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'Top Gear' set builds gearhead heaven in California

The U.S. version of the massively popular British TV series "Top Gear" is set to return for a second season on the History Channel July 24. CNET visited the set on the season's final day of shooting.

IRVINE, Calif.--Hidden away on an arid stretch of Orange Country land that once housed a Marine base, a wonderland for gearheads exists--complete with super cars, a test track, and custom automobiles lined side-by-side halfway to the mountains. It's the set where the History Channel produces the U.S. version of "Top Gear," the BBC's hit car show.

"Top Gear" returns on July 24, and BBC Worldwide Productions and History Channel invited CNET to visit the set earlier this week on the final day of shooting for the second season.

While show hosts Adam Ferrera, Rutledge Wood, and Tanner Foust shot segments and recorded voiceovers for upcoming episodes, I explored the set and wandered blissfully through the fleet of elite, custom, and wrecked vehicles sprinkled around the studio grounds. I even got to set foot on the esteemed track where The Stig (the show's anonymous racing driver) power-tests some of the world's elite cars.

While an audience endured sweltering temperatures to take in the taping, the hosts offered a peek at what viewers will enjoy during the show's second season. The three hosts will try to re-create their favorite entertainment cars on a tight budget, and they'll look to drive from Los Angeles to Las Vegas without any roads.

On this particular day, the team explored professional racer Foust's attempt to set the world indoor speed record with his Ford Fiesta Rally Car. And while I can't include any spoilers, I did have the treat of seeing a new car shoot to the top of the show's Power Lap Time Board at the hands of The Stig.

For your own tour of the "Top Gear" set, check out our gallery.