Automotive Lawsuit History Unearthed, Junkyard Style: The Ford Park-To-Reverse Warning Label

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin
automotive lawsuit history unearthed junkyard style the ford park to reverse

For decades, I’ve been seeing Ford-family vehicles with ugly, pointless warning labels stuck to their instrument panels: Unexpected and possibly sudden vehicle movement may occur if these precautions are not taken. I’d always assumed that these were ex-rental cars, but after I mentioned the warning stickers in this week’s ’75 Ford Maverick Junkyard Find post, several readers pointed out that the stickers were the result of Malaise Era litigation. Of course!

It turns out that many Ford automatic transmissions of the 1966-1980 period developed a tendency to slip from Park to Reverse, on their own, leading to lots of unpleasantness (if we are to believe Ralph Nader’s Center For Auto Safety, this problem caused 6,000 accidents, 1,710 injuries, and 98 fatalities). Since we’re talking about something like 23 million vehicles here, Ford resisted launching the biggest recall in automotive-industry history; the DOT agreed in 1980 to have Ford send out warning labels to the 23 million affected owners. Some of them used the stickers, most didn’t, and we still see them from time to time in junked Fords, Lincolns, and Mercurys. So, another bit of junkyard-learned Malaise Era automotive history, a nice chaser to the story of the FLOOR TEMP warning light.

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  • Joeydimes Joeydimes on Apr 03, 2012

    Back in high school a friend inherited his grandmother's baby blue 1969 Thunderbird. He was following me one night and rear-ended me - just a tap but we pulled into a corner gas station to look. He hopped out of the T-bird with the engine running and as he was closing the door, it slipped into reverse and started doing a reverse U-turn out into the street. He hung on to the door and was screaming STOP!! over and over until he finally had to let go. The car did a full circle before wedging itself between a light pole and a standpipe while we watched in horror. Scraped up both sides of the car something awful. His father was not pleased. The repair bill on that was much higher than the $250 to repair the rear bumper on my dad's station wagon.

  • Pwrwrench Pwrwrench on Jan 10, 2016

    My mentor in performance engine work told me, "You can't babysit the world". Case in point: I heard, on a radio show about cars, a man complaining that he wanted to sue the maker of the car he had been driving. He had destroyed the outdoor deck at his parents house. Twice. When he parked in their, downhill, driveway he did not put the car in park or apply the parking brake. The car later rolled into the deck supports collapsing it. His basis of a lawsuit was that you could remove the key from the ignition switch/lock without having the car in park. Seems this was a car before the early 90s when this interlock became mandatory. I wanted to shout through the radio, "Like dude you should use the parking brake or it could be a major bummer man". The discussion continued centering about how to remember to put the car in Park. The parking brake was never mentioned. "Heavens to Murgatroyd Rocky!"

  • Lou_BC I realized it wasn't EV's burning by the absence of the usual suspects.
  • Kwik_Shift A manual bug eye WRX wagon (2001-03) would interest me more.
  • El scotto Ferrari develops a way to put a virtual car in real time traffic? Will it be multiple virtual players in a possible infinite number of real drivers in real time situations?This will be one of the greatest things ever or a niche video game.
  • El scotto It's said that many military regulations are written in blood. Every ship's wheel or aircraft joystick has a human hand on it at all times when a ship or aircraft are under power. Tanks, APC's and other ground vehicles probably operate under the same rules. Even with those regulations accidents still happen. There is no such thing as an unmanned autopilot, ever. Someone has to be on the stick at all times.I do not think MB understands what a sue-happy nation the USA is. The 1st leased MB in a wreck while this Type 3 "Semi-Autonomous" driving, or whatever it is called, will result in an automatic lawsuit. Expect a class action lawsuit after the 1st personal lawsuit is filed. Yes, new MB owners can afford and ever are lawyers.Mercedes Benz; "The best wrecks or nothing!" Oh and has anyone noticed that Toyota/Lexus and Honda/Acura, the gray suit with white shirt and striped tie, automobile companies have stayed away from any autonomous driving nonsense?
  • Merc190 Very streamlined but not distinctive enough for a Mercedes. And besides, the streetcar of the early 20th century seems a far more efficient and effective method of people moving in essentially an autonomous manner. A motor car is meant to be driven with proper attention to what's important in every situation. To design it otherwise is idiotic and contradictory.