40 years ago today, Top Gear shifted to BBC 1 Midlands to BBC 2 nationwide
The original Top Gear started as a monthly television series produced by BBC Midlands and presented by Angela Rippon and Tom Coyne. The 30 minute programmes had a magazine format, and were transmitted at first to viewers in the Midlands region only. The programme covered motoring related issues, such as new car road tests, fuel economy, safety, the police, speeding, insurance, second hand cars and holiday touring.
The BBC network took Top Gear and it became a weekly 30 minute BBC Two programme on July 13, 1978. Angela Rippon continued as presenter with new co-presenter, racing commentator, Barrie Gill. Noel Edmonds joined the team in the second networked series, eventually taking over from Rippon in 1980. Edmonds was replaced by Tomorrow’s World‘s William Woollard in 1981 who would front the programme for 10 years.
Jeremy Clarkson joined the team in 1988, until 1998. Ex-car salesman Quentin Willson was added in 1991, and James May appeared in the final two seasons, when the original format ended in 2001. Clarkson and May would return in a revamped version in 2002, joined by Richard Hammond and the Stig.