Scary stuf on cars you saw or worked on

Hey, a holiday thread to pass the time . . . when I was in school I worked at a truck stop in the garage working on stuff that came off the interstate. I saw some pretty scary stuff . . . no brakes, bald tires, suspension hanging by a thread. What’s the scariest stuff you ever saw or worked on? Rocketman

Truck came in to have the cruise control recall performed…engine knocking like a bill collector at the door…all they wanted done was the recall !!

I had a friend that delivered pizza in an old Nissan truck. The master cylinder was bad and he had to quickly pump the brake pedal twice to get any stopping power out of it. He drove it like that for weeks.

When I was young and poor I had a used beater car that had all the fuses replaced with 30A fuses when I bought it. A couple of them were still blowing–for the dash lights and blower motor. I found under the dash, a ground wire that had literally burnt in two and had been tied back together in a bow. Amazingly everything worked on the car except the dash lights and blower, and I found and fixed the short circuit that was causing both problems–an aftermarket radio had been installed and there was an unused ground strap making contact with one of the terminals on the fan speed switch. I replaced all the fuses with the proper-valued ones and drove that car for years.

I also knew a guy that had an ancient Toyota Corolla that the gas tank had rusted out and fallen out of. His solution was to run the fuel line into the passenger compartment and into a 5-gallon can of gas in the back seat. A rolling bomb for sure.

At an open track event, I worked on a buddies car with no oil cap on the valve cover (he lost it) and no stainless caps on his phenolic plastic brake caliper pistons (he lost those, too). The pistons were burning away on the hot backing plates. My buddy is a doctor. One who should never pick up a wrench.

And the scariest, coming off a race track, parking, and seeing a crack it the face of the rotor 3/16ths wide radially passing completely across the friction surface. And I never even felt it. Saw almost that bad on a buddies car with drilled rotors; cracks coming from most of the drilled (actually cast) holes.

I once saw a Mercury Grand Marquis that the rear brake rotors had worn so thin that they were completely detached from the hub. When the driver stepped on the pedal, the outer part of the rotor stopped, but the wheel kept right on turning. He tried to tell me all it needed was new pads. I wondered how many times that had been done before.

Late 90’s, the girlfriend and I take a cab back to campus. Back when all of the cabs were older Caprices or Crown Vics. Our car pulls up behind another cab from the same company. This other cab has the fuel tank hanging from a couple of yellow nylon ropes. Made me wonder about the car I had just gotten a ride in. I had to call that one into the police, I could imagine the fireball if I hadn’t.

I’ve seen a lot of cobbled together stuff. One of the more tragic ones (funny in a way) was the lady whose brake rotor wore out and the caliper piston punched through into the cooling vanes in the middle. That locked the left front wheel up and undeterred, she drove it 8 blocks to the tire store; leaving an 8 block long skid mark and the tire blowing out as she entered the lot.

Another was a guy who used to drive an old Pontiac with the windshield completely missing. I’d see him on the morning commute even in 20 degree weather tooling down the interstate and bundled up like an Eskimo with aviator goggles on. At the time OK had a safety inspection program and for the life of me I couldn’t figure out how that guy got away with this. A red tailed hawk in the face at 70 MPH would probably smart a bit also.

Would have to say the first car I owned, a 55 Desoto . I milked it with duck tape and bailing wire, reused transmission fluid that constantly ran out into a pan I kept underneath it while parked and ran whatever used tires I could find for it. The last time I took it in for inspection, I had riveted sheet metal over the floor board and put carpeting over that to keep from seeing the road go by underneath as you drove. The mechanic takes the keys from me, to unfortunately inspect the trunk. After opening the trunk kid, he announces that it fails for two reasons. First, he can see the rear snow tires I ran year round are now bald. Secondly, he sees them throught the gaping holes in the trunk after he had pulled back the not so strategically placed shag carpeting.

The scariest thing that I’ve seen recently was a guy who was driving around in a rusted Mazda pickup. His frame (subframe) was completely rusted through and was being held togerher by a 4X4 piece of lumber and a couple of big bolts. The owner of the shop contacted the state police after he refused to service the man’s truck. I had spoken to the man a few minutes earlier and he was oblivious to any thoughs of danger he might be subjecting himself to or others in his vicinity.

A lady pulled into our shop in a Monte Carlo. Both rotors were worn down to the fins and the pads were obviously metal to metal. Also the shoes were metal to metal on the drums. Gave her an estimate thinking I had a gravy job but she said she would think about it and drove away happy as a lark.

Different car had ball joint retained with wire.

Brother in law said his brakes were grinding on his Camaro. I pulled front wheels and the pads were down to metal. Fixed that and decided to check rear wheels and shoes were down to metal too. Fixed that.

In 1976 I had a friend who just finished bodyman school at our local co-tech and he agreed to paint my 1969 Ford Torino. It was pretty rusted so I spent the $$ for new sheet metal and we did a ton of bodywork to get it ready for a beautiful presidential blue paint job. It was a 390 V-8 with a 4-speed. I thought that I was the coolest cat on the planet. We finished shooting the paint and the next day pulled all of the masking tape and paper off and I started detailing her for my first victory ride. It took me all day, but this little baby looked trick, mag wheels, dark blue paint, dual exhaust with cherry bombs, 4-speed, wow! I got in early that evening to start cruising and started the car, popped the clutch and the front (bench) seat let go from the completely rusted floor, leaving me almost in the back seat, seat detached, trying to shut the car off before I hit anything. The floor was completely gone, I never even thought of it during my month long bodywork experience. I was 17, who woulda thunk it. Cars rusted out a lot more in those days, a seven year old car rusted that bad? Rust never sleeps. Merry Christmas guys! Rocketman.

@Rocketman I had a 1957 Plymouth when in college. The floor rusted out and the front seat dropped through the floor. I bought some galvanized sheet and “built” a new floor in the front with the result that the seat now sat higher. Since I’m only 5’8" it did the trick. The car cost only $325 but I spent several times that much before disposing of it.

Saw a rear brake drum that was worn so badly the lip was well over 1/8" tall and the metal surface where the shoe made contact was about 1/16" thick. What was amazing is that the drum wasn’t pulled apart by braking forces.

Or the old VW Beetle that came in with a “Repair Brakes” complaint. When I opened the door and saw a piece of 3/4 plywood holding the seat up and preventing it from falling clean through the floor plan I knew they were in trouble.
Needless to say the brakes could not be repaired except at extreme cost. The master cylinders are steel and that one was not even recognizable as a MC. It was just a lump of rust.
The VW was apparently used to tool around near the beach at their condo in Corpus Christi, TX and the salt ended up the winner.

"Cars rusted out a lot more in those days, a seven year old car rusted that bad? "

Yesterday, I was watching an episode of the old Naked City series from 1964, and it featured a '57 Ford station wagon. I couldn’t help noticing that the rocker panels of that 7 year old car were mostly rotted away.

For those folks who say that “they don’t build 'em like that anymore”, I say, “Thank God”!

For what it’s worth, modern cars can rust to oblivion in a few short years also. I’ve seen some 4 or 5 year old cars from Chicago, Minnesota, Ohio, etc here in OK that were ready for the scrap heap.
That kind of rust is not proprietary to any one make or model either.

In my neck of the woods–where a lot of rock salt is used in the winter–the only vehicles that seem to consistently suffer from extreme rust problems are the older K5 Blazer/Jimmy models. Those trucks seemed to be eaten-away after only 3-4 years, in most cases.

Other than that, the only rust problems that I commonly see around here are in the area of the rear fender arches on Hondas of the early-mid '90s.

My first car was a 52 Plymouth I bought for $20 . I was married with 2 kids and they suddenly discontinued the bus service to where I worked. It was a 4 door sedan and if you opened the doors you could swing the door posts all the way up level woth the roof. Didn’t stop us from going on vacation wuth it but we had to take a rope to tie up the dog so he couldn’t get out under the door.

Remember how rusty the early Chevy Vega was? I had a friend who said you could hear it rust while you drove it. I had a pretty rusty Mustang (maybe '67?) and I learned a lot of bodywork with that car. Most of my Mopar stuff was pretty rust free, an old SAAB was rust free. How about you guys? Rocketman

A boss of mine once took in trade a very slick, low miles 80s era Grand Prix which sold almost immediately.
A few weeks later the buyer brought it back with a “handles funny” complaint.

I hopped in, pulled out of the lot, and my heart was in my throat within half a block. It was a 2 handed wrestling match to get the car back to the shop and on the rack.
Once on the rack I found the car had been badly wrecked and the entire frame section behind the right front wheel had been split in half.

The bad part was that the repair shop had shoved that mess back together and butt welded it all together sans any gussett plates. The welds had given up and there was a gap in there big enough to stick all of my fingers in. The only thing holding the car together on that side was the suspension components. The boss bought that death trap back from them on the spot.

My Mopars had no rust and neither did any of my SAABs. Those SAABs are built like a tank anyway.
Hop up on the trunk lid or front fender of most cars and watch them cave. Doesn’t happen with a SAAB.