The BBC confirmed on Friday that the presenters and crew had left the South American country but denied that the registration plate was intended as a deliberate provocation over the Falklands War.
Presenter Jeremy Clarkson was among those forced to abandon their vehicles after an angry crowd gathered and began throwing stones.
One of the vehicles – a Porsche – carried the plate H982 FKL, which local newspapers claimed was a reference to the 1982 conflict.
“Even though the BBC authorities asked the popular presenter Jeremy Clarkson to behave himself during his time in Argentina, he chose to use the provocative number plate H982 FKL on his Porsche, in reference to the 1982 Falklands (Malvinas)” war, in which Britain defeated Argentina, it said.
But the BBC bosses said that the number plate was just a coincidence.
Executive producer Andy Wilman, said: “Top Gear production purchased three cars for a forthcoming program; to suggest that this car was either chosen for its number plate or that an alternative number plate was substituted for the original, is completely untrue.”
A substitute plate made for the Porsche, BE11END, was allegedly seized by Argentinian police after inspecting the abandoned Porsche near the Chilean border was found to be equally offensive to Argentinians as they believed it to refer to the end of the General Belgrano, an Argentinian battleship sunk during the Falklands war by the Royal Navy. Argentinian authorities also alleged that the vehicle carried a third set of plates H1 VAE.
Argentine officials and media seized on the discovery, insisting it was yet another indication of a pre-meditated BBC plot to mock the country over the 1982 Falklands War.
If this is not the case, it seems to me that a little more research and forethought on sensitive issues in Argentina should have been carried out by the BBC and the Top Gear production team. I see this as another example of the cavalier attitude so typically associated with this show and its popularity. Jeremy Clarkson would never deliberately antagonise the Argentinian authorities, would he?
3 sets of plates for one car? Why would this be so? Why would this be even necessary? Not to mention illegal! Or is this another example of an Argentinian beat up of the facts to continue popular ill-feeling against all things English/British?
The truth is probably somewhere in the middle! We will have to wait to see the Top Gear Christmas special later in the month.