Argie-Bargie: FOI Act request discloses truth behind Top Gear’s H982 FKL car

Jeremy_Clarkson

Jeremy Clarkson
© Ed Perchick / Flickr

Ever since Jeremy Clarkson and his Top Gear buddies were forced to flee Argentina in a row over the number plate on a Porsche 928 GT they were using to film a special edition of the programme; there have been claims and counter-claims that the Top Gear programme – never known to be deliberately uncontroversial – had acquired the number plate deliberately to wind up the natives.

It was claimed, first by the Argies and then by columnists and commentators over here, that Top Gear deliberately put the plate H982 FKL on the car to draw attention to the 1982 Falklands War; despite denials from Jeremy Clarkson, Top Gear and the BBC.

Now: thanks to a Freedom of Information Act request to the DVLA I can reveal the truth: Top Gear did not put the plate on the car (bang goes a good story!).

The DVLA have disclosed that the registration mark H982 FKL was the original registration mark on the Porsche 928 GT, which was first registered on 30 May 1991.

In March 1998, the number went into DVLA reserves while a personalised registration mark was applied to the car. When that personalised plat was removed in May 2001, the original H982 FKL mark was reallocated.

The H982 FKL mark has never been applied to any other vehicle.

The BBC’s director of television, Danny Cohen, last month told Argentina’s ambassador, Alicia Castro, that the BBC stands by the programme. “I am very aware that some have questioned whether the number-plates were in some way a prank,” he said in a letter made public by the BBC, “I would like to reassure you again that nothing we have seen or read since the team returned supports the view that this was a deliberate act.”

So, Jeremy Clarkson is innocent then. Who’d have thought it!

  • Driftwood

    OK – let’s put forward an altternative theory – the Beeb found the car with the plate and decided that was

    an excuse for the special. Find me some evidence that proves me wrong.

    • Nathaniel Thunderpick Davies

      Lack of evidence is not proof of something actually happening.

      Prove to me that the Malaysian Airlines Plane didn’t go missing, because invisible Goblins stole it. Until you prove me wrong, I’m obviously right?

      • Driftwood

        “Lack of evidence is not proof of something actually happening” – thanks genius. That’s why it’s a theory. That’s how theories work.

        • Droakner

          Incorrect, theories are based upon sound evidence and facts and should be testable. Unless you can substantiate your claim with some form of evidence then it is simply your own personal idea. My personal opinion is that this was a genuine oversight by the BBC and the Argentinians who attacked the film crew were simply determined to be angry about it.

          • Driftwood

            The definition of a theory does not include any requirement for it to be backed-up by ‘sound evidence and facts’ (go look it up if you like). The whole point of a theory is that you propose it, and you can then test that theory to see if it stands up to scrutiny. I’ve yet to see any convincing reason why the finding of the car wasn’t the start of the excercise. Not saying that *is* the case, or I would be presenting it as a fact.

            Anyway, there is a fair bit of evidence that *does* support my theory. A team of programme-makers renowned for mocking other countries and performing acts designed to cause controversy, arrives in a country with deep-set anti-British feelings, with a car numberplate that clearly could be interpretted as relating to the reasons behind those feelings. Furthermore, on being informed part-way through filming that their numberplate could cause ill-feeling, they chose to continue anyway, rather than, say, replacing the car. Theory supported, but not proven.

          • Droakner

            Fair point about the definition of theory. I’ve recently been looking at evolutionary theory and am kind of in the mindset of “scientific theories” which if you ask any scientist are based on factual evidence, but in this case you’re right.

            However, can you imagine the level of outrage that the BBC would run into if they decided to cut the programming short half way through? This sort of filming is incredibly expensive and the idea that they should cut it short, start over or change the car was probably not financially possible.

            As far as finding the car being the start of the exercise, this is not true. The trip was proposed and Jeremy said he wanted a Porsche 928 for it. The team found 2 for him; one grey and the other black and they decided to go with the grey one as black doesn’t film very well. They only realized the possible implications of the number plate later.

            I also find the idea of this being an intentional jab at Argentina to cause controversy highly unlikely. The political situation between Britain and Argentina is still very tense and this sort of a stunt (if intentional) is not funny in the slightest. The top gear team may poke fun at a group of people or a country when on set, but this car was bought before filming even began. Off set they are out of character and they’re actually a quite smart group of people. If somebody had proposed the implications of the number plate and suggested it as a joke before production began I’d like to think they would have realized immediately that it wasn’t funny. They would’ve known that they were asking for trouble.

          • Driftwood

            “As far as finding the car being the start of the exercise, this is not
            true. The trip was proposed and Jeremy said he wanted a Porsche 928 for
            it. The team found 2 for him; one grey and the other black and they
            decided to go with the grey one as black doesn’t film very well.” – that’s if you believe the story that the BBC is telling you. Which I don’t. I think they’re trying to dig themselves out of a monumental hole, having not realised the level of animosity that the numberplate would cause. Much like the time they wrote ‘Nascar sucks’ and a number of other inflamatory phrases on their cars while driving through the Southern US, and nearly got into a violent situation with some locals. They have precedence on this type of action, so knowing that all those other things they did were deliberate, but this one just happens to be a coincidence (a really, really huge coincidence), just doesn’t ring true to me.

          • Droakner

            Normally I am also quite skeptical about what the media tells me and I definitely agree that Top Gear has a reputation for treading on peoples toes. However, other than their reputation (and i don’t believe that correlation is causation) I don’t see any credible reason to disbelieve what I’m being told. Normally when Top Gear pokes fun at somebody they’re forced to offer an apology, like what happened with last years comments about Mexico. In this instance however the BBC has refused to offer an apology which tells me they’re sticking to their convictions. Top Gear may rub people the wrong way from time to time but had this been intentional they would’ve known that this was a clear step, way over the line. This is concerning a very recent war where there are still veterans alive and I personally don’t believe that they would knowingly go over to one of the countries involved and poke fun at it.

          • Driftwood

            I guess we may never find out – though I wouldn’t be surprised if this gets referred to OFCOM or similar, which might lead to some more definitive proof one way or the other (though a lot of it will be down to the word of the producers and crew, so maybe not).

            I should point out that – whether the plate was deliberate or not – I am in no way defending the actions of the ‘protestors’ in Argentina, and the veterans involved (even if not in the actual violence) should hang their heads in shame.

          • authentic8

            The difference with the “Nascar sucks” situation is that it is quite reasonable to expect people to have a sense of humour about it and not have your life threatened because you don’t like Nascar (or are gay). The joke is on those foolish Americans who took offence enough to go that far.

            Mocking the war dead in their country where you ostensibly are going to play car football in order to mend bridges broken during that war is lunacy and bad taste way beyond the kind that Top Gear is known for.

            Besides, the factuality of the BBC / Top Gear story is verifiable and true, so disbelieving it is simply a choice and an irrational indulgence on your part.

          • Keith Reeder

            “Mocking the war dead in their country where you ostensibly are going to play car football in order to mend bridges broken during that war is lunacy”

            Even though they did no such bloody thing…

          • authentic8

            “Even though they did no such bloody thing…”

            Which was my point in reply to another commenter who claimed that Top Gear has past form with the Nascar prank. I made the point that the Nascar incident is not evidence that Top Gear would deliberately offend the memory of war dead because Top Gear is not out to give offence but to be funny and the Nascar incident was funny. Anyone who got offended by the Nascar joke did so because they were humourless.

            This thread is a bit old.

          • frustratedscientist

            Sorry driftwood, but you are wrong about your deffinition of a ‘Theory’. What you describe is a hypothesis. You then test the hypothesis with experiments, and if these experiments prove your hypothesis, and others can repeat your results with the same experiement, then your hypothesis may be accepted as a theory….its one of the fundamental princicples of the scientific method.

          • Driftwood

            I would suggest you go and buy a dictionary before you try and argue about the correct definition of words. There may be expanded definitions of what a theory is in more specialist fields such as scientific investigation, but in case you missed the point entirely, we are talking about a television programme here. I’ll take my definitions from the OED, thanks.

          • authentic8

            Before rudely suggesting someone “go and buy a dictionary” after they politely correct you (even if it turns out you are correct), I suggest you be a bit more humble and consider the possibility that you might be wrong and that the person correcting you may have more knowledge than you suspect.

            You said “The definition of a theory does not include any requirement for it to be backed-up by ‘sound evidence and facts’ (go look it up if you like).”. Since one quite well-known definition does include exactly that, you are wrong in this respect.

            You also said “The whole point of a theory is that you propose it, and you can then test that theory to see if it stands up to scrutiny.” – since this is more-or-less the exact definition used of a hypothesis and such terms are not given anywhere in the definition of “theory” by the OED (online at least), it appears that you were indeed aiming at the scientific definition and not the common use.

            Confusion about the meaning of the scientific use of the word “theory” is common (i.e. that scientific theories do not require stringent testing and sound evidence). If you are going to claim you are using one definition of “theory” but then go on to use terms that imply the other definition, don’t be surprised if someone tries to correct you.

          • Driftwood

            If we’re going to argue semantics, then Frustratedscientist did not ‘politely correct me’ He essentially told me that my definition of a theory was wrong, and his / hers was right. That’s not polite – that’s arrogant. Now I’m not saying that my response was polite or humble – I was simply responding in kind. Similarly with Droakner simply telling me that I was ‘incorrect’, or Nathaniel ridiculing me because I had a different viewpoint to him. I have no qualms about responding abruptly to someone whose initial reaction to me expressing a viewpoint is to tell me that it is wrong, because their viewpoint is different.

            I am well aware of the many different definitions of what a ‘theory’ is, some being a lot more stringent than others. However, the existence of more complex, specialised definitions, does not mean that the most simplistic, generally accepted definition is incorrect. I’m still using a spade, even if your field of expertise would refer to it as a long-handled manual digging implement.

            And my expressing an opinion about the ‘point’ of a theory is not the same as arguing about the ‘definition’ of a theory.

            Anyway, about that numberplate…

          • Droakner

            I salute you sir.

          • Tejus Mukund Vyas

            Hello authentic 8. My theory is one must not try to debate, chat or try to correct fools. I don’t suppose they’re worth the effort. But hey, everyone’s been wrong at some point in their lives, haven’t they ?

            I’m with you on the hypothesis.

  • Stagga

    @Driftwood Are you suggesting they set out to find a number plate that was very specifically insulting to Argentina? And when they did it just happened to be on a TV worthy car like a Porsche 928 and not on a Rover 216 or something? That just happened to be for sale at the right time?

    The other alternative is that they bought the car and then planned the entire special around that one weak “joke”, which I assume would take months to set up. Not impossible but surely somewhat implausible. However they did make several references to the war, the General Belgrano and anti British hostility in the region so obviously they were aware before filming started of the trouble an intentional set up could get them into.

    • Driftwood

      I’m suggesting that maybe they spotted the Porsche and thought ‘wouldn’t it be funny to drive that through Argentina’, which sparked the idea for the whole special. That’s not ‘planning the whole special around one joke’, it’s just that ‘joke’ giving then an idea for a special. To my mind that’s just as plausible as the incredible coincidence that they just happened to pick a car with that plate, and *nobody* in the entire production crew noticed.

      • Rush_is_Right

        Well I’m suggesting you are a highly suggestible moron.

        • GavinDrake

          Please keep it polite, guys.

        • Driftwood

          Can’t think of a sensible argument, so break out the insults. That’ll make you look dead clever and prove I’m wrong now, won’t it? I’m astounded at how many posters are replying so aggressively because I’m not swallowing the BBC’s party line. You don’t like listening to other peoples’ opinions, stay out of the discussion.

  • Jaycee

    Coincidences do happen. I bought my number plate the same week my mother’s closest friend died totally unexpectedly. It wasn’t until a couple of weeks later that I realised the three letters in the reg number were my mum’s friend’s initials!

  • Joyce

    You didn’t need an FoI request. It’s simply a matter of public record. You could’ve done an HPI. As could the Argentinian ambassador. Or any of the thugs who destroyed the film crew’s vehicles in Argentina. The Argentinians are simply using it as a ploy to try for a land-grab … like they are for the Chilean islands

  • Graham Nicholls

    Funny how another FOIA request for all correspondence relating to the purchase has been denied by the BBC, so sorry , but I simply don’t believe them. As you say, they’re no strangers to controversy, and this is typical of their infantile and insulting behaviour.

    • GavinDrake

      The BBC routinely refuse all FOI requests related to journalism (wide definition) for which they have a specific exemption under the FOI Act.

  • jonathan

    Can you publish that FOI response so everyone can see it? cheers.

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