The Grand Tour's "Eurocrash," 45 Percent of a Car Show
On June 16th Amazon Prime released the latest episode of The Grand Tour, “Eurocrash.” With a runtime longer than every previous episode of the show (1 hour 47 minutes), “Eurocrash” sends the presenters to central Europe for a long road trip. This particular installment is a bit different than past voyages though: The connecting thread between the presenters, journey, cars, and the episode’s events goes missing.
Before you read any further, be advised this article contains spoilers for the episode. You’ve been warned!
The prompt for Eurocrash is “a road trip that nobody had done before.” We learn the road less traveled is a requirement, as all the known road trips across the globe are blocked by terrorism or governments that banned one or all of the presenters. It’s decided the trip will start in Gdansk, Poland, and end some 1,400 miles away at Lake Bled in Slovenia. The trip will cross four countries in total; Slovakia and Hungary are between the endpoints. The route is pointed out on the map by two delicate hands wearing jewelry and nail polish, and that’s probably a commentary on something.
Unlike prior episodes with a strong theme for the presenters’ cars (last time it was four-door rally-bred sedans), the directive is simply to select a car nobody has used for a road trip previously. To that end, Hammond selects a Chevrolet SSR. The yellow “pickup truck convertible” is introduced along with a hole in the editing where Hammond doesn’t actually say what he was driving. While familiar to U.S. viewers, others may feel a bit lost.
Clarkson shows up in the baroque neoclassical Mitsuoka Le-Seyde, a Japanese take on the excessively gaudy coupes built by small American companies in the Seventies and Eighties. Under the bodywork, the Le-Seyde is Nissan Silvia with an automatic transmission. James is last to arrive, as ever, in a vehicle that makes no sense for the journey: A Crosley CC convertible from 1947.
While the Crosley is certainly interesting, its meager engine and near-single-digit horsepower meant it was selected only to fit the desired plot and scenes ahead. In no way would May realistically select such a car for a journey of that length. “I bought it when I was drunk!” he protests.
The first 10 or so minutes of the program are where the most time is spent on the presenter's cars. Viewers eventually figure out what Hammond is driving when Clarkson states it, and there’s some brief vehicular information given as the trio leaves the port of Gdansk. May quickly falls behind as the Crosley has a top speed of about 30 miles per hour, and the other two leave him behind because they have cars that are functionally modern.
Within a couple of minutes, the journey pauses at a race track in Poland where some Formula Easter cars are gathered. The F1-style racers were built using the materials available behind the Iron Curtain during the Cold War, and though cobbled together are cool and interesting. Hammond is selected to be the driver as Clarkson is too fat to fit in the cockpit. May is far enough behind to miss the race, but not far enough behind to miss the day at the track. The racers seem not to try very hard as Hammond shoots to the lead, but then his car breaks down and spills fuel all over the track.
Hammond doesn’t notice the leaking fuel, which causes all the other racers to spin off the track (with no flag raised). But then Hammond eventually spins off and has a “crash” into a barrier that is not shown to the viewer. Now there’s a red flag on the track.
The fake crash gives May a chance to fetch Hammond in the unreliable Crosley ambulance he’s already prepared. Hammond didn’t have a radio to communicate with Clarkson and May during the race, as Clarkson and May had to write on poster board as Hammond passed the pit. But magically a radio appears in Hammond’s car so he can call for help after the crash.
Racing finished, the show takes a pause from car content for a while. The next destination is a statue of Jesus that’s billed as the second tallest in the world. There are some jokes about Jesus and internet pornography, intermixed with shots of James having trouble with the Crosley.
Nearby is the Stalag Luft III, the German prisoner-of-war camp from which prisoners dug an escape tunnel. Their story was the inspiration for the classic film The Great Escape. Clarkson and Hammond explore the camp, where Clarkson mixes the reality of the camp and the fiction of the Hollywood film.
May misses the camp entirely, but manages to catch up as he’s bailed on the Crosley and is driving the comedy backup car instead. It’s an old Ford Popular with a Jaguar inline-six, which has "TITTIES N’ BEER" printed on the side. The Popular is also uncomfortable and slow, but not as slow as the Crosley. Worth noting: The Crosley was still functional, May just didn’t like using it. This is a different use case of the backup car than any previous episode (even dating back to Top Gear), but who cares!
The show continues with non-car content and a trip to the Krakow Wax Museum. Giggles and juvenile jokes ensue at the poor-looking wax figures of famous figures. They are actually that bad in real life, per online photos. The takeaway from the museum (literally) is a statue of Nigel Mansell. Our trio “steals” the statue quite surreptitiously, and starts a 25-minute-long string of jokes about the retired British racing driver. The jokes are humorous to any British person over the age of 45 and nobody else.
Much time is spent on these exploits, and between the 33- and 63-minute marks the show focuses on tourism spots. The trio leaves the city and stops at an airfield, where the car James isn’t driving (the Crosley) is allowed to race against a three-wheeled communist trike, a man on a bicycle, a tractor, and a dump truck. The Crosley loses, and the race is not interesting.
This folly leads to a highlight of the episode in Slovakia, highlighting the ingenuity and engineering prowess of the Czech and Slovakian people. A skunkworks of engineers inside Skoda built a Le Mans racer in secret, but never got to race it. There’s also the Czech-made Praga Bohema, a 720-horsepower supercar with a 0-60 time of under three seconds. Also featured is a fully-functional Slovakian flying car, the Klein Vision AirCar. Notable as the first flying car to ever travel between two airports, the impressive vehicle is probably the most interesting part of the episode.
Next up is a diversion to a field where some Hungarian archers fire arrows at the presenters’ cars, which are fitted with thick plexiglass windows. It doesn’t prove anything but does provide some more fodder for Nigel Mansell jokes. The Mansell wax statue is then sent down a ski ramp (sans snow) in the Popular, which is funny! Yes, definitely funny.
The last 15 minutes of the too-long episode take place at Lake Bled, the very beautiful end point of the journey. James is back in the Crosley by process of elimination and arrives late. Departing early for the airport, he steals a tire from the SSR and the Le-Seyde and puts them in a rowboat on the lake to cause general inconvenience.
And as a grand finale, the show wraps with the exact same lame ploy as “ A Skandi Flick.” The presenters hurry to the airport near Lake Bled to see a cargo plane taking off with its ramp down. All three manage to make it up the ramp but… oh no!
The producer texts to relay they’re on the wrong plane again! Their plane home is a commercial flight, not a cargo plane. Just like last time it was a commercial flight and not the private jet. Silly presenters!
“Eurocrash” is light on car content and heavy on tired, corny jokes. With tourist segments and a lack of cohesion in car purpose underneath it all, the show is more fragmented than ever. It’s not as good as “ Carnage a Trois,” or indeed “ Lochdown,” as those had stronger themes. “Eurocrash” is roughly on par with the mess that was “ A Massive Hunt,” though it lacks a specific mission like the treasure hunt of that episode.
In any event, the sun is setting on The Grand Tour. The show has been canceled (or “not renewed” in PR speak) after Clarkson’s incendiary comments earlier this year about Meghan Markle. Amazon did decide to renew Clarkson’s Farm, which will proceed through at least a third season. The Grand Tour will have its final handful of episodes throughout 2024.
[Images: Amazon Prime]
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