Panic Mechanics (lost BBC Two game show; 2002)

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Panic Mechanics.jpg

A screen capture from the show's April 2002 trailer.

Status: Lost

During the time in which the channel's flagship automotive program, Top Gear, was undergoing a hiatus before its reboot into the highly-successful version presented by Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May, BBC Two commissioned[1] two series to take the show's place. The first of these, Wrong Car, Right Car, originally named Top Gear: Car Jack but changed[2] to its eventual name in light of the 2002 carjacking murder of Tim Robinson, aired in 2002 and 2003 to little fanfare. The second of these, Panic Mechanics, was a car-themed game show hosted by Trevor Nelson in which two teams of mechanics, captained by Edd China and Andy Saunders (Paul Burnham in the first[3] and fourth episodes), would compete in order for their chances to win a race in a machine which either captain had built using the same basic idea. The loser of this final race would be forced to see their creation crushed[4].

The only video footage of Panic Mechanics which survives is a promotional trailer which aired on BBC Two in April of 2002[5]. No complete episodes or even episode fragments are available, and although clips from Panic Mechanics were later used in BBC Two's 2009 television documentary The Car Show[6], this too has since likewise been lost.

Panic Mechanics would be picked up for international distribution by The Learning Channel[7] in the United States, where it was apparently such an unprecedented success that they requested a second series be picked up by the BBC. Unfortunately, Panic Mechanics would not be renewed, leading TLC to create their own version of the format, entitled Monster Garage. Hosted by Jesse James and airing from 2002 - 2006, before being revived in 2020, Monster Garage was likewise a success in its own right, and would be ironically re-adapted by the United Kingdom's Channel 4 in 2004, where it was not as successful.


Panic Mechanics was originally announced on the 8th of August, 2001, alongside Top Gear: Car Jack. Its name was originally Panic Mechanic, but was likely changed to avoid confusion or infringe upon the 1997 South African movie of the same name.

The show's format was conceptualized and pitched by Sonia Beldom[8], who was largely inspired by rival network Granada's Scrapheap Challenge. The added twist in this pitch was that the loser's vehicle would be crushed, and that the vehicles themselves would not be designed by the teams, but rather by China and Saunders.

A pilot was filmed[9] in early 2001 at Donington Circuit, with China and Saunders on their lonesome, and were instructed to build something out of a pair of Rover Metros without being told the purpose of the challenge. China would end up building a monster truck[10] with a balloon tyres and a roll cage, whereas Saunders would turn his Metro into a "hot hatch"[11]. The success of this pilot resulted in a full series being greenlit the year after.


Seven episodes (eight if the unaired 2001 pilot is included) of Panic Mechanics aired in total during May and June of 2002, before it was cancelled not long thereafter. Thanks to Edd China stating[12] in June 2019 via Twitter, it is known that the show's theme tune was Elvis - A Little Less Conversation.

Episode Airdate Available Synopsis Winner
Pilot Unaired No Free build on Rover Metros Unknown
1 02/05/2002 No Dune Racers; turning hearses into capable sand racers.[13] Yellow Jaguar Hearse[14]
2 09/05/2002 No Drag racers based on Reliant Rialtos.[15] "Saline Warrior"[16]
3 16/05/2002 No Gravity racers from old Ford Escort vans.[17] Edd China's team[18]
4 30/05/2002 No Mini Coopers into 20-person people carriers.[19] Unknown
5 06/06/2002 No Ford Transits into capable race cars.[20] Unknown
6 13/06/2002 No Flatpack Beetles; VWs that can be assembled for racing.[21] Unknown
7 20/06/2002 No Range Rovers into race cars.[22] Edd China's team(?)[23]



  1. BBC News article stating Top Gear's cancellation Retrieved 17 Apr '20
  2. Pebble Mill website talking about Wrong Car, Right Car Retrieved 17 Apr '20
  3. Paul Burnham - Brief Encounters in TV Land Retrieved 17 Apr '20
  4. UK Game Shows article on Panic Mechanics Retrieved 17 Apr '20
  5. YouTube - Panic Mechanics Trailer Retrieved 17 Apr '20
  6. TVDb entry on "The Car Show" documentary Retrieved 17 Apr '20
  7. China, E., 2019. Grease Junkie. Random House.
  8. China, E., 2019. Grease Junkie. Random House.
  9. China, E., 2019. Grease Junkie. Random House.
  10. China, E., 2019. Grease Junkie. Random House.
  11. Andy Saunders' official website - Hot Hatch Retrieved 17 Apr '20
  12. Twitter - Edd China confirms Panic Mechanic's theme tune Retrieved 17 Apr '20
  13. BBC Genome page for Episode 1 of Panic Mechanics Retrieved 17 Apr '20
  14. My DS420 webpage talking about the first Panic Mechanics episode. Retrieved 17 Apr '20
  15. BBC Genome page for Episode 2 of Panic Mechanics Retrieved 17 Apr '20
  16. Andy Saunders' official website - Saline Warrior Retrieved 17 Apr '20
  17. BBC Genome page for Episode 3 of Panic Mechanics Retrieved 17 Apr '20
  18. Andy Saunders' official website - Newton's Nightmare Retrieved 17 Apr '20
  19. BBC Genome page for Episode 4 of Panic Mechanics Retrieved 17 Apr '20
  20. BBC Genome page for Episode 5 of Panic Mechanics Retrieved 17 Apr '20
  21. BBC Genome page for Episode 6 of Panic Mechanics Retrieved 17 Apr '20
  22. BBC Genome page for Episode 7 of Panic Mechanics Retrieved 17 Apr '20
  23. Andy Saunders' official website - BBC NASCAR Retrieved 17 Apr '20