QOTD: Turning Down That Ride?

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
qotd turning down that ride

It’s not good to live your life in fear, at least if you can help it. Sometimes there’s no choice but to soldier on with a stiff upper lip, hoping the bombers won’t show up again tonight, but for most of us in the Western world things are pretty okay — regardless of what your coworker posts 18 times a day on Facebook and Twitter.

Yet fear persists in more specific circumstances. One of them may involve a certain vehicle not owned by yourself, but someone you know.

There’s two ways a vehicle can strike queasy, palm-sweating fear into the heart of a mortal. First, it may be in such a state of disrepair that the floor stands a good chance of dissolving beneath you, dropping you onto the highway… if the linkages, an axle, or gas tank don’t get there first.

Or it could be that your friend/family member/coworker simple can’t handle what they bought. Big or small, muscular or wimpy, any car can be a cumbersome, too-hot-to-handle beast in the hands of someone who doesn’t trust their own skills, second-guesses their ability at every turn, or just generally couldn’t hit the side of a barn with a 10-gauge shotgun at five paces. Money and a license can open dangerous doors.

As for myself, I treasure the various tendons and bones that hold my spindly body together. I may live in Canada, but I know what becomes of a person on “disability,” and it aint the luxurious fever dream of a very online brodude who just left Radwood. Ol’ Steph needs to stay in one piece, which is why I avoid — like the plague — the two-door 2009 Hyundai Accent driven by a friend’s mother. One short drive was enough. Have you ever been in one of those things? The Grim Reaper rides shotgun, regardless of passenger count, and IIHS crash ratings bear this out. The shocking lack of….cushion…was vividly apparent during that one drive, showing just how far we’ve come in terms of passenger safety (and vehicle bloat) in recent years.

In no other vehicle, even a friend’s long-gone ’72 Super Beetle, has my head rubbed the headliner in the front seat. Oh wait — I forgot to mention the Fiat 500. Despite its four-wheel drums and a transmission held to the engine with dental floss, that old VW was still a vehicle I had no reservations about getting in. Not so with the Accent.

For some, the object of their ire may have been an early-model Pinto liftback, for obvious reasons.

Luckily, I’ve managed to avoid the kind of flayed rustbuckets that were once commonplace on highways across the continent. Thank the recession and subsequent rock-bottom interest rates for the plethora of newish vehicles on today’s roadways, even if the average age of a road-going car is still 11-plus years old. As for specific drivers, there’s a handful of people who I’d rather avoid as a chauffeur.

Over to you, B&B. You’ve all lived long and eventful lives, and dangerously fragile vehicles and Achilles-heeled drivers no doubt factored into them. Let’s hear those stories. What rides did you turn down, and why?

[Image: Hyundai]

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  • Nrd515 Nrd515 on Jan 17, 2020

    My former best friend had a real thing for just awful cars. His first car was a 1960 Ford Galaxie 500, which was just a complete mess. I put my hand through the driver's side quarter panel just leaning on it slightly. It didn't last long after that, it blew up it's transmission about a month later, and went right to the junkyard. After that turd, he got a Triumph TR-4A, which made the Ford seem solid and reliable. The engine had 1 totally dead cylinder, one sort of dead cylinder and two that fired well. The differential howled, their garage floor was covered in rust dust, after the car just going in and out. His mother's six cylinder Gremlin was a great car compared to those awful things. Riding in either of them scared me, the brakes were scary bad and the Triumph was so slow it was dangerous in traffic. When he started working steadily, he saved up his money and his grandparents kicked in some cash and he got a very nice '70 Corvette convertible. It had a hopped up engine in it and he loved that car. Of course, being a young guy who wanted to get married and have a kid meant the Vette had to go. His first "serious" car was a hand me down '72 Olds Cutlass from his wife's parents. When he started making some money, the Vette was back for a year or so, then he had a Porshe 944 for a long time, then a couple of BMW's, a Mustang, which he hated, and since then, it's been BMW's and Mercedes. He's a father of three now, grandfather of 4, smokes a lot of pot and looks fantastic. His wife looks like his mom now, and she's a couple of years younger than he is (63). He had a Honda S2000 last I heard for a play car, and drives a high end BMW to work every day. The Honda, of course, is vastly more reliable than the BMW is.

  • Beken Beken on Jan 20, 2020

    I remember my dad's 1960 Pontiac Strato Chief. When he finally got rid of it in 1972, the fenders had literally rusted through and so did the rear passenger seat floor. You can see the asphalt while sitting in the car. It had the wonderful GM Straight 6 motor in it that would not break but I did expect to fall through onto the road at anytime. It had drum brakes all around, so stopping was always a prayerful proposition when going home meant driving via a hilly mounting highway. Of course living in a paper mill town in the late 60's accelerated the rate in which a perfectly good car would crumble all by itself.

  • Jeff S I haven't seen one of these since the 90s. Good find.
  • William Piper Ditch the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance for starters….Mitzu has probably benefited less than the other two partners and it has shackled any brand creativity moving forward.
  • Tassos I knew a woman in the area, a journalist (at least she claimed to be a reporter of some kind) who owned one of these tiny pickups with a manual transmission. SHe was only 40 at the time, but she must have been hard of hearing, because she would routinely forget to shift and we would go at fairly high speeds in very low gear, which made a huge racket, which did not seem to bother her (hence my deafness hypothesis). Either that, or she was a lousy driver. Oh well, another very forgettable, silly car from the 80s (and if my first and LAST VW, a 1975 Dasher wagon, was any indication, a very unreliable one too!)
  • Tassos Now as for the Z specifically, Car and Driver had a comparison test of the new Z400, a car that looks good on paper, with plenty of HP etc, but, despite the fact that the cars that win in those tests are usually brand new models that are more up to date than their aging rivals, the Z finished DEAD LAST in the test, to my ovbious surprise.
  • Arthur Dailey Sorry but compare that spartan interior to the Marks that Corey is writing about. 'A cigarette lighter'. Every Mark had 4 cigarette lighters and ashtrays. And these came standard with 'a 3.4-liter, 182-horsepower straight-six in the engine compartment and a five-speed manual transmission'. Those do not tick off many of the luxury boxes aspired to by 'the greatest generation'.Not sure about the 7 series but one of My Old Man's associates showed up once with a brand new 5 series circa 1977 and they gave him such a bad time that he traded it for a Fleetwood within a week.