Long before the trio were being run out of Patagonia for their apparent slight to the country, they were offending Americans in the Deep South. Not only that, but they were doing it in purposefully familiar cars to the ones we saw in the opening sequence of this week’s Grand Tour episode.
Back in series 9 of old Top Gear, they took a trip across the pond to see if it would cost less to buy a cheap (less than $1000) used car than it would to rent one. They would then drive their cars from Miami to New Orleans, where the cars would be donated to charity. Fittingly, Jeremy came back with a 90’s Chevrolet Camaro RS, Hammond bought a 90’s Dodge Ram 150 pickup truck and May, being the resident old lady, got an 80’s Cadillac Broughman.
The journey had gone relatively well, all things considered, until they entered Alabama and were challenged get one another killed by writing “offensive” slogans on each other’s cars. Clarkson’s car, designed by Hammond, insulted country music. May’s car, decorated by Jeremy, prophetically read “Hillary For President.” Richard’s car, painted by May, stated “Man love rules ok.” As you can see from the clip, it didn’t go well for any them.
Flash forward to episode 10 of The Grand Tour. As the hosts are making their way through Nashville to the tent we see them driving an American muscle car, an old pickup truck and a mid-late 70’s land yacht. Though it is true, that the cars aren’t exactly identical to what they drove in the US Special, they are certainly in the same vein and of a similar vintage.
Upon closer examination of the host’s newly chosen cars, you can see a very deliberate difference. In America, there are certain, well established brand loyalties, and they seem to have hit on some popular ones. Jeremy was driving a late 70’s model Pontiac Firebird Trans Am, a car which is both a rival and a close brand cousin of the Camaro.
Just as people prefer either the Trans Am or the Camaro, Americans are very loyal to their truck brands. Hammond chose a late 60’s Ford F-Series. Like Jeremy, he chose to jump brands. Unlike Jeremy’s choice however, comparing these two trucks is a bit like apples and oranges, given the gap of time. What we can say though, is that he chose a fairly comparable truck, both being single cab, short bed pickups.
In the realm of pre-2000’s oversized luxury sedans, the Lincoln and the Cadillac were king in America. Keeping with the theme, people prefer one or the other. James drove a 70’s Lincoln Continental in the opening, a car known for being massive, slow, and wallowing through corners, much like his 80’s Cadallic. Both of his choices were iconic luxury cars with devoted fan bases as big as the cars themselves.
So, what does it all mean? Perhaps this was another metaphor for moving on.
Each presenter chose a different car from their original Top Gear episode, but it seems with a purpose. Each brand they chose has a hard battle line: Camaro vs. Trans Am, Ford vs. Dodge and Cadillac vs. Lincoln. Maybe they wanted to show in another, subtle way, that they are distancing themselves from old Top Gear while maintaining the spirit of the show.