Ask The Best And Brightest: What's The Scariest Vehicle You've Ever Driven?

Edward Niedermeyer
by Edward Niedermeyer

Well, it’s Halloween…. the time of year when a young man’s thoughts turn towards death. Bertel gave us a double-shot of the macabre earlier today, but it was an unplanned spin-and-a-half (no, not on public roads) that most recently and viscerally reminded me just how deadly this whole driving a car business can be. And that particular bit of man-machine miscommunication didn’t even happen in the most scary car I’ve ever driven (thank goodness).

My scariest in-car experience actually happened earlier in the Summer, when I found myself on the freeway in a Chinese-spec Shuanghuan Noble… on which at least one wheel was seriously out of round. The second I hit about 72 MPH, the thing took on a life of its own, oscillating wildly back and forth and trying to throw itself into one adjacent lane after the other. Realizing I had only ever seen this vehicle crash-tested at less than half the speed at which I was then traveling, contemplating its top-heavy dimensions and not even knowing if this dealer-plated example had a functioning airbag, I grappled with the wheel and eased down the speed. Eventually it stopped pogo-ing, all though it took my heart another 20 minutes or so to follow suit. Even compared to my select irresponsible experiences with insanely overpowered-powered vehicles, it was by far the most terrifying, mortality-facing, PTSD-inspiring experience I’ve ever had in a car… probably because I only half-expected to be literally taking my life into my hands on that drive.

But, what about you? What car scares you the most? What was the scariest experience you’ve had behind the wheel? Was it a product of you trying to scare yourself with a machine whose limits exceeded your own, or did it just …happen?

Edward Niedermeyer
Edward Niedermeyer

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  • CompWizrd CompWizrd on Nov 02, 2011

    Mid 90's? Chevy Blazer.. with 335's or so out back. Would lock up the tires on dry pavement on light braking.. god help you if you found water. At least the engine was so anemic you couldn't really spin the tires for very long. More than once at 20-30kph the light would turn yellow and i'd tap the brakes and it'd start locking up. Had a nice exhaust system on it at least.. nice rumble.. but no power! Gave it back to the owner as soon as I could. I felt much safer driving a mid 90's Chevy Astro van at 170kph on a gravel road, back when I was young and stupid and working for the local school board.

  • Diesel Fuel Only Diesel Fuel Only on Nov 02, 2011

    Going from my VW to driving a Yukon in hilly New England was the worst for me. Squishiest brakes ever put on a modern car. I guess you can call it a car. Driving in Ct. at night with a stop sign at the bottom of the hill, downshifting the slushbox (which did absolutely nothing) and standing on the brake pedal with all my might I'm still not sure how it stopped. Not even going all that fast on the downslope either. It was all in slow motion. I had nightmares for years of trying in vain to stop a big vehicle as it floated right through an intersection as though no attempt to arrest it had been made, and I still feel uneasy every time I get into a suburban or see one supposedly about to come to a stop in my path.

    • Chris8017 Chris8017 on Nov 02, 2011

      My scary experience only happened just about a year ago during peak of winter. I was dating a girl who lived 45 miles away and I visited her sometimes on weeknights after waking up at 4:30am and a long day of work. For some reason, this one night driving home around 1am in my 2001 Saturn SL 5spd I sort of nodded off a few times but kept waking myself up (while staying in my lane on a rural highway). About 10 miles from home I nodded off and was awoken to the warning strips on the side of the highway. That shook me awake and got my adrenaline going so I figured I was gonna get home fine...I only had about 10 more miles to go... A few miles from home I nodded off AGAIN...this time I woke myself up and found a minivan in the middle lane where I was traveling just 10 or so feet ahead of me that I was slowly gaining on before I swerved into another lane. Realizing how big of a threat I was to other drives I pulled off the highway on an exit ramp screaming at myself for being so stupid and reckless. I don't know why I was so tired that night and why each time it happened I thought I would get through it. I'm pretty sure I have some sort of sleeping disorder though. After that period I stopped driving home so late and I drank coffee before leaving. I never went through an experience like that again.

  • Couper Couper on Nov 03, 2011

    ... most recent humourous anecdote - I'm elected to drive a friend's 73 MG Midget to the lake about 10-12 miles away. this is because a) I can get into it; b) I can operate the controls; and c) get back out with a minimum of aerobicise. at a stop light there's a SmartCar on the other side of traffic. prevailing thought ; if we went nose to nose I've got a cloth top to be squeezed out of. ...most retrievable 80's anecdote - riding shotgun in a Fiero with `Jeff Spicolli' incarnate at the wheel ... I deliberately bought a Vanagon because ...

  • Ciddyguy Ciddyguy on Nov 05, 2011

    I've been fortunate to have had cars that were reasonably safe and in decent shape mechanically speaking but I did have a couple of oh sh*t moments in 2 due to situations I'd forgotten about that almost got me in trouble. The unsafe car experience was the company car at a pizza delivery place I worked at, more on that in a moment. The first oh sh*t! moment: Driving my '74 Nova home from the local Community college one cold, sunny day with snow on the ground and totally forgot about a section of road that is still in shadow,thus the ICE that still remained and went driving along, not a care in the world, though not fast when all of a sudden, the car careened left across the center line into the oncoming traffic lane but I was able to get the car back in control and back into my lane. Whoops! Second oh sh*t! moment: Driving my '83 Civic hatchback and was coming out of what used to be known for years as SouthCenter mall, now Westfield's Shopping Town, onto the overpass to I-5 to get to the cloverleaf onto SB I-5 when I'd forgotten about a little design issue with said cloverleaf as it was a gentle banked turn, but suddenly straitens out and if you hit that jog too fast like I did, the front will slide to the roads edge... I had to slam on the brakes and just missed going off the pavement, got the car straightened out and continued on my way. And now for the scariest cars I've ever driven. Back in 1984, I was hired at Domino's Pizza as a delivery driver and at the time, drove the '74 Chevy Nova but at the time, the store, which was owned by a local franchise owner soon received company cars, specially painted Dodge Darts, Plymouth Valiants and Dusters and soon found out how clapped out they were. And I mean clapped out indeed as they soon showed their true colors. First off, one of the cars, which I may have driven had its doors swing open (it was a 2 door Dart) when you go around a corner, but I DO recall bad brakes though, they were OK when stopping while going forward, but when backing up? Not so much. They shimmied and sashayed like the frame was about to break apart and I think I heard one car DID have a cracked frame or it cracked while in use anyway. There were other issues with these cars too as they all were clapped out badly and rumor was the mechanic the owner of the franchise hired to maintain these vehicles had a Duster or Dart himself and would buy new parts, put them on HIS car and put the old part on the company cars. I understand that shortly after I left the company in March of '86, the state Police grounded all of the vehicles for being very unsafe and I think the mechanic was fired shortly after that. And the irony of it all was the company imposed an inspection of the cars for lights and such BEFORE it went out on the road, even all of our private cars had their lights checked out and yet the company cars were as unsafe as they were.