Although neither my husband or I are petrol heads, Top Gear is a show we love to watch and it is a real family affair as we will the presenters on to complete their challenges and laugh when they go awry.
I had been worried that the show wouldn’t be the same without Clarkson, Hammond and May at its helm, but I needn’t have worried. The presenters and format may have changed, but the fun and mayhem hasn’t and we love the show as much as ever.
Today, we were invited to the launch of the refreshed World of Top Gear at Beaulieu, which reflects changes introduced to the new-look BBC Top Gear. We were introduced to the exhibit by Lord Montagu of Beaulieu, whose father was the founder of the National Motor Museum.
Next up on stage was one of the new presenters of Top Gear, Chris Harris who was joined by The Stig. Chris regaled us with some of the tales from filming the show, including how he thought he had killed Matt Le Blanc when he pranged his car whilst racing in Kazakhstan.
The amazing new exhibits from the world’s biggest motoring show include the impressive Ssangyacht, the longest limousine selfie opportunity ever and a marine feature displaying boat challenge vehicles.
Once they had finished introducing the new world of Top Gear, there was a chance for a photo opportunity and some questions, although Sebby was just excited to meet the “Stick” and attempt his customary arm fold. Thankfully I don’t think Stig minded the slight change of name.
You enter the exhibition through a heritage corridor, whose timeline pays tribute to the show’s 40-year history. It began with Angela Rippon as the first presenter and ran through four decades up to more recent times with Formula One racing driver Tiff Needell, then Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May.
This leads to the Enormodrome which boasts a brand new studio in keeping with the style of the latest series with presenters Matt LeBlanc, Chris Harris and Rory Reid and is home to the current Reasonably Fast Car, a suitably red Toyota GT86 and one of the most famous vehicles on the planet today.
It is then time to head inside to see the indestructible Toyota Hilux rising from the ashes in a haze of smoke, alongside the roofless Reliant Rialtos driven by Chris Evans and Matt LeBlanc in their first road trip challenge. Then walk through the upcycled tyre columns to the dry marina where the amphibious car challenge’s damper van and Triumph Herald and sail will be displayed alongside the Nissan pick-up which crossed the English Channel.
For a photo opportunity, sit in the trailer hooked behind the Jaguar XJS rail car or dress up as a granny and step inside the unforgettable Fiat Multipla grannymobile which raced around our local Christchurch.
An open side gives a better view inside the airship caravan……
…..and get up close to the red Lotus with a sleeping compartment, Porsche 944 Turbo ambulance and doubledecker racing cars. Then follow Top Gear’s adventures across the globe with the scooters from Vietnam, ski slope Mini with a union flag on top and high-mileage taxis from the recent Kazakhstan road trip.
In a separate gallery, see the surprisingly sleek-looking Ssangyacht which was built to shake up the world of luxury yachting.
Look across to the scrap art map, with toy cars showing everywhere the programme has been filmed and shown . . . the complete World of Top Gear!
Memorabilia from Top Gear is on show throughout the display, including the Jaguar steering wheel from a Clarkson challenge and door panels from the Hindustan Ambassador hailed as the world’s best taxi. Old favourites remain on show outside the display, including the rocket-shaped Reliant Robin space shuttle and snowbine which cleared an entire Norwegian road of snow.
They are joined by the giant hovervan, which was created from a Ford transit van.
That wasn’t the end of the fun though, we were treated to a precision driving display with drifts and donuts in the display arena by Chris Harris himself.
Sebby squealed with delight as he raced around in a Mercedes AMG, sliding the car around the track and revving the engine.
He then stopped and took a couple of people out for a spin in the car too, to which I remarked that I would love to have a go. Cue a waiver to sign in my hand and a helmet to put on. I am the type of passenger who always goes for the imaginary brake, but if I was going to get into a car with anyone to try this, I couldn’t be in better hands (even if he did almost wipe out Joey).
Any nerves were soon gone a Chris explained exactly what he was making the car do as we raced around the arena. It was so much fun and nowhere near as scary as I had imagined and I can see why people love to push cars to extreme.
The refreshed World of Top Gear is included in a general admission ticket to Beaulieu which also offers entrance to the National Motor Museum and its collection of more than 250 vehicles.
There are lots of attractions and activities for kids to enjoy at Beaulieu and Sebastian was desperate to ride the monorail.
The monorail takes you around the grounds and offers stunning views over the manicured gardens, the Abbey and the stunning Palace House. There is also a vintage bus that runs around the site too, offering a second way of getting around if you don’t want to walk.
For the kids there is large, well equipped play area which was being updated during our visit, plus the chance to drive their very own cars too.
With the Motor Museum, Abbey and Palace House to explore, Beaulieu is a fabulously fun day out for all the family with plenty of child friendly facilities, a large restaurant, or plenty of picnic areas if you want to bring your own food. I cannot wait to take all the kids back in the holidays!
A family ticket to Beaulieu costs from £49 in advance with children under 5 free.