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Richard Hammond on Ditching Super Cars for Monstrous Machines

On his new show Crash Course, Top Gear’s Richard Hammond masters the good, the bad, and the ugly of big scary machines.

Photo Courtesy of Gilles Mingasson / BBC America | Licensed to Alpha Media Group 2012
As one of the hosts of Top Gear, Richard Hammond has one of the coolest jobs ever. But, for his new series, Crash Course, he ditched the Lamborghinis and Ferraris to learn how to operate industrial logging equipment and tanks. We got a chance to talk to the British driving extraordinaire as he drove a nuclear submarine across the Atlantic Ocean. OK, he wasn't really in a submarine, but we did talk to him. Here's proof.

America, the Beautiful
RICHARD HAMMOND: It was great fun to come over to America and meet people and see the way they work. It was also great fun to operate great big machinery.

Pay Attention!
Some of these machines are designed for a single purpose and they're used by guys all day long to do that job. Some of them weigh, 40, 60, or even 100 tons so you need to be a bit careful. They're dangerous but they're also very expensive, so I had to try and concentrate when they showed me how to work it.

It’s Not “Just Like Riding a Bike”
I can't say that I could directly draw from any of my Top Gear experience. There's a big difference between stepping into a sports car and operating a dangle head processor in the woods. But, I was used to sitting down and listening to someone describe how something complicated works, so that did help a bit.

Scariest Machine?
For some reason, the fire truck at Dallas Fort Worth airport made me very nervous. Of all the machines, it looks, and is, expensive. I mean, really expensive. It's fast and powerful and heavy. Get it wrong and things are going to go horribly. I had to operate it solo. But, there were several occasions when I thought I might hurt some people, hurt the equipment, or hurt the show. I don't want to do any of those things.

Photo Courtesy of Gilles Mingasson / BBC America | Licensed to Alpha Media Group 2012
Accidents Happen
I may have put a scrape on a few things here or there, but the worst was when I was using the tank, I missed the target by half a kilometer. If you're missing something by a distance that you need a car to get there, that's bad.

You're going to pick a woman up for a first date, what's the best possible car to bring?
If you're a man, that's gotta rule out Ferraris, Porsches -- you can't turn up in a Lamborghini on a first date. You want to turn up in an old, battered, gray, small, European hatchback. Maybe an old Renault 4. Something a bit beaten and broken, but reliable with a book of interesting poetry up on the parcel shelf. She'll think you're interesting. Maybe have a book about sports, too. Don't turn up in a monster truck.

How about for the ladies?
By all means a drive up in a 1968 Mustang or any muscle car. Turn up in a '68 Charger and wow. Add denim shorts and boots, then it's all there. It won't work for the guys. Well, I guess it depends on the date.


Photo Courtesy of Gilles Mingasson / BBC America | Licensed to Alpha Media Group 2012
Favorite American Car?
I would probably go with the Mustang because it's such a pretty car, but it's also so significant. One of the fastest selling cars ever. It blended practicality into a compact muscle car. And it was beautiful. I also think the Charger is beautiful. That said, I'm a big fan of Jeeps as well. I was bouncing around in a Wrangler earlier this week and I really enjoyed that.

Can a Celebrity Car Guy Drive a Pinto?
It doesn't matter what we drive. We use cars as badges, socially. We use them to tell people what we are and how we want to be seen. If you're a Top Gear host, it doesn't matter what you turn up in. When I'm commuting, I'll often drive a little Fiat 500 Twin Air. It's really small, it's really clean, you can nip in and out of traffic, and it doesn't use much gas. It's a fun car. I don't give a damn if people judge me because the next day I might be driving around the track in a Lamborghini.

Boys Will Be Boys (Even in a Hybrid)
Look what happened when the car was first invented. What was the first thing that happened? Guys got together and tried to race them. And whatever the next technology is, the same thing will happen. It's what we do. We're human beings. We'll never get away from that.


Crash Course airs Monday Nights 10/9 c on BBC America.

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