The original Top Gear started as a monthly television series produced by BBC Midlands, based at the Pebble Mill Studios, Birmingham and ran in its original format until the end of 2001. The 30 minute programmes had a magazine format, and were transmitted at first to viewers in the Midlands region only. Top Gear and its title were conceived by executive producer Derek Smith. The programme covered motoring related issues, such as new car road tests, fuel economy, safety, the police, speeding, insurance, second hand cars and holiday touring.
The first programme was broadcast on 22 April 1977, on BBC 1 Midlands at 10:15pm. It was presented by Angela Rippon and Tom Coyne, who was front man of the local evening news programme, Midlands Today. In the first edition, Angela Rippon drove from Shepherd's Bush in London, to the Pebble Mill studios in Birmingham, reporting on driving conditions en route. Other items covered in the first programme were speed traps, fuel economy, strange new road signs and an interview with the transport minister. There were nine programmes in that initial series.
The BBC network took Top Gear and it became a weekly 30 minute BBC Two programme on 13 July 1978. Derek Smith remained as executive producer, as did Angela Rippon as presenter along with co-presenter Barrie Gill. In the first network series, seven of the 10 programmes were sub titled Rippon On The Road, featuring items such as holiday driving, police driver training, the MOT test and a search for a female rally driver. Other items in that series covered drink driving, traffic jams, rust and corrosion, tachographs in lorries, the Le Mans 24 Hour race and the Motor Show.
For the second network series, again of 10 programmes, Angela Rippon continued as main presenter. Reporters included Mike Dornan, Judith Jackson and Barrie Gill. Subjects covered included child car safety, tyres, CB radio, weighing lorries and junior grass track racing. Each week Noel Edmonds tested new cars, while Alec Jones, chief instructor of the Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) set a driving problem. In one of the programmes, Edmonds drove his Ford GT40 car round Silverstone.
In 1980, Noel Edmonds took over from Angela Rippon as presenter for two series. From 1980 on, a variety of reporters were regularly used in addition to the three main co-presenters Sue Baker, Frank Page, and Chris Goffey. Other reporters included Gill Pyrah and Julia Bradbury. In 1981, William Woollard, formerly of BBC1's science series Tomorrow's World became the programme's main presenter. Phil Franklin and Brian Strachan joined the production team at this time.