By on February 1, 2014

notowncar

On the twenty-fourth day after they pulled my Town Car from the ditch and dropped it off at a distant rural junkyard, the insurance adjuster finally made his way across the snow-covered gravel to take a look. My people had beaten the trillion-dollar corporation there by nineteen days, mostly to empty the bent Lincoln out and to take photos to support a potential difference of opinion regarding its suitability for repair, so I knew what the adjuster would see.

Beyond the missing B-pillar, casualty of the so-called “Jaws Of Life”, the bench seat was buckled and folded up, twisted with a violence and speed capable of fracturing nine of my favorite bones and adding my spleen to the list of the dearly departed. The folding center seat was bent beyond operation. The bones of the dashboard had exploded from behind it, shoving the aftermarket Pioneer nav system out like a rudely extended tongue. The whole front cabin had a funhouse character to it, not a single line left unbent or unbroken, wavy and warped as if viewed in a particularly devious mirror. The cream-color seats alternately speckled and splashed with browned blood.

“It’s a banana,” was the adjuster’s dilatory report to me, delivered over the phone. “Dead and gone, no question.”

After twenty-seven days at the bottom of a well, I’ve second-guessed all of it. Should I have let the Lincoln immediately step off the road into the ditch? A family tried that three nights after my accident, on the same stretch of road, and they were all killed. Maybe not. Could I have been more alert, better trained, more prepared, better-rested? Had I been able to straighten the car better, we could have taken the hit in the front bumper instead of the passenger door. But would the combined impact have broken my son’s neck? Would I have woken from the baby-powder nightmare sleep of the airbag to the face to find my passenger, and myself, uninjured and in perfect condition to make plans for John’s burial?

The past is immutable but that doesn’t mean you cannot torture yourself with it. It’s not that I was injured; I’ve been hurt far worse in the past and the next time I back a race car in to the wall I’ll probably be hurt worse again. But racing incidents happen without victims. Everyone involved is part of the same suspension of sanity.

My favorite game that I like to play is called “Swap The Car.” What if the crash had happened in my Audi S5? One of the Phaetons? The D2 A8? The D1 S8? The CL55 AMG? The STS AWD? Have I driven any car in the past ten years on a consistent basis that would have been less competent when it was time to bend metal? I can’t think of one. I have to go back to my Land Rovers to come up with less crash-friendly vehicles.

Five years ago, I wrote that

If training doesn’t save lives, what does? Drive less, drive slower, drive sober, take the bus, ride the train. But if you must drive, don’t kid yourself that being a racer, autocrosser, or self-proclaimed “good driver” will save you. Had I been unlucky that sunny day in Florida, I had the comfort of knowing that I, and my family, would have met that impact in a 5200-pound, multiple-airbag, comprehensively crash-engineered premium automobile—precisely the type of car derided by others as a “rolling padded cell.”

When your family’s life in on the line, it won’t be the reflexes of the moment that decide who lives and dies. Instead, it will be that dimly remembered moment of purchase, months or years previous.

My most recent dimly remembered moment of purchase put me behind the wheel of a Town Car. I’ve always considered them to be safe vehicles, and large enough to make the kinetic arguments in their favor during most situations. But in this particular collision, the car more or less dissolved. Melted, twisted, bent. How else can you describe a vehicle which manages to significantly injure the person on the far side of the car from the accident? It crumpled around us, as if it had no side impact strength at all, as if it were a ’57 Chevrolet.

I’m used to seeing race-prepared cars bounce and spin in situations like this. The Lincoln simply folded, like the banana to which it was likened by the adjuster, around the front bumper of the incoming Sonata. I can still remember the interior fun-housing right after my involuntarily blink-and-cringe at the moment of impact. At least I had the sense to get my hands off the steering wheel. It, too, moved and shifted, cracking the dashboard in its eagerness to escape its normal position. That’s why I’m typing this and not dictating it.

After twenty-seven days at the bottom of the well, and after listening to all sorts of ridiculous suggestions from friends about my next car, (yeah, I really don’t want to drive my son around in a SVO-converted 240D, or a used STi, or a high-mileage Grand Vitara) I’ve come to believe even more strongly in the idea that there is the driving you want to do and the driving you need to do. The former takes place under conditions of your choice with your awareness and fitness at its peak and everything just so. The latter happens when the circumstances of your life, from your job to your health needs, dictate.

In a way, my choice of the Town Car was a confusion of the two. I wanted another Panther to remind me of the ones my father and I had driven back in my youth. I wanted to make a few statements about the illusory nature of prestige and branding. I wanted something that could fit in with the black cars in New York or Chicago. But I should have been shopping for the car I needed, not the one I wanted. Particularly with a pair of Porsches in the garage already.

I’ve negotiated the value and the disposal of the Lincoln. It’s bound for Murilee’s Crusher. I won’t miss it. Not after what happened. I’ll get something else. What, I don’t know yet. But no more illusions, no more fantasies. No more Panthers.

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229 Comments on “Falling Out Of Panther Love...”


  • avatar
    jim brewer

    I wouldn’t be so critical of the car. In almost any other kind of accident, there is usually a considerable amount of emergency braking that takes place that substantially decelertes the vehicle by the time they impact. People may exclaim in recounting accidents that the cars hit “going thirty miles an hour!” but the reality is its more like seven mph.

    No so on an icy road crash. The cars have almost no deceleration before the impact.

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      We were almost motionless at the moment of impact. Maybe 20mph tops. The incoming car was going much faster, of course.

      • 0 avatar
        mikeg216

        It is human nature to second guess ones self after such life altering moments, but the amount of kinetic energy in an accident cannot be understated. The car crumpled the door beams and other design features did their job, the car sacrificed itself so you could live. If it had been a 57 Chevrolet, you would be dead. If anything can be learned from this, do not delay in putting the snow tires on, this is Ohio. Don’t like the weather, just wait 15 minutes.

        • 0 avatar
          sgeffe

          Uhhh..Toledo area here, and I hate the weather of late!! I’ve waited a MONTH for it to change!! (LOLZ!! Snow last nite, then rain, which is now turning to freezing rain as I type this; was out to pick up dinner, and almost spun like a dreidel going out of my driveway!! 8-D )

          Jack, I’ve gone to your site, and saw the post about your recovery — you’re doing better at this point than I’ll bet I’d be doing in a similar situation, and your friend had a smile on her face in the pic, which is awesome considering how badly she seemed to have fared!! Continued best wishes and prayers as you both continue your recovery (and BTW, John is gonna be a lady-killer, kinda like my three year-old nephew)!!

          • 0 avatar
            nrd515

            23 from Dussel to Central was pretty bad at about 1145pm on my way to work. Between the snow and ice, the cratering of the road, and the idiot drivers, it was worse than it needed to be. My Challenger with the OEM tires isn’t all that bad, but I seem to know how to drive a lot better in the snow than most people do. I saw two cars spin out near Airport Hwy, one saved himself, the other one wound up in the little ditch in the middle. Looks like we finally got a real Winter in Toledo.

          • 0 avatar
            sgeffe

            Yes..the potholes around here are truly gonna svck this year!

      • 0 avatar
        jim brewer

        Well, that’s my point. 20 mph is a heckuva whack. Add to that a car going faster which also can’t decelerate much. Add to that a broadside strike (as it looked like from the pictures) where the passengers are particularly vulnerable. I’d say the Lincoln pulled through for you.

    • 0 avatar
      Syke

      Look at the bright side. My first thought upon reading of Jack’s crash was, “And how would my former 924S have handled it? Or, for that matter, my current Solstice? Take it a step further, my Triumph or my Harley?”

      And in the month since I first read about this, and have followed all the articles afterwords, I’ll still keep the FXR, the Trident, the Solstice, and I wish I had the 924S back.

      Yeah, maybe someday this will happen to me. Until then, I’ve got better things to worry about than a car crash. I drive for the love of it. I’ll be damned if I’ll be picking my cars to crash in.

      • 0 avatar
        fvfvsix

        Sure, until someone rear ends you while going 40MPH and you’re stopped in traffic. Then, you find yourself making different decisions about the type and age of the cars you buy.

        • 0 avatar
          sgeffe

          ^ This.

          For a DD, I want something substantial, especially considering the driving populace outside the B&B who concentrate more on their talking/texting/shaving/reading/anything-else-BUT-what-they-should-behind-the-wheel-which-is-DRIVING!

          Just as with my V6-biased preference in Honda Accords, my preference, were I to get a motorcycle would be a Hayabusa (sp?) or some other rocket bike! That isn’t going to help me in a crash, for sure! (Friend of a friend told me that his credo as a motorcyclist is to remember that you’ll always have to “lay down” a bike at least once, and he’s had to do so, fortunately without injury, except to his leathers!)

          • 0 avatar
            JuniperBug

            “Having to lay down the bike” is mostly a crock of shit, told by guys who want to make it sound like their accident was a planned event. There are very few instances in which it’s better to choose to fall off the bike than to stay on the brakes and decelerate as much as possible before impact. It is true, however, that you better plan for a crash somewhere in your motorcycle career. After my second one, I decided to give it a rest, at least for awhile.

            Getting a Hayabusa for a first bike is like learning to drive in a Ferrari, except that a Ferrari can’t flip over if you accelerate or brake too hard, and doesn’t fall over, leaving you to slide against the cheese-grater asphalt surface, if you slide the back end in a curve.

            And a Ferrari can’t accelerate as quickly.

          • 0 avatar
            sgeffe

            Hence the reason I’d never want to bike! :-)

        • 0 avatar
          Zekele Ibo

          >> Sure, until someone rear ends you while going 40MPH and you’re stopped in traffic. (…)

          I can absolutely vouch for this, as I’m sitting here nursing my whiplash injury after experiencing *exactly* the event described just three days ago.

          I’m glad of two things, firstly that I’d dropped my kid off at school 5 minutes before so he wasn’t in the car, and that I had bought a brand new car only last year with decent crumple zones which protected me from serious harm, and would have protected my kid in the same way.

        • 0 avatar
          thegamper

          That is precisely what happened to me. My first car was a volvo 240 wagon. A Olds 98 probably circa 1980 or so whipped around a semi to pass only to find me stopped in backed up traffic in the next lane. The speed limit was 50 and I took most of that speed in thecrash. After the wrecker pulled our cars apart, I drove mine home, tacked on new taillight buckets and continued to drive the car for a few months with a rather crumpled rear. The Olds never drove again. I was uninjured minus whiplash, only minor injuries to the other driver, but the difference in damages to our vehicles was quite significant. I don’t know if jack woukd have fared better in a different car, but having as much safety packed around you as is practical isn’t a bad idea for a family man and more modern cars typically offer more in that department.

          • 0 avatar
            golden2husky

            Yes, but from what you wrote, the softly sprung Olds had to slam on the brakes, causing major nose dive. Your bumper no doubt rode atop the bumper of the Olds, causing all the sheetmetal to absorb the energy of the crash. And, the business end of the Olds took the blow, not the trunk. The 240 was great for its time but it is important to remember how many factors are involved in a crash and they greatly influence the outcome. If the cars were reversed, the crash structure of your 240 would have done its job of protecting you and it would likely have been dead as well.

          • 0 avatar
            djsyndrome

            I was rear-ended twice in my 240 (’82 DL sedan), both times by late model Mustangs, both while I was at a stop (on the same long road, no less). Both Mustangs destroyed their front fascias and the second required a tow as it barfed up its radiator upon impact.

            In each instance my bumper took nothing but a few paint scuffs, which buffed right out of the metal in minutes.

          • 0 avatar
            Ryoku75

            At Husky: If a 240 dived and hit an 80’s Olds the front would be crumpled and maybe the radiator broken with a few hoses, but aside from that the Volvo would still work, plenty of space between the nose and the engine.

    • 0 avatar
      Tinker

      I wouldn’t be so critical of your Panther’s performance either. All that twisted metal, did its job, dissipating energy.

      My brother totaled a Subraru, years back. Said he would never buy another. I told him he was a fool, you hit a moose while going 70 mph, the car disintegrated but you walked away uninjured! Buy another Subaru!

      And I met a woman whose ride was a small Audi (A4?). She had pulled out onto a freeway, immediately in front of a Ford F350 doing 70mph. She appeared uninjured, a week later, and all she could do was bitch about the ticket she got. She was bad-mouthing the Audi something fierce, but nothing would have withstood that kind of impact.

      Just say thanks to the powers that be, that you both survived. You can still type. I think it died doing its damnedest for you.

    • 0 avatar
      bachewy

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    A general cautionary tale for folks who buy old cars with no considerations for safety. Then again, I ride a motorcycle

    *EDIT* Not to say the Town Car was chosen with no regards for safety. Just to say, folks who choose to drive 20 yr old cars but can afford something newer + safer and just rationalize the old cars should definitely reconsider. Sh*t happens

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      Right you are….especially because every third person drives a mansion-on-wheels. I live in F-250 and Suburban country, and the drivers of these two models are probably the least attentive of all. I don’t mind having a much smaller car as a daily driver (2012 Sonata Limited), but I would mind if it were twenty years old and out of date with modern crash standards.

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      “… folks who choose to drive 20 yr old cars but can afford something newer + safer and just rationalize the old cars should definitely reconsider. Sh*t happens”

      Well, I got to die of something.

      If I get killed driving in one of my old cars, what really happens? My sister is sad for a while, TTAC loses its greatest commenter, and some jerkoff has to learn my job without any help.

      I can understand people with families having different feelings though.

      • 0 avatar
        sportyaccordy

        Pretty miserable outlook. You should find something to live for

        • 0 avatar
          ajla

          My outlook would be even more miserable if I drove a 2014 car.

          In all seriousness, I do have hobbies and things that I enjoy doing, but I’m not a “family man” or anything like that. No one really depends on my survival and I don’t want to drive a new car.

          If you haven’t heard it, comedian Louis CK has a good bit on single people that is posted on youtube (NSFW language).

        • 0 avatar
          raph

          Its not miserable, some people by dint of being single and no family to take care of can live life a little or alot more dangerously.

          To be frank its just the rationalization that a person in that situation is just taking up space.

          Hell, I’m in a similar situation, I certainly don’t have a death wish but the bottom line for my family at least is I’m worth more dead than alive to them due to the money I’ve managed to save and the insurance I have, an untimely demise would do nothing but yield positive results.

      • 0 avatar
        jmo

        You think death is the worst thing that can happen? Fool.

        http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Locked-in_syndrome

        As just one of many….

        • 0 avatar
          ajla

          I’m not too worried about that, but if it does happen I’ll blink you out a mea culpa.

          • 0 avatar
            jmo

            You’ll be too busy shrieking in agony. Not that anyone will be able to hear your screams.

          • 0 avatar
            ajla

            You write about locked-in syndrome like it some common occurrence from a car accident.

            There are a bunch of much, much more likely bad things (burns, loss of a limb, bankrupting medical bills) that don’t result in death which could happen to me on the road. You should have gone with one of those.

            I am glad that you are concerned about what happens to me though.

          • 0 avatar
            jmo

            Oh, you want to talk about burns?

            http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Debridement

            Ok, let’s talk.

        • 0 avatar
          brenschluss

          Jmo, focusing on the the worst case scenarios that could possibly come about from not taking all precautions sounds worse to me than taking my chances with death and dismemberment while enjoying myself.

          Maybe I’ll be a vegetable because of that one missing airbag. But in the abstract, that’s OK. For now, I’m happy to live dependent-free for precisely this reason.

  • avatar
    segfault

    Back in their heyday, I’m sure the Panther platform vehicles were as safe as any other full size, body on frame car. Time and technology moved on, but the Panthers didn’t, although I’m sure they made minor tweaks over the years.

    A car which gets T-boned is almost always on the losing end of the impact, compared to the car which does the T-boning (that’s what she said). There’s no crumple zone in the side, hence the need for a giant curtain airbag plus a thorax airbag to protect your vital organs from impact. And a very stiff structure (that’s what she said), which the Panther may have been lacking.

    How are you healing up?

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      Panthers were among the first cars to earn 5 star safety ratings. They are generally considered to be safe cars in measured testing. The fact that Jack and the occupants of his car lived is a testament to that. Would a different car have spared some injuries? Perhaps, perhaps not, every accident is different. Just be glad to be alive.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        I’m inclined to think that surviving a side impact crash at highway speeds (which I believe this was) is probably a favorable point for the Lincoln.

        On the other hand, an SUV or full-size pickup may have killed them. The bumper height makes a difference in these crashes.

        (Those out there who are complaining about higher belt heights can blame those types of vehicles for the need to raise them.)

        • 0 avatar
          redav

          My mother recently was t-boned at similar speeds and walked away without a single injury, not even soreness the next day. How specific vehicles match up and randomness play a huge role in real-world safety.

  • avatar
    Czilla9000

    Long time reader, first time poster.

    Talk to Alex Dykes about the Volvo S80. Fulfills a similar cultural ethos but is much safer and – in my opinion – much more handsome especially in black.

    I’d love to see a new review of the S80, similar to the one Alex did the ye’ olde Acura RL.

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      I think a new S80 costs more than I want to spend for a car of that type, particularly one from a company that is now under Chinese ownership.

      A Ford Flex, on the other hand…

      • 0 avatar
        JKC

        A Flex would serve you well indeed. As would a T&C minivan. I think the Flex is cooler, the T&C a better cargo hauler. Beats the heck out of me which has better crash scores.

      • 0 avatar
        Chris FOM

        My wife can’t say enough good things about her Flex Ecoboost.

      • 0 avatar
        Chicago Dude

        “from a company that is now under Chinese ownership.”

        Jack, that’s a pretty uninformed statement to make about Volvo. Geely paid $1.5 billion to Ford and then immediately wired $13 billion to Sweden for product development. Since then, Volvo has had the largest increase in quality rankings of all automakers. The only logical conclusion to make is that Geely wants to make giant returns on their investment by making Volvos worth paying even more money for.

        That being said, an S80 might just be a fantastic deal right now. Or at least it should be. The Drive-E engines that Alex wrote about are due to show up this summer, so dealerships should be highly motivated to get the existing ones out the door… I got 25% off sticker on my V70 back during the financial crisis with around 3 minutes of negotiation. The next few months should be pretty similar times for dealers.

        As for the Ford Flex – they are also more than you want to spend on a vehicle, but you can get them with the seat belt air bags in the back – designed specifically to reduce child neck injuries in the kind of crash you fear. A great vehicle choice. Everyone I know that has one loves it.

      • 0 avatar
        vtnoah

        Hi Jack,

        Once again I’m glad you and your passengers turned out ok. If you do end up getting the flex I’ll be very interested to hear your take on it as I’m seriously considering one as a replacement for my Twin baby hauler Forester.

      • 0 avatar
        pdieten

        Jack, you drove a Ford Five Hundred once.
        I owned a Five Hundred for three months. Then I was T-boned on the passenger side, by a Dodge Durango going 25mph, hard enough to spin my car.

        The car was totaled, but no metal intruded into the passenger compartment and I walked away without a scratch. It was replaced by an ’09 Taurus.

        The Flex is built on that same platform. Go get the Flex.

      • 0 avatar
        Flipper35

        Wasn’t there a review of an armored car on this site a while back? What is the used price on one of those? Not trying to be a smart alec, but I would think the thicker sheet metal would prevent the banana effect.

      • 0 avatar
        Ryoku75

        The Flex and the S80 have identical platforms, but with the Flex you get a car that vaguely at least looks like a proper Volvo.

  • avatar
    carguy

    Well said Jack. When you started at TTAC with the “maximum speed” articles I thought you were out of your mind but in this article you have eloquently delivered some much needed sanity to the autoblogosphere.

    No matter what kind of amount of reassuring steel you think your old car has, it will be nowhere near as safe as a new model of a similarly size or even smaller car.

    Some good info here for those who like safety stats: www dot informedforlife dot org.

  • avatar
    RogerB34

    Ford Panther
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ford_Panther_platform

  • avatar

    My major anecdote about car safety over the years is that the last time I had personal knowledge of anyone dying in a car crash was in the ’80s. I have two friends who had crashes last year (or maybe the year before) who would likely have died had they been in cars from the ’80s or longer ago (one was in a ’94 Acura and plowed into a stopped car at 50). Everyone walked away. The other was in a major highway crash at 70. He was hobbling around for over a year, and members of his family also had significant injuries, although I don’t think anyone was permanently maimed.

    The other observation: both friends in these crashes (who were both the responsible parties) had had major bad things happen within a few months before the crashes; in other words, emotionally they were a bit shaky.

    • 0 avatar
      Chris FOM

      I lost a sister in 2008 to a car crash. Big flatbed tow-truck ran a red light doing ~50 in a 35. Hit her square on the driver’s side door. They had to tear the roof off the F-150 she was driving and pulled her out of the passenger’s seat. She lasted about 36 hours in the ICU before herneating her brain and that was it. The 97 F-150 wasn’t exactly a paragon of safety, but she never stood a chance. A tow-truck that big at that kind of speed dealing a direct blow, nothing short of an Abrams tank would have offered enough protection.

      Side impacts are terrible not only because that’s the direction that cars offer the least protection, but it’s also more damaging. Humans just don’t tolerate having their brains sloshed sideways as well as front-to-back. Maximum survivable lateral force is less than 10 Gs, she probably experienced about 60.

    • 0 avatar
      redav

      I wish I was that lucky. Three families I’m friends with have had multiple fatalities in wrecks over the last few years. Two of those accidents were on vacations.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        I’m always very careful when I see a car around me which has a plate other than one of the three states in my tri-state convergence area.

        Or has a lot of luggage visibly inside it.

  • avatar
    Lie2me

    The way I’ve looked at my own experience is if it weren’t for the mass of the Town Car I was driving, I wouldn’t be here, but I still have trouble looking at Town Cars of similar vintage without cringing. No, I won’t be getting another Lincoln panther either

  • avatar
    Pch101

    The Town Car received a five-star side impact rating from NHTSA.

    I can understand the emotional reaction, but side impact crashes are among the worst, due to the lack of crumple zone. The engineers can’t design a car to meet every contingency. If you have to hit something, you’re usually better off slamming on the brakes and hitting it straight on, dead center, so that you get the benefit of the crumple zone and the front air bags.

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      The Town Car received a five-star side impact rating from NHTSA.

      Right. If you dig deep enough on “fueleconomy.gov” the crash test results from the cars they cover are there both new and used. Right after Jack’s accident I went and looked at some of the LARGE cars that I could easily buy used (cause I’m buying used this year and want a sedan) and almost all had 4 or 5 stars, including the Town Car/Grand Marquis/Crown Vic. I know the test changed substantially in 2011 but how much difference is there between the 5 stars in side impact of a Town Car and the 4 stars of side impact in a W-body Impala? Or the 5 stars of side impact in a first gen LX Chrysler or 5 stars in a current FWD Taurus? How bad was a 2011 Lucerne to get 2 stars in side impact?!?!?!?

      • 0 avatar
        jim brewer

        There’s actually a considerable variance between the experiential safety records and what crash safety tests would predict. For example, Jeep Cherokees used to be among the most unlikely SUVs to experience a rollover accident. Why? No one knows.

        The Cadillacs used to have much worse crash test records than the Lincolns, yet in the field, the Lincolns had a considerably worse safety record. Why? I suspect Lincolns tend to attract the kind of old people who like to drive their age. But no one really knows that, either.

        • 0 avatar
          Pch101

          Fatal crashes involve a tiny proportion of the total vehicle fleet. By their very nature, they won’t be equally distributed — there aren’t enough events for that to happen.

          The real world data includes all of the cars that didn’t crash. The cause of the crash incident itself is rarely vehicle-dependent. Accordingly, the real world data can’t tell us much; the crash tests are more useful.

          • 0 avatar

            The IIhs tests for the crown vic were not kind
            http://www.iihs.org/iihs/ratings/vehicle/v/ford/crown-victoria

          • 0 avatar
            segfault

            “Fatal crashes involve a tiny proportion of the total vehicle fleet.”

            It appears that IIHS has discontinued publishing driver death rates by model every year, possibly for this reason.

            I do think the injury rates by model are somewhat useful, even if demographics come into play, although there are some strange results there: Minivans tend to have higher injury rates than similar midsize CUVs, the Jeep Wrangler has a low injury rate for a vehicle of its weight despite not having a full set of airbags standard, etc.

        • 0 avatar
          golden2husky

          ….Jeep Cherokees used to be among the most unlikely SUVs to experience a rollover accident. Why? No one knows….

          The types of drivers. In the old days, 2 door Dodge Shadows had a rollover rate four times that of the 4 door version. Only real difference was the age of the drivers. That is why one needs to look at real world crash data carefully. Crash testing removes the human factor. Real world tests also “test” the drivers.

          • 0 avatar
            bunkie

            Under what circumstances do most rollovers happen? We know about the swerve (moose) test, but I’ll bet that the most common rollover comes when a car slides off the road onto a downward slope due to slippery conditions with the driver trying to steer back onto the road. Here in the northeast, this happens way too often.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            “Real world tests also ‘test’ the drivers.”

            They also test random luck. Wrong place, wrong time.

    • 0 avatar
      raph

      I wonder if a hit square at the A-pillar would be the best scenario for a side impact?

      A coupla of my Mustang forum buddies were involved in an accident where a Passat hit the car square on the passenger side A-pillar in an S-197.

      They were stationary and the Passat was moving at good speed (45-50 mph) when the accident occurred.

      Both occupants walked away without the need for medical assistance. The Mustang was totaled of course as the impact crushed the dash (it wasn’t to bad looking but you could see where the cross beam had been bent and forced upward).

      I know this is anecdotal as there are an infinite number of factors involved in every accident making each one a unique occurrence.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        It sounds as if your buddies got very lucky.

        It probably helped that the impact didn’t go straight into the passenger compartment. That is one of those situations in which inches can make a difference.

        Some years ago, a friend was t-boned, passenger side, by a car that was traveling at about 50 mph. (The striking vehicle ran a light.) The passenger door was pushed all the way to the center tunnel.

        A passenger in the front seat would have been dead, without a doubt, but the driver walked away without a scratch. That’s just plain luck.

        That experience taught me to check for cross traffic at intersections, including when I have the green. That lesson has saved me at least once from death or serious injury.

        • 0 avatar
          sgeffe

          Reminds me of a Friday nite Halloween several years back, where it was raining cats and dogs. I had just grabbed dinner at McDonald’s and was at the head of a line of cars pulling out of the adjacent shopping center at a light, making a left turn onto a major artery.

          As the light changed, I hesitated — something didn’t “feel right!” Not one second later, an early ’90s Cutlass Supreme ** without lights ** blew through the intersection!!! I woulda been T-boned BIG-TIME had I not hesitated!

          Then there was the incident in June, 2011, where I was in a body-shop’s loaner Focus — and DID get T-boned by a bus whose driver ran a red-light, then pled-out to a “fix-it” ticket in court! :-| Walked away without a scratch (except a little bruise from the seat belt and a klonk on the head from the door-pillar), no airbags or pretensioners, but the poor car needed ~$4K and several hours of the body shop’s labor to get it right again!

    • 0 avatar
      Richard Chen

      IIHS did not perform side impact testing on the TC. The Crown Vic was tested, and the results are poor to marginal.

      http://www.iihs.org/iihs/ratings/vehicle/v/ford/crown-victoria/2007

      For comparison, a Hyundai Genesis:

      http://www.iihs.org/iihs/ratings/vehicle/v/hyundai/genesis/2010#model-year-comparison

    • 0 avatar
      30-mile fetch

      The IIHS test is more severe than the NHTSA. IIHS uses a heavier ram that better approximates the height of an SUV hood, the NHTSA uses a sedan-height ram. Some cars do well in both tests. The Crown Victoria isn’t one of them. Prior-gen Hyundais are another.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        The IIHS test has a bit more weight, but is also conducted at a lower speed.

        The main differences are the height of the impact (truck/SUV level for IIHS, passenger car level for NHTSA) and the types of dummies used (adult male for NHTSA, female adult and child for IIHS.)

        In any case, it’s not an either-or situation. It’s a good idea to consider them both when data for both tests is available.

    • 0 avatar
      NormSV650

      Damn the peolple who complain about small door opensings on new cars! Good powerand traction for the conditions helps too as a moving traget is more difficult to hit.

      Driving car that causes you to relax like you are on a lazyboy keeps the senses on edge Mixing autocross style car control with a FBI style defense driving manuevers along with a heightened awareness level is about talll the training you can do to prepare. A good does of luck is the only thing you can’t add yourself.

  • avatar
    mored

    I want to thank you for the series of articles that you have written since the accident. I think that they are some of the most thought provoking articles that I have read in my many years of following automotive journalism. I hope that you continue sharing your thoughts both about the unfortunate incident as well as your replacement car buying process.

  • avatar
    Toy Maker

    Side question : How would you negotiate with the insurance adjuster? What sort of bargaining power do you actually have? Leaving the company?

    Just wondering…

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      I didn’t have to negotiate: the offer was fair and pretty much exactly what 2009 Town Cars are selling for now at dealers.

      In my case, the system worked. Had I been six months into the ownership of, say, a 740Li, I’d probably feel differently.

    • 0 avatar
      npbheights

      Read the book “Getting To Yes”. It was written by Harvard guys about negotiation tactics. There is a chapter where negotiating a totallwd car is discussed. Very interesting book, and I have used some to the tactics in my life.

  • avatar
    bucksnort

    Nobody has repealed Newton’s Laws of physics. Look at the insurance industry data…..Excursions, Suburbans, Expeditions, F250’s, F350’s and GM equivalents. Their crush space is your car.

    I have noticed the insurance rates on my 2012 Nissan Armada are slowly creeping up…not for it’s lack of safety but for what it does to other vehicles (…I asked my insurance company).

    As an aside, 7 days ago I was rear ended in my significantly reinforced, off-road, 2005 Wrangler Rubicon. I was hit by a girl (…revoked license, no insurance) in an Audi A6. The Audi was totaled, radiator broken in half, hood crumpled, windshield broken air bag deployed. She had a bloody nose. My jeep suffered $174 in damages. I had to take off the rear tube bumper and get it re-powder coated.

    GCH

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      Don’t get me wrong, I love Tahoes and short wheel base regular Yukons but that doesn’t mean I just want to be like everyone else on the road driving jacked up 4×4 battering rams.

      People should be free to drive what they want but I guess everyone should just understand the risks. I also wonder if Jack’s reaction to all of this would have been different if he didn’t have a son? If he wasn’t a Dad yet would he just have said… “Sh*& happens.”

    • 0 avatar
      Hummer

      Reason why I love my trucks, I’ve never been in a major wreck (knock on wood) but if I am, I want to be in one of my H1s or H2s.

      The H1s don’t have airbags so I just hope I don’t get hit by something too much bigger.

      I don’t consider myself a bad driver, but its not my driving skills that scares me, I have a responsibility to protect my family and the people I care for.

      • 0 avatar
        luvmyv8

        “I don’t consider myself a bad driver, but its not my driving skills that scares me, I have a responsibility to protect my family and the people I care for.”

        THIS.

        It’s other drivers that scare me quite frankly. Distracted drivers. Hyper aggressive tailgaters, people who cut you off by inches, people who shouldn’t have licenses but do. If I can, I drive with the “bubble” mentality- ie keeping space around me. Especially driving a Jeep Wrangler, I really have to pay attention. Get T-boned in that, not so good.

        • 0 avatar
          jinxman

          Distracted other drivers are the scariest things on the road. I rode a Harley for several years and had a VERY close call. Went home that night and decided to sell it. No matter how good a driver/rider I am, it doesn’t matter. A one second lapse in attention and you’re done in by someone else.

          Whenever the family and I take a road trip it is in my V8 4Runner. The cost of gas doesn’t matter to me. Mass up front and we’re above the impact line of cars and some trucks. I indeed buy my cars based on the worst situation possible and will probably upgrade to a full size SUV in the near future. I subscribe to the “I Win” mentality when I’m with the family and purchasing a vehicle.

          Get well soon.

      • 0 avatar
        mkirk

        Not trying to flame or anything…I agree that in a traffic accident here the H1 is likely safe so ling as you aren’t rolling over or anything. Just ironic as some of the most twisted and devastated wrecks of vehicles I ever saw were H1’s in Baghdad. They’ll take a hit from a buick all day I am sure but there “underbody bomb blast crumple zone” is likely your spine. We have gotten better in that respect.

        Anyway, again, you are perfectly logical for normal driving, I just found it ironic.

    • 0 avatar
      nickoo

      You statement “nobody has repealed newton’s laws of physics” while true, is largely irrevelent to vehicle impact safety with the examples you have given which suggest you’re going by vehicle mass. Mass isn’t nearly as important as impact absorbing crumple zones or properly designed passenger safety zones. BOF are generally the WORST in a crash and you’d be much better off in a properly designed unibody with crumple zones. Best of all would be a subaru with an integrated high strength steel roll cage (aka the safety ring) surrounding the passenger compartment, including running through the B pillars.

      Moral of the story, if you want something safe, buy something that a someone who knows what they are doing designed, the idea of bigger is better is simply not true on modern vehicles.

      Jack, I suggested a charger in my last post when you asked what to buy based on their safety ratings, massive discounts, and “fun to drive factor”. However, a Subaru would also be worth considering if safety is your number one priority. Good luck.

      http://drive2.subaru.com/Sum06_WhatsInside.htm

      • 0 avatar
        Zykotec

        This is true. Crumple zones save lifes, if used correctly. A friends uncle hit an older Mitsubishi Lancer straight on, in his even older Blazer K5. Lancer totalled, driver walked. K5 near undamaged, driver broke both arms…
        Another colleague of mine was rearended in his Dodge B350 van, by a BMW e34. Agian, BMW trashed, Dodge barely skratched. BMW driver reasonably unharmed, Dodge driver still have problems with his whiplash injury 6 years later.

  • avatar
    Hummer

    I don’t think your wreck should discredit your love of the panther.

    No matter what you drive you will have risks when your on the road.

    • 0 avatar
      Hillman

      Sadly, I would bet that the mental aspect of being in one is too much of a reminder of all the pain resulting from the crash. Right or wrong I would bet the panther is out for that reason alone. Also, glad to hear you are recovering Jack.

  • avatar
    Beerboy12

    The BOF construction has issues. Firstly the frame. It is very strong and allows good load carrying ability (evenly distributed across the frame) and flexible body types to be used but… The frame is flat like a piece of card so it flexes. In order to prevent flexing it is over engineered and becomes heavy, giving the false impression of strength. It is strong front to back in a crash but weak from the side and top to bottom in the the middle.
    The body too, needs to be over engineered to tolerate the flexing frame. Weight added to the body for this purpose is not added in places that would help in a crash. Again, it is weight added that creates the false sense of security.
    To sum up, they are big and heavy to accommodate the flawed and outdated BOF configuration.
    Good up to the 70’s, today we know better.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      I enjoyed your post, and have two follow up questions: (1) Does the situation you describe apply to all BOFs inc SUVs or just the Panther and (2) if something of similar late 70s design vintage been involved such as Panther, B-body, Chryco M-body etc would the result have been much different?

      • 0 avatar
        Beerboy12

        You are welcome :-)
        All BOF’s in a passenger car role are vulnerable for the same reasons and because safety is a bigger issue with them. I hope that answers both questions.
        SUV’s are even more at risk because the added weight is not added to make the roof stronger so in a rollover, more likley because of the increased and raised weight, the body and frame will crush the roof.
        I am not an engineer or anything, just an enthusiast. My comments and thoughts are from years of reading and what I like to think of common sense conclusions.

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          I should have clarified my second question, I was referring to instead of a Hyundai if another late 70s designed car had been involved would the situation have been better or worse. However it sounds as if it would not have made a difference because the design of the BOFs cars all share the same faults for side collisions. Thx.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        Here’s an IIHS offset crash test of a ’59 Bel Air with a 2009 Malibu.

        Without a doubt, the Malibu was the much better place to be.

        youtube.com/watch?v=fPF4fBGNK0U

        • 0 avatar
          Beerboy12

          For me this video illustrates so much. Look at how the body panels dissipate the forces. You can see the crash forces flowing through the body and the uni-body frame is 100% solid.
          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qNrRBuytUh8

          BTW While I would love to see modern Renault’s sold in the USA I have nothing to do with the company and only show this as an example of how vastly superior a well engineered uni-body can be in terms of a crash to a BOF.

  • avatar
    Nick 2012

    Panthers get a P for poor in side impact structural performance from the IIHS.

    I got rid of a Volvo 940 wagon that I loved because God only knows how it would fare if I got broadsided by a truck with my kids in the back.

  • avatar
    Alex Mackinnon

    Good excuse to get a Tesla perhaps?

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      That’s what I’m talking about. Needs and wants, all in one package.

    • 0 avatar
      mcs

      They announced the Saleen version of the Model S on Friday. No specs yet.

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      I finally had the chance to check out the Model S, and honestly, I was disappointed. Especially with the rear seating. The battery under the floor makes you feel like you’re sitting in the fetal position.

    • 0 avatar
      Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

      Or perhaps a Volt..

      The pillars may be way too thick for good visibility, but presumably they’re safer.. Also, there’ve been some spectacular wrecks in Volts so far, and injuries haven’t been terrible..

      http://www.plugincars.com/chevy-volt-totaled-collision-school-bus-occupants-unharmed-110117.html
      http://gm-volt.com/forum/showthread.php?27201-T-Boned!

  • avatar
    redliner

    I’m still a bit hazzy on the exact order of events that led up to the crash, but I think that you made what you felt was a reasonable choice at the time of your purchase, and in the end that is all that one can do.

    The only thing that may have helped is some form of electronic stability control… which the ancient panther platform lacked in all it’s forms.

    I hear Volvo is coming out wtih a hot new V60…

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      What would have helped is a structure that didn’t fold up like a cardboard box. How much of the injuries was caused by the seat, roof and dash crushing into the passengers? I have friends who had a 40+ mph side impact in a recent vintage Volvo and walked away. As Jack himself said here – he was on the other side of the car from the accident – he should NOT have been as badly injured as he was. Lady Luck is always a major factor in an accident, but you can tilt the odds in your favor through your choice of car.

      Why people think a car that was fundamentally designed in the ’70s is in any way safe compared to modern cars completely baffles me. I have been having the same argument on the Volvo list recently about Volvo 240s.

      I have a couple of old cars, and I have a really small modern car. I am under NO illusions that any are as safe as my 2yo 3-series. Similarly, I have a hulking big BoF Range Rover – THAT overall is nowhere near as safe as the BMW either. Mostly because I assume that its side impact protection is laughable.

      Ultimately, IMHO if you want to be as safe as it is possible to be in a car in the real world, you want the newest S-Class Mercedes you can afford. They have it all – size, design, construction, and the very best tech.

  • avatar
    mitchw

    I wonder if the Hyundai could have redirected its nose away from your side. Like cross the magic yellow line force field indicator, because it’s an EMERGENCY, LIKE RIGHT NOW.

    I also wonder about the other ‘matter’ which you’ve asked us to be quiet about, JB.

  • avatar
    30-mile fetch

    Kinetics were on your side for a frontal collision. But the Panther platform is lousy in side impacts, and that’s been known for a number of years. The IIHS test rates it as “Poor” for Structure/Safety cage, giving high probabilities of pelvis & leg injuries. The Panther may be heavy, but so is a soggy burrito.

    Since this test is independent of vehicle mass, the tin can Yaris we used to own would have held together better in that wreck.

    • 0 avatar
      30-mile fetch

      I should add that you shouldn’t outright regret your choice of car or beat yourself up over that decision. Can’t anticipate every situation and that Town Car was a lot safer than anything I grew up in during the 80s.

  • avatar
    sketch447

    Mr. Baruth, it takes great journalistic integrity to issue such a sincere mea culpa as to your choice of car. But your regrets are misplaced.

    Why are you feeling guilty for buying a huge land ark that should have, by all indications, protected you better than it did? The Panther platform failed you; it was not you who failed in any way. Sure, the thing was basically 20-year-old technology. But it also had plenty of steel, and an underlying frame, that (one logically assumes) would mitigate any technological shortcomings in a crash.

    I mean, what should you have done? Performed metallurgy tests on the thing? Researched its structural rigidity? You had enough real-world info already. That platform has been used (almost exclusively) by every police force in the country, under the most challenging conditions. When a cop Crown Vic gets hit, it’s usually at very high speed, and most cops walk away.

    Look, there are worse car obsessions to have. What if you were obsessed with old VW bugs? Or wet-noodle Fox-platform Stangs? Or 1980s era Porsches? You’d be a brown smear on the road right now. With the Panther, you remained true to your father’s vision: buy big and heavy to protect your family.

    A beautiful article.

    • 0 avatar
      JKC

      What Sketch said.

    • 0 avatar
      Lie2me

      I think now the problem might be association, whenever Jack sees a panther especially a Lincoln he sees twisted metal and hurt loved ones. You can’t unsee that

      • 0 avatar
        sgeffe

        Heaven knows that my PSYCHOtherapy bills would nearly be as high as the PHYSICAL ones if I were in this boat!!

        Seeing that bus driver I mentioned up-thread walk scot-free after an accident that could have ended up much worse had I ended up in that intersection even a half-second sooner was bad enough — I literally had to watch a YouTube vid of an IIHS side-impact test of a 2010 Focus at 1:00am after I woke up having a “flashback” of sorts about a week after the accident in order to get back to sleep that night! (It did very well–would have been sore for a bit, with maybe an airbag burn or two.)

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      +1.

  • avatar
    zbnutcase

    I was in my worst accident back in ’76, when I was 10 yrs old, in my brothers ’74 F250 4X4 pickup. I credit that truck as the reason my brother, my sister,and myself are around today. I was in middle, ended up on my back on passenger floor looking up at the underside of the dashboard when the dust settled. truck totaled.

  • avatar
    romanjetfighter

    I got into an accident in a 1996 Camry last year after I gave up my 2009. No side impact airbags, of course. I hit my head very hard on the side glass. I have never hit my head as hard in my life. In accidents, it’s like the universe becomes totally indifferent to you. It doesn’t matter if it’s a head or a stack of books, when something stops almost instantly from 15 mph or so (assuming you braked hard and in time on the highway/street) it’s going splat to whatever it in its way, whether it’s an airbag or a hard window. And random pieces of metal don’t care if your leg is in the way, it doesn’t know what passenger compartment is. In an accident, cars are just an arrangement of metal and plastic bits you happen to be sitting in. If some metal bits are being bent by brute force and they juts out into the cabin and your leg happens to be there, tough luck.

    I couldn’t think straight for days (concussion) but I do remember torturing myself. “Should have kept the 2009. So what if the steering sucks and its slow and the interior creaks and rattles? I probably wouldn’t have an IQ that is lower than it was a week ago. I probably wouldn’t have to pay for all these medical exams! I can’t believe I was so cheap I wanted to drive an old car to save on insurance.”

    Safety in cars is now #1 for me, and so is emergency maneuvering (which the Camry sucks at and the ’09 doesn’t even have ESC). I also now cringe and my palms sweat every time I see someone speeding in an old car on the highway.

    • 0 avatar
      22_RE_Speedwagon

      your description of an accident is spot on.

    • 0 avatar
      Alexdi

      This. Considering what a costs to fix (if it’s even possible) any medical problem (you could spend $50K on a compound fracture of your arm), sacrificing on safety when you don’t have to is such a false economy.

    • 0 avatar
      sgeffe

      I’ve been in a couple other very minor accidents, but that bus T-bone up-thread was the first in which I entered the “alternate reality” you describe. It wasn’t ** TOO ** bad–the bus driver realized his error, and was on the brakes as he came through the intersection against the red. We hit at about 15mph apiece, with me turning to the right while laying on the horn (which of course would have blasted my right hand and wrist into the following week if the airbag had popped). The bus hit the front fender just behind the wheel.

      At impact, my body seemed to stay right in place while the car moved around me. I had the seat height set a little high, so my head managed to boink the upper door pillar just forward of the B-pillar, while I managed to get caught by the seat belt as it locked normally (no pretensioner activation), so I had a little bruising on my chest — cleared in a week, no big deal. (Ended up not taking medical treatment at the scene, and my headache that day was just a sinus banger. Checked with my SIL, a P.A., and she stated just to keep aware of stuff over the next couple of days, and get into her office or an ER if I had anything suspicious going on, which thankfully, I did not.)

      One thing I always have in mind is the airbag thing, and if a frontal crash seems inevitable, that I’ll keep my hands on the wheel until the last instant (provided the adrenaline thing where time seems to slow down doesn’t happen), then take my hands off the wheel, cover my ears, and close my eyes while putting my head down slightly so that my face doesn’t take the brunt of the airbag detonation, and that my (extremely sensitive) hearing isn’t completely destroyed by the deployment.

      • 0 avatar
        nickoo

        Yes, the alternate reality description is apt. I was hit really hard in the back of the head during wrestling by another sparing pair behind me on the mat during practice, I went into a seizure while concious and remember the experience vividly nearly 18 years later and thinking to myself, “Oh no, I’ve been crippled (obviously I had lost control of my body) maybe it won’t be so bad.” Scary to think about now. It turns out I had a concusion which itself isn’t a joke, but it’s better than losing use of my limbs.

        The alternate reality struck again in my 1989 camaro…I loved that car, perfectly proportional design without overdoing it, just a beauty to sit down in the garage, have a beer, and look at. Anyways, I was on a semi-rural 2 lane 55 mph road turning left to go into a park on a very cold dry winter day (think about 5 degrees out) at dusk to go for a bike ride. I slowed down, put on my blinker to wait for crosstraffic and while going about 10 MPH I caught the “flash” in the rear view mirror. I knew I was going to get hit. The guy in the ford ranger behind me was rear ended by a lady in her explorer. The lady must not have been paying attention, she hit him at 55, he was going about 25, I was going about 10. My camaro took the major brunt of the damgage, time slowed down, the ’89 didn’t yet have airbags, the leather steering wheel horn cover literally popped off and hit me in the head, the big hatch shattered into a million pieces, my bike which was loose in the back flew up and hit me (secure your cargo kids), while the rear of the car was pushed clear past the rear wheels.

        I am so fortunately to have walked away from that, if it weren’t for the middle man in the ranger, I probably wouldn’t have. I still went to the hospital and got X-rays, one can never be too careful.

        • 0 avatar
          sgeffe

          My brother and SIL have my niece and nephew and their two large Golden Retrievers with them quite often on the weekends to go to a park, or when they travel on dog-friendly vacations and such. I think for their anniversary or just because, I’m going to see if Honda has a dog net that will fit (so to speak) their Odyssey, or else get the universal kit from WeatherTech.

    • 0 avatar
      mkirk

      Yes, as a former Combat Engineer I am all about anything that keeps me from whacking my head on something. Side curtain airbags will be in whatever I drive on the street from now on. I love the old stuff too but waking up and not being able to stand or speak coherently because you had your bell rung is not cool. I have probably done a similar 180 to Jack on this one.

  • avatar
    JKC

    No-one can foresee the future, and I’m sure the Town Car seemed like the right choice at the time. I’m surprised it fared as badly as it did. When it’s time to buy the Lincoln’s replacement, I’m sure you’ll make the best choice you can based on your needs. The worst thing you can do is second-guess yourself indefinitely: it’s obvious this horrible event has taught you a lot.

  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    Accidents will always occur, irrespective of what regulations, training, design standards, etc are in place.

    But, since we always will have accidents the mitigation of risk is the most crucial.

    Jack mentioned his concern for the welfare of his kids, which is a normal reaction. But, could his kids be better protected in a vehicle and have the risks of harm lowered?

    In a simple word yes. There are things Jack can do to protect himself and family better should an incident like this arise in the future.

    I do know in NJ when I was strapping in my nieces kid in the back seat of her Nissan Altima I asked where the capsule was for the kid. She said he doesn’t need one.

    Why isn’t she better protecting her kid? It’s because of regulations. She feels here kid is safe enough because regulations don’t require her to use additional protection like we are required in Australia.

    Even in Australia regulation, training, design, etc could be better to better protect us, not just from ourselves, but others.

    All data from accidents or as well call it in aviation, incidents is used to try and provide for a better and safer operating environment.

    Just some countries, expend their energy in different ways concerning safety.

    Safety is a culture that must be policed/audited, regulated, with effective training, etc. Because most of us think we are better than the next guy.

    • 0 avatar
      michal1980

      Australians for being a nation of former convicts imho are afraid of their own shadows.

      • 0 avatar
        Big Al from Oz

        WTF?

        • 0 avatar
          michal1980

          I’ve worked with Australians in the mining industry. No other country in the world is so afraid of bad things as Australians are.

          Theres safety. Then there’s Australia. I’m waiting for the day you guys mandate helmets, kneepads, and elbow guards just to leave the house.

      • 0 avatar
        shaker

        Impression: Aussies seem to enjoy life more, and in many ways are more “daring” than Americans; that said, death my car accident (or gunfire) is much less preferable than death by “sought adventure”.

        Edit: Everything that I know about Oz comes from “Crocodile Dundee” and the adventures of the late Steve Irwin.

  • avatar
    50merc

    Thank you, Mr. Baruth, for sharing this with us. Like others have said, there is no need for recrimination. But now I think I’ll consider getting a newer vehicle with side air bags for my daily driver.

    May time bring healing and peace.

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      This ^!

      At least Jack (and his family) are still around to share this experience with us. I have always found it truly amazing how an accident, brush with death or otherwise close call, can refocus the mind.

      It’s the “dependence on the kindness of strangers” while recuperating that often tricks the mind into thoughts of recrimination.

      Heal well and heal quickly, Jack.

  • avatar
    fiasco

    Jack–

    Very happy to see you so active since the accident. And that’s all it was. Hope everybody involved is on the road to full recovery.

    Don’t beat yourself up too much. Yes, you should have had the winter tires on the car…so should the 98% of the population who don’t have them on EVER. I doubt the Hyundai was running winter tires either. Your choice of the last of the Yank Tanks wasn’t a bad one, but you found a weak spot in the 35-year-old platform.

    When it comes time to find the new highway cruiser, don’t put yourself in something hateful for half a star of IIHS crash ratings. Driving pissed off or grouchy because your ride is a completely uninteresting POS is more likely to cause sheeeeeeit to happen. Maybe the Camry SE you flogged at Summit is the way to go (of course it got slammed for the super-nasty offset front end crash….)?

    Strike a good balance with whatever replaces the Town Car. The perfect is the enemy of the good.

  • avatar
    Davekaybsc

    The idea that heavy = safe is and has always been a MYTH, nothing more. A few seasons back, Fifth Gear put up a big, heavy, old school, tough as nails Volvo wagon against a lightweight, modern Renault hatchback. Guess which one lost? The Volvo. It was absolutely destroyed.

    I would never buy a car without side airbags and head curtains, and I don’t even like to be in them. If you need any convincing of how much risk you’re taking on by going without them, look at the IIHS scores of cars where they were optional such as the mainstream sedans from 2006-7. With: Good. Without: Poor. That can mean the difference between some bruises and possibly minor fractures vs. being air lifted to the closest ICU… or being put in the back of an ambulance in a body bag. Still want to save a few bucks?

  • avatar
    ajla

    So will you be selling the old Porsche and SL?

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      No. When I drive either of my Porsches or the SL, I’m doing it under the best of conditions, or I’m doing it alone.

      That’s what some of my friends, most of whom don’t have children or work the kind of schedule I do, seem to be unable to understand. I’m not looking for a hobby car, or a fun car. I’m looking for something that is safe in the event of a crash, doesn’t cost ten million dollars, and has no significant expected costs or downtime in the medium-term future.

      I had some dingbat tell me to go get a W220 S-Class. I explained to him that I’m already dealing with the mechanical needs of THREE used German cars. :)

      • 0 avatar
        PrincipalDan

        +1 Jack, that’s how I treat my 46 year old Mustang and for the same reasons. You can’t totally prevent an accident but driving only in the daylight and only in the best conditions sure is a smarter choice.

      • 0 avatar
        ajla

        I know it really isn’t my call to question you on this, but are even the best of conditions going to protect you from some overworked guy driving around in poorly maintained E250?

        Maybe I just have a crappy attitude about this editorial. It just seems that you are still going to be doing “the driving you want to do” and living out “fantasies” in old cars, but with this piece you are giving the new car TTAC contingent a great oppurtunity to call the old car drivers stupid and reckless. You aren’t going straight edge, just changing from Wild Turkey to red wine.

        • 0 avatar
          JKC

          That’s not the sense I got. People should figure out what their priorities are when they shop for a car and buy accordingly. After what Jack has gone through, you can hardly blame him for pushing “safe and reliable” to the top of his list.

          My own perceptions are colored by having three kids and working in the ED of a trauma center. I think a Saab 96 would be a cool daily driver, but there’s no way I’d schlep my kids around in one.

          • 0 avatar
            ajla

            “People should figure out what their priorities are when they shop for a car and buy accordingly.”

            I totally understand and agree with that. I just don’t think that Jack’s garage really jives with the “But no more illusions, no more fantasies” credo put forth in this piece.

        • 0 avatar
          Pch101

          The point remains that passive safety is the most effective way to increase the odds that you will survive a crash.

          The design of the car and the safety equipment do matter, even if enthusiasts want to believe (erroneously) that they will just drive their way out of it. We have reams of data that prove otherwise.

          • 0 avatar
            ajla

            I don’t believe that I have ever implied otherwise. I 100% admit that none of my cars are close to acceptable by modern safety standards.

            However, if I bought a ’14 Fusion I would not be any safer when driving around my ’92 Bonneville.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            A 2014 Fusion would almost certainly crash better than a 1992 Bonneville. A lot has happened over 20+ years of automotive design.

          • 0 avatar
            ajla

            “A 2014 Fusion would almost certainly crash better than a 1992 Bonneville.”

            I am not claiming otherwise.

            I’m saying that if I own a new Fusion and drive it 5 days a week and drive the Bonneville for 2 days a week I am not any safer while driving the Bonneville just because I also own the new car.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            That’s true. But statistically speaking, it’s better that you spend less time in the Bonneville — to the extent that the Fusion keeps you out of the Bonneville, the Ford is improving your overall odds.

        • 0 avatar
          Jack Baruth

          I’m trying to reduce my risk. Particularly where my son is involved. I rarely have him in any of the sports cars.

          I’m not foolish enough to think that I can *eliminate* risk. Nor am I so spooked by the accident that I’d sell my 911.

          But when conditions are against me and I have passengers, I don’t want to be driving a ’72 Bavaria.

          • 0 avatar
            shaker

            I’d look at the “small overlap” results of later models tested by the IIHS as an indicator of the overall safety of a vehicle; the logic being that no manufacturer is going to “go backwards” in safety, so a decent rating in the small-overlap test is likely to mean that it’s a “Good” in all the other tests.
            Example: My 2013 Malibu scores a “marginal” in the small-overlap test (but it’s based on a platform that existed before the test); but “Good” in all other aspects.
            You are probably going to have to buy a 2014 model to get one that meets all the requirements, and many remain to be tested.

          • 0 avatar
            sgeffe

            RE: Small-overlap test.

            One of your choices in the one “B&B, help me choose” thread was an Accord. Again, admitting a bias of Honda fanboi-ism and the fact that a 2013 Accord Touring graces my garage (11 months old as of yesterday, and the honeymoon continues), that car did ace the IIHS tests, including the new one.

            Not every car will protect against every eventuality, as has been stated, but an Accord is going to hopefully give a leg-up in most situations.

          • 0 avatar
            mkirk

            What I put myself in for jaunts that are no greater than 1/4 mile at a time versus what I put my wife and kins in to roll up the Dixie Dieway to Louisville are two different things. No, I can’t eliminate the risk, but I can mitigate it and still enjoy cars.

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        But if the goal is to be as safe as possible in a car, an S-class is an excellent choice. I agree they are expensive to run, but you are after all doing this for a child. Just get the most basic, stripped down six-cylinder version you can find. What isn’t there won’t break.

        Alternatively, I think your idea of a Volvo-based Ford product is a damned good one for the money. The Flex is a terrific stuff hauler.

        I feel the same about my Spitfire as you do about your Porsches. It is only minimally safer than a motorcycle, but I don’t even drive it in the rain, never mind in the snow.

      • 0 avatar
        Sam P

        Take a look at a 2006ish Lexus LS460. W220 safety in a more reliable package.

      • 0 avatar
        George B

        Jack, I look forward to reading more about your decision process in selecting a new daily driver car. Until reading about your accident I hadn’t considered that the dash might “explode” toward front seat occupants in the event of side impact. Would never have guessed that you passenger would have such severe injuries. Shows why cars have to be crash tested to find these problems.

        I have two different friends who suffered severe arm injuries in side impact crashes. Both were driving luxury cars that provided better than average crash protection, but their injuries significantly affected their ability to work. Even “minor” injuries that don’t threaten your life can cause lots of pain and interrupt your ability to type, play guitar, etc. Occupant protection in a crash is a very important automotive performance metric.

  • avatar
    NoGoYo

    I just got in a single-car accident Thursday morning making a left turn. I was braking through the turn and drove onto some black ice, causing me to lose control and hit the guardrail to my right at around 20 mph, probably a bit less.

    http://i257.photobucket.com/albums/hh222/rockmanDX3/100_0683.jpg

    Seeing how much damage occurred to the front bumper and right fender (it almost looks like I twisted the steel beam under the cover) I’m feeling very good right now that I only hit a guardrail and not another car. If I had hit another car, I’d probably be in the hospital right about now…

    But that hit has got me realizing that I probably need a better put together car, because I don’t want to die or end up paralyzed.

    • 0 avatar
      JKC

      You could argue that your car performed as designed assuming the passenger cell was undamaged and you could open the door. That’s a standard Jack’s Town Car obviously didn’t meet.

      • 0 avatar
        NoGoYo

        Well the passenger door won’t open, but yeah, I didn’t get hurt and the airbag didn’t even deploy. But it makes me scared that I could have gotten a serious beatdown in a “real” accident…

    • 0 avatar
      fvfvsix

      And absolutely no one should blame you for going through that thought process. There are certain dates in my life that I couldn’t forget if I tried, and November 17, 2003 is one of them. I walked away from an accident with minor injury that probably would have been more serious if it had happened in the car I was driving just 3 months earlier. IMHO, it’s just smart to minimize risk by taking a good look at the safety of your daily driver…Of course, not to be confused with Track Day or Saturday drivers.

  • avatar
    mypoint02

    My previous car buying decisions have never really involved safety. I kind of just assumed that the standards of the day would suffice. Having a kid really changes your attitude on that. And after hearing your story and seeing the pics, I’ll be doing a lot more research on safety ratings next time around. +1 on not beating yourself up too much. Sometimes it takes a tragedy to really put things into perspective. The important thing is that everyone is alive and on the mend.

    Out of curiosity, how did the Sonata fare?

  • avatar
    MrGreenMan

    It was concern for this sort of thing – road worthiness and ability to take a hit, stout footed driving in bad weather, ability to maintain control in a bad situation – that I got my parents into a Lincoln MKS AWD. I’ve become a huge fan of the D3 platform from driving the cars. Get an MKS AWD with the SHO engine or get a Flex and enjoy the wagonny goodness.

  • avatar
    Compaq Deskpro

    The best option is saying hooray I’m not dead and carry on driving whatever you want. It’s what I would do in the situation.

    Disclaimer: I’m talking out of my ass and have never been in such a situation.

  • avatar
    CopperCountry

    Nothing wrong with second-guessing what would’ve/might’ve been with a different car, or different choices. It’s part of the process. What you can do is objectively look at the physics involved, and how the car performed in the crash. What stuck me in the post-accident picture was the intrusion into the Panther’s cabin, relative to the damage on the Hyundai. And it’s not just by how far the space was compromised, but how fast – ever watch a video of a ’90s Cadillac STS in an offset frontal crash?, it’s amazing how little resistance some cars offer … it’s almost like they don’t decelerate until a lot of the structural pieces begin to couple together. So yes, the Hyundai’s bumper didn’t end up in the Panther’s center armrest (the structure’s not that weak,) but how far did it intrude before the Panther’s frame began to assist in the deceleration?

    Also, it’s the length/severity of the crash pulse that matters, not just the total intrusion. Would a car like a Volvo S80 or M-B E-Class (or Ford Flex) have fared better? I can’t see how they wouldn’t have. Imagine that the Panther’s motionless, and as soon as the Hyundai hits it, does it just stay there in place while the Hyundai plows in?, or does it start to slowly accelerate the Panther sideways at the beginning of the impact. If the Panther stays put, that’s not good for anybody inside (and the same is true if the opposite happens, and it doesn’t deform at all.) Take a look at the B-pillar on a well-designed unibody structure, and I think you’ll notice a difference between manufacturers – especially if you compare them to older designs. What you want is a long crash pulse, with no dramatic spikes in the g-load (which is what the Safer barriers on race tracks provide.)

    This one was truly an accident. So don’t sweat what-ifs too much. But next time, it could be some cell-phone-yacking dimbulb who blows through a stop sign as t-bones you. Most likely – and hopefully – this will never happen to you or anyone in your family. But there’s no shame in preparing yourself for such an event to the greatest extent possible. I’m not safety freak, where I think that all kids should wear helmets until they’re 21, and I believe that we should enjoy our time on earth … but taking reasonable precautions, avoiding Panthers, and preparing for somewhat unlikely future events seems like a rational response to me.

    • 0 avatar
      30-mile fetch

      “Would a car like a Volvo S80 or M-B E-Class (or Ford Flex) have fared better?”

      The injury measures recorded on crash test dummies remove a lot of the uncertainty you pose in your comment. If you accept that the deceleration measured by the dummies correlates to passenger injury in the real world, than a Flex or S80 or E Class would absolutely have protected the occupants better because the injury measures for those cars was lower than the Panther in IIHS tests. In fact, every new subcompact would have provided better protection.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Much self-recrimination derives from thinking we’re in control of everything, but that’s NOT reality. I don’t know your philosophy on this, but you know that your car’s occupants could have been killed while driving in any vehicle, and that the vehicle that struck you could have been bigger, faster, pointier, or whatever. Even the Volvo S8000 won’t save you from that.

    Conversely, consider all the times you’ve driven crapboxes over the years and nothing happened. That IS reality. Subaru has built its brand on the irrational fear of bad weather, and the entire AWD market has skyrocketed on this basis as well. Yet at the end of every winter, most 2WD cars have made it through without killing their occupants or leaving them stranded.

    Consider the 2015 Chrysler 200 V6 (well, I am, anyway) or Kia Cadenza or Kia K900. I think they all have the safety thing going on.

  • avatar
    Atum

    I’ve never really thought much about vehicle safety.

    But after reading this, I think about it even more. I’m thankful that my parents’ crossovers have side airbags and have done well in IIHS tests. Yet I’m also concerned that my sister’s Ranger has only two frontal airbags and a very small cabin. Especially on Tuesday during the treacherous weather, I was scared to pieces, that if we got in an accident, my sister and I wouldn’t have much chance. I also feel sorry for the next owners of my mom’s MPV, which has a salvage record recorded in the NICB. Only two airbags…

    I’m glad you made it through. How you’ve become with Panthers reminds me of that house in Ohio where the three women were held hostage. Since it brought back such dreadful memories in the community, they had to tear it down. And you’ve had to tear down your extreme love of Panthers because, as other commenters have said, your own Town Car let you down. It promised safety, but it didn’t.

    • 0 avatar
      Wheatridger

      I shudder when you mention your sister’s Ranger. In the accident outcome surveys I’ve seen, compact pickups show the worst rate of fatalities. And how many other compact pickups are there?

  • avatar
    zerofoo

    Jack,

    Does bumper height compatibility factor into the next vehicle? I explained my SUV purchases to my father in law like this:

    SUVs are like nuclear weapons – you have to get them when your neighbors get them.

    Would the accident have been worse if you were hit by a taller vehicle?

  • avatar
    chaparral

    I wonder if a helmet law for cars makes sense even if it doesn’t work. At worst it would convert thirty years in a nursing home with closed head injuries into a quick “in-car hanging”. At best we would get comfortable helmets and a reduction in the amount of total safety equipment needed to hit any given safety target. You’d also be reminded every day that you were doing something dangerous.

    PS: Don’t overthink the car choice. Midsize, unibody, released in the last three years, stick shift, fun to drive. Mazda6 or Accord or Dart.

  • avatar
    chaparral

    PPS: I will still drive my CRX even though an examination of its structure shows that it can’t be much better than a motorcycle in any crash and maybe worse in an offset impact

  • avatar
    Alexdi

    You knew it couldn’t crash for shit before you bought it. The IIHS told you so. The test videos have been out for ages and they’re about as scary as you can find short of a mid-90s F150. That’s the second-guessing that’ll grate, not the driving stuff. I’ve no doubt you’d all be in better shape if you’d been in the S5 (actually, given the stability control and AWD, you probably wouldn’t have crashed at all). It’s an expensive lesson to learn and I wish for all the world it didn’t have to happen that way.

    Still, it’s done. No one is irreparably harmed. This isn’t worth an iota of additional guilt.

    • 0 avatar

      Anyone who thinks AWD allows you to drive with ANY control on ice (without four studded snow tires) has no business posting advice on any car blog, and shouldn’t even be licensed to drive at all.

      You know where you can stuff your S5.

      • 0 avatar
        Alexdi

        Wow, what an incredibly hostile comment. What’s your deal?

        ESC alone would have kept him in a straight line, snow tires or not. AWD would work in tandem to better effect than FWD or RWD alone. There’s no question that a modern AWD vehicle offers the most control on slippery surfaces, and in this particular case, there’s nothing in Jack’s original post to suggest he suddenly ventured onto a skating rink. That’s your own assumption. Snow alone in the right place with all-season tires could easily have enabled the spin.

        • 0 avatar
          DC Bruce

          And the data backing up these assertions is where (other than in Subaru ads)? Every winter you can see videos of modern cars (equipped with ABS, stability control, etc.) doing slow pirouettes sliding down ice-covered streets . . . with all 4 wheels locked.

          I don’t know how much driving you’ve actually done . . . but ABS actually lengthens stopping distances in soft snow, and traction control can prevent you from getting going in snow, where a certain amount of wheelspin is actually useful.

          AWD does nothing for car stability except when faced with a ham-footed driver who uses too much throttle on a rear wheel drive car (spin) or a front wheel drive car(runs wide into the ditch). For that matter, AWD cars fundamentally understeer, and driven stupidly, they will run off the road into a ditch, too. When not accelerating, ABS, RWD, FWD makes zero difference in your ability to control the car.

          With respect, the next time you drive in snow/ice conditions, assume that you have none of these “driving aids” because, in fact, they are nearly useless in these conditions.

          Snow tires . . . now that’s a useful suggestion!

          • 0 avatar
            Flipper35

            AWD is great for getting you going when it is slick and can help you get out of a ditch, but as far as helping once you are going it can be better than RWD for people that can’t modulate their right foot, but there isn’t an advantage over FWD there. Any wheel drive can reach out and bite you in foul weather. There have been times where being able to dirt track it has been beneficial to making a corner where FWD and AWD would have just plowed ahead. I have driven all types in Wisconsin winters and run winter tires on my vehicles. There are times when each vehicle has had advantages, but most of the time, winter tires make the biggest difference.

          • 0 avatar
            Alexdi

            youtube.com/watch?v=wR1SSxpKitE

            Please show me these videos of modern vehicles with ESC enabled doing slow pirouettes. Since we’re all about data, perhaps you can ensure they zoom in on the dash so we can see they weren’t just fooling around.

            ABS is about maintaining the ability to turn. Reduced stopping distances are a bonus and the result of improvements in cycling frequency, but that was the never the original goal. As to AWD: sorry, no. You’re arguing against every major car manufacturer with no particular authority. I’m not interested in giving you a physics lesson on the virtue of powering additional wheels.

          • 0 avatar

            Here you go, Alexdi, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xrJuigh2aCc plenty of people in mostly modern cars, including ABS, 4wd, AWD, ESC, TSC, whatever alphabet soup nannies you think always save the day and allow perfect control in all conditions. It’s just not true, ice is the great equalizer, and you’re not very educated on physics if you can’t see that.

            Also, ABS does not provide reduced stopping distances in all conditions, gravel, or loose snow (or loose snow on top of ice) being the most common. In these cases ABS *GREATLY INCREASES* stopping distances and does not provide handling benefits.

          • 0 avatar
            Alexdi

            > you think always save the day and allow perfect control in all conditions.

            > Also, ABS does not provide reduced stopping distances in all condition.

            Where did I say any of that? Oh, that’s right: nowhere.

            A great example of ABS is 45 seconds into your video. That’s what it’s supposed to do. In fact, in the majority of cars in that video, you can see it working. But like ESC, it can’t magically correct a path when there’s not enough traction to do it. A stupid driver can overwhelm the system. As you say: physics.

            But here’s the kicker: there’s nothing in Jack’s post that suggests the whole of his accident was on an ice patch, nor that he was doing something stupid in his limited traction circle. He was going at a reasonable speed doing reasonable maneuvers when the end came out. That’s precisely what ESC is intended to catch. I’ve no doubt if the Lincoln had ESC, particularly of the Audi’s sophistication, and yet again with the additional flexibility of AWD, this would be a far more boring article series.

            Anyway, I’m done with this. Believe whatever you want. If you want to drive around in your ’79 Camaro, have at it. No one will mourn the crash.

  • avatar

    I won’t dispense any advice about a vehicle choice Jack, but I commend you on the strong writing in this piece.

  • avatar
    jeffzekas

    Almost bought another ’58 VW Bug- then a couple died in THEIR vw- my son totaled his ’68 Galaxie at 20mph- no more DD classics!

  • avatar
    Blue-S

    1. At least you didn’t slide into a tree. Trees are a bitch. Trees always win.
    2. Crash safety is one key reason why my “fun car” is a used Boxster instead of the chrome-bumper Fiat 124 Spider in which I planned to recapture my teen years.

    • 0 avatar
      Zykotec

      Having seen what a three can do to a Ford Sierra, like my stand-still project, at only 30mph, I think it’s just well that it’s a stand-still project soemtimes…

  • avatar
    Panther Platform

    I debated whether to leave a comment (for an obvious reason), but Jack I’m sorry the car left you down and I wish your family and you all the best. Enjoy the replacement for the TC!

    • 0 avatar
      Compaq Deskpro

      I’ll leave one for you.

      I’ve had 2 accidents in my Crown Vic. First one the person pulled out from a stop sign without looking, not enough time to fully stop but I got the speed down to probably 10 or 15 mph at impact. I needed the fascia, pushbar, and 1 headlight replaced. Pushbar was by far the most expensive part. Car was still drivable with a crumpled face. Car I hit was a Pontiac G6 coupe, had a big dent between the door and wheel. Looked inconvenient but fixable. I’m glad it wasn’t one of the many 90’s Civics and Integras that frequent the city this happened in, or someone would’ve gotten hurt.

      Second time I driving on a steep unplowed hill on overinflated all-seasons, I was pretty much just sliding from one snowbank to another. Another car, a brand new Civic sedan, came up behind me going 10 mph sideways, and his doors slammed into my rear end. Both his doors were sunken in, but evenly, so the didn’t intrude, my trunk had 0 damage not even a scratch. It was a hard hit too so I was worried. Not really his fault, neither of us should have been on that hill in the first place.

      My experience leads me to believe that Panthers excel at front and rear collisions, and are not so good at side collisions, like any other body on frame vehicle.

  • avatar
    geozinger

    “I’ve come to believe even more strongly in the idea that there is the driving you want to do and the driving you need to do.”

    I had this same epiphany after a particularly nasty traffic accident 22 years ago. I was in the habit of taking my then-infant daughter out on rides, sometimes just to lull her to sleep. On one such ride, a drunk driver slammed into the back of my car while waiting at a traffic signal, pushing me into another car. The injuries I received were nowhere near as severe as yours, but I still suffer from knee, neck and back pain. Thankfully, I was diligent about putting my children in car seats, my daughter had no injuries.

    After that accident I weighed every trip, no matter how minor or ordinary, as a chance that I would again be involved in another traffic accident. I reduced the number of drives that I took by a large amount, and for a long time only drove when absolutely necessary.

    It was probably a couple of years before I really drove for enjoyment again. From 1992 to 2013 I did not set foot on a race facility other than as a spectator. Last summer I participated in an Extreme Experience event (as a gift from my daughter who was with me in the accident, no less). While I will never turn a wheel in a race environment, it was fun being able to find and hit the marks. It’s good to know I can still do that.

    Since part of making your living involves race driving, you’ll have to reconcile what you have to do for money with how much risk you’re willing to take with your overall health. You can’t just do what I did and curtail your driving.

    A race-driver friend of mine from my racing days was a beast on the track, he was absolutely fearless and brilliant. On public roads, he drove like Grandma. Once, when he refused to pass a slow moving car on a lightly traveled back road, I asked him why. He said to me: They’re coming at me…

    Good luck and Godspeed in your recovery.

  • avatar
    bergxu

    Closest I ever came to a horrific accident was when I was in college and driving my TR6, yeah, yikes! I was getting ready to pull away from a red light when a Chevy S10 came flying through the intersection at what must have been 40-50mph, about a second after my light turned green. Thank GOD I had to take that second to slot the car in first gear, feather the throttle and ease the clutch out to get rolling else I’d have been dead for sure. So, in a curious way, I credit a TR6 for saving my life.

    Jack, I know you’re dealing with upkeep needs of three old, Teutonic cars, and I agree a W220 is a horrible idea (unless it’s a one year only S65 AMG — 2006), but I will make a case for a W140 or even a W126. There’s no denying, even though they are old technology, they were designed to withstand serious accidents—look at Diana’s W140–those in that car who were belted in, lived. I bet no other car on the planet would have protected its occupants so well in that situation.

    I drive a W126 every day. Witnessed the results of a severe t-bone to a ’91 560SEL which I sold to a customer to give to his 16 year old son. Kid pulled out to make a left turn prematurely and got nailed by a Toyota Land Cruiser. The W126 did it’s job and protected all occupants. Land Cruiser was annihilated. There are pics of that 560 on my fb page if you want to see for yourself.

    Alternatively; http://youtu.be/VojePSOrnYw

    • 0 avatar
      Sam P

      A W126 was a safe car in its day, but I’d much rather be in a new Volvo S60 in a crash.

      http://www.iihs.org/iihs/ratings/vehicle/v/volvo/s60/2014

      Say what you will about Chinese ownership, but the IIHS tests speak for themselves.

  • avatar
    olddavid

    Hike up your jock and get on with your life, you namby wanna-be. Yeah, these transitory events cause all kinds of woulda should coulda, but just like a junkie coming out the other side, so too will you eventually have this as a dim memory. I used to read your exploits with envy and amusement, but now realize you’re just a man-child with a higher credit limit than most. Time to leave aside these frivolous things and do what us oft-derided Boomers were all doing at 20 – growing up and taking care of ours like adults. A cul-de-sac?

  • avatar
    kosmo

    Son of a gun. You’ve changed at least a little bit the way I’ll evaluate my next car purchase.

    Given a close contest between a couple of prospective purchases, why NOT choose the one that is the safest?

  • avatar
    Zykotec

    I have talked about my own accident happening a month before Jacks to boredom in the comment section here already, but heres more, for new readers :P . Luckily I had allready taken the choice to get a boring and safe ( I didn’t know how safe, just needed the space) car two years earlier, and thought I hated driving it much of the time, at least until I lowered it.
    https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/64842914/gamlebiln.jpg
    There’s what a 2003 Crv looks after barely avoiding an offset collision, with both cars doing roughly 50-55 mph.The car that hit me weighs at least 500lbs less, so that did help, but my initial reaction to sverve ,when he entered my lane ,is not the right thing to do. I got really lucky, but in most cases you should just ‘give in’ to the crash and let the front end deform. As you can tell from the pic the damages looks superficial, but that is because most of the force hit the hardest part of the car, only slowed a bit by the luckily quite high profile tires. Had I managed to sverve only 2 inches less, I would have ripped the whole side right off, considerably increasing the risk of injury. Had I sverved two inches more, I would have taken the car right in the doors, like Jack did, and/or even hit the guardrail with the passenger side, at 50mph. Even the police praised me for statistically doing the wrong thing…

  • avatar
    mored

    A suggestion since safety is on your mind. Check out the section of the IIHS website that breaks down how much the insurance industry figures rates by car for injuries. I put a lot of faith in actual data and the insurance companies put a lot of time and money in studying the actual amount of money they have to pay for injuries from car crashes. I don’t particularly care if a vehicle has worse than average numbers for the different areas that are related to collision. I do, however, pay close attention to the numbers that are related to bodily injury. It makes sense to me if the insurance industry has data showing that a particular car has higher than average numbers in what they pay for bodily injury, then that vehicle has shown that it is not protecting its occupants as well as other vehicles it is competing against. I shake my head when several people have suggested vehicles that have higher than average injury ratings. And yes, you do have to take into account that different types of cars are driven differently by different types of people. I doubt that somebody in their twenties is going to drive an Avalon. However, compare the numbers of an Accord vs a Camry . It shows that the amount of money paid for bodily injury from an accident involving an Accord is much less than people involved in accidents that were in the Camry.

    • 0 avatar
      Zykotec

      I wasn’t aware of it when I bought my CRV, but looking at my own crash, and crash tests on Youtube, Hondas in general seem to be very safe, some cars only second to Volvos. I can’t remember seeing them use that in advertising either, but with their market share in the US they may not need to.

      • 0 avatar
        sgeffe

        Yes they are indeed. Especially the ACE structure on the last couple generations of Hondas–lots of high-strength steel, safety roll-“hoop” in the roof, etc.

  • avatar
    kenwood

    Jack, my stance on self preservation has been to out-size, out-weigh, and stand above the majority of what might careen into me. I started out in large Cadillacs of the 70s and evolved into full size, ladder frame SUVs. Have you considered putting yourself up higher and in something even heavier than the TC, like a crew cab pickup? BTW, I kinda like the idea of the Dodge man-van. When do you anticipate making the decision?

    • 0 avatar
      Wheatridger

      You do realize, don’t you, that the rollover standards for these light trucks are very low? It may have changed recently, but for a very long time, their roofs had to be certified to withstand just 1.5 times the vehicle’s weight. I’ll never forget a pickup I saw beside the interstate one day. It had left the road and rolled over in an apparent one-car accident, with no impacts. It rested on its hood and box walls, with the roof completely collapsed. The driver must have felt very safe and superior right up to the moment he was decapitated.

  • avatar
    jaybird124

    Jack,

    As you go through the decision making process, it would be interesting to get your take on accident avoidance vs crash safety. For instance, some large SUV’s might be stellar in the actual impact, but would not be as capable in braking, emergency lane change, etc. Obviously every vehicle has a sliding scale.

    At the end of the day, hopefully you’ll be able to be satisfied with your choice and try to rest in the fact that we can only make the best decisions with the information at hand.

  • avatar
    thornmark

    C&D after 32k:

    “…Throw the stick up into sixth gear, settle into the comfortable buckets that equally support the upper and lower back, and let this Honda prove it’s a Honda as the miles pass, the fuel gauge seemingly pinned in place. A range approaching 500 miles is a bladder buster, but we’re not complaining. And the number of gripes in the logbook about the 2.4-liter’s passing power stands at zero. Drop a few gears with an expert rev match, boot it, and it goes.

    Despite a few minor mechanical farts, the Accord Sport is a car we’ve grown to adore. It’s a complete package for an enthusiast, offering athletic ability, efficient operation, ample interior space, and the increasingly rare pleasure of a well-calibrated manual transmission. If the Sport came in more body colors besides gray or black, it might just be perfect. Even so, you can do a lot worse, but right now you can’t do any better at this price.”
    http://www.caranddriver.com/reviews/2013-honda-accord-sport-24-long-term-update-review

  • avatar
    Wheatridger

    The good news, Jack, is that any new car will be much safer than the old Town Car, no matter what you choose. Stability control, which probably would have kept you from going broadside, or at least flashed an early warning of slippery conditions, is universal now. So are side and head air bags, the biggest safety factor in side collisions.

    The only advice I’d offer is to negotiate your new car’s delivery with winter tires. By spring, you can buy an extra set of wheels and summer performance tires and be optimized for all conditions.

    Oh, and get really familiar with that IIHS website. It’s thorough and detailed, impartial and scientific– everything our opinionated forum is not. You can compare photos of the results of the same tests with different models. I particularly enjoy their photos of crash-tested Tiguans, like our family car. In their side impact test, its windshield didn’t even break! Here’s the links, see for yourself:
    http://www.iihs.org/iihs/ratings/vehicle/v/volkswagen/tiguan
    http://www.iihs.org/iihs/ratings/vehicle/v/ford/crown-victoria

    • 0 avatar
      DC Bruce

      So your car’s stability control has the ability to read road conditions ahead of the car?

      I didn’t know that.

      • 0 avatar
        Wheatridger

        Of course not, Mr. Sarcasm. Then again, it’s called ESP, so maybe it does know the future? Maybe you believe it’s just a useless “Safety Nanny,” put there just to be irritating, or that it does nothing at all. Maybe it’s all part of the Gummint Plot for Total Control?

        Most folks don’t skid out of control at the first patch of ice; it’s the sneaky combination of speed and turn angle that violates the Circle of Friction, starting a skid. Switched on, the Electronic Stability Program light blinks a warning whenever wheels start slipping. Usually I see the light before my backside acceleration gauge tells me anything’s gone awry. I can’t sense how much work this electrickery is doing in the background to keep me stable. I do know that when I press the “ESP Off” button on my GTI and drive a little hard on a snowy road, the car gets much looser, more unpredictable, and easy to rotate.

        So I’m glad to have stability control on snowy roads. What I object to is the useless Safety Nanny alert message and chime that warns when 39 degrees, presumably the freezing point of water in Germany, is reached. Enough already! Don’t tread on me! And you kids get off my lawn!

  • avatar
    j3studio

    Jack, this is one of your best and most chastening entries.

    I think time accentuates the differences between the fun older cars and the less glamorous, newer “just get me and mine there in one piece” cars. That’s why the foul weather and “cart the parents around” driver in our household is a 2014 Impala with Dunlop SP Winter Sports installed.

    I know my wife and I do plan to take the 1985 across country this spring. The official reason is that this is a good year to do it. A supplementary reason is that I’m not sure how many more years driving 6,000 miles in a 30 year old car with no airbags, ABS, or ASR and a rear protection system that relies in part on the compact spare tire will be viable.

    I hope you continue to heal at a good rate.

  • avatar
    bwright1991

    Volvo XC90. I can’t think of a safer vehicle. It is essentially a decade old and still aces crash tests. The one downside to it is poor fuel economy.

    • 0 avatar
      pb35

      That’s what I bought in anticipation of having children. We eventually had twins so anything my wife drives has to be “twice as safe.” :grin:

      Who cares about fuel economy? A kindergarten teacher and her son were killed over the Christmas break here in Austin. They were rear-ended by a drunk in a pickup doing between 80-100 in their Prius.

      While my Volvo doesn’t guarantee 100% safety in all situations, I like their chances should anything ever happen. You can find a CPO XC90 for $30k or less. Hell, you can probably get a new one for 30 if you push. I’m not a fan of the I-6 but if my current V8 died, I would get another one of these.

  • avatar
    Wheatridger

    Driver Death Rates, Overall
    – Lincoln Town Car: 91; Mercedes S Class: 21; BMW 7 series: 11

    That’s Large cars. Now, for perspective: let’s look at something that seems more dangerous-
    – Mazda Miata Convertible: 65; Mustang convertible: 97

    The most surprising results I saw in a few minutes’ study: Audi A4, 14; Subaru Forester: 65

    The death rate seems to vary 10x between best and worst. Too bad they stopped publishing this ten years ago- but that does give us an objective measure of the Panther platform.

    • 0 avatar
      jacob_coulter

      But Lincoln Town cars far outnumber those other large cars in terms of vehicles on the road, and they also tend to be used for livery service which means they’re on the road all day.

      So far more cars, with far more miles per car used is going to make the car look “dangerous” because more deaths involved. It doesn’t speak to the safety of the vehicle design.

    • 0 avatar
      Kevin Jaeger

      I used to like looking through those statistics, too, but for different reasons. In my opinion those statistics told you a little bit about the overall safety of the vehicle, but mostly they told you about the demographics of their owners.

      The vehicles with the highest death rates tell you that they were mostly driven by young, low income males.

      The S class is without a doubt an extremely safe vehicle, but it is also helped by being driven by a mature, affluent and responsible owner.

      • 0 avatar
        Wheatridger

        There’s a lot of noise in that data, it’s true. Driver behavior influences real-life results, and the Town Car may have more special factors than most. Old folks drive Panthers, but they tend to drive slow, but they may be less likely to survive a crash due to age and health, too. Cops drove Crown Vics, speeding and taking risks, but they’re also better trained and more likely to be sober. I suspect all those factors combine to cancel out to leave us with a pretty valid result.

        Personally, I’d pay more attention to the IIHS crash test results and photos.

        • 0 avatar
          Pch101

          Town Cars are often livery vehicles. Livery vehicles put on far more miles than average, and distance traveled is strongly correlated to crash risk — the more that you drive, the more likely that it is to kill you.

          And as I noted previously, only a tiny percentage of vehicles end up being involved in fatal crashes. Those crashes will not be evenly distributed because they are a relative anomaly.

          During 2011, there were about 44,000 vehicles involved in about 30,000 crashes that produced over 32,000 fatalities.

          That means that there were more than 253 million vehicles on US roads that were not involved in fatal crashes that year. The involvement of those particular 44,000 vehicles (approximately one out of every 5,700 vehicles) is somewhat of a statistical fluke.

          That IIHS fatality data isn’t entirely useless but it’s prone to abuse. To use it intelligently, it would be necessary to examine the individual crashes and estimate whether there were other vehicles that would have performed better under the same circumstances.

          It’s probably more useful for addressing vehicle segments than individual nameplates. For example, IIHS finds that stability control has reduced the fatality rate in SUV drivers, and that is a credible conclusion to reach (that also happens to be supported by other research.)

  • avatar
    CopperCountry

    This whole topic, from Jack’s first post following the accident, to ‘falling out of love,’ has really been eye-opening (at least is has been for me.) With 2 daughters that will be driving soon, I had been thinking that a solid, GM body-on-frame beast would “protect” them in the event of a crash. But I think that all a BOF design protects you from is the beating that the road surface/curbs/potholes are delivering to the suspension, and that the frame does little for side-impact.

    The iihs.org website is a great tool: take a look at the picture which shows the results of a Crown Vic’s side-impact test, and then compare that picture to a Ford Flex (or even better, and E-Class M-B.) The difference is not just striking, it’s downright alarming. In the CV’s case, the frame rail didn’t even join the party, whereas in the Flex and E-Class, the strong B-pillar properly spreads the load the body structure, minimizing intrusion.

    For a daily driver for my girls, these side-impact images are all I needed to see: NO BOF!

  • avatar
    50merc

    The B&B may sneer at minivans, but an Odyssey or Town & Country are sensible choices for occupant safety.

  • avatar
    jacob_coulter

    I still would rather take my chances with Town Car than most sedans on the road. I’m sure there are safer cars, but I certainly don’t think by any stretch it’s a reckless car to own when it comes to safety. It’s above and beyond as far as I’m concerned.

    There are some older cars though that I would consider genuinely dangerous to drive, but then again I also drive a motorcycle.

  • avatar
    tklockau

    Jack,

    I’m really sorry to hear of your ordeal and associated souring on Panthers, but I can’t blame you based on what happened. Years ago I drove a brand-new scooter into the gravel, my dad and my brother were on the other one. I wasn’t badly hurt and limped the scooter home, but I never had any desire to ride a motorized two-wheeler again. Still don’t.

    I own a 2000 Cartier, but it is my toy (like your Porsches) and I don’t plan on driving it in bad weather, for that I have a late-model Volvo wagon.

    So, reliable, safe appliance for DD duties and an interesting older car for weekends? That’s my plan. And I briefly sold Fords back in 2011; the Flex is a very nice car.

    All the best in your recovery.

  • avatar
    -Nate

    Well I ;

    Nevermind , glad you’re still with us Jack , carry on please .

    -Nate

  • avatar

    I’ve seen a few files professionally…auto accidents and personal injuries.

    My response is to buy the best car in category for crash. I also prefer the cars sold for the Euro market (rear end rules are much stronger-check the seats in most US market cars and compare to euro market cars).

    My euro cars are NCAP 5, and my one US market car is an IIHS top pick. (Please note this is the ONLY time and place I trust IIHS)

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    Falling out of love with Panther, and falling in love with K9000000000000…

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    Jack, condolences for what happened.

  • avatar
    Pastor Glenn

    Jack, I’ve waited until now to send you my condolences, but you and your beloveds have been in my prayers.

    Modern cars are built of high-strength steel, and soon, high-strength aluminum and even carbon-fiber.

    Go to youtube and look for “Fifth Gear – Renault Modus v Volvo 940 Crash Test” and watch it, if you are up to it.

    Essentially, the low-strength steel Volvo, which was absolute TOPS for safety IN ITS DAY, was the crumple zone for the modern Renault mini-car.

    I know you enjoy rear wheel drive, so you might consider getting a used Hyundai Equus or Genesis sedan. If I am not mistaken, these cars obtained top crash ratings and also are apparently quite reliable, with quite low resale value. In other words, a screaming deal.

    Be well. -Pastor Glenn.

  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    Just that comment in the blood shows how bad the accident was, I’m glad that you’re better Jack, and I wish the best of luck for your next ride.

    Feel free to let your frustration out on that TC too, I lost faith in Panthers when I heard about Ford removing key suspension parts to save money, never-mind the cheap metal they use for frame mounts.

    I’m just glad your son was alright though, hopefully the roads will be a bit safer when he’s driving.

  • avatar
    RRocket

    I hadn’t read…or perhaps missed it.

    Where you using winter tires?

    And BTW….my dad had a Grand Marquis/Crown Vic…dozens of them…since 1979. So I, like you wanted a car that reminded a bit of dad’s cars. Except I went for a Lexus LS400.

    You should give a Lexus LS a whirl…..

  • avatar
    mnm4ever

    I was actually all set to give up on modern cars and fill my garage with a fleet of older, “semi-classic” automobiles. I was shopping for a Fox body Mustang, an older pickup, looking at older Porsches, I already have a 10yo sports car and CUV. Your wreck has made me re-think the idea of putting my family in those cars exclusively. The CUV and truck will likely be replaced by one new SUV/truck/CUV/hatchback (wife and I haven’t decided yet). The Fox and old Porsche is out, the upcoming 2015 Mustang will probably be my next car. I still want a classic car of some kind, but it will be a project, more for wrenching on than driving often. Nostalgia just isn’t worth the risk.

  • avatar
    brandloyalty

    ““… folks who choose to drive 20 yr old cars but can afford something newer + safer and just rationalize the old cars should definitely reconsider. Sh*t happens”

    Well, I got to die of something.

    If I get killed driving in one of my old cars, what really happens? My sister is sad for a while, TTAC loses its greatest commenter, and some jerkoff has to learn my job without any help.

    I can understand people with families having different feelings though.”

    We seem to be wired not to take seriously such advice until after a mishap. I took some pride in maintaining a 22-year old car, until I fell asleep driving it while alone at 70mph. No one else was involved and I was extremely lucky to get away with just some bruising. But I swore off old cars. It had no airbags and slightly worn rear suspension bushings that may have contributed to fishtailing. Fishtailing that was not damped out because the car had no stability control.

    Even prior to the accident we’d stopped carrying our daughter’s friends in it and used our more modern vehicle for giving rides.

    Who suggested Jack get a Grand Vitara? Why?

  • avatar
    brandloyalty

    Today’s diagonal shoulder belts are a compromise between just a lap belt and a proper harness. The diagonal belts were mandated because it was obvious lap belts were inadequate but it was assumed the public would refuse to wear racing-style belts.

    Certainly in my accident (which eventually resolved as side-swiping a concrete lane divider) the belt did nothing to protect me. I wonder if it’s time to at least have racing-style belts available on all cars as optional equipment. Or, the between-front-passenger airbag that’s starting to show up.


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