Instead of a shabby hangar and a track built around airfield taxiways, they got a pit garage and a proper circuit.
Instead of filling the studio with 200 grunting Subaru drivers, they did without an audience.
And instead of The Tall One, The Short One and The Other One, they hired three rather different American presenters: Bruno, a professional drag racer with casual tales of crashing at 230mph; John, the super keen jock, blessed with quaint 'sir and m'am' good manners that only Americans can do; and Johnny, a former reality show winner with a nice line in weird humour.
'Instead of filling the studio with 200 grunting Subaru drivers, they did without an audience'
Fortunately some reference points remained, including Star In A Reasonably Priced Car.
But, to set the power laps, there could be no substitute - the Stig was flown to the US and stunned everyone with his blistering pace as he hammered a CLS55, Charger and Mustang around the circuit.
After two days' shooting, the show that popped out the other end was something familiar and yet rather different.
For one thing, filming in sunshine gives the show a glossy feel a million miles from another drizzle-sodden canter down a runway in Surrey. And shouting 'Bring on the Stig' just sounds cooler in an American accent.
If Discovery likes the pilot show, a series will follow. Then the US can enjoy a weekly shot of Top Gear, just like the rest of the world.