Sunday, September 17, 2000 by Jane Redfern
Scrapheap Challenge is back. And this, the third series promises to be as good as the previous two. The challenge is for two teams to build machines, in 10 hours, out of junk (scavenged from a purpose-built scrap yard). Once built, the teams compete to determine the winner.
The format, which was developed in the second series, remains ostensibly unchanged, and the programme is again presented by Robert Llewellyn and Cathy Rogers (who is also the executive producer). 10 teams, comprising three friends and an expert of their choosing, will fight their way through various heats and rounds, through to the series final in programme nine. Programme 10 will involve a grand challenge between the winner of this series, and the winners of series two, The Megalomaniacs.
As well as the usual interesting array of team members, not all of whom come from engineering or mechanical backgrounds (for example, the team of psychiatrists in series two, and the vicars who will be appearing next week), this series also promises another run of fascinating trials – coming up will be challenges to build an aerial bomber, underwater chariot, windmill, missile launcher, bridging machine, steam car, and a giant mower. In the final the teams will attempt to build a fireboat, and in the grand challenge, they will be building dragsters.
In the first challenge of the series, the teams had to build demolition machines, which were then raced to demolish part of a disused power station which had been built to withstand blast forces. As ever, Scrapheap Challenge does the science and engineering extremely well; one of the real strengths of the programme. Both presenters develop good relationships with the team members, and watching the programme you can feel the sense of enjoyment, camaraderie, and semi-serious rivalry.
In good Scrapheap tradition, both teams take completely different approaches – one team developing an almost “medieval” type of battering ram, with few mechanical things to go wrong, but requiring a lot of brute force. The other team going for the highly engineered approach, building a “munching arm” via a complex system of hydraulics, which could either work brilliantly – or not at all. True to form, the final race was close, and nail-biting, with the complex machine working superbly, but sporadically. In the end, slow and steady, and brute force wins the day, but only just.
The series certainly seems to be gathering momentum, with the programme being shown in America, as Junkyard Wars, a video release, and suggestion on the website that there may be a fourth series. Long may it continue!