First episode of Top Gear

22 April 1977

Top Gear started in the BBC Midlands area – the historic heart of the British motor industry - on 22 April 1977. The Radio Times introduced the show as the "first of a monthly series for road-users" and the programme aimed to be of interest to pedestrians as much as motorists. Its success was such that within a year it was being transmitted nationwide, although there was no hint of the entertainment juggernaut that it would become.

The first presenters were Angela Rippon and Tom Coyne. In the opening episode Rippon drove up the M1 in her Ford Capri – at a steady and safe 70 miles per hour - talking about the correct use of mirrors on the motorway. She stopped to interview customers in a Granada service station. There was a story on the technology police use to catch speeding motorists and another on a rally for the most fuel efficient car. Coyne interviewed William Rodgers, the Minister of Transport, who revealed his hopes for the introduction of seat belts and curbs on drink-drivers.

Top Gear has evolved over the years, with many presenters coming and going, including Noel Edmonds, Tiff Needell, William Woollard and – of course - Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May. In the year of Top Gear's 40th anniversary it is presented by Matt LeBlanc, Rory Reid and Chris Harris.