This is one of Orion's favourite game shows, hosted by Robert Llewelyn and Lisa Rodgers. It is very inspirational and embodies a lot of the principles underlying Orion Robots.


Scrapheap Challenge is known as Junkyard Wars in the United States.  It is a game show broadcast on British  Channel 4 and The Learning Channel. The show features contestants using materials (often old vehicles) available in a junkyard to build working machines that can do a specific task. At the end of each episode, the machines are pitted against each other in a contest to determine the winner.  The British version of the game is much more watch-able.  


The US version of the Scrapheap formula relies on loud soap box style commentary and visual effects to pander to teenagers on speed, in " The A Team" genre, rather than youngsters (and oldies) interested in learning what is possible with a bit of imagination, what works and what doesn't.  The surprise is that the unlikeliest of these oddball contraptions (the one that looks as though it hasn't got a chance) sometimes wins magnificently leaving the jaws of all concerned, gaping - experts included.  The British presenters are to be congratulated for keeping the flow going and the viewers and competitors in touch as the competition reaches its finale.


Episodes generally consist of two four-person teams in competition, plus one or two hosts who usually consult with an "expert" judge who knows something about non-junk versions of the machines being constructed. Each team consists of three regular members, plus a fourth expert who usually has a better understanding of the class of machine being constructed for that episode.



Image:Scrapheap robert and lisa.jpg

Robert Llewlyn and Lisa Rogers



The challenges are many and varied, but usually involve teams constructing a machine to achieve a particular objective. Challenges usually involve understanding of a particular scientific principle, e.g. ballistics, navigation etc. The final showdown usually consists of either head to head races or individually run timed events.


The idea for the show came from a scene in the movie Apollo 13, where NASA engineers had only a short period of time to construct an air filter out of parts available on the space capsule.

Scrapheap Challenge originated on the British Channel 4, but was imported to United States television under the name Junkyard Wars. Later, an American version of the show was created with the same name.


In the United Kingdom, the two programs have distinct names, but American audiences only see the Junkyard Wars title. Sometimes, video of the UK version is even edited to blot out the name Scrapheap Challenge. In 2004, a series of the US programme was broadcast on Channel 4 under the title Scrapheap Challenge USA, but only the title sequence was changed and the rest of the programme, including logos and verbal references to "Junkyard Wars" remained intact. The UK programme was originally presented by Robert Llewellyn and Cathy Rogers. The latter was replaced by Lisa Rogers (no relation) in 2002.


The first series of the show, in the UK, pitted the same two teams against each other each week, and was simply titled Scrapheap. The Challenge part was added when the gauntlet was thrown down to new competitors, and a knockout championship process was created.


The engineering demonstrated in the events has mostly been of a very high standard. Of course - because team members often have different ideas, you get some tension. It is normally a better team who gets most of this sorted out in the design phase where they draw battle plans on old car bonnets.


There were catapults, tanks, motor-boats, submarines, flying machines and a multitude of other vehicles built. The new Scrappy Races season is turning out to be just as good - although one team are particularly dismal.




Robert Llewlyn



Rated 22nd Best Ever UK Game Show


Evidently a lot of people missed this gem first time round, so Channel 4 changed the title from Scrapheap to Scrapheap Challenge for series 2 as if to say "Hey, it may be Sunday afternoon but not everyone's showing repeats of 1940s black and white films. Look! See! Here's something with some laffs!"


Robert Llewellyn (who will always be best known as Kryten in Red Dwarf for the rest of eternity whether he likes it or not) gave two teams opportunities to build something rubbish from lots of rubbish - but prepare to be genuinely impressed!  The two teams were asked to build buggies, catapults, powerboats, rockets and diving bells. There were two teams that were made up of three regulars (who were in every episode) and a special guest member who would have some tenuous link with whatever was being built.



Beware - falling sun


At the top of the show, Bob would tell the teams what they were going to be building and told them that they would have "until the Sun falls out of the sky" - or ten hours to the lay person.

A big wall of rubbish (mainly crushed cars) hides both team bases from each other. The first thing the teams would do was planning what they needed with the team's expert. Once decided, the team representatives would venture out into the junkyard (the same one Channel 5 use to get their prizes, fact fans) and attempt to find the bits that they need. For this they are given a buggy to carry stuff around in and a headset so they can talk to the captains. What this amounts to is a race basically, with each team looking for the same bits of scrap. In several episodes, necessary specialist equipment had to be hidden randomly in the yard.




Lisa Rogers out on the town



The teams making their contraptions then took up most of the show. The trials and tribulations were all captured on film. And these would be intermixed by Bob talking to the resident specially-brought-in-to-commentate expert who would comment regularly throughout the show on the teams' progress and explain why teams are doing what they are doing. Anything too complicated would be explained by Robert on a televisual computerised blackboard. Niiice.


Nut wrenching imminent


The one thing that strikes the viewer whilst watching this nut-wrenching and spanner-twisting it is that what could and should be really boring actually turns out to be very entertaining. Why is this?  First, you have entertaining contestants and a fair amount of emphasis is put on the banter, camaraderie and competition between them. The sort of people who take the whole thing seriously yet don't, if you see what we're getting at. Secondly, Robert Llewelyn's darkly humorous commentary and slightly outlandish observation adds to the lilt, such as "Join us in part two to see if they drown."




The set walls are made of crushed cars with a blackboard centerpiece.



But, eventually, the ten hours will run out and indeed the Sun will have fallen out of the sky. In the last couple of minutes there is usually the inevitable "oh no" there's something wrong and the machine has a problem which they usually fix before the time is up. Then the team try out their machine, depending on what they'd built that week. In series 1, we had:



  • Catapults: Each team has fifteen minutes in order to hit their opponent's base turret with as many cabbages as possible from fifty meters away. Whoever hits the most times wins unless they manage to hit and knock off the puppet sitting in a window in the middle of the turret, in which case that's an automatic win.

  • Power Pullers: Each teams puller is chained up their opponents. What follows is a best of three Tug o' War. Each machine is allowed to weigh up to one ton.

  • Buggies: A straight four lap race around a 'P' shaped circuit. There was water in places and hills and at the start/finish line they had to change driver so eventually everyone had a go.

  • Speedboats: Another relay race. One person was designated as the driver and they had to carry the rest of the team onto an island one at a time. The first team to finish won.

  • Diving Bell: 25m underwater were two chests and a bag of gold. The first person to open the chests (which was attached to something else first which had to undone, if you see what I mean) and float the gold to the top was declared the winner.

  • Rocket: The teams had to get a rocket as high as they possibly could. The only stipulation is that priority would go to the team who could keep his snow-shaker thing intact when it landed.

And the end result: a very different sort of show and possibly the surprise hit of the year.




Robert Llewellyn as Kryten




There have been a few tweaks to the format over the years. The floodlit night-time finales of the first two series gave way to a two-day shooting schedule with the build still done in one day, but the final test the next day. An hour's "tinkering time" became enshrined in the rules when it became clear that nothing was ever going to work properly without it.


The second series saw producer Cathy Rogers join Robert Llewellyn on screen, and she also went on to produce and present the US version Junkyard Wars. This expansion of the franchise allowed for some transatlantic christmas specials, with Bob and US co-host Tyler Harcott making an appealing double-act. The UK show even decamped to California for one series, possibly as a tax dodge (and who wouldn't?). In fact, although they never made a big deal of it on screen, the Scrapheap itself was usually a different one in each series anyway.


Cathy left in 2002, bound for Full Metal Challenge and overseeing Faking It USA, to be replaced by Lisa "it's quite a common surname, you know" Rogers, a substitution that, if we're honest, made pretty much no difference to the show at all, and life goes on pretty much as normal on the 'heap, except that whoever does the cartoons nowadays, can't do the faces properly.



The Scrappy Races


We've also got to mention this spin-off series. Five teams have to build road-worthy vehicles capable of being adapted to take on various challenges, and having created their clever vehicles (on their own time), they travel around the country and have eight hours on a local scrapheap to prepare for each challenge. With an emphasis on adaptation rather than building from scratch, the series owes at least as much to short-lived stablemate Full Metal Challenge as to Scrapheap itself. A four-part series went out in January 2004, and a second five-part series a year later.


Key moments


Undoubtedly, a bloke who was nicknamed "Buzz" in the final episode of series 1. He made rockets in his spare time and was one of the oddest people they had on the show, albeit one of the most likeable. Madder than a Mad thing that shouts "Hello I'm Mad!" who is currently residing in McMadland Asylum in America. Possibly.




There has never yet been an episode when both teams' machines failed to work - though they have come perilously close on quite a few occasions.

Geronimo! host Dick Strawbridge was a member of one of the house teams in the first series, and later of the 2000 series champions, Brothers In Arms.




In the first (1998) series, the same two teams, Orange and Yellow, competed every week. The six-show series was tied, three-all.

1999 Megalomaniacs
2000 Brothers in Arms
2001 Cat-Alysts
2002 Barley Pickers
2003 The Destroyers
2004 Anoraks

Scrappy Races
2004 Chaos Crew
2005 Chaos Crew again




Cathy Rogers (co-inventor)




Video: Scrapheap Challenge: The Commandments (VHS) | (DVD)

Book: Behind The Scenes At Scrapheap Challenge by Robert Llewellyn


See also


Weaver's Week review (4 December 2004)


Web links


Official Website

Junkyard Wars Online - excellent Scrapheap/Junkyard fan site

Robert Llewellyn's home page

Off the Telly review





Orange and yellow teams get to work


ROBERT LLEWELWYN    Actor - filmography

(In Production) (2000s) (1990s) (1980s)

  1. Red Dwarf: The Movie (2005) (pre-production) .... Kryten 2X4B-523P

  2. MirrorMask (2005) .... Gryphon

  3. Moo(n) (2003) .... Narrator

  4. Christmas Carol: The Movie (2001) (voice) .... Old Joe
    ... aka Weihnachtsmärchen, Ein (Germany)

  5. Discworld Noir (1999) (VG) (voice) .... Left palace guard

  6. Can't Smeg Won't Smeg (1998) (TV) .... Kryten 2X4B 523P

  7. The Feeble Files (1997) (VG) (voice) .... Feeble

  8. Jim's Gift (1996) (TV)

  9. Red Dwarf Smeg Outs (1995) (V) .... Kryten and Himself

  10. "I, Camcorder" (1995) TV Series .... Presenter

  11. It's a Girl (1994) (TV)

  12. Red Dwarf Smeg Ups (1994) (V) .... Kryten and Himself

  13. Grushko (1994) (TV) .... Petrakov

  14. Prince Cinders (1993) (voice) .... Ugly brother

  15. Red Dwarf (1992) (TV) .... Kryten
    ... aka Red Dwarf USA (USA: complete title)

  16. "Red Dwarf" (1988) TV Series .... Kryten 2X4B 523P (1989-)

  17. "The Corner House" (1987) TV Series .... Dave

  18. Ghost Dance (1983) .... Leader of Americans

  19. Skywhales (1983) (voice) .... Voices


Filmography as: Actor, Writer, Himself, Notable TV Guest Appearances

Writer - filmography
(2000s) (1990s) (1980s)

  1. Christmas Carol: The Movie (2001)
    ... aka Weihnachtsmärchen, Ein (Germany)

  2. The Man on Platform 5 (2000) (novel)

  3. Red Dwarf Smeg Outs (1995) (V)

  4. Prince Cinders (1993)

  5. "Red Dwarf" (1988) TV Series (writer) (epsiode 7.06)

  6. "The Corner House" (1987) TV Series (writer)


Filmography as: Actor, Writer, Himself, Notable TV Guest Appearances

Himself - filmography
(2000s) (1990s)

  1. "Ultimate Sci-Fi Top 10" (2004) (mini) TV Series .... Himself

  2. "Scrapheap Challenge: The Scrappy Races" (2004) TV Series .... Himself (presenter)

  3. "Britain's Best Sitcom" (2004) TV Series .... Himself

  4. "Hollywood Science" (2003) TV Series .... Himself

  5. Top Ten TV Sci-Fi (2001) (TV) .... Himself

  6. "Scrapheap" (1998) TV Series .... Himself (Host)
    ... aka Junkyard Wars (USA)
    ... aka Scrapheap Challenge (UK: new title)


Filmography as: Actor, Writer, Himself, Notable TV Guest Appearances

Notable TV Guest Appearances

  1. "Comedy Connections" playing "Himself" in episode: "Red Dwarf" (episode # 2.8) 30 August 2004

  2. "The Bob Downe Show" playing "Himself" (episode # 1.14) 11 March 2001

  3. "Space Cadets" playing "Himself" in episode: "Morks vs Mindys" (episode # 1.9) 9 September 1997

  4. "Captain Butler" playing "Admiral Nelson" in episode: "Kiss Me Harder" (episode # 1.2) 10 January 1997

  5. "Joking Apart" playing "Tom" (episode # 1.4) 1993

  6. "Bottom" playing "Falklands War Vet" in episode: "Parade" (episode # 2.4) 22 October 1992

  7. "Boon" playing "Mr. Fenton" in episode: "Walkout" (episode # 7.3) 22 September 1992

  8. "KYTV" playing "Phil" in episode: "KY Tellython" (episode # 2.1) 17 March 1992

  9. "Murder Most Horrid" playing "Taxi Driver" in episode: "Mrs Hat and Mrs Red" (episode # 1.6) 19 December 1991

  10. "Birds of a Feather" playing "Tory Candidate" in episode: "You Pays Yer Money" (episode # 2.8) 25 October 1990

  11. "Colin's Sandwich" playing "Priest" in episode: "A Piece of Cake" 19 January 1990

  12. "Alas Smith & Jones" (episode # 6.6) 1990

  13. "Alas Smith & Jones" (episode # 6.4) 1990

  14. "Alas Smith & Jones" (episode # 6.2) 1990



Lisa Rogers TV presenter


Cardiff born Lisa is a familiar face on TV but has long lost her Welsh accent.  Her previous work includes: The Big Breakfast, Sport Relief and Top of the Pops, before lock stock and Scrapheap Challenge.  Lisa has no fear in mucking about with the teams and can hold her own when chatting with Robert.




PO BOX 43741
W14 8XA


Rob & Lisa guard the trophy



SCRAPHEAP CHALLENGE APPLICATION FORM  - Fill out in capital letters and print three copies - each team mates must fill out a copy.  Then post with pictures to the above address.





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