Before you continue reading, be aware that this article contains major spoilers from the episode. You have been warned!
The Lochdown premise is simpler than the previous episode, an answer to a question: why haven’t American cars taken over in Europe? The question in itself is enough for any spectator to anticipate the era of vintage cars. Top speed the crew would target. The 70s, of course. Big chrome, big engines, big differences in finish, The Grand Tour will have time Brougham. Clarkson’s choice is a Lincoln Continental Mark V, Hammond opts for a Buick Riviera boat tail, and James selects a Cadillac Coupe de Ville. All three cars are from the early 1970s, have huge V8s, and are in various states of disrepair.
To find an answer to their question, the team travels from England’s northernmost town, Berwick-upon Tweed, to an island in the Scottish Outer Hebrides. The journey itself is approximately 360 miles, and there will be a series of challenges along the way – although Clarkson doesn’t use that expression as the show goes out of its way not to use expressions of former careers and employers.
The first 25 minutes of the hour and a half of execution are the most enjoyable. Unlike “A Massive Hunt,” Clarkson, Hammond, and May spend time talking about the cars they drive and have friendly conversations on their American iron before the trip begins. The way they talk about their Detroit mounts at first seems wrong, as if someone at Amazon HQ has called out to bend over their large American audience a bit. While I believe Clarkson lies to his Lincoln and Hammond loves his Buick, not an ounce of me thinks May loves the Deville. The car is the result of the production of the show, as James is expected to drive a Cadillac as established in the Top speed trip to New Orleans episode of 2007.
The first hurdle the team faces is a drive through the Scottish capital, Edinburgh. The old cobbled streets (which are closed to traffic and pedestrians before the show) are not suitable for American luxury houseboats. But you knew that, and the series has used this trope a few times with various cars before. Clarkson opens the door of his Continental only to find that the interior door panel is still closed, which you will recall from the 2007 British Leyland Challenge. A conclusion “inappropriate for cities” is quickly reached, and the team is on. his next true Scottish. world test.
It’s a track race on a circuit with many tight turns! Against American cars is Scotland’s sportiest car ever, a Hillman Avenger. It will surely be slower with its puny engine than American luxury cars with their V8s. The lap times roll out as you might expect, although May makes no attempt to rush around the track and continues as if on his way to work. Conclusion: Huge American cars are not suitable for the tracks. But we already knew that too.
COVID is mentioned as a reality after the runway part, and it is stated that presenters cannot stay in hotels as they are all closed. So they have trailers that they “have to sleep in” in, but that is clearly not the case. Around this time, the episode becomes more gag-focused and less enjoyable to watch. May’s trailer is filled with water, Hammond rolls too fast on a dirt road and runs away with his trailer, and Clarkson’s accommodation comes down and falls down a hill into the woods. It’s all very scripted, throwaway stuff.
Next up is a race to see who built the worst cars of all time. Was it the Soviets or the Americans? This segment is a track race with a PT Cruiser, a Dodge Caravan and a Pontiac Aztek against a Yugo and a Zastava and something else. Russian cars are hardly represented in the race. The team recognizes that the 2000s were a very bad time for American cars (that’s not wrong). The race takes place with a lot of body contact, and the PT Cruiser is determined to be the best of the worst cars because it lasts longer than the vehicles produced by the Soviets. None of this means anything, just filler.
The team are invited to a traditional British hunting party, in an artificial segment where new classic cars magically appear for the team to drive. These represent their favorites of the American breed. “You see, not all American cars were like the ones from the 2000s.” As far as I can remember, this is the only time that fresh temporary replacement cars have been delivered for a segment of a show that the trio have been doing since 2003. Our hosts talk about the classic Shelby Mustang GT500, Camaro Z / 28 and Charger. R / T as they go to a mock hunting party where the parking lot contains only green Range Rovers. Hammond fails to do this because his charger gets destroyed in an unexpected (and important) way that clearly isn’t scripted. Delighted to see reality seep into the series after the methodically scripted antics of the last episode.
Somewhere along the line, the producers deliver news of an American-flavored city in the Outer Hebrides, filled with fans of American cars and car culture. The team is heading in that direction to enjoy their cars, which they have now tweaked and made worse. There’s no rhyme or reason for the changes to happen, especially with May turning her Deville into a “low rider” with side exhausts. It’s time to head to this mythical Scottish island colony that looks like America.
After the last two failed segments and the failed edits, the show ends its last 20 minutes or so with some well-used setting: the team must build a bridge over a river, the other side of which has this American city on it. This segment doesn’t really make sense but rather is an opportunity to make a few blunders, sink a boat, and for May to pretend to stuck her very low car on the bridge.
The team travels to this American city, which is a setting designed to look like an out of place American mall. There is nobody, and only one MG is parked outside. The team pulls up and goes to a bar, only to find that everything about modern American culture is actually Chinese. A Korean reference is shown among the Chinese things, but it looks like an edit slip. The team sips a Tsingtao (good beer by the way) and concludes that there is really not a lot of America is gone. The original prompt and the reason for the trip are forgotten.
Overall, “Lochdown” is a decent episode that feels right at home for longtime fans of the Three Hosts and the job they do. Unlike “A Massive Hunt”, the script is slightly more hidden and unexpected events loomed over the floor of the editing room. The hosts spend more time together than on their previous trip and seem to enjoy their schtick much more. As always, the cutscenes are presented very well and the accompanying 70s tunes are also enjoyable. The original question about American cars was to throw away, but that’s what you want with a show like this. The adventure is in the journey, not in digging up a treasure chest at the end. I found myself smiling for at least the first third of the episode. The runtime is a bit wasteful, but this one is worth the trip.