Thursday, February 25, 2010

While we're talking about strange vehicle mishaps...

...here're a couple of my more interesting tales of underway woe:

1) The Pontiac Fiero was an almost entirely parts-bin car. Except for the body and the large visible chunks of the interior, nearly everything was sourced from extant GM vehicles: The front suspension came from the T-bodies (think "Chevette") and the rear suspension and drivetrain was basically the FWD X-body's (think "Citation") turned 180°. The parking brake handle came from the C4 Corvette, and was sandwiched between the driver's seat and the door.

To operate the parking brake, you'd raise the handle, which would ratchet the brakes on, and then lower it again so you could exit the vehicle without fouling your undercarriage on the brake lever. To take the parking brake off again, you'd pull the lever up, push the button on the end, and lower it. In other words, whether the brake was on or off, the lever was down; your only indication of the different status was the "BRAKE" idiot light on the dash.

You can see where I'm going with this, right?

I never actually used the parking brake, what with my car having the V-6 engine and a granny gearchanger. But apparently I messed around with it one day... Did you know that it was possible to disengage a Fiero's parking brake enough to turn the light off, but still have the brake slightly engaged? And that if you drive half a dozen miles or so down I-85 in Atlanta with a caliper dragging, you'll boil the brake fluid and be rewarded with an horrific smell and a pedal that goes to the floor?

Luckily I noticed on the interchange before my off-ramp, and between there and the Armour Drive traffic light at the bottom of the ramp, I was able to pump some life back into the system, but it was a pretty hair-raising experience.


2) The Honda 700 Interceptor had a hydraulic clutch. The lever was only attached to the bike by the pivot screw, since it just operated a piston on the master cylinder. Once upon a time, immortal in the way that only 20-year-olds can be, I was riding home from work at about... oh... 100mph or so, northbound on GA400 (easy to do during morning rush hour, since the northbound lanes were deserted and the southbound ones were a parking lot.) Tooling blissfully along, something twinkled briefly in my peripheral vision as it fell off the handlebar. It was the screw from the clutch lever.

Followed almost immediately by the departure of the lever itself.

Oh.

Crap.

In what remains to this day one of my more virtuoso performances at the helm of a motor vehicle, I somehow managed to drift across three lanes of light traffic, downshifting from 5th to Neutral without the clutch, and bring the bike to a halt on the shoulder of the road. I then had to detach myself from the bike, walk back, and dodge traffic to get my clutch lever, laying in the road out by the median. It was more of a hike than I expected; it takes a bit of road to coast down from the far side of the Ton.

A crude pivot was MacGyvered from a small twig of Georgia pine lying by the side of the road, and using this and a deathgrip to hold the lever on the bar, I rode to the Honda dealership for a replacement part, and all was well as ended well.

43 comments:

Robert Langham said...

You missed your calling as a crime-fighting action hero!

Tam said...

The only crimes there involved attempted vehicular homicide by Atropos, Clotho, and Lachesis.

staghounds said...

Yes, we're many of us fugitives from the law of averages.

I am very impressed. I thought my worst wheeled surprise- seeing the left rear wheel of my 2002 go bounding off ahead of me on the freeway at 80- was scary. But hats off, yours is way worse.

joated said...

Staghounds, You too?!? Although mine wasn't quite at 80 mph since it was during near whiteout conditions on Rt 17 in New York. Why is it always the left rear that busts loose? Nothing quite like being passed by---yourself?!

Then there was the time the strap holding the trailered boat on the trailer snapped. Luckily, the front cable remained intact and the boat only listed 30 degrees to starboard.

But a no-clutch 100-to-0 stop in traffic on a motorcycle. Oooh boy! Gotta say you win, Tam.

Anonymous said...

Pffft, cars are not governed by the laws of science. Cars are ruled by magic.

Just ask any Congressperson or ATLA.

Shootin' Buddy

Anonymous said...

I was hoping you'd elaborate on that snub of fate on the Honda. We can all wonder at having survived some of those youthful indiscretions. Keeping your head with no panic responses and movements saved you and that is impressive in a twenty year old.

My survival was just God watching out for idiots, I guess. When my wife moved back to Valdosta for a while in the late 70's, I'd ride my little 550F up from West Palm on some weekends. I was in my early twenties, too...and to stay dry/warm and reduce wind load, I'd lock in tight behind an eighteen wheeler at 80 mph on two-lane connector roads, the FL turnpike, and I-75. So many ways to die.

Whenever I see a crotchrocket club zip around and through three lanes of heavy interstate traffic at that same speed, I think what idiots they are. And then I remember...I was an idiot once. (still?). Maybe He'll watch over them, too.

AT

Paul said...

Back when I was youger we had just got a Yamaha 200RD back from the shop. It was a oil burner with the oil provided into the air stream via a pump. I was coming out of a turn with a car on my butt when the pin on the pump came out. When a two cycle engine freezes you have no go. Rear tire locked up and the skid started. I grabbed some clutch and coasted to the side of the road.

It was a little scary, but I recall being more annoyed at the time. I was on my way to meet one of the ladies I was seeing at the time and now I would be late.


Course this also happened in the summer of 74.

Mike W. said...

Heh, the parking brake on my Fiero (also a slushbox V6) never worked right. It was also the loudest slow car I've ever had. Hard to believe the thing had 6 cylinders.

Mikee said...

My sister went off to college in 1976, leaving her AMC Gremlin to me for use as an uber-cool high school cruiser. I put a piece of carpet on the passenger side floor to cover the hole there (watching road go by underfoot bothers some people -go figure) and spent a whole lot of money to replace the missing gas cap with an OEM cap, the one with the Gremlin on it. My sister had made do with an old rag shoved into the gas filler.

The first week I drove it the new gas cap was stolen. Those Gremlins held some odd fascination for local kids. I went back to the Molotov gas cap.

The second week I drove it, I was stopped at a suburban stop sign, and upon shifting into first I heard something hit the ground beneath the car, and the clutch pedal when to the floor. Upon inspecting the undercarriage, I saw the clutch sticking down and its connecting parts loose on the ground, with a broken snap-ring to blame. Rummaging in the back seat, I found one of my sister's lost hair pins and repaired the clutch.

Some may ask, "How did my sister lose a hair pin in the back seat of her Gremlin?" The more important question is "How long did the repair last?" While I never asked my sis the first question, the answer to the second was until summer ended and I went off to college.

My mom wisely sold the Gremlin, hopefully to someone who valued their life enough to scrap it.

Tam said...

Mike W.,

"It was also the loudest slow car I've ever had."

The V6 Fiero was crowding the high end of what I consider acceptable acceleration for safety (If a car won't do 0-60 in less than ~8.5, it's too slow to get out of its own way in an emergency, as far as I'm concerned.)

Joanna said...

I once heard a stand-up routine where the comic confessed to driving a rental car for two miles with the parking brake engaged. He said he didn't know which was worse, that he was that inobservant or that the parking brake was less "brake" and more "handle that makes the car smell funny."

NYEMT said...

Mine was a 720-degree spin on a snow-covered road (luckily momentarily deserted aside from me) in my 1979 Toyota Tercel on the way to work a midnight shift.

I had just the day before gotten the car (which my brother had wrecked) back together and put it on the road, since my trusty Isuzu Trooper had popped its head gasket.

The car had no tread on any of its four tires...literally. There were BIG white patches showing through the rubber on all four.

I went "THUMP!" against the snowbank on the side of the road, trunk-first, waited while my head stopped spinning, got out, checked for serious damage (of which there was none), dug snow off the trunk lid to get to my shovel (the car was buried up to the rear window), shoveled enough snow away from the front wheels to get them spinning, got back in, fired it up, hammered it out of the snowbank in second gear, and went on my way to work.

That was a GREAT car. It had no stereo, rocker-panel induction, and the ventilated floorboards mentioned by someone above. It also had 295,000 miles on it, when I sold it for $500 (which was $400 more than I had into it).

Good times. :)

Anonymous said...

Good thinking for a 20-year-old, and I'm glad you've survived the younger years on bikes so we can now enjoy your wit, sarcasm and historical knowledge.
A couple of years ago, I made what was probably a bad decision for a 60-year-old but it worked out okay. Broke clutch cable on my 1100 Virago and decided it would be okay to ride through about 3 miles of surface street commute traffic in Chico to reach the freeway, a couple of miles on HWY 99, and another 2 miles of dodging cars and hitting most signals wrong to reach the dealer. Splitting lanes, finding neutral and killing the engine at red lights, taking off by using the starter in gear (glad it wasn't kick start) got me there, but naturally they didn't stock the cable for a 10-year-old bike. Bein' Friday afternoon and with them closed on Mondays, that meant no part available before Tuesday.
The dealer was a good guy, called a car rental company who came and picked up my wife and I, we got to the rental office just before they closed and had a vehicle to get us the 50 miles home. Of course they closed at noon Saturday and since I work 6 days a week I couldn't return the car before Monday afternoon, but they even gave me a special weekend rate. Still, it turned out to be mighty expensive cable. Shortly thereafter, I decided to splurge for an extra 10 bucks a year to get the road service option through GEICO.

Rob J

Jay G said...

Memreeeez...

First bike was a Yamaha XS850 Midnight Special. Yep, a triple.

Bought for spare change with the idea of learning to ride, then buying something better.

Wound up driving it home from UNH to my apartment with the rear brake partially seized.

Oh, and did I mention no front brake? Yeah, the previous owner had decided front brakes weren't necessary...

Learned a lot about shifting.

And the importance of good boots...

fast richard said...

I had a clutch cable break heading east out of Denver on an old Kawasaki H2 two stroke. It had been a long day, having slept the previous night on a picnic table somewhere north of Kanab, Utah. It was also getting dark and starting to rain. I had to be careful not to stop competely unless I was on a downslope, but I made it to a friend's house in Sterling, CO where I was able to rest up and find the parts I needed.

jeff said...

Ah, motorcycles. One of these days I'll relate some of the tales that came from riding my 1941 Harley Davidson with a foot clutch and suicide shift.

Billy Beck said...

Home from the En Vogue tour of 1991 ("Funky Divas") after a night off before a show in ATL where I lived at the time, I launched out of Tucker on the Harley, headed for the Fox Theater at 7:00am. I was about halfway down Ponce De Leon Avenue when the clutch cable broke at the handle.

Get it? That route, at that hour, with no clutch.

I broke nearly every law in the DMV book trying to make that stage-call at 8:00am. Wrong way down one-way streets, splitting lanes, looping around in parking lots while waiting for red lights and then diving back into traffic like a regular kamikaze. I still don't know why someone didn't just shoot me off that bike.

I made it, though it was a bit late and Dr. Duck was building my mid-stage truss when I walked in. Bill Reeves (production manager) -- "Good morning, Mr. Beck. Very happy you could join us today."

Me: "Happy to be here, boss!"

aczarnowski said...

Ah the Interceptor. I had a VFR 750 that did right by me for several years. I rewarded it with a completely stupid high side one early spring day. So even then it was teaching me lots of things very quickly. I still love seeing and hearing those V4 Hondas go by.

The guy that took it off my hands brought it back after I couldn't find time for nursing two bikes back to health. The '77 BMW is sort of running and has a lot less expensive plastic to wreck!

og said...

I have lost the clutch in cars several times, hydraulics AND mechanical; neither is better. I have also driven an auto trans home from work in reverse because all the forward gears were hosed. Rental cars? I learned that the "brake" lever could also be called the "drift" lever. I would never buy a used rental, based on what I have done to rentals over the years.

Happy you lived to tell the tales, esp. the motorcycle one.

David said...

My cousin was riding his bike home from college with his future wife on the back. While cruising down the two lane highway at about 70 MPH on a warm summer day, she passed out. As she started to fall sideways off the bike he reached back with his left hand wrapped his arm around her and pinned her to his back.

He had a clutch but couldn't reach it, He eventually slowed to a stop on the gravel shoulder while balancing 110 lbs of dead weight that was trying to fall sideways off the bike.

For some strange reason she won't ride on motercycles anymore. He still rides.

I've never lost a left rear wheel, but lost a right front wheel. Fortunately the bearings bouncing off the pavement and back up against the undercarriage of the car alerted me that something was wrong and I was able to slow down to about 20 mph before it came off.

Only thing scarier than that was having the yoke that connects the driveshaft to the transmission break and the front end of the driveshaft drop at 60 mph. It didn't flip the car, but it did bounce the back end about 6 feet into the air before the shaft buckled and the flung the car around sideways into a spin. Fortunately there was a very shallow ditch, no fence and field full of nice sweet corn to help me stop me stop.

Matt G said...

Mikee's clutch story reminds me of the fix we made to my best friend's Dodge Omni clutch linkage, 'way out on a dirt road, with a pair of vice grips. We were 15 at the time.

A year later, we remembered we had done that. Looked underneath, and found the vice grips still there. A Dodge Omni was not a high-slung car, either.

og said...

Me, having met all 5'12" of Tam, I wonder how she ever squeezed those long legs into a pontiac FireArrow.

Kristopher said...

Yer lucky you found the clutch lever. Try doing a a 150 mile ride home without one ...

I ran more than a few stop signs at low speed on that trip.

SpeakerTweaker said...

I've got fifty bucks for anyone with a picture of the expression on Tam's face when that lever departed the bike!



tweaker

Ed Foster said...

First, you were very, very cool. Still are, but I'm thinking 20 something might make it easier to be cool, because at that age we all knew we will live forever.

I can think of several incidents in my life that I survived only because of excellent reflexes and perhaps sheer blind luck.

Back in High School, my '49 Hardtail (cost me $75) and I took flying lessons together, landing only inches apart, can you believe the luck, on a downward rolling hill covered with a foot of wet leaves.

An interesting moment, that slow motion time drifting through the air while a Harley rotates over you, inches away. Had I been a few inches lower, the guard posts would have snapped my back like a twig. That was dumb luck.

Another time, going way too fast on icy streets with crappy visibility, I power carved a reversed turn around a stuck car that came out of nowhere, and recovered in lane. I pirouetted around his nose, missing him by maybe two feet.

Along with a few other adventures, I find it interesting that there was never a concious thought involved.

Some automatic subsystem took over and braked, spun the wheel, unbraked and goosed the gas to let the nose drift out, braked, cut the wheel opposite, unbraked and goosed again to bring the rear around, then did it again to clear the curb on the other side. All in the time it would have taken to simply slide into him with a hell of a bang.

Not being one for after action jitters, I thought "Damn I'm good", and drove a bit slower for a few days. It's wonderful to be young.

I had a helmet rotate down over my face in heavy traffic once. Long story.

While shaking my head to toss it away, I steered by the sound of the cars ahead of and behind me (I'd clutched out to cut the noise)and bent into the turn I'd been entering when the friggin' helmet liner realized it was an airfoil.

I ended up making the intersection in perfect formation with the vehicles in front and behind, although I'm sure I scared the crap out of the driver behind me watching the show.

Is it inherited? Some people just do it when it hits the fan. Others just as smart, just as brave, need training for that specific instance to have a chance, and without it the magic thing doesn't happen.

I suspect it's a random collection of genes, having nothing to do with character, smarts, and only occasionally with luck. Luck is as likely to screw you as not.

People used to believe dolphins would push drowning sailors to land. It turns out they push drowning sailors, but the ones who lived to tell the tail were the ones pushed toward land. The ones pushed further out to sea had a different story to tell in Davy Jones's Locker.

Has anybody ever done a study on reflexive actions that turn out to have a skillset behind them, and the people who have been blessed or cursed with the knack?

Given a risk taker's mentality and a lack of after action pukies, I suspect incidents like these (there are 4 or 5 others) have probably served to magnify my indifference to risk over the years.

I'm older, reasonable logical, and I think I've learned most of the needed lessons by now, but I was at a much higher risk for a much longer time than I had to be.

It's something I'd like to read about, and I've never seen it discussed in print.

Shane said...

2 AM on a curve that was temporarily realigned due to construction. A curve rated at the max speed limit (55 mph) for the road the week before was now set at 15 mph. I hit it at 60+. I was in the outside lane with the road curving left in an old Dodge pickup with two passengers in the front seat with me. I went about fifty feet off the inside of the curve. Fortunately it was bare dirt and they hadn't started building yet so I missed the drop off into the canyon by almost five feet. If you drive the road today you can look over about 200 feet and see where the road used to be.

Anonymous said...

Parking brake? Oh, you mean the Rockford lever!

Back when cars were V8 powered and rear-wheel driven, any chance we had to drive a loaner or rental became the unfortunate tool with which we would practice what James Garner aka Jim Rockford did with his Firebird on TV every week: As private detective Rockford, he had to chase or run from somebody through the city streets every week, and at least once during the chase he would have occasion to do a smokey 180 and pass the other chase participant going the other way. With a little (fun!) trial and error, we learned that you can be travelling surface street speeds around 50, jerk up the parking brake lever and turn hard left; as the tail and nose swap locations, at just the right moment you release the brake and floor the accelerator, tires boiling trying to reverse the inertia that was taking you in the original direction.

Always felt a little guilty about that, except the time my wife's brand new Monte Carlo burned a hole in a piston with under a thousand miles. The lemon law hadn't kicked in yet, so instead of a new car I got a new motor. And the Oldsmobile they gave me as a loaner for two weeks paid the price. They never mentioned the nearly non-existent rear tire tread when I took it back, probably knew any publicity about burned-up motors in brand new Chevies would be bad for business. Ahh, fun times.

AT

Sigivald said...

(If a car won't do 0-60 in less than ~8.5, it's too slow to get out of its own way in an emergency, as far as I'm concerned.)

I've never owned a car capable of that, and yet I've done okay...

(My current can do 0-60 in a whopping 18.)

Anonymous said...

Driving Mom home from night shift at the factory in her '88 Reliant (which I have since inherited), we came upon a wrecked car in the right lane of the freeway. The fog didn't allow me to see far ahead, but I swerved into the next lane with two feet to spare (I think). The smell of gas alerted me that the fun wasn't over yet. When this bit of information registered, we suddenly discovered the other party to the accident, in our new lane. And it's gas tank was busted, but not aflame. Passengers were standing around it (!!!!!), waiting for help. I swerved around this the opposite way & got home safe.

But, I had to change my shorts.

Ulises from CA

OA said...

AT, it's called the "handbrake turn", the more tame cousin to the "bootlegger's turn", invented by Junior Johnson.

Andy said...

On a quiet afternoon driving down I85 from Atlanta to lower Alabama in my 87 Mercury Cougar (I still miss that car, it was a highway cruiser), slowly passing a conversion van on the left. I was doing 70, 72 and he was doing 65. No other traffic around.

Suddenly someone in a... well, come to think of it, it was the size of a Golf, but it wasn't a VW... came barreling down the road from behind in the 3 digit speeds range. Before I could do anything, they ducked into the median shoulder to pass me on the left.

Bad idea... oncoming bridge with missing center said so. Just before certain demise involving auto aerodynamics, they jerked the little car back to the asphalt, where it promptly gained traction and sent it across both lanes of the interstate in FRONT of me. They hit the gaurd rail on the other side as I (and the van) passed them, and bounced back into the median BEHIND me.

It happened so fast, I never even had a chance to let off the gas.

Most of my death defying came on a mountain bike.

Laughingdog said...

Aside from the fact that you kept your head, I'm not sure what is so impressive about the motorcycle tale. It's not like you ever actually need the clutch, in a car or motorcycle, unless you're at a complete stop.

reflectoscope said...

It isn't the fact that My Car will do 0-60 in not very many seconds which comforts me, it is the fact that it will stop from 60 in 116 feet. I mean to take a fair bit of that off by taking weight out.

Then I can really worry about the moonbats tailgating me.

Jim

reflectoscope said...

On a related note, I've been catching up on JayG's, and I saw this, and got a good chuckle from your comment on it.

Jim

PQ said...

Advice to bikers with cable clutches; keep a small pair of vice-grips in the tool kit.
When (not if) you break a cable, clamp on the vice-grips. It will get you home with minimum drama.

Anonymous said...

Turn 4, Willow Springs, Open Practice, throttle locked wide open. Went off into dirt in a sliding tank-slapper, took both hands off bars preparatory to bailing off, bars quit slapping, so grabbed them, hit kill switch just before chasing all the turn 5/6 corner workers out of their little tire fort - they went every which way! :-) Dead engine results in rear end jumping and sliding all over in the dirt, pull in clutch lever, front brake useless in dirt, and ended up re-crossing the track with considerable excess speed at exit of turn 6, much to consternation of other racers on track. Mind you, no actual *crash* per se (plenty of those in my resume), but quite exciting for all involved.

Finally got racer back to pits, and discovered I had been twisting the throttle so hard that I'd bent the entire throttle cable linkage at the carburator, jamming it wide open, preventing me from rolling off the throttle. Bent the linkage back into proper position, but my race day actually went downhill from there.

BoxStockRacer

Will said...

Had a girlfriend that would fall asleep on the back of my bike, upon occasion. I would just lock my left hand over hers, and shift up and down without the clutch, coasting to stops in neutral. I could make a very smooth start with the clutch, and switch my hand back to hers as soon as the clutch was locked. Nortons had the best shifting transmission of any bike. The one time I broke a clutch cable on it, I would do a push start at lights before kicking it into gear.
The reason clutch cables break an inch away from the lever is lack of lube on the cable end. It sticks, causing the cable to bend at that point, which causes metal fatigue.
Nortons would also shift very well using the momentary kill switch, which is why I always mounted that switch housing on the left lever mount.

Dr. StrangeGun said...

Lincoln Mark V
-had the wheels spinnin' out of a driveway and when it got on the road and the suspension settled, I literally couldn't steer it fast enough to avoid it snapping left and across the road, nosing into the bank hard enough to pop a panel loose from the dash (no other damage, fortunate, I was 16)
-lazy understeering slide off the road into a ditch sideway and handily stuck. Good guy stops and helps push, and I was on my way (I was, in my mind, avoiding getting rearended at an intersection 'cause I noticed the car barrelling down on me had no driver... he/she was bending over to reach something)

'84 Tbird
-so many snap spins in the wet I lose count, several at Pellissippi/Hardin valley at walking speeds and nearly idle.
-one slow 30mph 360 up 321 in the snow, barely lost any speed and kept going up the highway
-heading down the dragon and lifted throttle in a curve, and slid sideways down the road 30-40 yards to a stop (car was a bit dangerous...)
-headed home from minneapolis; in menomenis WI the power steering pump broke... off. it broke OFF, sheared all the mounting bolts and would have been more of a disaster were it not in a ring mount, the pulley held it on.
-lost #5 rod bearing on chapman highway; proceeded to keep driving to Friendsville. Bearing was MISSING when engine was torn down
-2 transmissions, both lost in the "vroom", suddenly I have no connection to the road mode.
-aircraft style clamp on feed line to trans cooler wore through it... I left ~5 quarts of trans fluid in a line from Oak Ridge to Kingston Pike
-5 water pumps in various places

Dodge Shadow
-suddenly discovered that a combo of oil leak at right front and two leaky rear slave cylinders left me with one working brake... with stopped traffic in front, and a speed of roughly 50mph. Dove onto shoulder with left front locked up, passed 2 cars, cleaned shorts
-Atlanta, pulled into parking lot after party @3AM for food and pulled shift linkage off transmission. Went elbow deep and slipped link back on, and bent a nail to hold in place of missing clip
-blew head gasket in Jellico; made it home by stopping every 5-10 miles and letting excess gasses and pressure out of radiator
-caught it on fire in the garage while changing head gasket. Long story.
-same car, then-fiancee (now ex) borrowed it,her bulky keychain shorted on the exposed ignition switch... she said it tried to kill her, 3' of sparks shot across the interior
-after that, car developed a habit of dying flat in the oddest places. Fuse link was marginal and ECU had a burnt resistor.

Various
-had two cars now develop "self-energizing" dragging disc brake calipers. No, I don't ride pedals, I'm just fortunate I suppose
-the length of time an auto trans lasts with me is inversely proportional to the amount of time I spend driving it. Again, lucky me.
-Omni GLH got slower and slower until eventually I was limping along at 45mph with almost no power. Bolt backed out of carb base and was acting like a throttle stop.
-stopped my Sonoma on the interstate once so hard that I swear to god the bump I felt at the end was the rear axle coming back down to the ground, 'cause I sure didn't hit anything
-the Shadow from above got loose and rolled itself backwards (almost into me) down the driveway, across the road, down a bank, across the other side of the split road, and up the neighbor's driveway, before gravity pulled it back to the street.

Mechanical mayhem... lots o' stories I have, yes indeed :) I've slowed down for the most part though, the Daewoo Leganza I had got driven hard and raced but took it all in stride, and the Sonoma isn't really fast enough to get in trouble... and both have been extremely reliable.

(except nosing the 'Woo into the median divider at I-40 going ~55mph. That's another story altogether)

Tam said...

AT,

"Parking brake? Oh, you mean the Rockford lever!"

You didn't want to do that in the Fiero. Aside from the awkward postition and operation of the lever, the mid-engine sled had a very low polar moment.

To envision the difference, take a dumbbell and a bowling ball and try ans spin them about their respective axes. The dumbbell is the Firebird, the bowling ball is the Fiero... I once ground-looped the Fiero through a full 720* at only about ten or fifteen mph in a wet parking lot.

Anonymous said...

"You didn't want to do that in the Fiero."

Nope, the Fierarri's didn't have the requisite Nascaresque config. Hence the qualifier:

"Back when cars were V8 powered and rear-wheel drive..."

AT

Tam said...

I just threw that in because a lot of people forget that what makes a fighter plane maneuverable is the fact that it's not notably stable... ;)

Conversely, my front-engine/rear-transaxle 924S made one feel like a hero because it was so easy to catch after an overenthusiastic control input. I owned the Fiero immediately after, and its departure characteristics couldn't have been more opposite. :o

jeff said...

Watch a NASA Spec Porsche 944 race sometime. Porsche got the 50/50 weight balance right on the 924's younger brother, but left a lot of weight out at the ends rather than the center. They get so loose around corners that we joked it was actually a "drift" series in disguise. Whereas with most mid-engine rides like the Fiero, once it's gone it's really gone. When the little Toyota powered Lotus Elise came out, almost every one that I saw at the track left on a flatbed after the driver spun the back end into a wall.

Tam said...

"Porsche got the 50/50 weight balance right on the 924's younger brother, but left a lot of weight out at the ends rather than the center."

One of the things I like most about the Zed Drei is that it behaves somewhere just between the Porsche and the Pontiac: The weight is slightly more centered than the 924/944, making for more tossability, but the slightly higher polar moment vis a vis the 2M6 (coupled with the much bigger contact patches) makes for a ride that's a lot easier to catch when things go abruptly pear-shaped. I went up a rain-slick on-ramp one day looking out either the driver's- or passenger's-side windows for a good hundred yards as the car pendulumed on the greasy pavement and still managed to merge onto the freeway grille-first. No way that would've happened in the P-car.