Former Top Gear script writer and editor Richard Porter has spoken out on the controversial Argentina episode, emphatically dismissing the Falklands number plate scandal as an unfortunate coincidence.
Working closely with the trio, Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond, and James May, Porter shaped the script and narrative of the immensely popular BBC motoring series for over a decade. Though he masterminded many audacious stunts, the behind-the-scenes comic genius is adamant that the contentious episode filmed in Argentina was far from a laughing matter.
The hosts and staff faced the wrath of enraged Patagonian locals who believed one of the car’s number plates was a deliberate reference to the dispute over Falkland Islands’ sovereignty. The outraged crowds hurled stones, forcing the team to leave the region abruptly. Porter, however, is adamant that the unfortunate incident was down to sheer misfortune. His intention had been to use the cars in a playful exploration of the football rivalry between Britain – particularly England – and the South American nation.
Trouble started once shooting kicked off. Clarkson’s Porsche, sporting the H982 FKL number plate, turned into a magnet for irate crowds once a photograph of it started circulating online. In stark contrast, the Lotus Esprit and Ford Mustang driven by May and Hammond bore no allusion to the conflict at all.
During an appearance on the Fuelling Around podcast with Adrian Flux, hosted by radio presenter Dave Vitty and British Touring Car Championship driver Jason Plato, Porter explained:
“People look at that and go: ‘This is just typical of those idiots, of course they’d do that.
“I could completely understand why people would think that. But, absolutely hand on heart, it was not planned. I promise you.
“Even when the crew showed up on location, nobody went ‘uh, oh’. One of the things I’ve always said about this is that when people go ‘it’s the kind of thing you’d do,’ I say ‘it’s too subtle for us’. You had to do a bit of mental gymnastics. It didn’t really say 1982, you had to cut the H off, and then FKR. It’s far too subtle, you’ve kind of almost got to explain it.
Porter went on to add that things became “very ugly” with locals but continues to assure fans that it was just a coincidence. He added:
“It all got very ugly. But I absolutely swear, hand on heart, we didn’t know that was the plate. If we’d have wanted a plate that was inflammatory in Argentina that references the Falklands. If we’d have found that plate, the chances of it being on a Porsche 928 GT are pretty remote. It could have been on a tractor. There’s a lot of things, if you dissect it backwards, made it impossible.”
You can listen to the full Fuelling Around podcast episode on Apple, Spotify, YouTube and AudioBoom as well as several other podcast outlets.