Pictures of my 1972 car crash

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Y'all:

Was going through some old photos.

1972. I was 19. Pictures of my crashed TR6. Long story short, my left front wheel snapped off in mid corner on a 45-50 mph sharp right hand turn on Hwy 9 in the Santa Cruz mountains. Almost instantly we literally shot off the road, airborne, hitting a redwood tree in mid air, then landing upside down in the bottom of a deep ravine, wedged against a tree. My best friend was with me. Obviously, given the hard impact to his door, he was injured but thankfully survived without suffering anything permanent. I didn't have a scratch on me. Both of us were lucky to survive.

And that friend of mine at the time? We're still good friends and see each other regularly. We're talking a 50 year friendship.

Scott

TR6 3.jpeg
TR6 4.jpeg
 
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Sounds like a bad, freak accident. Happy that you guys were okay in the long run both injury-wise and in friendship. The TR6 is a nice design. I had a 1964 TR4 or 4A (Okay, I'm nearly 70 y.o. and don't remember details like I used to.). I do remember how much fun that car was.
 

slo town

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Here is the story. It's been written as part of a book/album of "Grandpa stories" for the family.

=====================================================================

I found a nice 1969 TR6 with overdrive for sale on Hamilton Avenue somewhere. I bought it and immediately made my usual tweaks to it. This TR came with wire wheels. I wanted to replace those with a set of Anson Sprints, a popular and high quality aluminum alloy wheel at the time. But there was one problem. Because of the way the wire wheel hubs mount, the wheel studs were shorter than they are on a car equipped with standard wheels. I needed longer studs for my new wheels.

British industry was a mess during the early ‘70s. Getting parts for English cars was a royal ****. Everything had to be ordered and it took weeks, sometimes months, before you actually got them. But I had those nice new wheels with nice sticky tires. I tried fitting the wheels using the shorter studs. I only got about 5 or 6 thread engagements, not enough to properly secure the wheel.

Foolishly, I put the new wheels on anyway. I promised myself not to drive fast through corners and that I would check the wheel nut torque every time I drove the car. It seemed my plan was a good one because wheel torque was holding steady.

One night Frank and I decided to make a drive up Hwy 9, my first with my new wheels. We weren’t going to drive fast. Instead, we just wanted to motor up there with my new wheels and tires. I remember filling up with gas before heading up 9. We got to the top at The Gap and enjoyed the city lights view for awhile. Then we headed back down.

On this night I felt a certain sense of security because the wheel torque was holding firm. My pace down Hwy 9 this night was the fastest since putting on my new wheels. We made it about a mile down from the summit. I turned into a right hander that I had already driven thousands of times before. When I’m really moving this was a 60 mph corner. On this night I may have been doing 45 or 50.

Halfway through the corner, BAM!, the left front corner of the car dropped to the pavement. The left front wheel snapped off! With the wheel gone, the front brake disk ground into the pavement. But at the speed we were traveling the brake disk and remaining three tires didn’t provide enough grip to make the corner. We drifted wide into the oncoming lane and then rode up over an earthen berm that defined the edge of the roadway.
There was no guard rail.

Understand, we were still going at least 40 mph while we rode over the berm. I vividly remember feeling the floor of my footwell being pummeled with rocks. Just an instant later I remember feeling disoriented, only to feel a hard impact and then silence. We landed upside down, wedged between a large redwood tree and the steep canyon hillside. I was on the hill side, Frank was on the tree side. Because the hillside was steep, the ground pushed my upper body and face up towards the dashboard. I remember seeing my still illuminated dash lights just inches from my face. I was partially pinned in place.

Remember me saying I gassed up the car before heading up? The TR6 is a British roadster, a convertible, and the top was down. This was a two seat sports car and immediately behind the front seats was the gas filler cap, a magnetic one. Well, between the force of the impact or the weight of all the fuel the cap popped open and fuel was gushing out of the fuel tank literally 18 inches behind our seatbacks. We had to get out of there. We might burn to death!

With Frank’s side being wedged against the tree he was hanging free, a couple of feet above a creek bed. But rather than hang upside down in an upright position, Frank was for some reason lifting his upper body and was seemingly trying to dig himself out through the footwell. We needed to get out of there ASAP so I reached over and unlatched Frank’s seatbelt, which caused him to fall out of us seat and disappear from sight. He fell down into the creek bed, landing on a sharp rock that gashed the top of his head.

With Frank out of the way, I dug myself sideways and crawled out the vehicle from the passenger side. Frank was incoherent, groaning and moaning, unable to communicate with words. I grabbed him and got him to his feet. As this point I realized we had landed far down a deep ravine off the side of the road. The hillside was at least 45 degrees steep. We were literally crawling up it with our chest and arms touching the ground.
Frank was totally out of it. It was hard enough getting myself up that embankment, but having to drag Frank up with me made it even more challenging.

We finally got to the top and crawled over the dirt berm beside the road. I looked down the ravine. There lay my TR6 wedged against the tree over a creek bed, laying completely upside down with the headlights and taillights still on! Holy crap, but at least we were still alive! Then, within seconds of us reaching the roadway, up pulls a Fiat 124 with a solo driver. I’ll never forget his simple greeting, “Can I give you guys a ride somewhere?”

We piled in his Fiat. It was at this point I realized Frank was not in a good way. The hair on the entire right side of his head was gone; from the top of his head to the base of his neck. The skin that remained looked as if it had been mauled by a 60 grit belt sander. There was blood everywhere. I wasn’t even sure his right ear was completely attached. He smacked his head on something, but what? As we drove down 9 back towards Saratoga Frank become more and more lucid and began using words, but he was still seriously stunned.

At that point I made one of the dumbest decisions of my life. Frank said he was fine – and I believed him. He just wanted to go home and go to bed. Good plan, I thought, that’s what we’ll do. So the good samaritan in the Fiat drove us to Frank’s house. By now it’s well after midnight. I walked Frank to his bedroom, helped him get his clothes off, and put him in bed. And then I left to go home and take care of official business. Is that stupid, or what? Frank needed hospital care!

Mr. Fiat drove me back to my parent's house. I remember my Mom was away somewhere, maybe back East. I opened the bedroom door and told Dad I had an accident but everyone was okay (and this was only about 6 months after my good friend Mike’s crash). My comment was met with several seconds of silence. Then, out of the darkness I heard Dad say, “Scott, I hope when you’re my age you have a son that does the same thing to you.”

I called the CHP, explained the situation and offered to meet them in downtown Saratoga. Then we’d drive up together – which we did, me sitting in the back of one of their cruisers. It was paramount to me that they knew there were no drugs or alcohol involved (and there never was with our Hwy 9 stuff, we took it seriously).

We got to the scene. A big groove had been ground into the pavement from my left front brake disk. That groove led off the road into the oncoming lane and onto the earthen berm. The three of us (there were two CHPs) slid down to where the car was. The lights were still on, which made it easier to see what happened. My left front wheel was gone, the end of the wheel studs had the threads stripped right off them, and the brake disk was ground flat on one side because of my brake application.

My story added up and they took me back to my car in Saratoga (incredibly, I had two, nice ones, but that’s another story and let me assure you I worked hard for them, painting apartment buildings). I don’t remember whether or not I told them I had a passenger with me, but if I did I most certainly said he was okay. Because he was! Not! They told me my car would be removed tomorrow sometime.

I hadn’t heard anything, not that I was expecting a call, but I drove up the next morning at 9 or 10AM. As I approached the scene, cars were stopped and people were standing outside their vehicles. I walked up to where the extraction was being performed only to see two tow trucks sideways (width-wise) on the road with cables stretched tight as piano wire going over the edge and down into the ravine. About a dozen motorists stood there watching.

It was then I noticed the car had impacted a tall Redwood tree at least 50 feet above the ground, but about 20 feet from the roadway. We were definitely airborne! The bark was gone at the point of impact. And at that point of impact was a softball sized clump of Frank’s afro like hair stuck to the side of the tree!!! That explains the blow to the side of his head.

Finally, my demolished TR6 appears. It was a total write off. The passenger door took a direct hit, the entire door pushed in to the point the floor was badly damaged, the seat bottom was halfway embedded into the transmission tunnel. The windshield on my side was folded backwards and lay flat on the top of the dash, the steering wheel cocked at an angle and crushed underneath it.

I heard people gasp when the car appeared. I vividly remember hearing someone say, “There’s no way anyone survived that.” But we had. I didn’t out myself as the driver, and I didn’t even tell the two truck guys it was my car.

I had seen enough and drove to Frank’s house to check on him, only to be met by Frank’s mother. All I can see is, if looks could kill. Understand, Frank and I were best friends. I had been to his house many times, talking to his parents, hanging out, the whole deal. It took his mother two years before she’d even look at me again.

Thankfully, Frank fully recovered and has no scars or hair loss from his injuries.
 
Joined
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Glad you two were OK...I mourn the poor '6

The old TR held up well considering.

Discs on wire wheel studs is a no no and I can almost assure you that I would have done the same thing that you did... I never lost a wheel but there is a story about a young me in my first Tr6 sliding across someone's nice, manicured lawn while trying to keep up with a friend in his 260Z. To be young, dumb and lucky:)
 

slo town

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Glad you two were OK...I mourn the poor '6

The old TR held up well considering.

Discs on wire wheel studs is a no no and I can almost assure you that I would have done the same thing that you did... I never lost a wheel but there is a story about a young me in my first Tr6 sliding across someone's nice, manicured lawn while trying to keep up with a friend in his 260Z. To be young, dumb and lucky:)
Glad to know someone else might have mounted those new wheels like I did.

Yes, the TR. They were nice cars and super reliable. Lower and stiffen the suspension with different springs, eliminate the rear end squat by re-valving the rear shocks for greater compression stiffness, make the rear end camber more neutral by using different trailing arm brackets, and put a rear anti-roll bar on it; the car could be made to handle very well.

A picture of my "replacement" TR6 at the "Duel at De Anza" autocross. I bought this one used, but it was almost brand new. I proposed to Sue in this car and we put 156,000 miles on it before selling it to Frank, my best friend in the crash. And 50 years later he still has it!

I mentioned having two nice cars at the time. Painting apartment buildings was a good gig for an 18-19 year old young man. Here is a picture of my 1962 Austin Healey 3000 BT7 (with triple carbs). This was the car I met the CHP officers in. Typical of me I put a Koni shock conversion on it, plus the "American Racing" wheels with Semperit V-rated tires. IMO that Healey was drop dead gorgeous. To this day, 50 years after the fact, I still regret selling that car. I distinctly remember selling it for $975, which was good money at the time!!!

Scott

TR6 autocross.jpeg
Healey.jpeg
 
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slo town

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My first...which was no real match for a 260Z....


View attachment 127536
The general public doesn't realize that these cars could be genuinely reliable machines. The real problem with them was that most of them got beat up and the later owners were always chasing the aftereffects of that mistreatment.

A little detail I always liked about the TR6 was the flip up vent at the base of the windshield. Opening that vent gave really good footwell air circulation.

Scott
 
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Messages
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Location
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The general public doesn't realize that these cars could be genuinely reliable machines. The real problem with them was that most of them got beat up and the later owners were always chasing the aftereffects of that mistreatment.

A little detail I always liked about the TR6 was the flip up vent at the base of the windshield. Opening that vent gave really good footwell air circulation.
They are, with a little bit of care and attention, and sensitivity to what the car is telling you. They are not just get in and go appliances, but most of what usually ails them can be prevented or at least managed with contact cleaner, a wire brush and dielectric paste.

I really haven't grown up much...
TR6 11 24 17.JPG
 
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