It’s always entertaining to watch Clarkson, Hammond, and May test the new flavor-of-the-month supercar on the track. But honestly, even the hottest pieces of sheetmetal tend to blur together over the course of 25-plus seasons. So it’s the wacky, unusual rides from the show that I remember the most. After all, Top Gear is about the experiences it creates around cars as much as it is about the actual cars.
And few cars are as quirky and unusual as the Peel P50, the smallest production car ever made according to Guinness World Records. Built by the Peel Engineering Company on the Isle of Man in the 1960s, this one-seater, one-door misfit measures just 54 inches long and 41 inches wide. So it’s a joy watching 6-foot-5 Jeremy Clarkson awkwardly maneuver his way inside and hit the road in a 2007 episode. What makes it even better is that the car has a 49cc Moped engine and no reverse gear.
After Clarkson makes his slow commute to the BBC office, things get even weirder. The 200-pound car is small enough that it can be rolled like a suitcase down the halls. Naturally, a few mishaps ensue when he decides to drive it inside the office and onto an elevator.
This Season 10 episode is a great launching pad for an equally entertaining episode in Season 19. In this one, Clarkson introduces an even smaller car he created and called the Peel P45. Driving the Peel 50 on the open road looks like a breeze compared to the P45, which seems to lurch and lose balance as Clarkson bumbles down the highway. A “very simple” electric motor conversion allows Clarkson to drive it inside a local mall. Unfortunately, Clarkson isn’t successful selling his new car in a Shark Tank–like pitch.
We wouldn’t be surprised if Top Gear’s coverage spurred the remake of the Peel P50 in 2011. Today, you can buy a British-built, street-legal P50 remake, and the company even advertises the Top Gear episode on its website. If you think there’s little interest in the smallest of microcars, note that the originals are selling at auction for high prices. This 1964 Peel P50, for example, sold for $176,000 in 2016. Only about 50 of these cars were made, and fewer than 30 are thought to exist today.
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