Panic Mechanics



Trevor Nelson


BBC Two, 2 May to 26 June 2002 (7 episodes in 1 series)


Two teams, given identical starter vehicles and £2000 each, are challenged to do some drastic modifications to meet that week's goal. Essentially, it's all about transforming one kind of vehicle into another. The challenges are often quite amusing - like extending a Mini to carry as many people as possible, which resulted in something more akin to a float with bits of Mini at each end.

The show started with a mini challenge - the teams were each assigned a car which had two problems; the first would be a deliberate mechanical problem such as the battery being disconnected at one terminal, and the second would be that the keys were hidden somewhere in the car, such as taped behind the sun visors or under a pedal. Stupidly, both teams had the same problem/location so you could easily sneak a glance at your opponents.

There was another catch, though - if they were too slow the car would be run over by one of two tanks driving towards them as they worked/searched. The teams had to sort both of these problems and drive the car over the finish line first to win the opportunity to pick which car they wanted.

The second challenge was to race around a course in the fastest time, with penalties for knocking over obstacles and the like. This sounds routine but the car was engineered with two steering wheels for the two separate sets of wheels and the drivers also had one pedal each. Furthermore, one driver had to face backwards as well to test both agility and communications.

Winning this challenge have you a major edge in the final test, e.g. in a racing challenge you might get a turbo booster. Unfortunately, this good idea often gave the successful team too much of an advantage and took the "both teams have the exact same parts" element out of the challenge.

Then there'd be the final test. For example, in episode 6, "Flatpack Beetle", the two teams had to take a standard Beetle, strip it down and then modify it so that it could be taken apart, carried across some sort of assault course in three or four rucksacks and then re-assembled - working, with one of the major challenge requirements being that they cross the line under the power of the car's engine. Suffice to say you didn't get a very comfortable ride.

The losing team would have to look on as their pride and joy was mullered by a crane.


Sonia Beldom


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