FOR reasons that probably don’t need explaining, the latest episode of The Grand Tour is called Lochdown.
Clarkson, May and Hammond head to Scotland and the Hebrides after you-know-what scuppered plans to go to Russia.
Still, crisis creates opportunity and Lochdown sees the boys at their best, buggering about in classic American V8s, crashing caravans, sinking a boat, Hammond nearly drowning. Business as usual, then.
Lochdown streams from midnight tonight on Amazon Prime Video.
Right, introductions over.
We hijacked the press junket to catch up with the trio and to find out where they’ll pop up next.
The answer: Wales.
Here are the best bits from my chat with Clarkson.
RG: I was going to start by saying you probably don’t need this any more, Jeremy. You’ve got Lisa, you’ve got the farm, you’ve got Millionaire, you’ve got…
Jezza: A column in The Sun.
RG: Yes, a column in The Sun. Then I watched the Scotland episode and it’s clear to see how much fun you still have. That scene with the fire hose…
Jezza: That did make me laugh. And Hammond falling in at the end, that is truly hilarious. It was the most I’ve laughed on a Grand Tour ever when he went in.
I thought: “If I don’t stop laughing in a minute and breathe in, I’m going to suffocate.”
The farm’s the day job, y’know, you’ve got home life, and then I always think of The Grand Tour as being a bit like an adventure holiday — and that’s what they are.
They are adventure holidays with your mates, we just take a film crew along. And they are a bloody laugh.
RG: Scotland proved you don’t need to travel.
Jezza: It’s quite unplugged, isn’t it, Scotland?
It just feels much more down to earth than some of the other ones we’ve done. I want to get back to doing the exotic ones, obviously.
I want to see some sunshine and go on an aeroplane. But Scotland is unplugged and the one after even more so.
Jezza: It’s not even a journey, it’s a story.
It’s like a DPS (double-page spread).
Right, here’s a question and this is us trying to answer it.
Not too dissimilar to Scotland, which is: “Why didn’t we buy American cars?” I think it’s a good question because we all watch them on TV and we go: “Ooh, they look exciting.”
But nobody ever wanted one, which is odd.
(At this point, I should perhaps explain that Jezza drives the blue Lincoln Continental in the film. It’s 19ft long. Hammond’s in the green 1971 Buick Riviera “Boat Tail” and May chose the very burgundy Cadillac Coupe de Ville.)
Cars shouldn’t have to be economical or fast or have pin-sharp handling . . . they just have to be charismatic and funny. And these cars are. They are amusing to drive.
They are amusing to sit in and they amuse people as you drive along.
People point and go: “Look at that stupid car.” I think it just makes the world a slightly happier place.
RG: Even more amusing pulling a caravan.
Jezza: We had to provide caravans — not just for James, Richard and me but for absolutely everybody. The crews and everyone had to have their own caravans, which made our convoy extremely slow-moving and very long.
I mean, you end up behind one caravan and that’s normally annoying.
There were 50 caravans that you had to overtake, which I apologise to the people of Scotland for. But, you know, needs must.
We wanted to make the show and that was the only way we could make it.
And of course, they provided us with comedy.
RG: Tell us about the Cold War demolition derby, US v USSR.
Jezza: We needed to explain that not all American cars are funny or interesting or nice in any way.
As viewers of Breaking Bad will know because (Walter White) had a Pontiac Aztek.
And the Chrysler PT Cruiser is terrible. And that Chrysler Voyager is terrible.
They have made some terrible, terrible cars.
And we needed to explain that by demonstrating they were even worse than the Soviet Union.
That was a fun day. And it rained. Oh yeah, it did. It rained every single day. At no point did I switch the wipers off.
RG: But at the same time, the scenery in Scotland is stunning.
Jezza: As beautiful as anywhere you will see in the world. That top left corner, where we were, we didn’t see it because it never stopped raining and the clouds were only six feet off the ground.
But I know when the clouds do go away it’s bite-the-back-of-your-hand beautiful up there.
RG: Before you go, I see Emily’s (Jezza’s daughter) wedding was postponed due to Covid.
Jezza: She has postponed the wedding twice now.
RG: Were you tasked with sorting the wedding car? What is the perfect wedding car?
Jezza: She wants an AC Cobra. That’s all she’s really interested in. An AC Cobra.
I’ll probably take her to the church in my old Mercedes Grosser, though. That’s a good wedding car.
RG: Not the Bentley Flying Spur?
Jezza: No, no, no.
My daughter wants an AC Cobra for her wedding car
RG: Not the Alfa?
Jezza: I don’t think the Alfa suits a wedding dress. Not the Lincoln, which I’ve kept.
RG: You kept the Lincoln?
Jezza: I kept it, yeah. Because it’s longer than the Grosser and only has two doors, which I think is hilarious.
Jock Ewing had one and Frank Cannon had one and he’s as fat as me. I think it’s tremendous.
RG: Where do you keep it?
Jezza: At home on the farm.
RG: Next to that huge Lamborghini tractor?
Jezza: In the same barn.
- And there’s a second series of Clarkson’s Farm on the way too. Huzzah.
THE trio build a floating bridge to attempt to cross the Hebridean sea.
It looks sketchy.
May: I’m dumb enough to have done a little calculation based on the volume of each segment and I worked out it could support the weight of my car.
But it’s still pretty disconcerting the first time you do it.
It sinks as you’re going along it. I went first, of course. As I always do.
They always find an excuse for me to go first but it’s basically because they’re scared.
As it turns out, it’s pretty safe. As long as you don’t go off the edge. Then you’ve had it.
RG: Your Cadillac is very burgundy.
I like old Cadillacs because they’re rather elegant and extreme.
They are the American excess and the burgundy detailing on that car was quite exceptional.
You have to admire their commitment to burgundy. Once they’ve chosen burgundy, it’s burgundy all the way.
RG: You also drove the Chrysler Voyager in the demolition derby.
May: It’s one of those creaky-gate-type cars that could keep going for ever and ever. I didn’t think it would be particularly good to drive around that track but as it turned out, it was excellent.
And because it was big and I sat high, it was a much more effective battering ram.
RG: You’ve got a Tesla but if you could have one American car from history, what would it be?
At the moment it probably would be the Tesla because I’m quite interested in electric cars and battery versus hydrogen, all that terribly boring stuff.
But if it was from history, it would probably be a Mako Shark Corvette. They’re pretty terrible because they’re old cars now and they’re quite agricultural.
But I’d just look at it. I’d use it as a sort of drive sculpture.
Actually, I should have said the Chrysler Turbine Car. That is a remarkable thing. It looks fantastic, it makes a strange noise and was a properly radical idea in its time.
But it came to nothing, obviously. But to own and look at, it would be pretty cool.
RG: Wales next?
May: I’m not really allowed to tell you much about it, Rob. But I can say it is, again, quite car-heavy.
I mean, sometimes we’re not very car-heavy, but that one is very much about cars. And being in Wales is not particularly significant.
HAMMOND was smitten with his Buick Riviera – even before he added a supercharger and Plymouth rear wing.
Hammond: I’ve always loved them. I think it’s a fabulous looking thing. A bit of a cartoon car.
I think we all loved our cars by the end of it, to be fair. That was what we set out to prove: Why didn’t we have these heroic, exciting cars when we were kids?
We’d see them in movies and on TV, and then we’d look out the window at the Austin Allegro on our drive and think: “Well, why have we got that and they get all those big, exciting, glamorous things?”
RG: You couldn’t see much with that supercharger, could you?
Hammond: The one lesson I should have learned – and we still refuse to learn – is that nine times out of ten, you make it worse.
The fact is, manufacturers spend millions on research and development to optimise these cars for all circumstances and then we step in and think: “I know more.”
But it’s a massive thing in the States.
You buy a car, it’s the start point. Nobody leaves a car standard. You immediately change exhaust, wheels, whatever you can.
And I like the idea of personalisation, how you want it to be, whether that’s visual or performance.
RG: Like James, you’ve also got a Tesla.
Hammond: Love it. If I’m just driving about doing stuff, the Tesla’s fabulous. I mean, it doesn’t inflame passions in me. It’s as exciting to own as a new microwave.
But it’s a bloody good microwave and it works incredibly well. It was never setting out to be anything else other than a practical, and very clever piece of transport.
Whereas my 1968 Mustang or 1962 E Type, they’re a passion and a hobby, and I still go out and indulge that.
But I’d rather limit my use of fossil fuels to occasions when I’m doing it deliberately and using it for fun and extracting the max from it.
RG: Tell us about your car restoration business, The Smallest Cog.
Hammond: It’s a long-standing passion of mine.
My grandfather was a coach builder and that’s where my love of cars is rooted.
The guys who used to restore my cars were losing their workshop, so I said: “Well, let’s set up in business together.” So we have.
It’s never going to be massive. I mean, you can see I’ve got filthy fingernails because I was working until late last night dismantling a 6.3-litre Chrysler V8. I’m really enjoying that.
It’s a serious endeavour. I’m trying to do it properly.