lodge American outlaw Butch Cassidy used as a hide-out, the presenters soon learned that their actual objective was to drive more than one thousand six hundred miles to Ushuaia as a homage to the V8 engine. There, in what is claimed to be the world's southernmost city, they would host a game of car football against a local Argentinian team. The special was broadcast in two parts - with the first part airing on the 27th and the second part going to air on the 28th of December - like the previous two specials: the Burma Special and Africa Special.
The Patagonia Special is infamous among fans of the show as filming of the two-part episode was prematurely suspended in October of 2014 as a result of a series of violent protests by local Argentinians against the show, culminating in an attack on the convoy as they fled to Chile. The episode is also famous for being Top Gear's final special, and the last in which Jeremy Clarkson, James May, and Richard Hammond appear.
Part 1 Edit
The three presenters are told to meet up on the banks of an lake near a hotel in Bariloche, Argentina. Jeremy is the first to arrive in his Porsche 928 GT, with Richard arriving shortly afterwards in a Ford Mustang Mach 1, and James arriving last in a Lotus Espirit. The team are instructed to drive just over a hundred miles to a house Butch Cassidy used to live in when he was on the run. En route to their destination, Jeremy explains that he chose the 928 because it was the car he drove to his father's deathbed saying, "If I hadn't been driving a car which could sit quite happily at 170 miles per hour I wouldn't have had the opportunity to say goodbye to my Dad. So as far as I'm concerned the Porsche 928 is alright". Hammond's Mach 1 begins to show signs of serious problems early on with very haphazard steering which, as Hammond describes, is "kind of vague". Whilst Hammond wrestles with his Mustang, May and Clarkson begin enter an overtaking race with each other, eventually pulling over to wait for Hammond at a fuel stop. Finding the Mustang's fuel cap position - and subsequently Hammond's position when filling up - amused the convoy sets off once again. The trio pass through Bariloche, a town which they note was a "haven for Nazi war criminals" in World War II, continuing to make progress towards Butch Cassidy's house. However, just one and a half miles from their destination Hammond's Mustang breaks down with his ability to steer completely gone. May and Clarkson leave Hammond behind and eventually reach Butch Cassidy's house. Unable to fix his Mustang, Hammond is forced to push the car to the destination where he is greeted by May and Clarkson around a camp fire.
Awaking the next morning, the presenters learn that their actual challenge is to drive to Ushuaia, purported to be the world's southernmost city, in order to stage a game of car football against the locals. Shocked to learn that this would encompass a drive of more than one thousand six hundred miles - the largest yet on a Top Gear Special - the team head off on their epic quest. The team decide that they should drive on the promising sounding 'Road to the South' in Chile, requiring the presenters to cross the Andes mountain range. Jeremy takes charge on their route and decides that they should attempt this crossing as soon as possible. Having mocked Hammond once more whilst filling up his Mustang in a nearby town, Clarkson soon discovers that the Mach 1's fuel tank is leaking. Passing a sign in Spanish reading "The Falklands are Argentina's forever" Clarkson vows to "not spark fury on this trip". Soon the road to Chile turns in to an unpaved and rocky off road track, causing serious problems for Clarkson, Hammond, and May's low-slung sports cars. Shortly afterwards, the track disappears entirely and the team are forced to off road through the woods. May snags his Lotus on a tree stump and Hammond's Mustang's steering fails once more. Having punted the Lotus free with his Porsche, Jeremy and James decide to leave Hammond to fix his Mach 1 and continue on without him. After slowly navigated down a steep rocky bank James and Jeremy rejoin a main road and, a few miles later, arrive at the Chilean border. Hammond arrives shortly after and, whilst napping, James and Jeremy take advantage of the situation to sticker on Peugeot liveries to his Mustang in the hopes of making it "more reliable". Hammond, unamused with the stickers, and the rest of the team continue their journey in Chile only to have the Mustang break down again after just a few kilometers. Jeremy and May continue on without Hammond once more and begin to race through the twisty turns of a nearby highway. James loses control of his Lotus on a sharp turn, regaining control just before the car hits the guard rail. Jeremy and James pull over at a cafe shop in the next village to discuss their V8 engines, leaving again when Hammond finally arrives. Soon Jeremy accidentally leads the convoy to a wooden suspension bridge; agreeing they must cross it, the presenters decide to drive over one by one with May going first. Despite being a scary drive all three presenters make it across only to realise that their track leads to a dead end and that they must turn around. Having crossed over the bridge again and found another track, the weather closes in on the convoy. Commenting on the now eeire quality of their surrounding, the trio soon find that their track leads to a swamp. In the bog, Hammond and Clarkson become stuck quickly whilst May's Lotus continues to surprise the trio by working flawlessly. Despite having only just been freed from the swamp by May's Lotus, Clarkson decides to regain some of his pride by unsticking Hammond. Unfortunately, Clarkson becomes stuck once more and May is forced to free him again before attending to Hammond. Finding a rocky trail the presenters continue onwards until Jeremy sights the 'Road to the South' they have been looking for. In order to reach it, the team are forced to cross a river on an unfinished wooden bridge. As the day draws to a close and the rain becomes heavier, the convoy successfully complete and cross the bridge, relieved to have finally found their road and that, unlike most other Chilean Patagonian roads, it is paved.
The next morning the team continue driving south on their road. However, it is soon clear to the presenters that the road isn't paved all the way and they quickly find themselves on a rocky and muddy off road track once more. Hammond's Mustang sustains a puncture on the roads and Jeremy and James decide to leave him once more. Stopping at a town named Puyuhuapi, Clarkson and May comment on the odd-positioning of the town's playground in a known tsunami zone before Hammond rejoins them. After poking fun at the town's seemingly useless fire station and the region's road safety tips - which have been translated in broken English - the team set off once more. The roads become increasingly worse and Hammond and his Mustang begin to suffer. After learning that they have more than half the journey still to go Hammond begins to complain to May and Clarkson however his cries are drowned out by the deafening noises of his Mustang's underside being degraded by the roads. Soon they pull over after noticing a Citroen 2CV that has been following them since Bariloche; they soon realise that it is the backup car provided by the producers for the shoot. Later that day, at that night's hotel, Richard persuades May and Clarkson to cross over the Andes again and head back in to Argentina where, as he says, "the roads will be better". Reluctantly agreeing, Jeremy close out the day by handing leadership over to Hammond.
Awaking to an intense mist covering the scenery, the convoy heads off over the Andes towards Argentina. In the mountains James and Jeremy struggle to cope with the iced-over roads with Hammond mocking them as such. Back in Argentina, Clarkson and May are further irritated by the washboard-like quality of the Argentinian roads. Continuing along the route the convoy is eventually brought to a halt when May becomes stuck in the mud. Having winched May out after making him admit that his Porsche 928 "isn't boring" Clarkson too then begins to encounter some problems. The bumpy road causes his washer-bottles and wipers to become stuck on, something both he and May had never seen before. Continuing along Clarkson's Porsche has another serious problem just a few miles later when his dashboard lights up with every warning light and his power steering fails. As Hammond and May leave Clarkson's Porsche mysteriously comes back to life without any repairs whatsoever, however the washerbottle - now empty - is still turned on, as are the wipers. Just a mile down the road the Porsche breaks down yet again, however this time the problem is more severe. Clarkson discovers that his engine and starter motor are both jammed on and the only way to turn them off is to disconnect the battery. Clarkson also finds that one of his shock absorbers has been seperated from it's mountings and has torn open his electrical wiring loom. On the road, Hammond informs May that they will have to camp that night rather than stay in a hotel, a fact that irritates May even further. Meanwhile, Clarkson begins to solder his wires together in the hopes that he can get some of his Porsche's electrics to work again. May and Hammond arrive at the camp ground where they will stay the night; Hammond orders May to set up the tents whilst he goes on the lookout for food. A while later, Hammond returns to the camp site with a cow on the roof of his Mustang saying that he will cook a traditional gaucho barbecue for dinner. Having set up dinner and erected the tents, May and Hammond wait for Clarkson agreeing that he is likely to be in the 2CV. Clarkson surprises both by turning up in his Porsche having successfully mended the 928's electrics. During the night May and Hammond decide to "cheer up" Clarkson by attaching various bits to his car.
The next morning Clarkson wakes up to find his 928 vandalised by Hammond and May. Upset at them both he relieves Hammond of command and sets off as the leader once more. On the road the convoy soon find themselves in the middle of a blizzard. Clarkson discovers that May and Hammond have also tampered with the inside of his car, having attached a brake-light to the cabin. With more than 900 miles still to go Clarkson realises that he hasn't managed to mend all of his Porsche's electrics, with his dashboard all but unusable. The Mustang too has some issues with Hammond asking, "can anyone else smell burning?".
Part 2 Edit
The films picks up with the presenters in Argentina, having escaped from the earlier blizzard. Continuing down the lone empty roads of the Patagonian Desert, the presenters soon become bored of the tedium of Argentina's long corner-less roads. They decide to race in one of the desert's vast open plains by carving their own race circuit in to the dirt; Jeremy sets out to create the track in his Porsche, deciding to attempt to replicate Imola Circuit. Although the final product "looked more like a placenta than Imola" the team decide to stage a three-abreast race with an infinite number of laps, dubbing it 'The Inaugural V8 Desert Marathon'. During the race all three presenters are, at times, in the lead. However, Hammond calls the race off just a few laps in after his rear-view mirror shears itself from the windscreen, cracking the glass panel too. After inspecting their cars at the end of the race, Hammond also discovers that his Mustang's carburettor has been filled with rocks from the desert. The presenters then realise that they've lost their bearings in the open desert plain and have no idea which way the road is. Unable to agree on which way to go, Jeremy puts himself in charge and leads the team off over sand dunes until they reach an enormously long fence with a locked gate. Hammond argues that he should demolish the fence with his Mustang and leave the owner a note with some money to pay for the damage. Jeremy and James disagree, however, and decide they need to get some bolt cutters from Tres Lagos, a town more than 20 kilometers away. James and Hammond argue that they should walk to the town and back but Jeremy decides to hire some local horses to complete the journey on instead. Whilst mounting his horse James falls off his saddle and injures his back, forcing Jeremy and Richard to walk into town whilst he is attended to by medical professionals. Having bought the bolt cutter, returned to the gate, opened it, and set off Hammond and Clarkson discover that James has cracked three ribs, a fact that makes him exceptionally irritated with Jeremy. The team set off again and continue along the Argentinian highway until Jeremy's Porsche stops. Initially believing it be the cause of an empty fuel tank Clarkson, quickly realises that his problems are alternator-related. May, still upset with Jeremy, decides to leave him and head onwards to that night's accomodationn; when Hammond catches up to Jeremy he too decides to leave him. Jeremy is unable to fix the problem has he does not have a spare alternator belt so he installs a battery into his 928's boot and sets off in to the night without being able to use any of his electrics. Soon, Jeremy catches up with Hammond and the two decide to ride together due to Jeremy's lack of headlights. Sharing Hammond's Mustang's single working headlight the team continue onwards towards the overnight halt.
The next morning, the team set off for El Calafate with Jeremy's Porsche still without an alternator belt. Jeremy explains that he was unable to find a spare alternator belt and could not mend his now broken dashboard so the previous night he decided to "fiddle with Hammond's car instead", wiring his air horn to his brake pedal. Although they stop briefly to admire the scenery, the convoy makes good time to El Calafate and decide that they should modify their cars to make them "more workman-like" for Ushuaia. The trio find a garage and work through the night to modify their vehicles.
The following day the presenters reveal their modifications to one another. Jeremy and Hammond have both converted their cars into pickup trucks, Hammond has installed a roll-cage to the outside of the Mustang - dubbing it the "exoskeleton", Jeremy has installed sat-nav by way of a map of Patagonia over top of his dashboard, Hammond has lifted his Mustang and installed a new set of lights, and Jeremy has added a racing stripe to make his car more interesting. James, however, reveals that he hasn't modified his Lotus at all but has, instead, built a trailer which he will tow behind it. The convoy head out of town with Jeremy and Hammond deciding to annoy May running in to his Lotus' trailer. Out on the highway, Hammond realises that his roll-cage has severely impacted his visibility. Jeremy decides that they should catch a ferry to Tierra del Fuego which departs from Punta Arenas, a sea-port town in Chile. Hammond and May agree to the plan and the convoy head for the Chilean border once more. On the way to the border, Jeremy's Porsche's sun roof partially opens which causes the cabin to become windy and noisy. Jeremy finds out a way to stop the problem is to drive in reverse, something which he quickly abandons after being overtaken by a local. The team arrive at the Chilean border shortly afterwards and, after Hammond fills up his Mustang again, the team set off towards Fin del Mundo, the end of the World. After arriving in Punta Arenas later that same day, the team decide that they should do some shopping to buy items for their football stadium. Having purchased corner flags, goal posts, beer, and a trophy Jeremy then reveals the presents he has bought Hammond and May; a pair of baby's pyjamas for Richard and a stuffed horse toy for James. The team then must board their ferry to Tierra del Fuego which is an easy exercise for Hammond and Clarkson but proves far more challenging for May on account of his trailer. After enjoying "an hour and a half's entertainment" watching May repeatedly fail to load his Lotus, the ferry leaves the port of Punta Arenas and sails towards Tierra del Fuego.
The next morning, Jeremy reveals to May and Hammond that the ferry cannot dock in Argentina due to Chile and Argentina's frosty relationship with regards to the area - or, as Jeremy calls it, 'political reasons'. Instead, they must disembark on a rocky beach some miles away, cross another set of mountains, and ford a river border to enter Argentina.
Controversy and Removal from ArgentinaEditWhile filming the Patagonia Special in Southern Argentina the Top Gear became entangled in a controversy regarding the number plate displayed by Jeremy's Porsche: H982 FKL. Local Argentinians in Ushuaia claimed that the plate was a reference to the Falklands War of 1982, a sensitive topic in Argentina. Clarkson had swapped the number plate for an alternative - H1 VAE - before entering Ushuaia in the hopes that this would keep the mob at bay. The Top Gear crew had planned to film a car-based football match between England and Argentina in Ushuaia as the finale to the special, with a BE11 END plate to be swapped over for the H1 VAE plate once in Ushuaia. However, the crew were banned from filming in the town by the local government shortly after their arrival in to Ushuaia. Although the Top Gear team has since proved that the H982 FKL number plate was the original one that the Porsche 928 had displayed since the day it was manufactured, debate has still continued as to whether or not the car was specifically chosen for its plate or if in fact the plate's hidden meaning was known to the production crew prior to the commencmentt of filming in Bariloche.
While filming at a ski resort in Tierra del Fuego the crew encountered a group of local protestors who told them that a mob was coming and that there would "be trouble" if the team didn't leave Argentina in three hours time. Shortly after, the crew retreated to a hotel in Ushuaia. More demonstrators were waiting at their hotel and the presenters and crew were forced to hide inside. Executive producer of the show, Andy Wilman, attempted to converse with one of the head figures of the protests but to no avail. Despite a police presence at the hotel, the team were advised to leave the country as soon as possible. Jeremy, James, and Richard - along with one of the producers and the females in the film crew - were evacuated from Ushuaia via aircraft on a flight to Buenos Aires. The remaining crew members, including Andy Wilman, were forced to drive to the Chilean border in the cars used by the presenters along with other production vehicles, with a police escort. The convoy encountered another group of protestors in Tolhuin, a town outside of Ushuaia who had blocked the right hand lane of the road with a lorry. Bricks, bottles, and pick-axe handles were flung at the cars; the attack was captured on video. Further along, the crew received word that an ambush was set up in Rio Grande, a town the convoy needed to travel through in order to reach the Chilean border. The convoy was pursued by the mob who attempted to herd them into Rio Grande. The production crew decided to abandon the three star cars at the side of the road and headed off-road to the border instead. Their police escort headed into Rio Grande so as to distract the pursuing mob from the escaping film crew. The crew were forced to ford a river to cross in to the safety of Chile.
- It is the first Top Gear special since 2011's India Special to be broadcast at Christmas time.
- Like both the Burma and Africa Special, the Patagonia Special was broadcast in two parts.
- The special was the second special episode to air in 2014, the first of which was the Burma Special. This makes 2014 only the second year in which Top Gear has ever broadcast two specials.
- "Patagonia Special, Part 1" was one of the only Top Gear episodes to be broadcast on a Saturday rather than a Sunday.
- The one day gap between the airings of both parts of the special is the smallest amount of time that has ever passed between airings of two new Top Gear episodes.