Top Gear (Auto Reply Message)


4y ago

I’ve been messing around with Top Gear and cars and now the Grand Tour for as long as I can remember. Last year's Top Gear Audition process was as long and drawn out as this journey, without the fun. To make the wait more bearable, I sent regular emails to the BBC. The responses ranged from the standard ‘Auto Reply Message’ to… the standard ‘Auto Reply Message’. Here’s my descent into irreverence.

28th June 2015

Hello Top Gear

This time last week, I was broadcasting on BBC 5 Live from a balcony outside a restaurant in Poland. I'd been asked to appear on the 5 Live Hotlist with Emma Barnett as 'Top Gear Auditions' was one of the top 40 news items of the week and I'd Tweeted my intent to apply.

I had no notes or a timer and the traffic providing the background noise should have been atmospheric. It wasn’t. So here I am with the real thing.

Chris is an extraordinary ambassador for the petrol head, with a unique broadcasting opportunity to not only tell us what it's like to salivate over some of the most exotic automotive metalwork in the world but also to own it.

Knowing that Top Gear faces the unprecedented challenge of reinventing itself, but also the tough questions about just how much to keep of a hugely successful format, I believe (as a viewer) I'd like someone on the show that experiences the entire car business through the starry eyes of a child, with a track record in design and technology for the automotive industry plus some usefully entertaining presentation experience. That's me. I’d watch.

Many thanks


17th July 2015

Hello again Top Gear

Although I received an acknowledgement of receipt when I sent my Top Gear Audition email last month, as it was only a response to the email rather than the entry… I wanted to double-check I’m in.

By ‘in’, I don’t mean ‘in the show’, just ‘in the massive heap of applicants’.

I’m worried that perhaps I haven’t stood next to enough Top Gear/motoring celebrities and posted the photos on Twitter. I haven’t sought the backing of my local Tupperware party planner, Dacia dealer or an uncle that once owned a replica MG Montego with a door dink from a car park incident with Chris Evans.

This is enough to lose sleep over. Not so much that it’s of medical concern so I won’t be suing the BBC. I know you’re under pressure to account for every penny now the government is looking into EVERYTHING. Have you though about offering the Top Gear job to an MP? Two birds with one stone and all that.

No, wait. I’m not an MP. Forget that.

Anyway, I’m not expecting a response to this as you’ve probably lost the will to live since this audition process/email started.



28th July 2015

At the risk of Top Gear Audition email overkill, I’m back again. I’ll keep it brief. Honest.

I thought I’d send one last link to an article I’ve written about my pain, suffering and monumental (emphasis on mental) levels of commitment to the Top Gear Auditions. At the very least, it adds some useful depth to my audition video

I also spent time in a tent in Chris’ garden last week. I’m expecting the restraining order to come through any day now.

Thanks as always, for the fun one-sided conversation.


6th August 2015

Hello again. Again

I haven’t received one of your Auto Reply Messages for a while and was missing your dulcet digital tones.

Don’t worry, I won’t keep you. If you’ve read any of my previous emails (and I won’t blame you if you haven’t, but I may stand outside your window throwing gravel to attract your attention) this one also relates to my entry for the Top Gear Auditions.

I feel there should be a fanfare each time ‘Top Gear Auditions’ is read so please feel free to make the noise in your own heads, or out loud if you’re feeling really lively or just excited about the weekend.

Anyway, just checking what happens next? No, not the bit where you delete my email but in the audition process. Is there a ‘next bit’? Let me know, just for old time’s sake as we’ve had such riveting email conversations so far.

Oh, and if you can be bothered, I wrote this about the process and why you'd all be mental not to chose me. By ‘mental’ I’m obviously not ridiculing anyone with an actual psychological disorder, just slightly disturbed. In a good way. I’ll get my coat*

*straight jacket.

Here it is (my article, not my coat) 

Thanks again. Looking forward to my Auto Reply Message already (smiley face)


10th August 2015

Hey you, hope you had a great car-filled/fuelled weekend! Smiley face, winky face, petrolhead face.

As another Monday arrives on the quest to find the Top Gear presenter line up, I just thought I'd continue our conversation. I know that technically we both need to be speaking for it to be a conversation, but let’s work on the premise that you nod sagely at the relevant points in the narrative.

I’ve noticed that some of the presenter hopefuls have stopped shouting into the empty void know as Twitter in the past week. From people that stand next to cars, stand next to drivers, haven’t got a license or need a restraining order, they’ve all calmed down. I appreciate I may fall into the last category by now. Can you get an email restraining order? Probably.

Have they had some news? Have they been told to “go play with the traffic”? Have you employed them all?

As the original application was a little light on detail (to say the least), merely asking for us to email a very basic 30 sec video seems a little one-sided. I’d love to plan ahead – for better or worse – but I’m still not even sure my video went into the system, let alone received a 30 second viewing. I had the standard Auto Reply Message (and believe me, I look forward to receiving one each time we speak, like a puppy with its nose pressed against the window, waiting for its master to return from the pub), but I’m not sure if the attachment was viewable by the time it reached you.

Anyway, as much fun as the whole process is, it would be great to hear something. Anything. Even if it’s just to say when we might hear something meaningful.

Oh, and I’d still like the job please.

Happy to perform with children and animals if required.

I’m not a big fan of children, unless they’re my own.

I don’t really like animals either.

Thanks for the chat.


Happy to perform with children and animals if required. I’m not a big fan of children, unless they’re my own. I don’t really like animals either.

Dean Johnson

12th August 2015

Hello Top Gear you sexy beast.

No, I’m not drunk (this time), it’s just nice to shake things up a bit in our special relationship. We don’t want things getting stale, or repetitious, or repetitious.

I thought you might be interested to know I was testing the nuts off an AMG GTS and a C63 S at the weekend, snapping knicker elastic at 50 paces and making a go cart out of old washing machines and banana crates. To be honest, I was only playing with the cars, but I could just as easily have been abusing knickers and white goods and, boooom… that’s Top Gear right there.

Old Top Gear anyway. The new one has less underwear and more ginger hair. And me? We may have slipped into a classic scene from Working Girl now so I’ll leave it here.

One final thing, I’ll be at Chris’s pub (again) tomorrow night because the live music and company is superb. You should go, it’s brilliant. I was there a few weeks ago (the only Top Gear Auditions candidate who made the effort) and even spent time in a tent in Chris’s garden. He knew about this. I wasn’t stalking. Honest.

If I’d simply applied for the job but not made the effort above and beyond, then still not made it to the end, I’d always wonder if I could have done more.

It’s not stalking, it’s research. That’s probably what a stalker would say isn’t it.

The first rule of Stalk Club is: You do not talk about Stalk Club.


Worst stalker ever.

Speak soon. Missing you already!


It’s not stalking, it’s research. That’s probably what a stalker would say isn’t it.

Dean Johnson

14th August 2015

It’s that time again! No, not 3:21pm on a Friday, well it is but that’s not what I mean. I mean it’s Dean’s email time again!

Just a quick one as I know you’re busy. It must take ages to personally type all those ‘Auto Reply Message’ emails so I won’t keep you.

I thought I’d better let you know that I’ve blocked out most of my weekend to sit staring at my computer (or the really small computer in my pocket) so I don’t miss your ‘You’re the new Top Gear Presenter’ message when it arrives. I’m sure you’ll need me to turn up at Dunsfold some time on Sunday with my big book of car facts, a cardboard cut out of Chris and my rubber pants.

Don’t worry, I’ll be there.

Actually, worry.

See you Sunday!


16th August 2015

OK, It’s Sunday and I’m here, waiting outside the gates to the Top Gear Test track as agreed*

*Definition of ‘agreed’ may not stand up in a court of law.

Hopefully you’ll respond to this email pretty quickly and come on over to security as Barry won’t let me in. Actually it might be Larry (I’m not good with names) or Mary, but if it’s Mary then she’s got a disturbingly hairy face for a woman.

As mentioned, I have my big book of car facts with me. Also, the cardboard cutout of Chris is in my passenger seat so the speed camera photo snapped on the way here will be fun. I’m also wearing the rubber pants, but on the outside of my trousers. This may be contributing to the reason Barry/Larry/Mary won’t let me in.

When I bumped into Chris (the real one, not the cardboard version) on Friday night, he didn’t mention when I’d be starting filming for the show. A mere oversight I’m sure so looking forward to today’s production meeting to confirm this.

In case this email has dropped into junk, I’ll give you another 10 mins to reply then I’ll start shouting really loudly over the fence. Not sure how Barry/Larry/Mary will take that, but we’ll play it by ear.

See you soon!


Actually it might be Larry (I’m not good with names) or Mary, but if it’s Mary then she’s got a disturbingly hairy face for a woman.

Dean Johnson

18th August 2015

Dear Top Gear

I have to say, I’m not impressed with the time it took to let me into the studio on Sunday. I shouted myself hoarse before anyone turned up to convince Barry/Larry/Mary to open the gate.

I’m not proud, but I was so hungry by the time a Producer came to the gate I took a swing at him. Don’t worry though, all’s well that ends well as I missed and caught Barry/Larry/Mary square in the kisser. It tuns out your security guard is a Mary after all, and quite likes the rough stuff. Each to their own.

Now, I’m not sure how this affects my chances in the Top Gear Auditions. This all started such a long time ago, I can’t remember if one of the criteria was for applicants to demonstrate unarmed combat with hirsute women.

Please let me know if this incident has had an adverse effect on my fast-tracked route to the final selection as I believe this kind of behaviour is looked upon favourably over at Amazon, where there may still be an opening.

Your special friend


20th August 2015

Hello TG

I started talking to my car radio this morning. I’m sure this is perfectly normal behaviour as everyone does it. Everyone.

Chris was on his Radio 2 Breakfast Show and I threw in a few witty comments, remarks about the weather and interesting facts about cars in the gaps when Mr E took a breath.

I’m not sure if this is the correct channel to complain, but Chris didn’t respond with a Top Gear (Auto Reply Message). This just isn’t on. You lot have always made time to personally type each Auto Reply Message and I really appreciate this. It’s the very reason for our conversations and I look forward to the next one.

When I’m Director General, I shall remind Chris of this oversight. That doesn’t mean I’ve given up on the Top Gear Presenter role, I’m just planning ahead as there comes a time when we all need to step down from the BBC’s flagship motoring programme.

Oh, and in a rather meta development, I’m publishing our delightful email exchanges on my blog ( ) so we can both keep track of the audition process.

Mary the security guard (or Scary Hairy Mary as she prefers) sends her best. Although, to be honest, I’m not sure Mary’s best is the award-winning standard we’ll be looking for on Top Gear. Unless success is measured in facial hair, then we’re onto a winner!

Your faithful email companion.


26th August 2015

Hello you, did you miss me?

By ‘miss me’, I’m obviously referring to the time you threw that computer keyboard out of your window at New Broadcasting House because I was standing outside. Just staring. Dark piercing eyes, looking into your very soul. Reaching down deep inside, trying to extract the very essence of a meaningful Auto Reply Message.

I can understand why you threw the keyboard.

Anyhoo, I wanted to ask where I should send the receipts I’ve been collecting for my ‘location expenses’. I was at the Donington Park Formula E test session yesterday, will be researching augmented reality and virtual reality for the automotive Industry in California and Utah in a couple weeks, then at the Frankfurt Motor Show after that. I’m sure all your other Top Gear Auditions applicants will be putting in the same level of effort. And receipts?

Actually, as the above is all part of my job (changing the face of automotive and all that), I’m guessing I’ll be picking up the tab for now. When you decide it could all have been used on the next series of Top Gear, let me know and I’ll put in a BBC claim instead.

Oh, and regarding the ‘stalking’. I’m outside your window again, in the wet and windy Broadcasting House concourse with the Dirty Dozen. Chris will know what this is (it’s not a new reality TV show about hookers - although it could be if the Top Gear thing doesn’t work out?)

Until next we Auto Reply Message together.


30th August 2015


Following questions from a few confused friends/followers/stalkers I just wanted to confirm the language I should be using when asked the question “So come on, are you the new Top Gear presenter?”

To date I’ve tried:

“You’ll have to wait for Chris to confirm that”


“A million percent yes” (in a Simon Cowell voice)

“Yes yes yes yes” (in a Meg Ryan voice)


“There’s a live selection process to be screened on primetime BBC1" (that’s a small ‘p’, not Amazon Prime. Obviously)

“I just have the final test to complete – naked mud-wrestling”

“Stop touching me, no means no. Yes"

“The dog ate my homework”

Please delete as applicable from the list above and return via an Auto reply Message.

Many thanks


2nd September 2015

Hey TG!

It’s hard to believe it’s September already! How time flies when you’re having such a stimulating conversation, full of human interaction and nail-biting status updates.

It’s been an emotional journey (cue Elbow or Cold Play with shaky visuals of Simon Cowell staggering aimlessly to a golf cart backstage) since we reached the July 20th submission deadline.

July 20th.

Let’s just let that sink in.



That’s 45 days.

Forty Five.



One can only assume you’ve had at least 44 other 30 second videos to watch before reaching mine.

I’m also working on the assumption you’ve watched each one 2,400 times a day (basing this on my 20 hour working day).

I have my special anticipation face on and am looking forward to the Top Gear marching band tomorrow, with a written confirmation of my acceptance, hand delivered by Pamela Anderson on a elephant. I guess Pam has already received her email about the co-hosing job. If not, it’ll be a big surprise for her!

I’ll email next week with some suggestions for the new show. And my favourite sandwiches. And a photo of a boiled sweet covered with pocket fluff.

I’ve been working hard. You’ll love it.



I have my special anticipation face on and am looking forward to the Top Gear marching band tomorrow, with a written confirmation of my acceptance, hand delivered by Pamela Anderson on a elephant.

Dean Johnson

6th September 2015


Naturally, I’m gutted. Pam called round on Thursday to deliver my ‘Congratulations, you’re on the show’ message. I was out!

The neighbours told me Pam made quite an impression in her bikini – especially as it was raining and the bin men were trying to squeeze past her elephant.

Unfortunately. it seems the elephant made an even bigger impression. It was a great idea (and much appreciated) but I’m not sure who’s legally responsible for the damage caused to the parked cars, an ice-cream van and my neighbour’s dog. Was your elephant fully comp?

Anyhoo, I promised some ideas for the show so I thought I’d send you the first couple…

- Stig of the Dump: The Reboot: The Stig has fallen on hard times (he didn’t get a cut of the Amazon money) so he’s now living in a council landfill near Croydon and bringing his track skills to the dump, whilst fending off seagulls, former News of the World reporters and used nappies.

- Car in a reasonably priced Star: Taking the original concept and turning it on its head, we challenge celebrities to hold model cars between their teeth whilst singing popular Ed Sheeran songs. We’ll corner the X Factor and Channel 5 eating disorder markets right there!

Right, I’m off to catch a plane. More BAFTA award-winning ideas to come.


13th September 2015

Dear Top Gear, I resign…

…from Top Gear.

After all the highs and lows, conviction (not criminal) and comedy, waiting 56 days for any communication from you lot proves one point: you don’t give a crap.

I’m not speaking as a disgruntled job applicant annoyed by a ‘you will only be contacted if you have been successful’ line it’s just that from the outset this process has been poorly organised and even more poorly supported. Nothing via email or any social networks. 

I have kept a one-sided conversation going for weeks, interviewed myself and camped in Chris Evans’ garden. Short of sleeping with The Stig, I’ve done just about everything I could have and I’m done.

If anyone's still in the race for a Top Gear presenter, good luck to them but I’m not prepared to devote any more time and energy to something that just makes me look desperate. And to be honest, I’m not keen to watch a show fronted by anyone that looks like their life depends on it. I’d love a team that’s enthusiastic about all aspects of motoring, yet appears fallible, has personality in spades and something interesting to say.

I’ve spent the last week working with companies across the world and we’ll shape the global future of the connected car, virtual reality entertainment and publishing. Forgive me if I’m wrong but you haven’t given me a reason to hang on your every word with a better offer.

Like I said, I’d love you to prove me wrong but it seems you don’t give a crap.

Thanks for all the Auto Reply Messages.

After all the highs and lows, conviction (not criminal) and comedy, waiting 56 days for any communication from you lot proves one point: you don’t give a crap.

Dean Johnson

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