When the owner of the immaculate blue Renault 4 sold the car he made a plea to the buyer.
He said: “You will look after it, won’t you?”
What he did not realise was that the buyer was part of Top Gear’s production team and his beloved motor was heading for Nepal.
It would be driven by Chris Harris as he and fellow co-hosts Paddy McGuinness and Freddie Flintoff took on mudslides, huge river crossings, deep gorges and harsh terrains in the Himalayan mountain nation.
It’s fair to say the previous owner’s pride and joy was not treated with kid gloves during the series’ Christmas special.
Chris, 44, said: “He’s going to see it wrecked. It’s going to ruin his Christmas. He didn’t know it was coming to Top Gear. This chap is passionate about the vehicle.
“It’s his pride and joy. He had it in Italy when he moved to Milan. He moved it over here when he came back. He cherished it. He said: ‘You will look after it won’t you?’”
Paddy said: “It’s a shame.” And Freddie joked: “At least he’ll see it again.”
Older models of the Renault 4, one of the most popular cars in motoring history, can sell for more than £20,000.
But this one from the 90s came a cropper when its handbrake failed and it crashed into Paddy’s pint-sized Peugeot.
Chris said: “I was left standing, shouting ‘Paddy.’ I was sad. I liked that car. I was worried about the car, not Paddy.”
Paddy, 46, who also hosts game show Take Me Out, saw the car hurtling towards him and said: “I was thinking ‘What’s this so-and-so doing?’ Then I saw him at the side of the road and I thought, ‘He’s not in it.’”
Freddie joked that although it was their first Christmas special together it could have been “last Christmas”.
Only the Renault came to harm but that didn’t mean the trio did not fear for their lives on one of the show’s most physically and mentally demanding trips.
Their adventure took them from the capital Kathmandu to remote Lo Manthang, a secretive kingdom on the Tibetan plateau on the far side of the Himalayas.
Cricket legend Freddie, 42, drove a locally built motor.
At one point the trio were teetering on the edge of a rock face terrified they would not survive. Chris said: “I texted all my family. I told them I loved them all. I didn’t like it at all. It was a long way down.”
Freddie revealed: “I had an exit. I thought I’m gonna jump through that window. It was a mile drop.”
But of course it was not all death defying moments and there were plenty of cheeky remarks and wisecracks between the lads.
The locals got in on the act too. One even drove off in Paddy’s car for a joke.
The team went around handing out Flumps sweets. Freddie said: “The sherpas recognised me. They just pointed at me and said cricket.” Chris got more than he bargained for when he accepted some locals chewing tobacco.
He said: “It had something else in it. I didn’t feel right for the next hour.
“I asked if it was just tobacco and the guy grinned at me. I felt spaced out for a bit. I found Paddy quite funny for an hour – but it wore off.”
Paddy said he expected that as a Top Gear host he would be in luxurious hotels. Not so. He said: “I constantly want to reject the rooms.
“But there’s nothing you can do. For me it’s more the insects. We’ve just come back from Peru, and there was a scorpion in one of the crew’s boots.
“They don’t tell you the dangers of the show. You just do it. It is basic. You just muck in. What you see if what you get.”
Paddy was nicknamed Beyoncé on the set by Freddie and Chris, ribbing him for being a diva about the conditions.
In Nepal Paddy not only moaned about the hotels, loos, noisy neighbours and food but he also brought a wardrobe full of his own clothes with him.
Chris said: “He is an absolute pantomime dame. His code name was Beyoncé. When we heard squawking from his hotel room it was because he had found a cockroach.
“He’d give a running commentary on the quality of the public toilets. We were crying with laughter.”
Paddy said: “The hotels were the most frightening thing. A lot of places were off the beaten track. For me, being a pampered Saturday night TV personality, it was a bit of a shock.”
Top Gear will return for a full series in 2020 with a date yet to be confirmed.
- The Top Gear Christmas special, BBC2, December 29, 9pm.
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