QOTD: Know Any Hard Luck Automobiles?

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
qotd know any hard luck automobiles

It’s a film I reference often, but in this case it fits. The absolutely fantastic movie Twelve O’Clock High concerns itself with a U.S. Army Air Forces bomber group stationed in the south of England during WW2.

Tasked with “precision” daylight bombing over occupied Europe relatively early in the conflict, the group goes about its missions without fighter escorts, leaving themselves wide open to every Messerschmitt and flack gun along the route. It’s a deadly business, but orders are orders. Every day, B-17s take off into a clear blue sky, many never to return.

So many, in fact, that the base earns a stigma of being home to a “hard luck group.”

The equipment is fine, as are the men behind the controls, but luck isn’t on their side. And just as circumstances can sink the fortunes of an otherwise competent outfit like the 918th Bomb Group, so too can hard luck fall on a car.

Some vehicles are just plain unlucky.

Your author knew of such a vehicle back in college. A paisley-fancying classmate briefly owned a vehicle that was compelling in its own right: a third-generation Honda Prelude in an unusual spec. It carried the base engine, but for some reason boasted optional four-wheel steering — a pricey but appealing system most often found on hotter Si models. Yours truly had just ditched an Si himself, thought that car lacked the fancy footwork.

The college experience was a short one. We’re talking eight months, yet during that time, our protagonist’s Prelude fell victim to two bouts of bad luck — one of them fatal (for the car only, thankfully).

The first incident occurred one night while our classmate was slumbering inside his apartment in a sketchy part of town. Outside, some kids decided to make off with the car. Their plan hit a snag when they discovered their target contained a strange third pedal mounted to the left of the accelerator and brake. No matter, they tried anyway.

And in doing so, made a mess of the clutch. Starving student kept his car, but the incident left him with an unexpected bill.

Not long after, this same student found himself at a red light, stopped behind (if I recall correctly) a dump truck. For reasons unknown, the driver of the truck unexpectedly threw it in reverse and started backing up. Boxed in from behind, our protagonist could only watch in disbelief as the weighty truck’s dual rear wheels made a solid effort of climbing his car’s low-slung hood.

And that was it for the Prelude with the mismatched engine and steering. RIP.

Through no fault of their own, some vehicles just can’t catch a break. And it’s entirely possibly you owned such an unlucky vehicle, or knew someone who did. Tell us about it.

[Image: General Motors]

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  • Davew833 Davew833 on Jul 26, 2020

    In 1985 a buddy of mine bought a brand-new 1986 Jeep Comanche pickup. It was summer and we were bored so I sourced a $25 ping-pong table from the classified ads or somewhere, and we went to pick it up in his week-old truck. The house with the ping pong table had a sloping driveway we pulled into. We then carried the table out and leaned it against the driver's side of the bed before lifting it in. Somehow the truck started to roll backwards down the driveway. The driver's door was open and someone jumped in and put on the brake, but not before the door caught the edge of the ping pong table, pushing it backward until it caught on a crack in the driveway. Well, something had to give, and it was the door of the Comanche. It bent all the way forward until it touched the front fender. And no-- it wouldn't close again after that. The price of our $25 ping pong table had just increased by nearly $1000... and my friend was none too happy. IIRC he had to file bankruptcy about a year later and the truck was repossessed anyway.

  • -Nate -Nate on Jul 26, 2020

    Wow - such misery . -Nate

  • CoastieLenn They absolutely should.
  • Arthur Dailey Thanks for the clarification.@JeffS has nicely summarized most of my original comment.I greatly dislike the 'touring' light treatment. It seems like we all do. This generation of Mark is too short to pull off the continental hump and fake engine vents. With them the proportions look odd.As Corey so nicely put it 'disco was dead and so was its car'. Successive generations generally reject the vehicles that their parents drove (or drove them around in). And as the children of Boomers grew, the Boomers gave up their PLC's and rather than turning to station wagons to transport their growing brood turned to the newly available minivan.And the generation behind them, rather than aspiring to a PLC, instead leased 'German driving machines'.
  • SCE to AUX "Toyota has dropped a pic of the next Tacoma on Instagram."This is why the splashy auto show reveals are dead.
  • Sckid213 I feel like the Camry in Japan is what oddballs like the Kia K9 and Hyundai Eqqus felt here. Obviously those were higher-end vehicles than Camry, but they felt like they were in the wrong dimension here in the U.S.
  • FreedMike The Falcon was fast and temperamental. Is Ford sure this is what it wants to advertise?