Scrapheap Challenge is an engineering game show produced by RDF Media and broadcast on Channel 4 in the UK. In the show, teams of contestants have 10 hours in which to build a working machine that can do a specific task, using materials available in a scrapheap. The format has been exported to the United States, where it was known as Junkyard Wars. (The US show was also produced by RDF Media, and was shown on The Learning Channel, for a period of time, but is now shown on The Science Channel.) The UK version of the show is also exported to Australia, and is shown on ABC1 and ABC2.
A typical episode features a competition between two 4-person teams, each consisting of three regular members, plus an expert in the field related to the particular challenge. The judge for each episode will typically be a specialist in (non-scrap) versions of the machine being constructed.
The challenges are many and varied, usually involving teams constructing a machine to achieve a particular objective. The final showdown usually consists of either head to head races or individually run timed events.
Examples of challenges include making a jet car, a bridging machine, a car-crusher, or a machine to fling a British Leyland Mini as far as possible.
TV Producer Cathy Rogers had the idea for the show after watching a scene in the movie Apollo 13, where NASA engineers had only a short period of time to construct a carbon dioxide filter out of parts available on the space capsule. The show also draws its inspiration on the 1980s TV series The Great Egg Race.
Details of individual series
Scrapheap Challenge (UK)
The UK show is presented by Robert Llewellyn
, joined in series 2-4 by deviser of the series, producer Cathy Rogers
, and in series 5 onwards by Lisa Rogers
(no relation). Series 1 was titled Scrapheap
, and pitted the same two teams against each other each week. From series 2, the show was renamed Scrapheap Challenge
- a knockout
championship between teams drawn from the general public. From series 3, a champion of champions was initiated. Series 3 and 4 included a single US team in the field. Series 3 had The Nerds , and season 4 had The Mulewrights
brought in at the last minute when one team couldn't travel due to a livestock epidemic. Both US teams made it to the final round.
- Series 1 (1998) - The series was tied 3-3
- Series 2 (1999) - Winners: Megalomaniacs
- Series 3 (2000) - Winners: Brothers in Arms; Champion of Champions: Megalomaniacs
- Series 4 (2001) - Winners: Cat-alysts; Champion of Champions: Cat-alysts
- Series 5 (2002) - Winners: Barley Pickers; Champion of Champions: Cat-alysts
- Series 6 (2003) - Winners: The Destroyers; Champion of Champions: Cat-alysts
- Series 7 (2004) - Winners: Anoraks; Champion of Champions: Anoraks
- Series 8 (2005) - Winners: Powerlifters; Champion of Champions: Powerlifters
- Series 9 (2006) - Winners: Woof Justice; Champion of Champions: Woof Justice
- Series 10 (2008) - Winners: Rusty Regiment; Champion of Champions: Woof Justice
Series 9 was shown in two halves. The first eight episodes aired between the 15 April and the 3 June, and the remaining episodes aired between the 4 November and the 23 December 2007.
The tenth began transmission on Channel 4 on Sunday 27 April 2008.
It it reported that the eleventh series will be presented by Dick Strawbridge.. Robert Llewellyn had previously announced that he will not be presenting any further episodes of Scrapheap Challenge. Robert's post and related YouTube video stated that Channel 4 were considering a different style for the show, and that Scrapheap Challenge would not be continuing in its current form.
Scrappy Races (UK)
A spin-off series, Scrapheap Challenge: The Scrappy Races
was instituted in 2003 and was broadcast following the main series each year. It is also presented by Robert Llewellyn and Lisa Rogers.
It involves several teams being allocated a budget and several weeks to construct a road-legal vehicle which - if classified as a car - must pass the Single Vehicle Approval test. They then drive to various tests in-convoy across the UK where they are given eight hours at a local scrapheap to modify their vehicles for the test - although, in all but the final test, they must be capable of being returned to road-legal status.
- Series 1 (2003-04) - Winners: Chaos Crew*
- Series 2 (2004-05) - Winners: Chaos Crew*
Scrappy Races Rally (UK)
Scrappy Races Rally was a spin-off series broadcast in 2006, presented by Robert Lllewellyn and Lisa Rogers.
Four teams were given vehicles and participated in 5 challenges in the Galloway Forest Park. They had to adapt the vehicles to perform two different tasks in each episode. This series was unusual for Scrapheap in that the build time was added together with the time taken to complete each stage. The winner was Maximus, a team of alternative-lifestyle boatbuilders and rickshaw makers from Bath.
Scrapheap Mega Challenge (UK)
Another spin-off, the contestants have more time and a harder project to build.
Full Metal Challenge (worldwide)
- Main article: Full Metal Challenge
An early spin off (2001) that had teams from around the world. Teams had a fixed budget, and one month to build a vehicle to compete in a varied set of trials, such as auto "bowling", a race through a flooded course, a "car coaster", car "sumo" and other contrived tests. The winners were the Aquaholics from the UK. It lasted one season. It was hosted by Cathy Rogers and Henry Rollins.
Wright Brothers Reenactment (Worldwide)
For the 100th anniversary of the first flight of the Wright Brothers
, the Scrapheap presenters (Robert Llewellyn
) and the Junkyard presenters (Karyn Bryant
and Tyler Harcott
) hosted an episode that had teams from Great Britain, the United States of America and France compete to try to build a plane that could fly. Instead of the usual time, each team was given 20 hours to build their plane. With health and safety in mind, each was given a propeller and an engine to help build their plane. Another difference between this challenge and the usual was that the teams used period tools to build their planes. Normally "kit built" aircraft need a minimum of 500 hours build time to be certified by the FAA
as airworthy whereas these aircraft were certified as airworthy and all carry a US registration.
The ultimate winners were the British who created a plane with an estimated flight time of twelve minutes.
Warship Mega Challenge (UK)
With the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar
, the teams set out to build warships in the usual 10 hours to battle each other. Each ship had to have a coconut launcher and the hulls were weakened to give the teams an advantage to sink the other ships. And, although on test day, each team had its usual spate of technical difficulties, and, although none of the ships was sunk, the final winner was chosen by their seamanship, tactics and offensive firepower.
The overall winners of challenge were The Aquaholics. This was a different team to the Aquaholics who won Full Metal Challenge.
Junkyard Wars (USA)
The US show was presented by George Gray
and Tyler Harcott
(season 2-5), joined by Cathy Rogers
(season 1-3) and Karyn Bryant
- Season 1 (2001) - Winners: Long Brothers
- Season 2 (2001) - Winners: Miami Gearheads
- Season 3 (2002) - Winners: The Pit Crew
- Season 4 (2002) - Winners: Kentucky Fried Family
- Season 5 (2003) - Winners: Jet Doctors
Note: Former North Dakota Governor Ed Schafer was one of many notable people appearing on the show. Schafer was on during the fifth season as a member of the High Flyers which lost to the Jet Doctors in the Fifth Series finale. The first season was filmed in the UK, and included a competition between the grand winner of series 3 (UK) Megalomaniacs, and the season 1 (US) champs the Long Brothers (winners).
Junkyard Mega-Wars (USA)
The show was reformatted, to consist of two regular captains, who each select 3 people to help in the challenge. The show was presented by Rossi Morreale
and Bobbi Sue Luther
The UK show was broadcast on US television under the then-current US title (ie Junkyard Wars
for series 1-3; Junkyard Mega-Wars
for series 4 onwards).
The US show is broadcast in the UK as Scrapheap Challenge USA
on Channel 4
, and as Junkyard Wars
on the Discovery Channel UK
Various locations have been used for filming. Several of the early seasons of the UK series, and the first season of the US series were filmed in a corner of a real scrapyard in the Canning Town
section of London. (it was space rented in an actual scrap dealer's yard).
The next two seasons of both the US and UK series, were filmed in California. The US edition continued to use the Los Angeles site, and for the next 2 series the UK version moved to a new site, a rented part of a scrapyard near Wokingham, Berkshire. For Series 8, a new Scrapheap was used within an army training area in Bramley, just outside Basingstoke, Hampshire, and is not open to the public. For series 9 (filmed May-June 2006) the scrapheap was again on part of the army site, this time with indoor workshops.
The US Scrapyard was cited as Memory Lane (A Classic Car dismantler and Wrecking Yard) in California for 3 years according to their website.