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A five-car 50-mph collision inside a building:

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  • A five-car 50-mph collision inside a building:

    I haven't told this story in a long time...

    About 23 years ago, I was the assistant service manager at a Chevrolet Dealership in a large west coast city- I had recently quit my first law enforcement job, to resume a six-figure career in auto repair and thus hopefully save my failing marriage to practice wife #2, who had an unusually strong affinity for new cars, jewelry, and designer clothing.

    For the purpose of this story, it's important to understand that this dealership took up an entire city block. The shop front entrance was at the front on one street, the shop rear entrance was at the next street back, and we had a street on each side.

    One day at the close of business, after I had closed the front overhead roll-up shop door, one of my more picky customers came by to drop off his custom late-model black full-size short-box 2WD lowrider pickup, recently adorned with custom pinstriping that featured tiny little stick figures engaging in various sexual acts. I had promised him that I would park it inside for him. After pulling it in the rear shop entrance and parking it up front inside the shop behind another vehicle, he walked around it with me, stuck his finger in my face and emphatically told me "NO SCRATCHES." He wasn't rude or anything, he was just picky about his vehicle, and I respect that- I'm picky about my vehicles too.

    As the last few stragglers came in, I pulled them around and brought them into the shop from the back, parking them in two rows. I parked a late-model 3/4-ton 4x4 Suburban right beside my deck, behind Mr. Picky's vehicle, then a late-model Lumina behind that, and another four cars in a row to their left.

    Because our dealership was located in a high-crime area infested by the Crips and the Bloods, we also allowed the sales department to pull any high-value cars into the shop at night as a courtesy to them, instead of leaving them in the chain-link and barbed-wire "bullpen" across the street behind the dealership. The sales department had a nice young girl who served as a lot attendant for their department, and she is the subject of this story.

    The sales department had been working a deal involving the trade-in of a late-model Corvette, on a new Corvette. The used car sales manager was responsible for road-testing the trade-in, but had delegated that responsibility to the salesman that was doing the deal. The salesman pulled out of the lot, and swatted the throttle, which hung wide-open. Unbeknownst to anyone until later, the customer had performed some backyard modifications to the vehicle, and when he reinstalled the air intake boot to the throttle body, he got the head of the hose-clamp in the wrong position, interfering with the throttle linkage. The salesman shut the ignition off, coasted to the side of the road, and opened the hood to see what he could do. He jiggled the throttle linkage, and it came loose. He idled the car back to the bullpen, threw the keys on the board, and said nothing to the sales manager or anyone else, out of fear that he would lose his sales commission if he told anyone that there was anything wrong with the trade.

    At the close of our business day in the service department, the little sales department lot girl went out to pull the Corvette in through the back of the shop, to park it inside for the night. As she entered the rear of the shop, one of my technicians was walking out, and he goaded her into swatting the throttle...which once again hung wide-open.

    I was standing at my desk, on the phone with a good customer of mine at the time. My customer would later tell me that I said "Gotta go, bye." and then hung up. I don't remember any of that. But I do remember the tires of the Corvette squealing under wide-open throttle acceleration. Initially, I didn't think anything of it. I was facing the front of the shop, with all this going on behind me, and I assumed that someone was just fooling around a little, because squealing tires make an exceptionally loud noise on the polished concrete floor inside the shop, and some employees found that entertaining.

    What DID catch my full attention, was when I heard the Corvette's automatic transmission shift into second gear at wide-open throttle, which happens at around 50 mph on that particular car.

    I turned to look behind me, and saw the Corvette heading directly for me. The lot girl's eyes were as wide as saucers, but with the throttle wide open, there is no engine vacuum to power the power brake booster- even though she was standing on the brake pedal, there was no braking power.

    There was no place to go- there was a concrete wall to my right, a tall stand-up desk in front of me, and the Suburban was parked to my left. There was only a split-second to react, so dropped the phone (or so I thought), climbed my desk, and at the moment of impact, I leapt into the air, hoping that it would pass beneath me without killing me.

    The collision was as bad as you would expect. The Corvette ***-packed the Lumina, totaling both of them in a giant cloud of Corvette fiberglass dust. The Lumina was pushed into the back of the Suburban, bending the frame of the Suburban up through the floor (amazingly, the insurance company did NOT total the Suburban). The rear bumper of the Suburban ended up being entangled with the windshield wipers of the Lumina. The Suburban was pushed forward into Mr. Picky's custom lowrider pickup. And Mr. Picky's vehicle was pushed forward into the vehicle parked in front of it. A literal 50-mph 5-car collision, inside a building.

    I landed on the Suburban. There was a massive cloud of pulverized Corvette fiberglass hanging in the air, but I could hear the Corvette's engine, still at wide-open throttle, bouncing off the rev-limiter- on impact, the shifter had been knocked into neutral by inertia. I clambered back to what was left of the Corvette, reached in through the window, and shut the ignition off. At that moment, the lot girl's forehead erupted in blood- she had not been wearing her seatbelt, and had been literally scalped by the cardboard core of the sun visor.

    Fortunately, one of the parts guys that had not gone home yet, was a burned-out paramedic. I put him in charge of her care, and then directed another employee to call 9-1-1.

    One of the more humorous parts of this story, was when the fire department and medics arrived almost simultaneously, looking for a 5-car 50-mph crash, not realizing that it had happened INSIDE the building. They passed the rear shop entrance, just before my employees ran out the back to try to flag them down, and then as they continued to lap the block that our dealership was on, they passed the front shop entrance just before my employees ran out the front to try to flag them down. This happened for about three laps, before my employees finally just stood still in the street and waited for them to come around again.

    Unfortunately, the collision cost the little girl her job- she failed her drug screening for marijuana. She was not a bad person.

    And Mr. Picky was actually pretty cool about the whole thing.

  • #2
    Cool story, Bro. Way cool.
    Now go home and get your shine box!

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