By on August 8, 2017

car crash (Daniel X. O'Neil/Flickr)

The Civic Holiday I mentioned yesterday didn’t prove very civil for yours truly and his red Chevrolet Cruze Eco. Sadly, a second-generation Volkswagen Passat made mostly of rust, primer, and pure, simmering evil decided to make a play at the poor Cruze in the midst of a nightmarish traffic jam. I don’t want to get too specific about the locale for fear of tarring a whole community of drivers with the same brush. (It was Montreal.)

While the Cruze escaped intact, it didn’t leave the scrap unmolested. Looks like I’ll be heading out in search of paint and rubbing compound tonight (Note: first-gen Cruze bumpers seem to hold up under pressure; I can’t speak for the second-generation models).

The incident nonetheless reminded me of past run-ins, be it with large animals or large vehicles. My 1993 Corsica of years gone by didn’t weather a front-quarter hit from a circa 2000 Impala all that well. Curtain call. Six feet under. Pushing up daisies. Contrast the Corsica’s  “folded like Superman on laundry day” performance to my beloved ’94 Camry, which soaked up two whitetail deer and politely asked for more. Zero dollars spent on repairs with that one. Just a minute or two spent evening out the hood with my rear end and some wooden shims inserted for headlight alignment. Duct tape wasn’t required.

What a tank that car was. Bland? Absolutely. Beige? What else? But beastly when push comes to shove.

There’s reliable rides, there’s quirky exotics that capture your heart, and then there’s the car that’ll save your bank account when wayward objects make an impact. Now that’s something that garners instant respect.

There’s no shortage of hazards on our roads. Dimwitted, distracted, and drunk drivers still abound, and the proliferation of driver’s aids can’t come soon enough to stamp out the scourge. However, even if every vehicle, new and used, came filled with every electronic nanny under the sun, there’s still the wild card. Nature. Bambi and her friends aren’t the most predictable creatures in the woods.

Sooner or later, you’re gonna make contact. Glass will shatter, plastic will snap, and steel will bend. But some vehicles don’t fold under pressure quite as easily. Sometimes, you’re the lucky owner of a bank vault, something that shrugs off impacts with remarkably little damage — regardless of how the other vehicle fared.

We’re mostly experienced people here. We’ve had our run-ins. So tell me, Best & Brightest, what vehicle  — be it yours or a friend’s or a relation’s — made short work of the other vehicle (or animal) without mussing its hair? Maybe you expected it, or maybe it left you surprised at its hidden brawniness. Going in the opposite direction, what seemingly tough vehicle went down after the first punch?

[Image: Daniel X. O’Neil/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)]

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22 Comments on “QOTD: Is Your Car a Superhero?...”

  • avatar

    I don’t expect anybody to care but just in case you were wondering…

    The photo is of an accident at the intersection of Randolph St and Michigan Ave in Chicago.

    Also, TTAC has used this photo before:

  • avatar

    I’ve only been in four accidents and of those only my 91 LX Mustang remained relatively unscathed compared to the rest.

    It was an offset front end hit but at a fairly low speed so the damage was minor and being right on income in those days I ended up using a body shop in a box otherwise known as a bra to mask the damage.

    Although the car that really impressed me was the most recent accident. Despite being totaled out in the end (thankfully) the carnage it imposed on the other vehicle and driver never fails to amaze me.

    I’ve recounted it here before about the time the 07 Civic veered into my lane when I owned the 15 Mustang GT and we hit with a closing speed around 70 mph ( I know it doesn’t add to the crash energy ) but just that they had to cut the guy from the car and haul him off in an ambulance while me and my passenger just had to catch a ride home never fails to impress.

  • avatar

    I hit a deer in my ’97 Volvo 850 while going about 60mph and the only damage was to the plastic UF license plate in the front of the car. Even the cop who witnessed the run-in was impressed.

    I also had a ’99 Saturn SL2 in college that was a real soldier. It survived hitting a basketball hoop that had blown into the middle of a roadway during a storm, a five car pileup caused by some bozo rear ending a line of traffic at 50mph, a rear hit in a parking lot, another rear hit while stopped at a stop light, and then being clipped by a pickup, causing me to spin into a median and hit a sign. Most of that stuff buffed out, the rest was a 1-2 week insurance-funded vacation.

    • 0 avatar

      I totaled my ’92 SL2 on the way to visit my girlfriend (now wife) at college. Drove the rest of the way there (30 miles) and all the way home (215 miles) with the front end mashed in, no headlights or radiator fan. Drove it for three more months while I fought with Driver’s Direct insurance about whether or not I was actually covered.

      Interestingly enough, even though I was legally the one responsible for the 4-car accident by rear-ending a Pontiac Bonneville (who hit a hatchback who hit a Ford Tempo), I wasn’t cited. The lady at the front of the line in the Tempo who was demanding everybody’s information so she could sue all of us got at least three citations (expired tags, no insurance, no license).

    • 0 avatar

      I always thought my Volvo 850 felt like a little tank. Sure it wasn’t the most reliable car around but it always felt safe.

      • 0 avatar

        I didn’t own my 850 for long, but it had been in at least two accidents before me – the guy I bought it from had crunched what was at least its *second* hood into a pickup or something, since the mangled hood didn’t match and there was old rust damage I should’ve done a better job of inspecting from a CT body-shop repair before the car moved to ME.

        I just stuffed a new header panel in there, hung a new headlight/signal and hood, and ignored the missing trim and rippled fender. Didn’t get into any accidents, but it never let me down in the snow (and, once, pulled through several inches of mud, albeit with me getting a 40 MPH runup and dropping to second by the end of the road, after I ignored a ‘road closed’ sign in March). Always felt totally secure, though I’m glad I fixed the sticky throttle before a brake caliper blew out. :-)

    • 0 avatar

      If Volvo did anything right with the 850 it was the structure/metals, tough cars, I kicked the snot out of mine with only the already faded hood paint suffering.

      Unfortunately the rest of the car wasnt exactly robust.

  • avatar

    In high school a girl I knew would try to push my Olds with her Caddy. I wonder if she was flirting with me. No damage to either as long as it was giant chrome bumper to giant chrome bumper.

  • avatar

    1978 Dodge Ramcharger 1, deer 0. It did have a proper brush guard on it.

    A few years ago we had the motorcycle trailer blow down the driveway and through the garage door. The second to bottom panel wrapped itself around the bumper of the Durango (yes, the one in the Piston Slap article) but the only damage was a transfer of white paint from the door to the truck. I have a picture of the aftermath with the door still attached to the truck. It missed the 911 thankfully.

    In high school I had mom and dad’s 1978 Dodge Magnum and hit ice in the parking lot of the school. It was a low speed t-bone into a pickup truck. It didn’t leave a mark on the car but the truck had to have an alignment.

  • avatar
    Stanley Steamer

    My ’05 Legacy has been hit twice in the same zone, running from front quarter panel to front half of drivers door, about 3 years apart. Both the Saturn L and Ford Ranger that hit it were total losses. The second hit required a tiny frame pull, but the Legacy is still going strong. It did however take me 2 years to change out all the shoddy aftermarket parts the body shop put into it, such as CV and struts.

  • avatar

    Oddly enough, it was my 1981 Dodge Colt (Mitsu Mirage) that held up the best as afar as collisions were concerned. While I was lucky that they were all the low-speed variety, the car was remarkably well screwed together. Keep in mind, I had this car in my early 20’s.
    1. After a fun night of partying I took off from my friend’s house early in the morning – Mind you, I was not drunk but still a little bleary-eyed from drinking the night before and spending the night on a lumpy couch. – and ran right into a 20-foot palm tree. It hit the front bumper right on the rubber protrusion (See 1st picture of: Bounced right off, minor scrapes on the rubber. That was back in the day when a 5-mph bumper really meant 5 mph!
    2. Rear-ended a VW because I was in a hurry to pick up the new stereo I just purchased. You know the kind…Kenwood separates, HUGE Speakers with 15”woofers. Just didn’t quite stop in time – so again, low speed. Total damage to me: $350; him: $1,000. Yes, my insurance company just loved me.
    3. Got side-swiped by someone – this time his fault. Damage minor scrapes.
    Other events happened as well but I’m out of time, so, maybe next time…

  • avatar

    Ours is a deity.

  • avatar

    Montréal driver here and I’m just here to agree that Montreal drivers are among the worst.

    Like, India levels of not caring but without the India driver’s average skill + experience level. Source:

    • 0 avatar

      And that’s why I refuse to drive through Quebec when going from Maine to Ontario. Supposedly the Autoroute 30 extension makes it easier now, but I just take the Thruway despite the high tolls.

  • avatar

    Two cars come to mind for shrugging off crashes with their sturdy build quality and structural heft.

    -1970s Imperials
    -The Volvo 240

  • avatar

    I wouldn’t call my old 740 a hero, but it seemed to thrive on abuse while I was working from dawn to dusk and postponing anything that didn’t seem urgent (still got the oil changed by 4k though). When a distracted driver cut me off to stop short in the travel (rather than turning) lane, a ~10 MPH closing speed into the corner of that Silverado’s bumper left me mighty pissed but didn’t stop me from driving the car home; the core support was bent back a bit and my hood, grille, and plastic headlight brackets were done, but it was easy enough to straighten the support and the fenders were untouched.

    I once backed it into a tree with the hatch open and didn’t break the glass, but I think it just rolled a 20 on its saving throw.

    It threw a rod on my way to work at the end, though, so superhero? Nah.

    (My last couple of cars have had no real incidents, though I’d like to call out the ’00-07 Mercury Sable in particular for being able to whack a fawn – albeit at only 15-20 MPH by the time of impact, since I was on the brakes right up until – and take zero visible damage.)

  • avatar

    Back when I was in college I bought a used up ’80 T-Bird. Now this wasn’t a good car the day it rolled off the line and I’d had lots of problems with it; eventually having to replace the engine. At the time, I worked evenings while going to school during the day and my wife worked the 3-11 shift as an RN. We had a 1 year old daughter that the wife would take to a babysitter in a small town about 10 miles away via some hilly two lane roads where her sister taught. The sister would then pick her up and watch her until we got home. On October 15, 1987 we were going through the daily routine and my wife was heading to work after dropping of our girl. A kid in a gold Dodge Omni, one of the slant nosed hatchbacks, came over a hill and tried to pass a semi; pulling in front of my wife. She swerved to the shoulder at the same time he did and he hit her at full speed. My wife had a broken knee from standing on the brakes and lots of bruises but was otherwise OK. The state patrol told me the kid wasn’t expected to make it although he did eventually recover. The Omni was completely destroyed, but the T-Bird absorbed the entire hit with the front clip. Although it was certainly totaled, the passenger compartment was not compromised at all and did a great job protecting my wife. That Thunderchicken was a major pain in the butt, but it died debt free and a hero. Worth noting is that my wife survived due to the integrity of the T-Bird and because she was wearing her seatbelt. She’d been wearing a red sweater that day and the seat belt was turned completely red where it crossed her body. At first glance it looked like blood, but she only had a small cut on her forehead. It definitely saved her life that day and I don’t drive across the street now without buckling up.

  • avatar

    I have wrecked an ’83 Chevette Scooter at 25 mph into a poll (totalled, undrivable), a 1998 Olds 88 rear ending someone who came up short on the highway (totalled, undrivable, hit brakes so hard I submarined their minivan’s bumper), and a 1989 Mazda 323 into a deer (totalled, but still totally drivable). Granted, the deer fortunately (unfortunately for them) hit the A pillar with their neck, breaking the windshield with their head, taking out the driver side mirror and door glass, and the lights in the back, as well as adding dents to an already wrinkled car. Insurance gave me money to replace the windows, I replaced the mirror and lights, and drove it for another 20-30k miles. I loved that car, but it had no air, and only 2 (3) doors. Wound up selling it cheaply to my brother for his son, who grenaded the engine doing donuts in a snowy parking lot. Sigh, kids.

  • avatar

    Dude in a f-150 4×4 made a left turn directly in front of my 91 Toyota Supra while I was going 40mph. I punted that truck sideways all the way across the intersection. Double TKO. The front of my Supra was repairable but but not economical for the insurance company. The Ford’s from right wheel was hanging on by the Axel only. Repairable. The door and door frame were so bent up it would never be right again. Ironicaly I would have had no injuries if the air bag hadn’t nearly broke both my wrists. My face never touched the thing. The old supra may have been heavy, but I was thankful that day!

  • avatar

    My ancient and elderly 95 Explorer wasn’t much of a tank for body damage, I got rear ended in that thing 4 times, and each time required a new bumper, the cars that hit me tended to not need anything, and I ran into the back of a Tahoe with it, chipped the paint on the Tahoe and crumpled the LF corner above the front bumper on my car – at 10-15mph.

    My 77 Chevelle on the otherhand, it’s taken a beating on its massive chrome bumpers and has come away each time unscathed save for leaky bumper shocks (shocker! 40 year old o-rings don’t like moving in a steel cylinder!)

  • avatar

    Perhaps, my Crown Vic P71 did save me and previous officers if the records are correct:

    1. Making a turn the car got into a small-ish offset collision, new bodywork and it was good to go.

    2. Hit a deer at night I think, new hood, back in duty.

    3. For me, I had to drive the thing on ice with the factory-spec Goodyear tires (known for being crap in the rain, easily a joke on ice). Thanks to being both predictable, LSD, and sharp steering I managed to get home safely.

    4. Does it count if the AC still works reasonably well in 90+ degree weather?

    Many of my other used cars have endured their share of accidents prior to my ownership, even if a few could be considered more “Skateman” than “Superman”.

  • avatar

    81 Camaro Z28. 16 years old at the time and smashed into the tail end of a friends car at a stop sign.
    Her car; totalled. Camaro; picked a few flakes of black paint off the urethane bumper (which was black under the paint)
    Funny thing is it had no subframe connectors.

    79 F-250. Waiting to turn left an early 80’s something Ford (Tempo?) caught about 2 inches of the rear bumper with the driver side hood of her car.
    Might have been a couple of flakes of paint gone from the truck bumper, but how would you know? It was a ranch truck.
    Car? Totalled, but considering how hard she hit (car stopped dead) it held up structurally quite well.

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