Jeremy Clarkson, James May, and Richard have once again proved that their Midas touch is everlasting. In the latest special of The Grand Tour —“A Scandi Flick” —the car experts maintain their comedic form as they journey across Norway and engage in all forms of mischief. But even though the presenters have adapted to life away from the BBC, the work that they did in Top Gear is still remembered fondly by fans.
On their former show, the trio occasionally went on road trips to different countries where they explored the landscapes as well as the different cultures. With a running time that was longer than the standard 60 minutes of the normal episodes, the specials were always something to look forward to. But which are the best ever ones, according to Reddit?
10/10 Vietnam Special (Season 12)
Redditor ncsavy confesses they were worried at first about no cars being involved but admits “that was perhaps the funniest one ever.” In it, the trio travels 1000 miles across Vietnman using motorbikes.
The “Vietnam Special” is indeed a rejuvenating one since, for the first time, the presenters get to touch no cars. Even more interesting is that the decision to go with motorbikes is born out of circumstances since it turns out the money they were given isn’t enough to buy a car in Vietnam. That alone brings the discussion of vehicles being too expensive in second and third-world countries. As for the humor, a lot goes on; notably, Jeremy getting snubbed while begging motorists to sell their cars to him at a thruway price and the trio bragging about achieving something American soldiers failed to do during the Vietnam War: crossing the entire country in less than 10 days. The music choice throughout the journey feels very fitting too.
9/10 Bolivia Special (Season 14)
The presenters are given £3,500 to buy locally used cars, after which they journey from the Bolivian rainforests to the coast of Chile. Datlinus describes it as “the most cinematic to me, in a sense that, it almost felt like an adventure movie.”
The Redditor is spot-on about the cinematic aspect of the special. Apart from beautifully shot scenes, the sensationalized moments, including one where they move through the Amazon vegetation, look like they are taken out of one of the best jungle movies. Furthermore, there have been many breathtaking Top Gear moments, but the one where they move across the dangerous 40-mile mountain road known El Camino de la Muerte (Death Road) feels tenser. That’s because the road is not only too narrow, but it’s also on a cliff. And to sprinkle some horror into the proceedings, there are several crosses across the road to serve as a reminder of how many people have died there.
8/10 USA Special (Season 9)
The presenters travel from Miami to New Orleans in used cars to find out if renting a car is cheaper than owning one. Jck0 says “the cow on the roof bit has always been one of my favorite ever scenes.”
The tendency of Clarkson, May, and Hammond to unapologetically say and do offensive things is one of the major reasons Top Gear stands out from other projects that are considered great car shows. Even better is the never-ending “Britain is better than America” argument on the show. This time, the presenters become even more daring in their efforts to offend Americans, making the viewers eager to see what the repercussions will be. And they eventually get what they are looking for. In one of the craziest Top Gear moments, they get pelted with stones and chased by an angry mob in Alabama.
7/10 Botswana Special (Season 10)
Clarkson, May, and Hammond buy cheap cars and travel across rough Botswana country lanes to prove that the said rides are better than SUVs. Apotropaic_Sphinx likes how there were “so many great genuine moments, epic landscapes, and interesting challenges.”
Using cars that aren’t designed for off-road use in a country with bad roads is an even bigger test for the presenters, but they manage. Along the way, fans get to see them showcase their improvisational skills as they strip down their cars to skeletons to reduce weight. Viewers also get to see a marvelous love affair between Man and Machine. Hammond falls so much in love with his 1963 Opel Kadett (nicknamed Oliver) that he becomes overwhelmed with grief when it sinks. There’s no shortage of jokes either, with Clarkson declaring that the test driver has seen one of the coolest animal movies, Disney’s The Lion King, a total of 1,780 times,
6/10 Patagonia Special (Season 22)
The car experts travel from Chile to Argentina in celebration of the 60th anniversary of the tiny-block V8 engine. Redditor setmehigh feels “the time-lapse shot of the night sky when they slept on the beach was fantastic, adding that it’s “one of the best shots I’ve ever seen on TV.”
The special remains memorable because it marks the only time the presenters and crew almost die. And all the mayhem in Argentina is triggered by Jeremy’s number plate (H982 FKL), which the locals feel is a reference to the Falklands War. In a scene that could as well mirror that of a thriller, the trio makes a hasty treat to Chile as they are attacked by angry locals.
5/10 Polar Special (Season 9)
Clarkson and May attempt to be the first people to reach the Magnetic North Pole using a car. JoeCole33678 thinks it “has one of the funniest endings to a special.”
Events are spiced up by the fact that the duo has to race against Hammond, who has opted to use the dog sled (the main means of transport in the arctic). This gives the special a true North Pole experience. In regard to the hilarious ending, everyone gets christened with a funny name after adding “Sir Ranulph” in front of their own name in honor of Sir Ranulph Fienness. Clarkson becomes furious after being denied a chance to brag since Hammond never makes it to the finish line.
4/10 Burma Special (Season 21)
LordBuddington says, “I thought it was the best episode(s) they’ve done in ages.” In it, the gearheads travel across Burma in lorries, so they can get to Thailand and build a bridge across the River Kwai.
Cinephiles will love the fact that the premise of the special is a nod to one of the best war dramas, the 1957 movie, The Bridge Across The River Kwai. Given how resourceful they are, Jeremy, Clarkson, and May do indeed manage to build a bridge. And since the buddies can always be trusted to find all sorts of creative ways to have fun, they decided to engage in a drag race in the capital.
3/10 Africa Special (Season 19)
The presenters buy cheap cars and travel across East Africa to find the source of the River Nile. MayJuneJuly1980 comments, “I loved the car body trading.”
The special lives up to its bold announcement: “You’ve seen David Attenborough’s take on Africa, now it’s time to see Top Gear’s take on Africa.” From analyzing the intense traffic jam of Kampala to showcasing the vast landscapes that lead to Lake Victoria, the film takes viewers on a satisfying adventure. The challenges are ever ending, too, with the 3 friends having to convert their cars into bedrooms after lacking a place to sleep and going on a fresh search after realizing that Lake Victoria isn’t actually the source of the Nile.
2/10 Nepal Special (Season 27)
The only special not to be done by the original trio sees Chris Harris, Paddy McGuinness, and Freddie Flintoff drive through Nepal in £6000 cars. BigBadAl comments: “The cars were inspired, the roads and scenery awesome.”
Though the humor that Clarkson and company are known for is lacking, the experts do a great job of analyzing their cars as well as the locations they travel to. Images of the lush scenery remain in the retina, too, and so do the well-constructed roads.
1/10 Middle East Special (Season 16)
The trio recreates the journey of the biblical Three Wise Men by driving from Kurdistan to Bethlehem. Redditor zergle thinks it’s “awesome at humanizing a region which is usually known only for being a conflict zone.”
The special does actually erase the misconceptions people have about the Middle Eastern, with the presenters getting to have a time of their lives. What’s better is watching the normally courageous Jeremy become paranoid and insists on making his car bulletproof, just in case… Nonetheless, the journey unfolds neatly.