Here's an exclusive sneak peak at Tuesday's edition of "Top Gear USA" on the History Channel, featuring hosts Adam Ferrara, Tanner Foust and Rutledge Wood playing a real-life version of "Oregon Trail." No one died of dysentery, but it's a good thing Rutledge Wood already has children.
We're deep in the second season of the Yankee Top Gear, yet avid Top Gear critics still decry it for the original Redcoat version, with some harsher ones comparing it to the Beatles staying in England and hiring random guys to play their hits here. It's a pointless debate; while TG:USA draws heavily from the UK playbook, those same critics would complain even more if it didn't. And the American version already has its genius moments, such as ballasting a Chevy Corvair using copies of "Unsafe At Any Speed."
Both British and American versions work best when combining beautiful camerawork and mechanical ingenuity with their hosts' dimmer moments. Top Gear USA has geography in its favor, as shown in Tuesday's edition featuring Ferrara, Wood and Foust crossing the Continental Divide in the soaring Rockies. The challenges involve using family haulers — a Ford Aerostar, a Chevy Astro and a Chrysler Town & Country — in the same way pioneers used their wagons, which is how Wood received a sheep kick in his sweetbreads.
Ferrara's CrossCabriolet would look far more appropriate dashing towards freedom from Havana, but Cuban floating truck builders take more pride in their craftsmanship.
The full episode airs Tuesday on History at 9 p.m. EST.
Photos courtesy Rupert Smith/BBC Worldwide Ltd.