The third special in The Grand Tour’s Season 4, “Lochdown”, was strongly affected by the pandemic. With restrictions somewhat eased at the time of filming, the show was limited to only filming in the United Kingdom, hence the trip by Clarkson, Hammond, and May from Berwick-upon-Tweed to the Outer Hebrides. Originally, the third special was meant to film in Russia, but the COVID-19 pandemic threw a wrench into those plans, forcing the change of destination to Scotland. While filming the new special, they were able to form their own social bubble to help prevent anyone from catching the virus.
For this journey, the trio opted for three cars that typified luxury in the 1970s: the Lincoln Continental Mark V (Clarkson), the Buick Riviera Boattail (Hammond), and the Cadillac Coupe de Ville (May). One of the funniest parts of the early sequences is that Clarkson and Hammond easily figure May will show up in a Cadillac, and then he picks (in his own words) “the Cadillac of Cadillacs”. The initial goal of the special is for the hosts to see how these huge American barges on wheels handle on European Roads, the struggles of which certainly cause their own humorous moments.
Additionally, there are a few detours along the way for some non-related challenges, one of which was clearly designed for the original Russia special. At one point, Clarkson, Hammond, and May pit the three worst cars of the Soviet Union against three of the worst from America, including the Chrysler Voyager, the Chrysler PT Cruiser, and the Pontiac Aztec (which only remains known in the States thanks to Breaking Bad). The hosts also opt for some lap-setting at Knockhill track against the Hillman Avenger representing Scotland. One of the best parts of this sequence is seeing Grand Tour test driver Abbie Eaton again, then (of course) watching the presenters try to beat that time in their whales. Lastly, one sequence that felt a little out of place was the desire to show off some of what the three thought were the “best” muscle cars the United States have to offer, including the Ford Shelby Mustang, Chevrolet Camaro Z28, and the Dodge Charger R/T.
One of the more hilarious sequences comes out of the pandemic, which causes producer Andy Willman to “force” the three to sleep in their own caravans, something that Top Gear viewers know the hosts hate. Clarkson, Hammond, and May then opt to modify their caravans to fit their cars, all with equally funny results. The caravans are also involved in one spectacular prank that Clarkson and Hammond get over on May, which has already begun to provide meme fodder online. Naturally, of course, the caravans do not survive the full trip. The hosts also modify their cars as is normal for them, with results that make their challenges even more challenging. The presenters’ biggest challenge comes in having to build a bridge to their final destination, which ends up being a sports bar on the Isle of Uist, which has led to some speculation online thanks to a surprise twist.
Ultimately, the Grand Tour makes the best of a bad situation. Even within the limited confines defined by the global pandemic, the show manages to make for an entertaining (if sometimes disjointed) special. And of course, they make sure to give us some lovely scenery porn of the Scottish Highlands and the Outer Hebrides. The cars themselves are certainly entertaining, from the dreadful Aztec to the classic Shelby Mustang. While it certainly feels like something is lacking from the usual grandiose nature of these specials, it still provides a lot of the classic moments that keep us coming back for more.