By on June 21, 2008

weird.jpgLike all of TTAC's writers, Glenn Swanson came to us as a reader with a "real job:" IT administrator for a Connecticut public school. As a public servant, Glenn specializes in stories where personal liberty and automobiles intersect– sometimes literally. He wrote our three-part Presidential Primer, investigating White House hopefuls' stances on auto-related issues. He also has a taste for true crime, such as this piece about a stripper who "borrowed" someone's identity to buy a 2005 Maserati. In all cases, Glenn brings righteous indignation and a sardonic sense of humor to the keyboard; he's also the only contributor whose OCD rivals mine ("this is the final version"). Glenn's wife emails: "About 3 weeks ago, he ended up in the hospital and has been diagnosed with a form of Leukemia. Therefore, he won’t be able to write for TTAC for awhile as he focuses on his recovery. He does have his laptop with him in the hospital and is keeping up to date with the site." I reckon Glenn doesn't need any of that "fight the good fight" stuff. I bet he needs a good laugh. So, what's the funniest thing that ever happened to you in a car? For me, it was a cop shining his flashlight on some hash wrapped in aluminum foil. "What's that?" he asked. "Aluminum foil," I replied. "Oh," he answered. Happy times.

[for more of Glenn's work Google "glenn swanson"]

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33 Comments on “Question of the Day: What’s the Funniest Thing That’s Ever Happened to You In a Car?...”

  • avatar

    This didn’t happen to me, but it was sort of my fault so here goes.

    While working at a remote resort I told my future-wife that even though her car was an auto, she should use the parking brake when she parked to cut down on stress on the engine mounts. Unfortunately the idiot light for the parking brake didn’t work. A couple of weeks later while at a party fifty miles from the resort (everything is far in WY) she dutifully applied the parking brake when she arrived. When it was time to leave she asked a friend to drive the car. For some reason, the car would only go in reverse! So he drove the car fifty miles backwards to get back to the lodge. Other people returning from the party just waved as they went by, thinking they were goofing off.

  • avatar

    Well, it wasn’t funny at the time but it sort of is now: Several years ago I was a professional truck driver. I was coming out of Laredo and went through the Border Patrol check station on I-35. My truck has hazmat placards all over it. I hand the agent a stack of hazardous materials paperwork about 2 inches thick.
    He asks: “What you haulin’?”
    I answer: “Twenty Mexicans.”

    FYI: Border Patrol agents are not issued a sense of humor. They are also perfectly capable of tearing your vehicle apart to look for contraband. They are under no obligation what so ever to put it back together again.

    Live and learn…

  • avatar
    Jonny Lieberman

    Similar-ish to RFs…

    Years ago — 2002 to be exact — I’d just purchased my first WRX, taken it up to the Bay Area to do a bit of showing off and Marin Headlands mud-boggin’ and was on my way back to LA. I was on the 5, the road was straight flat and empty. I had ready that the WRX had a 145 mph top speed. So, why not verify it?

    Around 135 mph I thought to myself, “this is stupid.” So I slowed down to what seemed a very safe and comfortable 100 mph. Flashing lights in the rearview. Gulp.

    “Do you have any idea how fast you were going?” the CHP officer scowled at me.

    “100 mph,” I stated matter of factly.

    “99 mph, actually.” The cop said to me.

    Rainbows and kittens and margaritas!

    “I’m sorry officer — it’s a new car and it just got the best of me.”

    “Well, since you’re being so honest, I’ll just write you up at 85 mph. But slow it down.”


  • avatar

    No funny story, but I was just wondering about the photo. Is that where Hummers come from?

  • avatar

    Just a bit off topic, but I found in Germany that 100 mph felt safe and comfortable.
    Funniest thing in a car? Being apprehended at night by what turned out to be a campus security cop. We were parked and smoking a certain illicit herb. “You guy’s havin some of that whacky tobaccy?” were the first words out of the uniformed his mouth throgh the driver’s window. “I’ll have to ask you to leave the college grounds immediately”.
    Fear, confusion, and bafflement at first, followed by enormous relief when we caught sight of the “campus security” logo on his very sterotyped police equipped vehicle.

  • avatar

    I once outran the Colorado Highway Patrol… in my 1980 Diesel Rabbit. Yes, all 49 Horsepower put to bad use.

    It was July of 1985 and I was just out of the summer semester at Texas Tech and heading to Boulder & Estes Park, Colorado for several weeks of rock climbing with my buddy Brad. We’d spent the month of May doing the same thing and had a blast. We were rolling down the north side of Raton Pass on I-25. This was in the days of HARD CORE 55MPH enforcement, ESPECIALLY in Colorado. The CHP was famous for ticketing people for 56 MPH.

    Now that little 1.6L Diesel Rabbit had a top speed of about 75, but that was only with gravity and wind on its favor. It was super-miserly with fuel, but completely lacking in any power. IIRC 0-60 took about 30 seconds. It handled well, and was a great cheap college car – 50 MPG with 65¢ a gallon fuel when gas was $1.25! But hoonage was out of the question, except that day on Raton Pass, where anything over 55 brought down the full force of The Man.

    Brad was actually behind the wheel. Brad was a bad influence on me. He had no respect for authority. He always brought his Escort radar detector whenever we went anywhere, even in the World’s Slowest Rabbit. We were rolling down that LONG LONG grade into Colorado from New Mexico on I-25, taking advantage of the gravity boost to get the Rabbit screaming along at the shocking speed of about 75 or so. This is pushing Felony status in Colorado circa 1985. My job in the navigator’s chair is to keep an eye out for cops and I was sleeping on the job. Literally. It was just a light slumber however… that sort of eyes-open la-la land. I spotted the white, late-70s Chrysler product with the “Bubble Gum Machine” on the roof going southbound up the grade about a half second before the shoe-box-sized Escort “BRRRRRAAAAAAAAAAPPPPPPPP!!! – ed it’s way off the dashboard in a fit of K-band radiation. I looked at the officer looking right at us as he passed us going the other way, foot to the floor. “Oh shit! Dude, we’re dead.”

    Brad’s answer was a calm “Not if I can help it.”

    He put what little throttle into the wee Oelmotor he could and pushed it up to Ludicrous Speed, which in this vehicle, was about 79. I watched the cop go over a rise in the hill. We knew he had about a quarter to a half mile to the next median cross over or exit further up the hill. Brad went balls out for the next exit, which was somewhere around a bend, and lead to a golf course. He deftly went up the ramp, took two right turns, and parked us in a nice hidden spot in some trees behind a shop of some sort, overlooking the exit ramp. Sure enough, the Highway Patrolman comes roaring up the ramp about 45 seconds after we parked! I thought we were dead meat.

    He looks left, he looks right, then he roars off down the on-ramp and continues north on I-25 at high speed towards Trinidad, CO.

    I was completely gobsmacked! Brad just got that cocky grin on his face that he always wore when he’d pulled off something. I however had a more practical question: What do we do now?

    I whipped out my tools and went to work altering the appearance of the Rabbit. 80s cars were lightweight to the point of being flimsy. The Rabbit had a squared off nose with a big, broad grille. Oddly enough that grille was really just a very thin plastic bit and it popped off with five twist-lock phillips-head latches along the top. Pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, pull… presto. The car is completely transformed! Without the plastic grille, the car looks completely different.. at least from the front. Brad climbed into the passenger side, the grille went into the back seat, under all our climbing gear. And I drove. We wandered into Trinidad, stopped for a snack, then headed off north after a bit towards Pueblo.

    I don’t recall if it was before, or past Walsenburg but it was far enough to where the heightened sense of being hunted had finally left us, when sure enough, the Escort went “Brap!!” again… but this time with early warning rather than late. Brad crawled down down as flat he could go in the footwell to hide himself from view. I pulled the gigantic and now loudly buzzing Escort off the dash and threw it at Brad, cowering low. In those hot, dry flats below the Sangre de Christo peaks I saw the unmistakable profile of that very same white CHP car coming, once again, southbound as we rolled north. Except this time we were rolling along at the maximum rate of travel for fuel efficiency, 53 MPH, nowhere near our terminal velocity trip down Raton Pass an hour or so earlier. I kept my head pointed straight ahead as he went by, thankfully at a fair distance with a wide median. However I had my eyeballs as far left as they could go inside my sunglasses to see if he was looking at us. Sure enough he was, but no lights or sirens… he just kept driving.

    Was it the Rabbit’s roadside nose job? The different driver? The apparent single occupant rather than two? I’ll never know, and until today, I’ve never put this story down in print. I imagine the statute of limitations is long since passed, and that Colorado Highway Patrol officer is long retired (he looked pretty old even then in 1985!) But I have a great tale of escape and evasion in what is likely the slowest car ever built in the 1980s.


  • avatar
    Edward Niedermeyer

    The first time I ever drove a “real” SUV, was taking a GMC Jimmy from Portland to Eugene. It was after a concert, and my best friend (who’s truck it was) was in the back seat making out with his girlfriend. We were doing about 70mph on the I-5, when suddenly we got flashing lights in the rearview mirror. I pull over, and the officer informs me that my brake lights are on. Suddenly the smell hits everyone, and I realize that the parking brake had been about one-third of the way engaged. Cop laughs his ass off and then leaves us alone. I learned that the Jimmy wasn’t as “heavy” or “underpowered” as I had thought.

  • avatar
    Joe ShpoilShport

    Frank, you beat me to it.

    You, the reader, need to picture this story as a person driving by at the time.

    I was driving along with some friends on a park drive, smoking one of those funny cigarettes. Someone had ashed, and a bit later we noticed the ashtray was smoldering.

    I calmly pulled over, reached over, pulled the ashtray from the dash, opened my door, leaned out to dump the ashtray. You may have noticed that in the above text there was no mentioning of putting the car in “park”.

    Do I need to tell the rest? My foot slipped off the brake, hit the accelerator, and off I went, hanging out the drivers door.

  • avatar

    oh, some in car entertainment. There is an office complex near my parent’s house in Raleigh, and i was taking my girlfriend (at the time) home from watching a movie, we decided we needed some “intamacy” so we stopped in this cul-de-sac that’s behind an office building but doesn’t have any houses on it yet. We do are thing, we are completely done and dressed and sit in the car chatting and petting for 5 minutes while the windows defrost (remember, this is a Carolina summer… HUMID)

    windows finally clear up so we get going. We take a left out of the cul-de-sac to go back out the main road as a sheriff drives by us. He dutifully swings his clown vic around and pops on the lights. “What the hell?” I say. So i roll down the windows, put the hands on the steering wheel, and wonder what his problem is.

    he walks up to the window, and honest to god on my mother’s grave, the first thing he says is “Good morning! Did you two have time to finish?”

    I am flabbergasted. For one thing, he wasn’t there while we were doing anything so he has no evidence. For another, that’s just RUDE. So it just blurts out of my mouth:

    “Excuse me? I’m lost, i’m trying to find Creedmoore road.”

    He says “yeah, ok. You didn’t answer my question.” I laughed and said “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

    So he asks for my license and registration and runs them, and I’m clean.

    So he comes back, looks in the car. Looks at the girlfriend and says “how old are you?” She says “21.” Looks at me and says “and how old are you?” “19.” He looks confused for a minute then asks if we’ve been drinking. I said “of course not, we’ve been LOST.”

    so he goes back to his car and is there for a minute or two. I think he’s writing me a ticket for god knows what.

    But no. He comes back with a piece of paper from a notepad. With DETAILED INSTRUCTIONS on how to get to Creedmoor road! hahahahahaha

    says “yeah you just take a right here on Falls of Neuse, then another right on Strickland, and you go through like 2 or three lights and you’re at Creedmoor! You two have a good night.”

    After he left I think i laughed, sobbing, head-to-steering wheel, for a good ten minutes. She was mortified, but she saw the humor in the situation later.

  • avatar

    I’m driving to work on Interstate 80 West towards San Francisco in my Mazda GLC, doing 80 mph and barely keeping up with traffic. A few car lengths head of me is a semi tractor-trailer.

    At some point, the semi passes over a 4′ x 8′ sheet of plywood laying inexplicably in the third lane of the freeway. The gust of wind created as the semi passes over it lifts the plywood perpendicular to the road surface. As I watch, wide eyed and panicked, the plywood rises up to a 90 degree angle, creating a wall of wood 8 feet tall directly in front of me.

    I am doing 80 mph, no time to swerve or brake, so I duck down as low as I can and DRIVE through the plywood sheet. BLAAM! The sheet of plywood explodes, scraping the paint on the hood and taking out my passenger mirror, but otherwise leaving me unscathed.

    In the lane to the right of me, the small pickup was not so lucky, as a jagged chunk of plywood has speared his plastic grille and wedged into his radiator, steam emanating wildly. Howling with laughter, I am forced to pull over as tears stream from my eyes.

    How did I escape with so little damage and avoid careening into the cars next to me? I feel bad about the driver of the small pickup, but I’m still awed by the sound created when I drove through the plywood at 80 mph on the freeway that day.

  • avatar

    Third picture from the top. To the left of the Columbia, SC, State Capitol Building, the observant will notice an oval filled with water and an active fountain.

    Imagine Halloween, some years ago. And imagine the thoughts that went through the heads of the police officers who approached that fountain at night.

    They could see an orange VW convertible, parked next to the fountain. Top down. Four people were perched on the car.

    Among them me, dressed in traditional and authentic Hawaiian tribal garb, with warrior makeup – my girlfriend was similarly (un)dressed.
    Our friends had chosen a very particular unisex theme that night, with each of them being half male/half female.
    My buddy had sacrificed half his beard for effect, and the girls had applied make-up to his better half, from the top of his head down to the red nailpolish on his fingers and toes.
    What the cops made of their half-suit/half dress clothing I can only guess at. It sure looked sexy after the various concoctions we not only had been drinking, but were drinking.

    What was clear was that they couldn’t believe their eyes. Led Zeppelin was playing from the cassette deck. We were having fun – we’d just been splashing in the water, and I do believe I was considering testing the VW’s capabilities as a flotation device when they arrived.

    Later, in jail, we probably looked just as improbable.
    Fortunately my buddy’s dad was extremely well connected, and the entire thing disappeared from records and view with the kind of skill usually reserved for G.W.Bush’s flagging service as a flyboy.

  • avatar

    Don’t worry Glenn, if I can beat cancer, so can you! So here is my very, very true, and humorous story, because I know how ya feel…

    While stationed in New Mexico, I purchased a 1985 Audi 4000 S, a simple 4-door in very good condition to use as a commuter car in Albuquerque. After having the car for only two weeks, I became extremely bored and decided I needed to go mountain biking on my Trek. Hearing the weather reports, I learned rain was prevalent everywhere in New Mexico. No matter, I would load to bike onto the bike rack, and trek the Trek all the way up to the Great Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado. This may seem a very long distance, but the drive usually only lasts 3.5 hours or so, something very do-able to a 23 year old bored out of his mind.

    I stopped at Starbucks to get some fuel for myself, and headed up I-25 towards Sante Fe. I zoomed through Santa Fe onto Highway 285. Highway 285, once it leaves the vicinity of Santa Fe, it becomes one of those fabled roads that lead to absolutely nowhere. No cars for hours, no people for miles, no hookers for 5 minutes. Lonely only begins to describe this road.

    So needless to say, the car broke down. I wouldn’t blame the 20-year old German engineering per se, but I would blame the rabbits. As I was hurtling down the road at around 75mph, two jack rabbits hopped across the road. Trying not to run them over with my wheels, I straddled them, so they could pass harmlessly underneath the car. Unfortunately for me, I miscalculated the bunny/lower bumper clearance ratio. The lower bumper hit the rabbits, and flipped them up into my engine bay.

    Much hilarity ensued.

    The rabbits got caught in my alternator and water pump belt, causing a chain reaction. Every single belt on my engine broke, except the timing belt. The car stalled, warning lights flashed everywhere, and steam erupted from the hood like Paris Hilton was trying to think too hard. I immediately pulled over, not as though I had much choice, as the car was dead

    See? Hilarious. I waited for over 30 minutes and did not see a single car. Taking matters into my own hands, I decided I could get the car going again. Being on a slight slope, I let the car roll backwards down the hill, then I popped the clutch, and the engine lurched back to life. I rolled down the windows before I lost most of my power, and prayed I would reach the next town.

    I made it the 18 miles down the road to Tres Piedras, a small “town”, where I spied a service station. The Audi coughed and breathed its last breath in the “intersection” of the town, not wanting to move another inch. I got out in my khaki shorts, and my Starbucks cup and went inside. A 17 year old in the largest cowboy hat I have ever seen (and I grew up in West Texas mind you) looked at me as if I was the second coming of Ghandi. I asked him where the nearest repair shop was, and he politely pointed me to the two guys next door. As I walked out, I saw the breathtaking “main” street of Tres Piedras.

    I digress….. So, I walked over to the two “locals”, whose necks actually were a deep shade of red, and asked if they could help me. They were more than happy to, and actually had metric sized belts in stock, as they service many Toyota trucks that come through to the hunting grounds in the area. They were a bit baffled by the VW symbol on my engine block proclaiming, “I always thought Audi was Mexican, after all, Cuatro is 4 in Spanish!” I informed them, that “Quattro” is 4 in Latin, and Audi was just a more expensive Volkswagen. Despite this, the two “gentlemen” were very helpful and nice. However, the situation defintely went up a notch on the Hillbilly scale when their three-legged dog stepped out of the shop.

    $60, three belts, 1.5 gallons of coolant, and a battery charge, I was off once more. After having the entire engine serviced, I felt nothing could go wrong….


    I made it to the Sand Dunes, and went mountain biking.

    It got dark quickly, so I loaded up the bike, and left out the West Gate to Highway 4. Highway 4 resembles Highway 285 due to the fact, there are no cars what so ever on it. I made it 15 miles.

    As I traveled down the road, I saw a white figure in coveralls waving me down. The Audi’s headlights were just south of suck, so they didn’t illuminate him very well. I pulled over into the weeds to see if I could render assistance. I heard a “pop”, and then the entire electrical system on the car went dead. I sighed….

    Then I noticed, the man wasn’t a man, it was a steel cut-out of an alien wearing coveralls. I shit you not.

    So there I was, stranded, helping out an alien. I then noticed a fire off in the distance down the road. I reasoned that if there was a fire, there must be people camping, and maybe they had jumper cables. I pulled down the mountain bike, and strapped my SCUBA knife to my leg (just in case), and set off down the road.

    I ran into the a very questionably sexually-oriented girls softball team. They had the look on their face that said, “How dare a man-thing enters our domain!” At least they had jumper cables.

    I got a jump, and set off down the road. By this time, I was tired, and it was getting late. I decided to get a room in nearby Alamosa, CO. The next morning, I loaded up the car, and turned it on.

    The coolant light was flashing at me. Apparently, the entire coolant system had drained itself that night. I looked around the engine bay to see if I could find out why, and discovered the water pump (which runs the entire coolant system), had a plug in the bottom that allowed easy drainage of the coolant. The plug was missing. If I didn’t find the plug, I was going nowhere as the car would overheat. I thought, “Maybe it got poked out by the tall weeds when I was attempting to rescure the stranded alien”.

    I drove the short distance (with no coolant) to where I pulled off the road. The alien was easy to find as I discovered that there was a large complex nearby. It was called, The UFO WatchTower. Apparently in the San Luis Valley, there are many UFO sightings, so much so that people camp out at this location quite frequently to look for them. A rancher in the area, tired of people camping out illegally set up campsites, built an adobe dome and a platform 15 feet in the air to make some money off of it (and she believes the stories occasionally as well). Her name is Judy Messoline, and she couldn’t be an sweeter of a person.

    We talked for quite awhile as the engine cooled down. After finding out I was in the Air Force, she had many questions. I wasn’t much help though, as I was only a 2nd Lieutenant, and have not seen any UFO’s recently…. or ever…. but I did explain why she saw so many aircraft in the area (they do training missions in the airspace overhead). She was then nice enough to give me three 5 gallon containers of water, to keep filling up my radiator, so I could get to Walsenburg to repair the car.

    I made it to Walsenburg where I made a makeshift plug out of rubber tape and window sealant. Hooray for me. The next 3 hours back to Alburquerque were uneventful… thank God.

    And if anyone doubts this story, Judy wrote an autobiography, and my story was the strangest non-UFO tale she had ever heard, so she put me in it.

  • avatar

    It was nighttime, summer 2007, me and my friends were driving along in an old black two-door Tahoe with a messed up front grill and huge chrome wheels when a brand-new Scion tC comes up next to us at the stoplight, in it two ditzy, bitchy, 16-17 y.o. bleach-blonde girls taking Myspace pictures in their cars, complete with the pouting lips and tilted heads. So what do we decide to do? We follow them, VERY closely for about 10 minutes. They didn’t react that much, so we start tail-gating them. And we also start to take pictures of them with the flash on. They FREAK out and start speeding 10-20 mph above the speed limit, weaving through lanes, then they lead us zig-zagging through downtown Huntington Beach. No other cars around, it was dark (no street lights), and they are doing everything they can to get us off their tail. It is SOO hilarious, because we are both going around in circles and remember we have a huge messed up black, raised SUV! Hahahaha! We eventually gave up because my best friend who was driving didn’t want to get into an accident. Boo.

    You had to be there. :(

  • avatar

    My teenage years were rather uneventful, but one night I did something that was a little out of the ordinary, well, at least for me. I was quite active in my church's youth group, and one year we sold carnations at Valentine's Day for a fund raiser. Part of the deal was that we would deliver the flowers to the people they were meant for. Those of us who had cars were the ones to do it, and take along the others. Naturally I had a car, so I was volunteered. My little 1985 Skylark sedan proved to be quite roomy and capable that night as I had five teens and a bunch of flowers in it. Anyways, half way through the evening, a couple of the guys with me, two red heads, Mark and Ray (names have not been changed, because they were not innocent) were being rather obnoxious, and finally in frustration I said, "If you two don't stop I'm…I'm going to put you both in the trunk!!!" They kept it up and I kept my word. In to the trunk they went, and off we went! We decided to stop by the high school and have a little fun going over the speed bumps. When we heard them begin to complain, we just turned up the stereo. After a while we figured that we needed to finish up our deliveries. We were heading east out of our little town, in my rather conservative looking gray Buick, with cars behind us, traveling through the dark Florida evening, when suddenly I noticed in my rear view mirror that the trunk lid had popped open!!! To this day I wonder what the people in the car behind me thought when two red head boys suddenly appeared in the trunk of the car in front of them. Anyways, I quickly pulled over and went to check out the back of the car. It turns out that Ray had found my tool box and dug out a screwdriver and popped the lock. I quickly took the screw driver from him and slammed the lid back down. We took off again. A few minutes later, the trunk popped open again…he found another screwdriver! By then I gave up and let them back in. We never got in trouble. And even though this was in I believe 1993, I never told my parents until about two years ago. My dad just laughed!!! I sure miss that Buick…

  • avatar

    ’94 Acura Integra, 80ish mph on a desolate stretch of highway at 3 am. It’s pitch black.

    Power cuts out. I’m going OMGWTFBBQ, stomping on the gas and not understanding why it wasn’t responding. The car coasts to a stop on the side, I get out and I’m bathed in the bright white glow of the only sign visible for miles. The giant caliper logo of an Acura dealer.

  • avatar

    My family of origin went to Paris to live for a year in august of 1965. I was 12, Miriam, my baby sister, was two and a half. I was struck by the shoddiness of some of the French cars, particularly the Deux Chevaux. For those unfamiliar, these Citroens for the people looked like VW Beetles made out of corrugated barn roofing, they had FWD, two cylinders, seats made of canvas stretched over pipes, and weights for shock absorbers. They had a very distinctive whiny putt-putt as they struggled to make speed. One day we were driving along one of the few divided highways that existed over there at the time. We went from flat to a very slight grade. Very quickly, all the Deux Chevaux were in the right lane, struggling to do 30mph. Ooh! said Miriam. Dudebos fall out!

    She also quickly picked up on my scorn for the Deux Chevaux, and started calling me Dudebo. The name stuck for years.

  • avatar

    When we had arrived in France, my parents had acquired a Peugeot 404 wagon. We had temporary foreigner plates. In the middle of the year, the registration had to be renewed. My father went through a week of standing in different lines to deal with the byzantine paperwork that was typical of France at the time. His friend, Don Hodgeman had to go through the same thing to renew his registration. At the end, they compared notes. The most glaring difference, of many, was that Don had had to get new numbers painted onto his license, while my father had not.

    This remained mysterious until the following summer, when we spent two months driving all over Europe. We went from France into Italy, into Austria, then crossed the Iron Curtain into Hungary, then Czechoslovakia, then, well, I can’t remember exactly, except that at some point we went into Germany, very briefly. At the German border, a heretofore unremarked anomaly was pointed out: the numbers on the plates and on the registration were different. They let us go anyway.

  • avatar

    In 1975, I crossed the country on my bicycle with a couple of other people. (Yeah, I know, this is supposed to be cars, but at least this is still wheels, and the trip, Seattle to Boston, was longer than most trips people take in their cars.) We cut into Canada at Sault St. Marie, Upper Michigan. The border guards were thorough. We were interrogated about whether we had ever smoked dope, and similar things. Then, a lady customs agent went through absolutely everything in my panniers (I may have admitted to having smoked dope). Each pair of underwear. She looked behind the fraying cover of my glasses case. And then she found the cheese that had gone missing in Montana. She didn’t ask me to take the bicycle apart so that she could look inside the tubes. But she wouldn’t have found any dope in there, either.

  • avatar

    In the late ’80s, I was living on the frayed edge of a middle class black neighborhood in DC (Brookland). When I came back from a Thanksgiving trip, I found my ’77 toyota Corolla, which I had left home, had gotten shot when the police had chased a criminal through the neighborhood. I sported the resulting bullet hole, in the drivers side door, like a badge of honor, pointing it out to my nephew and niece, dates, friends, anyone.

    But several years later, the DC car inspection people wouldn’t give me a sticker until I had the bullet hole repaired. Maybe it reflected badly on the city? In that case, they should have made me get a new car.

  • avatar

    Actually this inceident started in the car, then ended out of the car….on the ground. Pavement to be more specific.

    4th of July 1983, on The Strip in Lauderdale. We were in my best friend’s brother’s VW Squareback (highly modded with a Porsche 2.7 Flat 6 in it). My buddy and I were sitting on the back with the hatch up laying some lame-ass lines on the chicks when his brother dumped the clutch at the intersection of AIA and Las Olas. Physics took over (bodies at rest vs. bodies in motion….bodies at rest lost) We both did perfect backward somersaults out of the back (is there any other way when you’re hammered?) onto the pavement and ended up on our feet…..right in front of a pair of Lauderdale cops who were “observing” the festivities. We each had full cups of….uh……beverage that somehow did not spill. Too much. TA DA!!!. It wasn’t too funny at the time…well, yeah it was. Even the cops were laughing.

    Seems cops had much more of a sense of humor back in those days.

  • avatar

    Back in ’79, I got into a…streetrace of sorts while in my ’72 Opel Manta Rallye. I did GREAT!!…until I remembered I had my dog in the back seat, who promptly puked her guts out all over the rear seat carpeting…

  • avatar
    Megan Benoit

    I was with my dad and sister, driving down a dirt road near the middle of nowhere, Nebraska, and unexpectedly, we flushed a pheasant from the ditch. Not entirely unusual. We watched him flap noisily across the road, where he promptly clotheslined himself on the power lines on the opposite side of the road. I literally saw an explosion of feathers and the bird drop to the ground, flopping wildly. It was like something out of a cartoon… that SPROING and explosion of feathers is forever ingrained in my memory.

  • avatar

    My funniest was back in college when seven of us piled into our housemate’s 2-door Civic because we didn’t have two cars. Six squeezed into the cabin, and one guy (the biggest) volunteered to take the trunk. We started off and a few minutes later he knocked on the back seat and asked for some air, so the driver popped the trunk… right as we passed a cop.

    He saw that the trunk door was ajar and stopped us to let the driver know (in a friendly tone), but he got suspicious when he saw that there were 6 people squeezed into a 5-seater. We all cringed sheepishly as he went around to the back of the car… and opened the trunk. Our friend in the trunk greeted him with a smile and we were all told to get out of the car as the officer called for backup.

    A second car arrived and the two cops checked every corner of the Civic’s interior. The second one said “I don’t see any sign of drugs of alcohol,” and the first one couldn’t believe it and shouted, “That’s impossible!” But it was true, and we were all sober, so the driver got a ticket for having two unbelted passengers and half of us had to walk home.

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    Frank williams – LOL

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    @Mike Solowiow – Actually, the Latin word for four is quattuor. Quattro is Italian for four.

    My funny story:

    My first truck was a 1970 3/4 Ton Chevy with “granny” four-speed. One evening, some friends and I went looking for a party which was supposedly being held on a sandbar in the Red River. We drove to the location only to find that there was, in fact, no party.

    I began to turn around and became buried to my rear axle in the sand. The owner of the property on the river bank came down in his Jeep to rescue me; or so he thought. He commenced to rip the trailer hitch from his Jeep when he tried to pull me out (the hitch was welded on, not attached to the frame).

    Then, he got his Ford tractor with a front-end loader. That became stuck in the sand as well. It was at this point that we realized the generators at the dam were on and the water was rising. We had to abandon the tractor and my truck.

    I had to attend a band function at a local church and a friend asked me if my truck was in the river the night before. He had gone air-boating with this dad and saw the hood and upper part of my cab sticking out of the water. My truck had spent the night submerged (about 75% of it) in the Red River. Somehow, the engine managed to stay above water.

    Since I was busy at church, my dad retrieved the truck and confirmed that it had indeed spent the night under water. They got it out of the sand and it fired right up and was driven home. It took weeks to get all the sand out…

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    I don’t know if this is the funniest thing but this happened only a couple of months ago.

    A childhood friend that now lives in France came back to visit and he we were heading to the movies about a mile away in my STI.

    As we turned the corner (right) to go under train tracks, next to the support barrier there was a bird sqwaking and another bird jumping up & down on him. It looked like a hawk & a pigeon.

    When the hawk saw us turning into his path, he picked up the pigeon that he had been jumping up and down on with his clasws, flew to the other lane of the viaduct and almost got hit by an SUV. In order to fly higher, he dropped the pigeon as the suv was about to hit him.

    The hawk took off to the sky while the pigeon bounced off the SUV’s windhsield. Feathers where EVERYWHERE, but the pigeon still was able to fly away.

    I told my friend I had no idea that chicago was like “animal kingdom” and we had a good laugh.

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    This one involves very questionable responsibility at an age and a time when you could get away with things like this.

    It started out with a cold Wisconsin Winter night of more than average drinking with a friend who was a bad influence, but also had a cockiness and a knack of getting away with things that more law-abiding citizens would grovel and ask for forgiveness for from authorities. It also sometimes got his ass kicked, but that’s another story.

    We were out in my huge ’75 Ford Torino wagon and during the course of the evening we ran across another friend. When it was time to leave the bar, our friend needed a ride to his car. It being Winter time, I revealed my habit of ramming snow banks with my car and this evening was no exception. While my car mates hung on in undisguised fear, I laughed out loud as I took out a few snowbanks with the big ‘ol chrome bumper that protruded from the Torino. One time barreling straight ahead and taking out a snowbank located between two parked cars with mere inches to spare on either side of my car.

    We dropped our friend off at a convenience store where he told us had his car and we picked up a six-pack of beer since we didn’t we feel we were sufficiently inebriated. Right. Continuing, I proceeded to stomp the gas pedal to the floor and the 400 ci. V8 propelled us out of the parking lot and fishtailing out onto the street. What I didn’t know was that this had been witnessed by an office sitting in a police car nearby.

    All of this stomping on the gas pedal meant the gas tank was going to need to be filled. We pulled into a gas station and we were promptly parked in by about five squad cars. Uh-oh. Drunk, a now five-pack of beer on the front seat, and already on the watch list for the evening.

    We were asked to get out of the car and this was when I was told why we were surrounded. My eagerness to leave the store was thought to be because an employee there called the police because our friend had shoplifted. Great. Both my friend and I were then directed to the front of the car.

    Once standing in front of the car we were asked why there was a snowdrift on the bumper that covered a good part of the grill and headlights. My friend laughingly remarked that the snow was the result of “snow sharks”. I could have died and thought were surely on our way to jail. One of the rookie cops was visibly upset at this answer while one of the veterans grew smirk on his face. He thought it was funny. Apparently the cops were satisfied with this answer and moved on.

    One of the cops then pointed out the brown paper bag on the front seat and asked what was in it. My friend at the ready replied, “Beer. Five cans of Miller Lite beer.” Did I hear the rattle of handcuffs?

    To my utter amazement and relief we were let go and told to quit being stupid and go easy the rest of the night. Did things end there. Nope.

    For whatever reason that now escapes me, we made our way to my place of employment where my friends were working third shift. While on the freeway, the right rear tire blew out. Prudence would dictate that we stop and replace it. Ah, no. It was considerably more fun to continue on at highway speeds as my friend stuck his head out the side window and told me how cool the sparks were that were fleeing the wheel well from the rapidly disintegrating tire. Watching the show from my rearview mirrors I agreed. This went on for miles. It was that cool.

    When we got to where we were going we found that the tread had separated from the sidewall and had lodged itself into the wheel well. After spending a fair amount of time removing the remains of the tire, I put the spare on and we were good to go. I related the tale of our evening’s activities to my co-worker who didn’t quite see the humor in things the way we had, but all’s well that ends well.

    Even though we had every reason to, we did not end up in jail and the trusty Torino stood up to the evening’s abuse to continue as my dependable daily driver. Pretty stupid. Yes. Easily forgotten. Never.

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    A few summers back, my wife, my sister and I were driving back from our family vacation home in Leland, Michigan. We had just gotten on to I-75 and were merging into traffic in my Mazda 6 when a wild turkey had run out of the woods and attempted to cross the highway. At that moment, it was either me or the turkey, needless to say the turkey lost. I smoked it with the dead center of my front end, it rattled underneath the car, then I looked out the rearview mirror to see an explosion of feathers. It was a spectacular sight with feathers everywhere! I began laughing so hard that tears were flowing and I had to pull off the highway to control myself. We all got out of the car and looked at the front end, there were feathers stuck all over the grill, but the worst part was the paint chips that the beak had left in the front end. I had already had some paint chips repaired before I had to turn the car in, so I had to have it repainted, which caused an additional $300 in Maaco bills. Looking back, that $300 was well worth the comedy of seeing the turkey explode in my rearview…

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    When I was stationed in Italy I bought an Autobianchi A122E. 900cc 5 speed. GREAT little car if it had been owned by a dozen or so fewer people over the years. NOBODY gave this car much TLC and consequently it was really worn out.

    One day I was rushing to work (75+ mph) and went over a little rise on the highway. The front suspension unloaded a little (not completely) and the steering went NUTS! I swerved back and forth uncontrollably for several seconds that seemed more minutes using up all three lanes. I was pretty sure I was dead but I was able to regain control and I carefully continued down the road.

    Turned out that the balljoints were dangerously worn.

    Okay, not problem. Let’s drive it to Rome 150 miles north a few weeks later. In Naples anything goes. Calling it freestyle driving would be too refined. I have driven on sidewalks, wrong way one way streets, and red lights are just there for decoration. You reach a red light, slow down and thread your way through the intersection traffic and continue on your way. People used to BACK DOWN on off ramps b/c it was easier than using the onramp which was backed up… We used to “initiate” the new guys and visiting shorepatrol with bonsai trips across town in insane traffic conditions. Turn on the blue lights and away we go. We’d put the new guys in the more or less sound proof drunk cages we had in the rear of our patrol vans. Big Fiat Ducatos with a diesel four cylinder and five-on-the-tree. You could speed shift them pretty easily and thejumped pretty good too. Just don’t parallel park them too often b/c a wear steering box would crack (non-power steering). At least that is what the maintenance department told us was breaking the steering boxes. I rather think it was the flying jumps out in the farmer fields on the “buffalo roads” – trails used to walk the buffalos out to pasture and back.

    ANYHOW – drove this Autobianchi A112 to Rome. Rough 160 miles each way. Over the hills and through the country b/c that route was more interesting than the Autostrada where we’d get passed by 140mph sports-sedans.

    Once in Rome and ONCE I tried a Neapolitan U-turn and got t-boned by a taxi. It was along drive home with a car that wsan’t tracking straight, no window, howling wheel bearings, and dangerous ball joints.

    I parked it. A few months later it was time to go to the junkyard. As I approached that same low rise on the highway where I almost lost control months before I applied the brakes to slow down and literally the front brake pads flew off!!! Why I have no idea… For the rest of the trip I stopped with caliper piston applied to the rotor and all the sparks that this created…

    I miss that car. Would be a hoot to drive in the USA.

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    While in Italy I had a series of relatives to come visit. Why not – great opportunity for them to see Italy and me to have some folks from home over.

    My parents surprised me my sending over my sister and one of her friends. They were in college at that time. I was surpised to to see them come alone.

    We planned a big trip from Naples to Venice with stops along the way. I was a single guy making $14,800 a year and living out on the economy (barracks were full and I didn’t want to live in them anyhow) so I had expenses. It also dictated what I drove – i.e. not a new or newish car. I drove a ’72 Super Beetle with a 1200cc engine. First year curved windshield. Would be a ’73 here. This was my replacement for the wrecked Autobianchi.

    I had bought this car after spying it on a locale used car lot. The owner explained to me in Italian that this car had to be purchased with a parts car sitting next to it. I think he was trying to do me right b/c the green car had registration issues but the blue car (which had the nicer paint) had mechanical issues. Buy both, make one good car. Which I did. Except not quite the way the salesman wanted it to happen. His price to me was too high. His young son had tried to price it to me for $1K less but the salesman had interuppted. I was getting the higher foreigner price as usual.

    I was a after all a “rich American”. In America we all live like Hollywood stars and vacation at our beach houses that we use the family Lear jet to visit. Remember that $14,800 income???

    I came back with an Italian friend. while I sat in his car out in the parking lot, he got a price of about $1K lower than my price. I waited in his car and then walked in just in time to sign the papers and lay down my cash. The salesman was not enthuised. There was the Italian way to do everything and if you paid attention long enough your cost of living would drop sweetly.

    FWIW the same thing happens near the military bases in the states. Travel to another county for big purchases and let your friend with the civilian haircut do the talking…

    It took 2 weeks of tinkering to get this car sorted out. I wasn’t a mechanic at the beginning but in the end I learned SO MUCH and the car ran like a sewing machine albeit with a little less power than your mother’s Singer sewing machine…

    A few months later my sister and her friend came over and we started up north – in the heat of July – w/o air conditioning of course. Smart Italians travel early and then rest in the shade for a few hours or eat a long lunch in a cool restaurant during the hottest part of the day. When it cools down, they return to the streets and highways. Smart people. Not us dumb Americans. Gotta get there as fast as possible even if we suffer from heatstroke.

    Stopped at the USAF Camp Darby near Pisa to set up our tents and see the Leaning Tower. As I exited the tollbooth of the autostrada the clutch began slipping. Uh-oh… I was carrying used spare everything parts so I figured no problem. No reason to ask a local to point me to a good autoriccambi (FLAPS) and buy new parts for cheap. Nope, we’ll just use the other 30 year old clutch I have with me.

    The girls rested and I setup shop at the far end of the parking lot. Drop the engine (30 mins), replace the clutch (30 mins) and reinstall the engine (30 mins). All done with five wrenches, a screwdriver and two scissor jacks. No problem. Only it was a problem. A big problem.

    It was 2PM when I got started and I was trying to put the engine back in at around 4PM. And trying. And trying. And trying. The engine would not go back on the tranny. WTF? It got dark… The girls tried to help. We were hot, dirty, hungry and tired. WTF? A German tour bus driver came over and asked if we needed “something”. He spoke no Italian and no English but he wanted to help somehow. He motioned for me to wait and suddenly while I was laying under this little Beetle a 3 story tall tour bus idled right up to the back of my car. I started scrambling out b/c I tought he was going to push the car with the bus!!!

    No, he idled his bus, set the brakes and turned on all the lights! I had the power of the sun parked behind me and I could almost see the bones in my hand!

    It was shortly after he lit up my world that I could see that the lower two studs that pass through the bellhousing were slightly bent – I had allowed the engine to sag too far and their “bentness” ruined the natural alignment of the engine to the input shaft of the tranny and it could not slide into the clutch disc. 3 mins later the engine was in and I was tightening the hardware… I was so THANKFUL!

    We cleaned up and went to dinner and ate more wonderful Italian food…

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    Parents came over to visit me in Italy. They exited the airport terminal to find machinegun-toting Carabinieri guarding things. Over the years there have been a few incidents in the Rome airport. One was a massacre in the airport back in the 80s. 10-15 people got killed by gun toting wackos.

    You’ve got to understand my parents. They don’t go anywhere. Never been west. Until this week. Never been up to the New England states. Their vacations always take them to the same places. When they want to really shake things up they go an extra 10 miles down the beach and try a new hotel. When they arrived in Rome it was a shock. NOTHING but me was familar and it had been over a year since they had last seen me.

    First thing as we exited the airport I saw a early 70s Fiat 500. Told them that my car was broken and I had borrowed it. Told them it would do 50 on the autostrada so not to worry, we’d get home before midnight… If you don’t know what a Fiat 500 is, think half-sized Beetle with 18 hp and two cylinders. Neat little car and alot larger inside than you might imagine. Families of five Neapolitans will fit inside. Of course a Vespa will carry a family of four too…

    After I got my laugh we headed south. My mom was really concerned about the Beetle when I bought it. Figured it was a death-trap being so small and having the engine in the rear. We were getting passed by smaller cars than the Beetle at a good 30-40 kph faster than our 110 kph and she finally admitted that the Beetle wasn’t so small afterall.

    Another thing you need to know is my parents are type-A personalities. The unknown is not a comfortable feeling. Ignorance might be bliss to some folks but not to them. And, they like to be in control. In Italy for the week or so that they were there was all those bad things at once. They really coped well and I think they had a good time but I also don’t expect they will ever return to Europe. They are funny people – don’t like organized tours but too scared to travel alone.

    We took a side trip to Caserta Vecchia (old and small hilltop town literally overlooking modern Caserta). The whole town is only a couple dozen buildings with streets built for carts rather than cars. Insert the Fiat 500 here. The perfect car for the location. Caserta Vecchia overlooks the Caserta palace where George Lucas filmed the interior shots of the palaces in his Star Wars movies – the newer trio of the series.

    Anyhow somehow I locked my keys inside the car. Siesta had started and people had mostly retreated to the relative cool of their homes. I kept this info from them so their sight-seeing would not be overshadowed by the knowledge that the keys were in the car. Even if I had retrieved them, they would have been distracted by the knowledge that a minute ago we could have been stranded. It was really humorous to me and I knew in the worst case I could break a window and get the keys. I had good spare glass on my parts car.

    After our walk around town and to the old tower I revealled the problem to their expected discomfort. I explained my problem to a passing woman who told me to just go into her restaurant and get anything I needed. Just go right in, it was unlocked and she walked away in the other direction. Wow. Nice people there. I did and with the aid of a long bread knife was able to “slimjim” the lock open. That Beetle was SO easy to break into. I returned the knife to the kitchen, rinsed it off and away we went.

    2 days later while I was pilotting my doctor friend’s turbo diesel Peugeot down the austrada at 170 kph my mother demanded to know how fast we were going. I held out as long as I could but confessed that it was about 105 mph. Don’t let your mother ride behind you. I had painful fingernail marks on my shoulders that night…

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    Took a bag full of shock absorbers and Macpherson struts through Heathrow airport shortly after Lockerbee. The x-ray machine operators were not amused… I’ll admit they did look bad on the screen… Still – they let me take them on the airplane as checked luggage. Of course I missed my flight in the process.

    Their retribution?

    They put me on an AlItalia flight were everyone from the age of 4 and up smoked and nobody except me had blue eyes or blonde hair. I knew right then if it was hijacked I was the guy who was going to be “dispatched” first as an example to the others…

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    Carried a spare VW engine (complete) on the roof rack of my Beetle about 40 miles. Folks prob thought it was a spare in case the original engine crapped out.

    REALLY messes up your center of gravity… Returned home without incident.

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