Fifth Gear

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This photo shows Vicki Butler-Henderson presenting on Fifth Gear. Female racing driver, Vicki, was a presenter on Top Gear, until the show was cancelled by the BBC in its original form in 2001, when she, Tiff Needell and Quentin Wilson went on to present Fifth Gear for Channel 5 in 2001. The series was made by ex-BBC Birmingham staff, and hired some of the facilities, such as post production.

Thanks to Ian Collins for making this screen grab available.

The following comments were left on the Pebble Mill Facebook Page:

Jonathan Relf: ‘Did a Motor Show shoot with Vicki, assisting the camera crew. The press day and the first day of opening.
Also remember the opening shot of one series at Goodwood racing circuit where they attempted to get one of every car available on the UK forecourts but can’t remember if she was there for that. Top Gear was fun to work on as a change from the studio stuff.’

Darren Cox: ‘I wasn’t BBC staff and I think I shot that actual item. It’s at Brands and Tiff was driving. To be fair I was a BBC contractor for a while.’

Murray Clarke: ‘Vicki B-H was an excellent presenter on Top Gear. Great to work with. She was bit of a ‘lad’, but at the same time, managed to be very feminine!’

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Top Gear GTi

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Copyright resides with the original holder, no reproduction without permission.

Thanks to Ian Collins for making this titles still from the Top Gear GTi series, which went out on the UKTV, UK Horizons channel.

Here is the entry from Wikipedia which explains the series, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Top_Gear_%28original_format%29_episodes#Top_Gear_GTi:

“Top Gear GTi was a series of programmes broadcast by the BBC covering a variety of features such as car reviews, special features such as attending a driving school and motor shows. Essentially, GTi is an expansion on the main programme. The series was mainly presented by Vicki Butler-Henderson, although Steve Berry and Jason Bradbury appeared on the show at times. The show was the last of the spin-off series’ of Top Gear to be broadcast, airing between September 1999 and May 2001, with more than 100 episodes in its name. Unlike any other spin-off, Top Gear GTi was broadcast on a near daily timeslot on the UK Horizons channel.”

The following comments were left on the Pebble Mill Facebook page:

Sarah Wilkin Hodgson: ‘Did we even have a budget?!! It was fab fun though…..apart from when I blew the tyre on the tracking mondeo car…..can you remember the weeing incident Michelle in the Honda Jazz when we were stuck in traffic in Madrid?…..and how ill I was in Barcelona….!!!! ‘

Michelle Davies: ‘Yes I remember Madrid!! That was a crazy 24 hrs smile emoticon and yes I remember Barcelona, you were so poorly. Do you remember me fixing the minicam to the Audi TT (you were presenting) and it fell off and smashed to pieces on the A345?! Managed to save the rushes though – sorry Alan Miller! So many memories .’

Alan Miller: ‘The show was by UKTV standards quite well funded but BBC overheads certainly ate into that budget big time. We cut costs by shooting and editing everything ourselves. Everyone did their bit,. Driving tracking cars, rigging in car cameras, writing running orders and even supervising the final compile were all shared by the entire team including the PA. It was a very flat hierarchy I think. The directors and producer of course shot and edited their own items. With very little lead time before the first TX we had to generate 23 minutes per week ourselves towards the 46 minute long programme, which had of course commercial breaks. Despite the pressures it was great fun to work on and I was and still am proud of what the fantastic team achieved, sometimes beating the BBC1 Top Gear to be first to test new cars!’

Joolz Richards: ‘It was one of the most fun programmes I ever worked on, certainly. Plus, we got to travel and stay in some excellent hotels. I particularly remember Branson’s place in Mallorca with Mark Scott and Steve Berry – I directed one piece and actually got Steve to recite Shakespeare (not well admittedly, remember that northern accent????) as this hotel had a proper Juliet balcony. There was also one occasion in Barcelona where the other journos thought I was Steve’s wife… Jeez…We were looked down on massively by the main programme which I think we really loved!!!!! However, it gave all of us the opportunity to learn lots of skills we would never have been able to otherwise – writing scripts, driving filming vehicles, sound boom, second camera, directing, the list is endless. An excellent training ground. Fab memories.’

Tracey Bagley: ‘May I add … Yes you all did a great job and quite frankly at times I know it proved challenging. Alan Miller, I recall going through that budget with you and you then taking me through all the technical aspects of the self shooting / self editing ! The innovation …. Happy days .’

Alan Miller: ‘Hi Tracey. We certainly played around with the budget to get the most out of it. I am sure I could not have done the various “deals” which allowed us to work the way we did without your inestimable help. I always thought of you as a crucial part of the team.’

Top Gear – Gail Herbert’s photos

Photos copyright of Gail Herbert, no reproduction without permission.

Top Gear, now known as ‘old Top Gear’, was produced at BBC Pebble Mill from 1977-2001.  It was a 30 min magazine show about cars and motor transport.  The presenters included Noel Edmunds, Angela Rippon, Jeremy Clarkson, Tiff Needell, William Woollard, Michelle Newman, Chris Goffey, Vicki Butler-Henderson, Jason Barlow, Tony Mason and Quentin Willson.

When production of Top Gear moved to London in 2002 some of the Birmingham production team, and presenters (Vicki Butler-Henderson, Adrian Simpson, Tiff Needell) moved to Fifth Gear on Channel 5.

Thanks to Gail Herbert, who was a production assistant on Top Gear for making her photos available.  The photos date from around 1990 and include shots of presenters William Woollard and Tiff Needell, producer Ken Pollack, directors Dennis Jarvis and David Wheeler, cameraman John Williams, sound men Tony Wass and Alex Christison, and production assistants Gail Herbert and Sophie Marsh.

David Wheeler, who is featured in these photos, sitting on a donkey, makes the following comment:

 Tony Mason thought it would be amusing to do a PTC from a “4×4” for use on the sand at Weston-Super-Mere. But when I called his bluff he requested that I test drive the thoroughbred before he risked his rally-bred bottom on the beast! After some reassurance he delivered the PTC… ending: “… but I don’t think Nellie here is quite up to it, so I’ll have to find some better transport”. I seem to remember tracking from an open land rover and editing the piece to Echo Beach (Martha and the Muffins) which has a great intro and fab sax solo! Great memories.. enhanced by my trip home in the Astra 2litre, 16valve GTE… “space rocket” as I recall Gail called it!

Gail test driving a Porsche