Our Off-Roading Disaster

I remember September 18, 1994 very well

I took the photo above after our failed attempt to climb the mostly rock incline on the side of US 15 south, about 1/4 mile south of the Temecula Border Patrol Checkpoint.

We had left Las Vegas about 9am Sunday morning, after spending the weekend attending our 16th consecutive SNSRA "Sun, Sin, & Tin" rod run at the Hacienda Hotel. Everything was fine with the car, no different than the other fifteen trips back on Sunday. We stopped in Temecula and filled up with gas, it took about 7 gallons in the stock 10 gallon tank, which is the dash board and cowl. We also got a couple burgers and drinks at the Mc Donalds almost next to the gas station, which we ate in the shade, on the grass, at the far end of the parking lot

We got back on the freeway for the final leg of our trip home. I got up to speed with the other traffic, about 75 or so, in a 70 MPH zone, and in the right most lane. We traveled about 2-3 miles up the hill, the terrain levels off and the road turns gently left. I don't know how to describe the sensation of trying to turn the steering wheel and it refuses to move!

We were creeping on to the shoulder and I was applying the brakes pretty hard, causing the car to slide left, due to little traction on the right side with both wheels in the dirt, gravel, and debris at the side of the road. I felt if we turned completely sideways, we would go over , so I let off the brakes and we immediately went to the right and up the rock incline. We were still going fast enough to cause the car to flip in the air, hit directly over my left shoulder, and bounce on the right rear corner of the top, and land back on all four wheels. Keep in mind this all happened in a few seconds at most, like saying one thousand one, one thousand two, and it's over!

A lady traveling parallel to us saw what happened and called 911 on her cell phone. The CHP, fire engine, and ambulance were there very quickly to offer assistance.I don't know how, but neither of us were seriously hurt to require transport to a hospital. This is really quite amazing, since we did not have seat belts in the car. We signed the paramedics waiver and waited for the flatbed tow. The CHP officer was intially about 2" from my face, even though it was only 3pm , I think he was checking for the odor of alcohol on my breath. Needless to say, there was none.


The car suffered some severe damage obviously, but overall it was remarkably in tact considering the speed we were traveling when we left the road. Landing on the upper left corner, with the entire weight of the vehicle broke the body loose from the original wood sub-frame and shifted it down and back several inches. The weight of over 9 gallons of gas in the cowl tank caused it to bend the metal upright structure significantly. The wood cross pieces in the roof all broke, with us and our luggage in the back seat flying around inside the car as it went over. The overhead console I had made containing electrical switches, AM/FM radio, and a CB radio, caused most of the damage to us, as it broke loose and slammed into our heads.


Allowing a couple weeks for some major bruises and soreness to heal I started to repair the damage. The goal was to be able to attend the up coming "Fast Past" run in Laughlin, Nevada the first weekend in December.


The two photos below depict some of the action necessary with straps, come-alongs etc to pull the body back in position.

Lots a clamps, and a 15" Cresent to crank em


Once back where it belonged, I replaced the broken portions of the hardwood sub frame where necessary.

I cut the portion over the drivers side at the original seams, straightened it and welded it back in place.


I don't know how the pro's do it, but this is how I managed to pull, stretch, and bend the door back into shape.


What caused the steering to lock up? I don't know for sure, probably never will. My theory is the original 1931 spring had lost most of its arch and allowed the front of the car to settle down far enough for the steering arm on the Mustang box to slip over the split stock radius rod. I disassembled, cleaned , and carefully inspected the steering box, but found nothing wrong. I did have a new spring made, and installed it at the same time I installed the disk brakes.


I'm happy to say we did in fact make it to the Laughlin run with no problems encountered over or back.