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Tell Us About The Time Your Car Saved Your Life

Illustration for article titled Tell Us About The Time Your Car Saved Your Life
Photo: Jalopnik
CountersteerYour true stories of good and bad things that happen in cars.

Cars are designed to protect us in the event of a crash. It’s unfortunate, but it happens sometimes. When did a car save your life?


For our own Raphael Orlove, a BMW E30 race car helped him cheat death one rain-soaked day at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. At a certain point in the day, Raph found himself stalled on the exit of a corner. Before he knew it, another car T-boned him at 80 mph right in the driver’s side door.


The race car’s door bars are what saved Raph. Here’s what he wrote:

They’re wider than on even any rally car I’ve ridden in, and made out of extra thick steel. Very honestly, if there had been something like a bolt-in cage in the car, or even any weaker construction on the cage, I would have been crippled if not killed. A bolt-in would have ripped right out, and a set of thinner X-bars would have allowed more intrusion towards the area I reserve for my bones and internal organs than I prefer. Andrew built a race car that saved my life. I’m grateful for that.

It sounded like a harrowing experience for sure, but we’re all glad that Raph made it out alright.

Now tell me, when did a car save your life?

Writer at Jalopnik and consumer of many noodles.

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Hayden Lorell

We often focus on the literal meaning of our cars “saving our lives”. However only a few people think of the alternative way that these funny machines have influenced our lives, and indeed, saved them.


2010 was the second worst year of my life. I was discharged from the Marine Corps for “medical reasons” after I had attempted to seek help from a Chaplin, to try and combat and control some severe depression I had been dealing with after breaking off a relationship with my then-fiancé. Not only had I been hurt and betrayed by someone I loved, but now I had lost the only thing that gave my life structure and meaning. The following year was hell; I moved from side-job to side-job, flunked out of community college, and ended up as a 20-year-old living back in his childhood bedroom with his parents. I was on the verge, my life seemed to have lost all meaning, I couldn’t find a single thing that gave me any joy or happiness. Then one day, a very brilliant psychotherapist gave me some advice: “find something you’re passionate about and focus your energy on that”. The answer was simple, because it was the only thing I have ever been passionate about; cars.


I spent the next few months searching the classifieds for the one that I wanted. The one I had always wanted since I was 14. Finally, one day I found it; a 1990 Nissan 300ZX. A 2-seater, T-Top coupe with about 65,000 original miles. Being lovingly stored in a heated garage and hardly driven in the 12 years that the second owner had it, the car was nearly perfect. I say nearly because it was a Grand Sport model, meaning that it was naturally aspirated instead of being a Twin Turbo. I couldn’t help myself though because it was in perfect condition and was a steal of a price. I gathered up the funds and enlisted my father and his 1-ton to assist me in bringing it 2.5 hours back from southern New York, up to our home at the foot of the Adirondacks.


After getting it registered and doing some preventative maintenance on it I was ready to hit the road. Just like I did in high school with my Z28 Camaro, I would drive only to get lost. I didn’t care where these roads ended I just wanted to be behind the wheel of my car. Every free moment I got I would park my beater Civic, and climb down into those low-slung bucket seats and let myself disappear into the cockpit. As the dash curved around me and my right arm lay on the console with the shifter perfectly grasped in my hand, and the gauges and pods stared back at me, it felt like the perfect fit. I couldn’t get enough of driving that car. My greatest memory in those first years was driving up the eastern shore of Lake Champlain. Weaving along the coastline with the T-Tops off and the July sun beating down on me, I felt completely at peace. I just sat behind the wheel and thought to myself “with moments like these, life can’t be all that bad”. I never forgot that mentality.



Unfortunately for the Z, fate stretched out it’s hand, and in the fall of 2013, an electrical fire grounded my beloved car for two years. It wasn’t until January 2016, that once again, my Z would come to my rescue. It was nearing the 2nd anniversary of my grandfather’s passing, a man who had no equal in my life and in my upbringing. In 2014 we not only lost him, but one of my other grandfathers, my aunt, and my cousin. 2014 quickly became the worst year of my life, and following a year of grieving I needed some mechanical therapy.

Sitting under a carport on my parent’s property, she had been neglected and in need of love. My best friend made the offer to bring it to his garage. So, we packed her on a trailer and brought it an hour and a half to the small town of Broadalbin NY. Where for a year, he and I worked tirelessly to repair, replace or rewire many of the damaged components. It was cathartic for both of us to say the least. I had lost a lot of people who were important in my life, and for my best friend it would become equally as important. In March of that year his little sister was killed in a car crash at the age of 22. The Z was a way for both of us to grieve and distract ourselves from the tragedy. Ultimately it was an incredible way for us to solidify our bond as childhood friends. After dozens of days and weekends spent tinkering and fixing, once again the Z was back in the mix. Again I got to experience the joy of getting behind the wheel of MY Fairlady Z. A car I had coveted for so long, a car that I loved every bit as much as anyone could love their own child. This wasn’t just a car anymore, this was a piece of me. This car was a part of my identity and my soul. This car had seen me through the worst times of my life and brought me through that dark tunnel to the other side, unscathed.


I hope I never have to part ways with that car. I feel as if I would be parting with one of my life-long friends. And even though I now live 3,000 miles away and I have left it in the care of my mother who loves the car nearly as much as I; I still take comfort in knowing I have that car in my life. Some people view these machines as nothing but a simple tool. For me it goes much deeper than that and I am not ashamed to say that simple tool saved my life.