Look, not every car can remain perfect forever. Sometimes, through circumstance or neglect or just the inexorable passage of time, our vehicles get battered, bruised, and broken. But, just because decay is inevitable, that doesn’t mean we need to accelerate it.
I used to do car clinics & safety inspections for college kids before spring and thanksgiving break. A few government fleet guys did this, donating stuff/time. We would check lights, tires, add any fluids, tell folks how to check their owners manual (we called it the dealership/mechanic lie detector). We had some other public health outreach. We even had a few good local independent shops there, one would even patch any tires with their mobile tire guy if it could be done. So it was all the things you should definitely do - but a lot of folks skip.
Anyway a nearly new Hyundai Sonata pulls up (maybe a year old). The guy gets out and we check his car. Nothing jumps out, maybe a bit of wear on his front tires but that tends to be par for the course. We check his oil. Nana. We add a quart. Nada. Add a second quart. Note. A thirds and we finally get a trace at the bottom. 3.5 quarts later. Got under the car, could not find a leak. Checked the odometer. 22K. We ask him about the issue and he says “You don’t need to change the oil because it has a 100K mile warranty”. We try and work with him to read the manual, he guy gives us a hard “pass” saying we are just trying to sell something (at a free event). He just gets uppity and leaves, flooring trough the parking lot nearly hitting some other folks.
I mean why did that guy come to the event? Did some parent bend his arm? Did he want to show off his new car?
Look, when you’ve got a shiny new Sonata, you have to show it off somewhere. An instructional event for new car owners is as good a spot as any.
The Rovers section (18 - 26 year olds) of the Western Australian Scout Association has an annual event called “Bush Baja” every June during the long weekend we have here at that time.
Basically Bush Baja involves getting an old car for $100 or so, welding the doors closed, knocking out all the glass and most of the interior, adding a kill switch and Jesus bar here and there, giving the car a ‘cool paintjob’ with some house paint, and then bashing it through the bush in various events over the course of the 3 day weekend.
If you happen to hit a tree or some such then you did your best to get the car going again to finish off the weekend. (See pics 3 and 4. We finished 5th overall for the weekend even with the car like this)
Sorry for the small size of the photos but these are from 1998 when the Internet was still new and file sizes were a big problem....
Photo 6 btw is a mid -70's Mazda 121 body with an RX-3 Rotary stuffed into it. It came 2nd overall that year and won outright the following year. Went like stink as the car basically had no weight to it.
I would do unholy things to own an RX3-swapped 121. This is joining my list of automotive white whales, below an RB-swapped Datsun Z and an FD RX-7 that doesn’t cost one million dollars.
What else do you abuse as a teenager? The family’s ride, of course.
16 years old, got my license, and I took the family car, a former cop car (Dad took us all to the state auction where he picked out a highway cruiser and bought it on the spot), which was a Plymouth Fury II with a hot 383 under the hood.
I’ll say this for Iowa: no worrying about whipping the car around curves—it’s basically a grid of straight roads and highways. So OK, let’s take this former cop car and see how fast we can go. So I selected this one really long straight stretch and put my foot in it. The speedo kept climbing. The Fury wasn’t a loud car, it just felt like it could take it if you wanted to go that fast. I gave it a shot.
For two seconds, I held the Fury at 130mph as my heart was in my throat. Then I let my foot off the gas and the Plymouth immediately bled speed. I gave the power brakes a touch to get the speed down el-quicko because a rare curve in the road was rapidly approaching. I got the car down to 90mph as I took it. After I stopped breathing hard, I finally drove the Fury home—I noticed each time I put my foot on the brake—there was an “Rrrrrrrrr!” with a vibration. WTF? Did the front rotors get too hot and warp? Parked the car, went inside and said nothing.
Later we’re all off to the store and Dad hits the brakes and get the vibration. “Goddammit! What’s with these goddam brakes!?!” I slunked as low as possible in the rear seat.
Warped rotors seem like one of the better results you could’ve gotten. As someone who’s glazed pads and lost all braking at track-day speeds, I’ll take the wobble any day.
I second the city life, but I’m also the “hit redline whenever you can” guy majority of the time as well (as long as it’s up to temp).
Best thing I ever made my Compass do was getting stuck in a parking lot.
A level one at that.
It was the dead of winter, and like many a person in the Snow States, I like to do drifts in the snow.
The two big plaza’s we have aren’t owned by someone intelligent, so they’re both never upkept and unless there’s a business that’s open, they typically won’t plow any snow or salt in front of any empty section of their strip malls..... so when I decided to do some snow drifts right where it’s never plowed, where there was about 6/7 inches of snow on the ground, on my “all-weathers”.
Safe to say, I hit the perfect spot and got stuck lmao
Had to call AAA, and was taught how I actually have a fully defeatable T/C system in my Jeep, and just had to full send it to get out after being readjusted.
There’s nothing like good snow drift on the way to the grocery store. That used to be my primary method of getting to Wegmans in my FR-S, with Blizzaks on my wheels and traction control completely turned off.
Racing has to be it right? Blew a brand new motor after about 50 miles once. destroyed a clutch in less than 100 miles once. Broke a trans in less than 5 miles once. Got the brakes so hot the seals on the rear brake caliper sliders melted. Destroyed at set of expensive tires in about 400 miles, we’re talking tread separating from the carcass.
Whatever, if you’re not powershifting at 7500 RPM are you even living?
The more revolutions per minute, the better. It’s simple race car science, and if it costs you a few engines or gearboxes, that’s just the price of going racing.
The first one was a late 80's Nissan Sentra. I got rear ended pretty hard one day. Car looked fine so I asked the tow driver at the shop what it would take to fix it. “Fix it? Dude, that’s unibody, it’s totalled!” So I pulled the trunk out so it would close and kept on driving it... for about 2 months when the engine decided that the previous impact had done enough damage and it cracked and all the oil came out. What do you do with a running car that’s destined for the crusher? Let someone smoke the tires until the engine seizes... then strap someone into it and roll it down a hill (he had a helmet). Baseball bats and metal pikes were then taken to the car until it was rightly destroyed.
The second one was another 80's car, probably an ‘85 Olds Cutlass. Cracked frame, either weld it or scrap it. Owner decided to scrap it, flat bed is coming on Thursday. Well, it’s New Year’s eve and there’s a vacant lot out back. I ran into trees forward, reverse, sidways, ripping donuts in the grass and even had it up on two wheels for about 20 yards. No idea what electrical lines got ripped out, but it made a very bright flash when it happened and all the lights went out, but the car still ran. And the next day we measured it and it was about 2 feet shorter.
Abused yes... but these were vehicles destined for the scrap yard.
NegativeEd, I get the sense that you harbor some resentment for the mid- to late 1980s. I assure you, writing negative Letterboxd reviews of Stranger Things is cheaper than destroying Rad-era cars.
I had an old toyota pickup truck. It had a wooden bed because the original one had rusted into a condition that no longer resembled a truck bed.
I had a landlord that needed a pallet of pavers, so i offered to get them. The guy at Home Depot just lifted them up with the forklift and said “right there?” and I was like “yeah sure”. I should have immediately had him remove them when I pulled away and realized when i stepped on the brake, nothing happened, but I mashed that fucker down and eventually stopped. I should have also turned around when I smelled burning rubber, because the wooden bed was resting on the tires and basically creating a permanent smoke show as I drove.
But, I was in my 20's, so fuck it!
The tread of the rear tires was more or less completely removed.
Both rear brake shoes were cracked (presumably from overheating)
I managed to keep that thing running until my girlfriend at the time overheated it and blew the head gasket. We fixed it, but it never really ran the same after that.
A Toyota may be abused, but it’s hard to truly kill. Sure, after all that, it may not run correctly, but it still runs.
My first car - a “shiny maroon” ‘82 Subaru GL 4dr - 5sp and 1.8l of horizontally-opposed manic (not)power. Complete with handbrake on the front wheels and the spare tire on top of the engine to ensure the most nose-heavy wieght distribution possible. I, a testosterone-poisoned newly licensed 17yo high school senior with delusions of knowing what to do behind the wheel. How did I abuse that poor hand-me-down from Grandma? How DIDN’T I abuse it? I flew off the end of a road that unexpectedly dead-ended and had to use the jack to get it off of the logs I landed on. I flew it over railroad tracks getting serious air. I would attempt to peg the speedometer on windy back roads in Maine with my idiot friends egging me on. Subaru rather unhelpfully did not put a defined redline on the tach, so I used ALL the revs, ALL the time. I by some miracle did not roll the thing when I tried to pass too many cars on a backroad and had to dive into the ditch to avoid a head-on collision, sliding sideways for a couple hundred yards in the process. I spun it repeatedly in the snow, and I whacked it into a granite curb sideways trying to learn handbrake turns (oops, didn’t know about that front handbrake thing at the time). I managed to use up a set of tires AND a set of brake pads in less than 25K, much to the (not)amusement of the Old Man (luckily a used rear suspension was not THAT expensive. I also rear-ended a friend while driving to a soccer game two states away from home - I half-assedly fixed that myself, resulting in one metallic brown fender. On more than one occasion, I checked the oil to find none in evidence on the dipstick. I got a plethora of speeding tickets to the point of a three month license vacation. Ultimately, I sold it to my first college roommate at the end of freshman year, and he drove it for the rest of his college days, until the rampant Subaru rust caused the rear suspension to make it’s way through the trunk floor. Still ran like a champ though. No chance of any carbon having built up in THAT motor. :-)
How I did not kill that car or myself or others is a mystery of the ages. Thankfully, I matured rapidly, as the succession of Jetta GLIs that followed were MUCH faster (though I suppose the better handling helped there).
Once you actually have to deal with power, your approach to it changes. At least, that’s what teenagers love to tell their parents — in reality, maturity comes with time, rather than horsepower.
I used to have an apartment about less than a mile from work. I would get in car, start it, pull out and hit the rev limiter in 1st, 2nd and 3rd gear before slowing down and parking at work 5 minutes later. Didn’t matter if it was 100 deg F or 10 deg F, I drove the same way. When work was done, I did the same thing coming back. I was mid 20s and pretty dumb. My car started burning oil within 3 months of this sort of abuse, so at least I was keeping the bug population under control around me.
OR... In my mid 40s, I gave a car to my 16 year old son. Who drove like I did when I was 16. The car made it to his 18th birthday. Barely. Was using a quart of oil a week at the end.
This one hurts. You may not have to warm up your engine fully before doing any sort of driving, like some people will tell you, but a bit of care can make your engine last far longer — and be far happier for those years.
As a 15 year old, I was able to rent mopeds in a vacation community. $5 extra got you full insurance. Cousin and I would take them on off road bike trails and golf courses and jump them over whatever we could. Had to return at least 2 that “stopped working for some reason.”
Sounds like fifteen-year-old you needed the happy medium: A Honda Trail 125. Call it a Trail, a Postie Bike, or whatever you want, but it’s the off-road moped of your dreams.
I remember doing donuts in the back lawn of my high school (and the grassy/sandy vacant lot next to my buddy’s house)...in my dad’s E150 work van. Aside from throwing all the tools around in the back (the second incident, a friend of mine was riding in the back, as it only had the two seats up front), I wouldn’t call that overly abusive though.
I wouldn’t really say this was intentionally abusive either, but the car was not happy with me. Was taking my ‘81 Z28 (305, 4-speed) for one last drive last November, went to make a right turn at a particularly interesting intersection (a little blind, cars coming from the left rather quickly out of nowhere). Cars were coming but far enough back that I had plenty of time...except for the fact I wasn’t in first, I was in third.
It became immediately apparent as I proceeded out into the intersection, so I, in a panic, went to throw the car into first...but this being a Super T10, the car has very close gates - and reverse up and to the left. So, of course, I did not put it into 1st, but into Reverse - while moving forward, leading to some awful noises and vibrations. At that point, I had to make the decision to get out of the intersection as those far away cars were now very close and probably wondering what in the hell was going on. Backed up very quickly (thankfully nobody behind me) and made my attempt once the line of cars had past. It really seemed to hate second (oddly, as that gear was not involved in that debacle) right after.
On my way home, I stopped to fill the tank up in preparation for parking it for the winter and when I went to leave, the starter would spin, but refused to engage. I am pretty sure that was the car specifically stating its feelings toward me that day.
When I was a kid, the E-series was The Van. It was everywhere, in every logo and livery you could imagine; unseen and omnipresent. To imagine one doing donuts brings a sense of peace and joy to my inner child.
When I used to do pizza deliveries we were provided with company cars. Ten year old (at the time) Ford Rangers with the 2.2L engine and a five speed that were due to be replaced soon with Chevrolet HHRs. Me, being seventeen, thought I’d try out my 51cK 5K1LLZ and see if I could clutchless shift.
I did. A lot. Actually I turned out to be very good at it. I guess a lot of practice riding ATVs and dirtbikes helped.
I’ve been too scared to try it since because every manual car I’ve driven since then has either been irreplacable or I felt like the transmission was too fragile to handle it.
Points for the ability to clutchlessly shift, but bonus points for proper 13375|>34|<. It’s been too long, old friend. Glad to see you return.
the first car I got from my folks was a 1989 Hyundai Excel. no front speakers. and the wiring for them was dead-ended, too.
anyway, we used to find hilly neighborhoods and do burnouts going uphill. one time I slid about 8 feet backwards before the front wheels started to get traction. for the next 2 years of high school, any time we drove through there, we could see the two big black “J” marks the wheels left in rubber.
those wheels where how I first learned about steel belts in tires
not surprising to anyone, that car gave up the ghost a year later and I moved into a sweet, sweet mazda protoge
Would you say the little Hyundai excelled at burnouts? I know, I’m sorry, the easy joke is never the good one. But, would you?
Letting it sit. Thankfully nothing has really gone wrong with my ST since it’s no longer my daily (other than a wheel bearing failing and having to replace the battery after only 19 months). But using your work car to drive the family around in takes precedence over the now “weekend car”.
I will say a benefit to this way is when I do get to drive it, I get constantly realize: how amazing of a car it is; how this whole segment barely exists anymore; and how lucky I am to still own it.
As long as you run it often enough, neglect shouldn’t kill your late model-car. Instead, it’ll kill your spirit — having to stare at the fun car, day in and day out, without ever driving it.
Bought a used Prius and proceeded to drive 60k total miles in less than two years in service of Uber. That thing hit so many speed bumps, steep driveways. Went light off-roading a few times. Rear suspension was shot by the time I traded it in. Replaced the struts on the hatch. Had to get bodywork done at the all-cash place a couple of times.
But you know what...that sunnabitch just. kept. running. Mechanically, the drivetrain was fine. Sure, the rear door was a (lot) looser than when I got it. But the leather held up ok.
The reason I traded it in was because it had the TRD package (yes, a performance Prius...), which meant 1.5 fewer inches of ground clearance, which meant bottoming out on tall speed bumps and scraping bodywork on every steep driveway. After the front air dam became detached on a steep driveway, I decided I needed something with more ground clearance.
Hey, when was someone going to tell me that Toyota made a TRD Prius? And that, at least in some year for some market, it came with the coolest wheels I have ever seen?
I had a completely trashed BMW e34 530i automatic. One day on the ride to work, the transmission stopped shifting. I coasted into a parking lot and called a tow truck. I had it towed to my mechanic, and the transmission was bone-dry. He filled it up and it was good to go again.
Picture from the tow truck wait.
I mean, look, who can really be expected to keep all their car’s fluids in all the right places all the time? There are just so many to keep track of, one of them is bound to slip through the cracks eventually. And onto your driveway.
My second car was a 1987 Honda Civic Si. Red. Also my first manual transmission. I got tired of trying to learn how to get into first gear and get the car moving (stalling while in traffic is embarrassing!), so I quickly discovered that if you turn the car off, put it in first, then start the key the car will jump to life and start moving on it’s own and then all I had to do was shift into second and gas it! Easy Peasy. Went through 2 clutches in 2 months. Something must have been wrong with the clutch. Right?
Please do not submit this to Lifehacker as a genuine tip. It may work, technically, but it’s far outside what we’d call “intended functionality.”
My brother and I jumped our charger over a police car using a dirt ramp once-
The song says “Never meaning no harm,” but then they’re driving around with that particular roof graphic. I have to wonder what their definition of harm is. Plus, legend says they harmed hundreds of Chargers.