Top Gear's Road to Riches

Todd Antony / BBC

Britain's Top Gear presenters Richard Hammond, Jeremy Clarkson and James May.

To the uninitiated, the BBC show Top Gear might seem an improbable hit. Consider the premise: the weekly, hour-long program features "three middle-aged men fooling around using cars as props," says Jeremy Clarkson, one of its presenters. "That doesn't sound very exciting, does it?" Perhaps these guys are easy on the eye? "They're a bit fat, and they dress like s___," says Andy Wilman, Top Gear's executive producer. "You don't look at them and think, it's Ocean's Eleven coming toward you."

Dowdy and doughy or not, the three men and their show can...

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