Of Garage Doors, Porsches, Buicks… and Consequences

Maybe you saw the story about Peter Cheney, an automotive writer for the Toronto Globe and Mail, whose 16-year-old son slammed a 2010 Porsche 911 Turbo (borrowed for a road test) through Dad’s garage door.

How the accident happened, how the kid and his father responded, and what the consequences were (not many for the son) are all detailed here and here. Basically, son Will found the keys and took a friend to check out the stereo and the car’s interior. Who cares about the stereo in a Porsche 911 Turbo, for God’s sake? Teens really are weird. He didn’t do a Ferris Bueller; he just wanted to hear tunes!

Anyway, not knowing how the Porsche’s ignition switch worked, not knowing how to drive a stick shift, not knowing what a clutch does—well, one thing led to another and, blamm, the $180,000 car went through the door and sustained a reported $11,000 in damages. Ego and relationship damage to father and son were harder to quantify.

Many of us executed similar stupidities behind the wheel as teens—though few have likely been as costly and embarrassing for the parent as this one.

1942 Buick SuperMy first “accident” occurred at about age 10 and happened as I was trying to drive my father’s 1942 Buick (right) out of the garage, probably in the year 1944. This was a very sharp car – black with lots of chrome – and a source of prestige for my father. I thought I knew everything about cars.

The yard man who used to work for us urged me on, saying, “Come on, you can do it. Just feed some gas and let the clutch out.” He failed to tell me that the clutch should be let out slowly and gas should be fed minimally. So the car lurched forward and lost some of its chrome to the garage door pillar. I got it stopped pretty quickly and emerged frightened to death of what Dad would say.

Actually, he was rather cool about it, and I can’t remember any real punishment, though the yard man did get fired.

In the Cheney story, Dad Peter goes into great detail in two articles to explain away son Will’s dumb behavior, access to the keys, and the fact that he had never been trained (despite his father’s one-time effort) to drive a manual-transmission car. Instead, he attributes the accident to “teenage over-exuberance and some bad luck.”

I’m reminded of Rand Paul, candidate for U.S. Senate from Kentucky, who in talking about the Gulf oil spill, explained, “sometimes accidents happen.”

We want to hear about your first car accident—what happened, who was at fault, damages, and so on. Don’t be shy; give us the details.

—jgoods

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