"Let's keep the shiny side up" were nearly the last words from the GM employee responsible for the safety briefing ahead of a drive for journalists through the windy roads of Georgia. One writer for a buff book didn't take that advice seriously enough and rolled a brand new Cadillac ATS into the woods within a few miles from the race track we were driving to that morning.
Everyone in the car was fine and I have many great things to say about the safety equipment built into the ATS that I don't think are embargoed.
One of the stranger sights in my life was coming around the corner in an ATS to see two fellow writers on the side of the road waving their hands for help and seeing no car. "Where was the hell is the car?" was the question everyone in my ATS was wondering.
My first thought was about the safety of the passengers in the car. Everyone was supposed to drive with a GM person in the car. This was probably partially to have a "minder" with us, but it's actually a big help to have an engineer with you to answer questions as you're driving.
When we came across the car we only saw journalists and my mind flashed to an image of the poor Cadillac PR person I imagined trapped inside the missing car. When we caught up with the Motor Trend writer and his photographer we inquired as to where the car was and they pointed to a hole in the dense Georgia woods. They'd gone out on their own so no one was missing.
Sure enough, there was an ATS completely upside down with the airbags popped and the rear door opened from their escape. Despite being a pre-production model the OnStar system worked and help was en route. Neither driver nor photog had more than a scratch on them. Given how the crash looked this seemed incredible.
The Motor Trend writer said he was driving spiritedly when he put a wheel off, lost control, overcorrected, and ended up rolling backwards towards the woods. He didn't flip it in the conventional sense (something difficult with modern electronic nannies) but instead went off at an awkward angle and rolled off the hill at what he estimates was about 15 mph.
I don't know the speed he was doing when he crashed. The driver tried to insist he wasn't going that fast, but the brake marks made this claim seem highly dubious. It seemed to me that he was probably going too hard into the corner for a quick drive on public roads. Especially given the fact that he was almost to the track.
Had they gone off just 20 feet earlier they'd have fallen down a treeless section roughly 100 feet down into the woods. We'd have never seen them and they could have easily done major damage to themselves. They were lucky.
Cadillac, for their part, appear to have a good playbook for dealing with overenthusiastic journalists and got the two buff bookers cleaned up and back to the track in a short time.
That's right, as we've said before, short of killing yourself or someone else there's essentially no repercussions for doing something like this if you have a big enough name or audience.