Journal: Cars & Comedy: Revisiting Peter Ustinov's "Grand Prix of Gibraltar"

Cars & Comedy: Revisiting Peter Ustinov’s “Grand Prix of Gibraltar”

Alex Sobran By Alex Sobran
September 29, 2017

When someone tells you “you have to watch this video on YouTube,” it’s usually something A) you’ve seen before, B) you don’t find half as interesting/funny/astounding as the person eagerly awaiting your reaction does, and/or C) is wrapped in context or length that you don’t want to spend the time getting into. With that said, this hour-long, sound-only “video” is something you need to at least listen to a few minutes of this weekend. It’s the kind of comedy that sadly doesn’t have much of a market in today’s over-the-top selection of never-ending content, and its subtlety is the perfect antidote to the modern slush of derivative and hackneyed TV comedy or comics that rely on being wild over being witty.

As Peter Ustinov recounts the fictitious Grand Prix of Gibraltar, his cadence and tone could easily convince any half-listeners that he was reporting on some vintage racing spectacle that really did include “the little 42-liter Valhalla” as well as a shady Russian cameraman who cannot confirm nor deny any Soviet plans to build competition cars of their own. He voices a full cast of characters that we meet along the way, including the aforementioned Russian and the GP’s chief steward, John Buttress, who provides instructions and information for the event including the details of a pink flag, which signals that guests of the Rock Hotel have voiced their complaints about the noise and the drivers should proceed as quietly as possible.

It’s not the kind of comedy that will make you laugh out loud, but it’s an antithesis to the worst pieces of the LOL generation of funny, and it’ll leave a constant smile on your face if you’ve ever listened to any real race coverage. The race’s inaugural speech by an aging Lord Weeps of Sebring is particularly good, starting at 30:05.

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Rubens FlorentinoGreg MackRich WhiteleyJon UlrichJoel Clark Recent comment authors
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Rubens Florentino

Some time ago I was reading an article about Brazilian DKW from the 1960s and a guy commented that one of the cars weird name could have come from the Ustinov’s Gibraltar GP… at that time In had no idea what he was talking about.

Greg Mack
Greg Mack

I remember my dad and his pals roaring about this and retelling their favorite segments back in the late 60’s early 70’s. Dad shamelessly borrowed some of the content when people would ask him about his DS21 Pallas, “yes, it’s a Valhalla with the revolutionary wooden engine. ” Not many folks in Des Moines could argue with him.

Rich Whiteley
Rich Whiteley

Brilliant. Constant smile is right.

Jon Ulrich
Jon Ulrich

I remember listening to this as a 14 year old on my friends new stereo and was amazed and amused. I’m glad to get a chance to hear it again. Peter Ustonov – gone but not forgotten.

Joel Clark
Joel Clark

Wow! What an amazing find.