Was This Crash Survivable?

Jack Baruth
by Jack Baruth
was this crash survivable

If you are active in the auto media, design community, or Ohio’s “foodie” clique, you may know Carl Acampado, the famous Rogue Baker. He’s well-known for his boutique cookies, but he’s also a very competent chef — enough so that I asked him to cater my Wednesday night holiday party.

After preparing a variety of dishes including a splendid steak for yours truly, Carl fired up his mint-condition 1984 Audi Coupe GT to run some cookies to another client. He never came back; if you look at the photo above, you can guess why.

The good news is that he stepped out of the car without a single scratch. To find out how, click the jump.

Carl’s account of the incident:

Last night, around 10:30pm, I was making the last 2 deliveries, on 71 N merging onto 270 E. My car’s rear end swung out unexpectedly, and I collided, at full speed, into the right side barrier wall. Then the car proceeded to bounce off, and finally stopped in the far left high speed lane. For any of you driving on 270 at that time, and wondered what was going on? Sorry. Yes, that was me on a stretcher that was holding up traffic. It’s okay, though. Well, I’m alive, for one. And I all I have to show for it is a bruised rib and thumb…and a totaled car. Sad Panda. The doctors and nurses at St. Ann’s Hospital told me I would feel like an 18-wheeler hit me today. I liken in more to a double decker bus…crashing into us. But like I said, I’m okay, no heavenly dying here. [see what i did there?]

As for deliveries for Saturday, those will have be canceled. I’m sorry for the inconvenience. Regarding future deliveries, let me brainstorm after I stop aching…I’m sure I’ll come up with something. ;)

It’s a common refrain at TTAC that older cars simply aren’t safe enough to drive on public roads… and the definition of “older” varies from “Ford Model A” to “2009 Grand Marquis” to suit the particular rhetorical needs of the poster at the particular time of the post. They often have a point: cars keep getting safer. Still, I think this story shows that a well-engineered car of any vintage can often see out a high-speed crash without killing its driver, or even injuring him much.

If you’re on Twitter, send Carl a word of support… and if you’re in the Midwest, inquire about the “I’m Not A Snickerdoodle!” cookie. You won’t regret it.

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3 of 82 comments
  • DC Bruce DC Bruce on Nov 29, 2010

    Of course we're all glad that Carl is here to tell about the story that led to the photo. When you're talking about safety, the question is always "How safe is safe enough?" There are a million answers to that question, which is why the debate is endless. Let's recall that the catalyst for mandated airbags, was the never-ending quest for "passive safety," i.e. somewhat to protect the knucklehead drivers who refused to fasten their seatbelts. When people started walking away from head-ons, in cars equipped with airbags; and those people also reported that they had been wearing their seatbelts, the idea started getting around that the belt-and-bag combination offered some serious protection, and people were impressed. Now seatbelt use is much higher, but no one argues that airbags are unnecessary, as everyone understand that the combination is what really offers the benefit. Regarding older cars, one of the key concepts in body design for crash survivability that has become widespread in the last 25 years, is the concept of the car body "sacrificing itself" to protect the passenger. The 1980s-vintage Mercedes were well built, by the standards of the day; but their crash test performance wasn't that good because the body transferred more of the energy of the impact to the relatively fragile passenger inside. Same with the old Volvos (240-series). Once those engineers internalized the idea that the car body was supposed to sacrifice itself to absorb the energy of the crash (while preserving the integrity of the passenger compartment), then the cars became "safer." After all, it's cheaper and easier to replace or repair the car than the fragile human inside. I remember riding in the bed of a pickup truck going 70 mph down the highway (because there wasn't room for me in the cab) when I worked on a ranch in the early 1960s. But, just because I lived to tell about it, doesn't mean that its safe or I would recommend that anyone do that today. Same thing with the relative safety of cars. Finally, let's be honest, the most important safety component in any car is the driver. People who don't drive impaired, who don't "test the limits" of their vehicle and who are reasonably competent drivers, are very unlikely to have accidents. My father is 85 years old. He's always driven and has never been in an accident. He doesn't drive like a ninny (i.e. under the speed limit or hyper-cautious), but he drives sanely, always pays attention to his driving and never drives impaired. I think he's had about two traffic citations in his life, as well. And, he's probably driven as many miles as the average person of his longevity. We lived in the suburbs, took car vacations, etc.

    • JimC JimC on Nov 29, 2010

      "...the body transferred more of the energy of the impact to the relatively fragile passenger inside. Same with the old Volvos (240-series)." I think you have your facts bass-ackward about the Volvo 240. Those definitely had crumple zones combined with a robust cage around the passenger compartment. Otherwise an excellent post.

  • Rpn453 Rpn453 on Nov 30, 2010

    The front end damage looks pretty minor compared to the head-on at almost 60 mph that I experienced in an '87 Grand Am. I'm surprised the roof buckled in that Audi. Mine buckled much worse, but I think the impact was much greater. They had to use hydraulic equipment to extract me. I was hit by a Chrysler dynasty. http://i754.photobucket.com/albums/xx187/rpn453/Front.jpg http://i754.photobucket.com/albums/xx187/rpn453/PassengerSide.jpg http://i754.photobucket.com/albums/xx187/rpn453/DriverSide.jpg

  • Tassos those 90s pathetic orange pixels are inexcusably lame in a 2010.The interior is filled with Grey Rubbermaid plastic and the tiny sliver of real or fake wood is an utterly pathetic attempt to pretend it's upscale (don't even THINK of "Luxury")Merc SLs with similar metal retractable roofs look so much better inside and out.Regardless of what you paid for this way undepowered near-luxury pretend-sports car, you would have done so much better with a PORSCHE BOXSTER...
  • Dukeisduke That's a cool picture (the one under the bridge) - where was it taken? Google Image Search doesn't turn up any matches.
  • Dukeisduke Okay, yeah, they should fix this, but, "URGENT: DO NOT DRIVE THIS VEHICLE"? I think we're reaching Peak Idiocracy.
  • MaintenanceCosts This is a great review, and very accurate from my perspective as the owner of a closely related, but longer and taller, E93 335i convertible. So much in this review is familiar. Here are the things that are a bit different about the 335i:[list][*]My car is a manual. Shifter action is good, with positive engagement, although a bit more play and rubbery feeling in the shifter than you would get with, say, a six-speed Honda. The clutch is a bit disappointing. It has a "clutch dampening valve" intended to protect against the most abusive clutch dumps. The valve throws my timing off a bit and I have had a hard time learning to drive this car with perfect smoothness, especially in the 1-2 shift. I may remove the valve at some point.[/*][*]My car has the turbo (in single-turbo N55 form). On the plus side, you get what feels like significantly more power than the rated 300 hp once on the boost, and even in fully stock form you get entertaining whooshing noises from the blowoff valve. On the minus side, there is some turbo lag, more than you get in many modern turbo cars, and fuel economy is, well, not close to what Corey is getting. The turbo car also comes with an active exhaust system that is extremely quiet when puttering while making some nice inline-six noise at wide-open throttle.[/*][*]There are back seats! I have a nine-year-old and a six-year-old. The six-year-old fits perfectly. The nine-year-old still fits, but that will likely change within the next three years. These seats are not usable for adults unless the front-seat occupants squeeze forward more than normal. E92 coupes are slightly roomier in back, and E90 sedans are substantially roomier.[/*][*]My car has the M Sport suspension, which does not have variable dampers. It's firm enough that I have to be careful to avoid even small holes on city streets if I don't want to get jarred. But if you can avoid the holes it feels good, navigating expansion joints and such without uncomfortable impact, while maintaining impressive body control for a porky 3900-pound convertible.[/*][*]My car has iDrive and a screen, as well as parking sensors. But it does not have a backup camera. Graphics on the screen are pretty good by 2011 standards, which is to say not acceptable by modern standards, but the system is easy enough to navigate and works pretty well. I prefer the rotary controller to a touch screen for fingerprint reasons.[/*][*]The parking sensors are by far the best of any car I've ever owned, and they are so accurate I really don't need a camera. The sensors go to a solid beep when the appropriate end is about 4" from an object, and I can comfortably cover about half that distance with no fear of bumping. They also project legimately useful graphics on the iDrive screen showing where the object is. I park in tight city settings enough that I really appreciate the accuracy. Also in the city parking mold, my car has power folding mirrors, which I wish every car would.[/*][*]Like you, I have the mid-level "Hi-Fi Professional" stereo setup, but in the four-seat convertible there is not a dedicated subwoofer. Bass is a bit on the weak side. Sound quality is about comparable with the JBL system in my Toyota Highlander, which is to say it's good enough for listening in the car but is not going to impress anyone.[/*][*]There are small leaks from the joints between the top and the A-pillars in my car. They won't soak the interior, but they will result in a few drops of water on the front seats after a hard rain. I'm still experimenting to see if regular applications of rubber protectant can restore the seals enough to eliminate the leaks. There are no leaks from any other part of the top mechanism.[/*][*]I've only owned the car for about eight months and 1500 miles, but so far nothing has broken and every feature on the car works correctly. A purchase-time inspection found only an incorrectly secured fan shroud and no other problems, and there is a mostly complete service history, so this was a well-maintained car to start with.[/*][/list]
  • Lou_BC This offer reminds me of those plans where you get something free but if you fail to cancel prior to the expiry of the "Free" plan you end up on the hook for a lengthy contract. Tesla wants to attract people to their electrical company. It's smart. Make money selling the car, make money with subscription services on the car, and make money selling the fuel to power the car at home and at charging stations.