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The unthinkable has happened... :-(

fhturner

Well-known member
Joined
Jun 23, 2003
Messages
218
Location
Birmingham, AL
Corvette
'00 Torch Red Cpe, 6spd, '90 Red/Saddle ZR-1 #279
...I've injured my baby. :cry

After 12 years of desiring a Corvette of my own, and only 2 1/2 months of actually owning one, I've managed to screw up everything with a simple steering mistake. Here's what happened:

Friday night, I was out cruising with my buddy, who owns a white '96 LT4 coupe. We've done this several times recently, and have tended to go kinda fast at times, but not insanely or recklessly so. Early on in our drive, we both accelerated aggressively side-by-side from a stoplight where we'd been sitting. The 4-lane highway had a slight, gradual curve to the right, with a tiny bit more of a bend at the end before it straightened out. At the end of the curve was another intersection, probably 3/8 mile from where we started accelerating.

As we approached the intersection (still going around this gradual curve), I was ready to back off the gas, because I thought we had "goosed it" enough for the time being. Also, there was a car in my lane just beyond the intersection that had just started off from the green light, so I wanted to slow back down to avoid any problems there. I had focused my attention up ahead on this car to get a feel for our "rate of closure", if you will, and how much braking I was going to need to reduce this rate. When I looked back left towards my buddy's Vette, which was to my left (I was in the right lane), I realized that the "tiny bit more of a bend" that I mentioned above had caused me to drift toward him in his lane without my noticing it.

To keep from crowding or running into my buddy's Vette, I jerked the wheel further to the right. As soon as I did this, I felt the back end break loose, and I started sliding sideways at about a 45° angle to the right. I don't remember which gear I was in, but my buddy was in 3rd, which would put us at probably about 80-90 when all this happened. So, although we had taken off aggressively and built up some speed, I didn't (and still don't) feel that we were on the "ragged edge". Anyway, my point about the speed was that I had quite a bit of energy to try to dissipate while sliding sideways. If I had managed to slide it straight down the length of the highway, things probably would have worked out.

Unfortunately, my path took me at an angle through the intersection. I first went over a triangular island that served to guide cars turning onto the highway in the direction we were going. After next skidding across the merge "lane" created by this island, I then went over the curb on the side of the road. Next came a breakaway "Yield" sign that I impacted on the driver's side between the front wheel and the leading edge of the door. The sign tumbled down onto my windshield, causing spider-web-like cracks to propagate throughout the safety glass.

At this point, I was off the road in the grass, sliding down off the embankment beside the highway. Parallel to and about 20 feet to the right of the highway was a side road. About 20 feet off the other side of the side road was a row of trees preceded by kudzu. I got even more worried when I saw the trees approaching and still didn't seem to be slowing down rapidly enough. Fortunately, once I hit the side road, the back end slid back to the right, just past center. I finally came to rest angled off the left of the side road, partially back in the grass between the highway and side road.

Luckily for my dumb ass, I only had a scrape on my left knee (and a broken heart :cry). That, and a bit of a headache from the targa top coming free of its supports in the back and slamming into the back of my seat. My baby was not so fortunate. I'll be taking it in tomorrow for the official rundown on what's broken, but there are many obvious things wrong:

These body panels are damaged: nose, hood, left front fender (this is where the Yield sign did its work), rocker panels scraped underneath on both sides. The radiator or hoses are damaged, as all the coolant drained out after hitting both beveled curbs. The front end is significantly damaged, both on the body panel, and behind it. The right front tire is ripped all way from center to edge through the sidewall in two places, and the right front wheel has a large chunk broken out of it. The left front tire seems okay, but the wheel is damaged, and the tire isn't flush against the outer edge of the wheel in some spots. The rear wheels and tires are okay, but are noticeably out of alignment. The driver's door is sagging at the rear edge, and the window is off its track. I think the belt tensioner broke away from the right front side of the engine block. The rearmost part of the left-side exhaust (where it connects to the crossover (?) pipes just forward of the transaxle) is no longer connected. There are chips of metal out of the silver crosspiece that the lower control arms connect to in the rear. Basically, the underside and suspension are probably all screwed up. Of, and of course, the windshield is toast.

I'll know more about the damage tomorrow, of course. What's still puzzling to me is how the back end could have broken free so easily with what I thought was only a minor, if abrupt, steering input. The road was dry, the curve in it was gradual, I spotted no patches of oil the next day when I looked, my tires are the Firehawk runflats with plenty of tread left, Traction Control was on, and I didn't feel that I was anywhere near the edge of vehicle's capability until it suddenly broke loose.

I was cursing and calling myself a complete idiot when I finallly came to rest, but as I think back now, I wonder if there could have been some other contributing factor(s). I just don't see how such a high-performance vehicle could have gone out of control so easily. If the behavior of the car in this circumstance is indeed expected and normal, I wonder if Active Handling (which I do not have) would have made a difference. I realize this post is way too long, and nobody could really say anything definitively without actually being there and seeing it, but if anyone has any feedback about this horrible event, I'd be interested to hear it.

Anyway, whether entirely my fault or my fault aided by some other less-than-ideal condition, the simple fact remains that I've wrecked and mangled my most prized possession. :( :( :cry Dealing with that is most depressing...

Fred
 

Ken

Gone but not forgotten
Joined
Jan 30, 2001
Messages
8,236
Location
Hermosa Beach, CA
Corvette
1987 Z51 Silver Coupe
Been there, done that...

I feel your pain man; I know what it feels like to crash your Corvette. :cry

BigBearfront.jpg


Good luck with the repairs. :cool
 
C

corvettecrazy

Guest
i'm sorry to hear about that but you should be glad it didn't roll over when it hit the curbs, the low center of gravity probably saved you from a lot worse injuries...i'm glad to hear that you are ok though.
 
7

78SilvAnniv

Guest
Yikes!

I was a little apprehensive about reading your post, after seeing the title...but I had no idea the accident would be so...final sounding!

I hope someone with experience in these matters will be able to shed some light onto how the dynamics of your abrupt wheel adjustment could have caused the rear to spin out and carry you to such misery.
I can't help but think with high performance vehicles, that an abrupt adjustment made at precisely the wrong moment can cause catastrophic changes to your direction of travel and traction.
With that much thrust, I don't think it would take much to make it get squirrely.
Heidi
 

fhturner

Well-known member
Joined
Jun 23, 2003
Messages
218
Location
Birmingham, AL
Corvette
'00 Torch Red Cpe, 6spd, '90 Red/Saddle ZR-1 #279
corvettecrazy said:
i'm sorry to hear about that but you should be glad it didn't roll over when it hit the curbs, the low center of gravity probably saved you from a lot worse injuries...i'm glad to hear that you are ok though.

Thank you (all of you) for your concern. Yeah, the first guy that stopped to check on me had to remind me that the car can be fixed, people can't always be (and he's 100% right). The Vette's low CoG, along with the curbs being beveled at about 45°, definitely kept me from flipping. I was thinking while driving my other vehicle just a few minutes ago that, had I encountered straight up-and-down curbs, the story would've probably been worse. Makes you wonder why curbs aren't beveled at 45° everywhere...
 

fhturner

Well-known member
Joined
Jun 23, 2003
Messages
218
Location
Birmingham, AL
Corvette
'00 Torch Red Cpe, 6spd, '90 Red/Saddle ZR-1 #279
Re: Yikes!

78SilvAnniv said:
I can't help but think with high performance vehicles, that an abrupt adjustment made at precisely the wrong moment can cause catastrophic changes to your direction of travel and traction.
With that much thrust, I don't think it would take much to make it get squirrely.
Heidi

Yeah, I understand you, but even though my steering change was abrubt, I don't believe it was of that great a magnitude. I had my left hand at probably 12:30 on the wheel (other hand on the shifter) for the right-hand curve. I probably didn't turn it past 1:30, if that. But, as you say, "at precisely the wrong moment"-- that's probably the biggest part of the problem.

Also, I don't believe that I was still accelerating (though it happened so fast, I can't say for sure), so the whole issue of "thrust" wouldn't seem to come into play... I dunno, probably was just driver error, plain and simple. But it's still freaking me out that it was so easy to lose control. I've tested my new shocks in the past by taking sweeping Interstate highway interchanges at these speeds, and the Vette was happy as a clam, even going over bumps and seams in the concrete. This curve wasn't much (if any) sharper than that, and the road was smooth... :(
 
J

johnl

Guest
IMHO, it’s all about balance, balance, balance…if you were decelerating, and it sounds like it from the fact you were concerned about the end of the curve and the upcoming traffic, the weight of the car was leaning on the front. Turn the wheel to the right end the front’s turn and the back end tried to come around since there was not as much weight on it.

But what a bummer…I really feel for you, but like others have said, it’s only a car and replaceable in one-way or another.

Keep your head up, it has and will happen to others. (Let’s all be real careful out there)
 
F

fsp

Guest
Sorry to hear about your mishap! It is a shame, but you are OK and that is all that matters. Just out of curiosity... Do you have the Goodyear Run Flats on your car?
 

JBsC5

Well-known member
Joined
Nov 28, 2001
Messages
1,219
Location
Northern NJ
Sorry to hear about your accident....Glad your ok.
 

fhturner

Well-known member
Joined
Jun 23, 2003
Messages
218
Location
Birmingham, AL
Corvette
'00 Torch Red Cpe, 6spd, '90 Red/Saddle ZR-1 #279
fsp said:
Sorry to hear about your mishap! It is a shame, but you are OK and that is all that matters. Just out of curiosity... Do you have the Goodyear Run Flats on your car?

No, when I got the car, the previous owner had gone to the Firestone Firehawk SZ50 runflats. Thank you (and thanks to everyone) for your concern and well wishes. In just the 2 1/2 months of frequenting these forums, I feel like I've become involved with an online "family"-- having you guys (and gals) to "talk to" in this time of trauma and need is pretty comforting.

Thanks,
Fred
 
V

VAmagred01

Guest
Definitely my heart-felt condolences go out to you. Aside from the car, be thankful that you're o.k. A vehicle is replaceable....a life isn't!;)

Just out of curiousity, is your Vette equipped with the Active Handling? I believe it was an option until it became standard for '01. I just don't see how it would break loose so easily. But from experience, if you have the traction control off and goose the throttle, the rear-end gets squirrely very easily. The only explanation that I can think of is the curve was angled in such a manner that you were loading the front end (driver or passenger depending on which way the curve was bending) which would result in a "lightening" of the rear which made you loose traction due to loss of weight on the back tires. A little throttle along with the as mentioned scenario will easily result in a loss of control. I'm sure the dealer/mechanic might be able to explain it better. Did your airbag deploy? Maybe they can pull info from the computer/black-box to see what happened right before the impact........

Just my $0.02 worth.....

-Kenny
 
J

Joe Diver

Guest
Ouch.....so sorry to hear it man...maybe it's not a total loss....but it sounds like it's gonna be close...:(
 

fhturner

Well-known member
Joined
Jun 23, 2003
Messages
218
Location
Birmingham, AL
Corvette
'00 Torch Red Cpe, 6spd, '90 Red/Saddle ZR-1 #279
VAmagred01 said:
Definitely my heart-felt condolences go out to you. Aside from the car, be thankful that you're o.k. A vehicle is replaceable....a life isn't!;)

So true. I almost feel like I deserve a little more (physical) pain for what I did to my baby. Not really, but you know what I mean... I thank you for your concern!

Just out of curiousity, is your Vette equipped with the Active Handling? I believe it was an option until it became standard for '01. I just don't see how it would break loose so easily. But from experience, if you have the traction control off and goose the throttle, the rear-end gets squirrely very easily.

No, it does not have Active Handling, although I wish it did. It could very well be that the lack of AH on this Vette turned out to be a most unfortunate omission. Maybe there's nothing that Active Handling could have done, but I will wonder about that forever... As far as getting the rear end "squirrelly", I actually had not disengaged Traction Control at the time of the accident. And (I believe) I was letting off the gas to prepare for the upcoming intersection and vehicle.

The only explanation that I can think of is the curve was angled in such a manner that you were loading the front end (driver or passenger depending on which way the curve was bending) which would result in a "lightening" of the rear which made you lose traction due to loss of weight on the back tires.

That could very well be the case. I believe I was letting off the gas at the time that I made the steering correction, so the weight might have indeed been shifted forward. I still am having a hard time getting my mind around that small of a weight transfer (I didn't slam on the brakes or anything, which would cause a larger weight transfer) being enough to cause this whole mess, though.

Did your airbag deploy? Maybe they can pull info from the computer/black-box to see what happened right before the impact........

Just my $0.02 worth.....

-Kenny

No, not enough of an impact to make the airbag deploy. I checked for codes after I had recomposed myself and surveyed the damage, but found none. The only warning I was getting from the DIC was "Low Coolant"-- not surprising since I had made a trail through the grass and side road with that coolant... :(

Fred
 

fhturner

Well-known member
Joined
Jun 23, 2003
Messages
218
Location
Birmingham, AL
Corvette
'00 Torch Red Cpe, 6spd, '90 Red/Saddle ZR-1 #279
Joe Diver said:
Ouch.....so sorry to hear it man...maybe it's not a total loss....but it sounds like it's gonna be close...:(

Thank you for your thoughts...

Yeah, I just got back from having it towed from the towing company yard where it spent the weekend to Ivan Leonard Chevrolet's body shop. The guy there that initially looked at it with me said the repair cost would probably be close to the 75%-of-value mark that would require totaling out. I have mixed emotions about that-- I'd hate to have my first Vette totaled, but I also wouldn't want to keep it if everything wasn't "right" after the repair.
 
V

VAmagred01

Guest
I know that you keep kicking yourself but just think....if this one is unrepairable, there's another one out there with your name on it.

Some cars (I'm not sure about Corvettes) are equipped with a memory computer that records all inputs the car recieves seconds before impact. The downside is the airbag has to be deployed. That's why I questioned the airbag hoping the mechanics could pull this info to give you some sort of explanation. I'm sure a "reason why" would ease the pain a little.

Good luck buddy,
Kenny
 

RedRagTop

Well-known member
Joined
Feb 21, 2003
Messages
646
Location
Gone Period.
So sorry to hear about your accident and glad you are OK. I agree with the guys above, the sudden steering input at the critical time your car was squatting at the front/lightening at the rear caused oversteer bringing the rear end around to catch up with the front. Ironically, a less rigid and low strung car than the vette may have corrected out...
I don't know if that car is a "keeper" after that kind of damage. Will it ever be the same again? Dunno...
 

Bonnell

Well-known member
Joined
Nov 15, 2002
Messages
599
Location
Lake Mary, Florida
Corvette
2008 Convertible
I really hate to hear about your accident. I know how you feel about your car but I am simply glad that I am not reading a more dire posting about you from another member.

IMHO, forget the car - life is too short - find another one.

Glad you are ok...

:D
 
Joined
Aug 12, 2003
Messages
371
Location
Pearland, Texas
Corvette
2002 Torch Red Coupe
I know the feeling fhturner. That's the way I felt when I wrecked my C4.
:mad
They did "total" my 84' coupe and I was fortunate enough to find a nice 90' coupe to replace it using the insurance money. The important thing is that you're o.k.

Dennis
 

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