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16 October 2007
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Production notes

 

Reliant Robin - space shuttle

Top Gear's low budget space shuttle
 

What could possibly be so difficult about building a space shuttle? Quite a lot, as it turns out. This was easily Top Gear’s most ambitious film and, while everything didn’t go quite according to plan, we’re still very proud of the results. Here are just a few of the things that happened when we tried to put an ageing three-wheeler into space.

  • The solid fuel that powered the whole craft was a mixture of nitrous oxide and rubber. Who’d have thought that a bit of laughing gas and a few old tyres could produce such spectacular results?
  • We only had a two-day launch window and weather conditions had to be perfect. In fine Top Gear style, our boys finally got the green light to launch mere moments before our allotted time ran out.
  • As Richard and James explained in the film, the military base we used as a launch location is littered with unexploded bombs. As if this wasn’t scary enough, the Army was also using the site to test some new 1000-pound bombs while we were filming.
  • Cleaning up the wreck of the space shuttle didn’t actually take very long. This was because the vast majority of it was embedded deeply underground. However, one badly scorched wing, complete with Union Jack sticker, was recovered intact and now has pride of place in the TG office.
  • It’s well known that the test facility we filmed at is under almost constant surveillance by foreign spy satellites. Perhaps seeing our craft sitting on the launch pad will have convinced a few spies that the UK is preparing some sort of Reliant Robin-based super weapon. Let’s hope this doesn’t prompt an international arms race involving high-explosive Ladas and jet-propelled Trabants
  • .
  • Due to the fact that nobody really had a clue what the shuttle would do once it was in the air, every cameraman had somebody with them to act as a spotter. It’s hard to imagine a rocket-propelled Reliant Robin creeping up on you, but you never know.
  • And just to emphasise the point, because it’s so damn cool, this really was the largest non-commercial rocket launch in European history.

Production notes

US Special: American flag

US special
Secrets of filming our presenter's American odyssey.



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