25 March 2013

Losses and Lessons: ’68 Camaro loses wheel, leaves F-150 tired

VEHICLE COVERED: 1968 Chevrolet Camaro

WHAT WENT WRONG: When it comes to classic car stories, this is a wheel disaster. Literally. The owner of a 1968 Camaro was cruising down the highway – fortunately at moderate speed – when his left front wheel fell off. The tire flew backwards, hitting a 2006 Ford F-150 pickup truck, before crossing the center line and striking another car.

DAMAGE/LOSS: The good news is no one was injured, and amazingly, the Camaro was travelling at a slow enough speed that the lost wheel didn’t cause significant damage to the unprotected brake drum, as might be expected. The other two cars didn’t fare as well, however. The F-150 suffered damage to the grille, hood, windshield, roof and interior (from the shattered glass), and the third vehicle’s windshield was broken. Cost of repairs to the F-150 came to $4,200, which Hagerty paid. The other car owner did not file a claim through Hagerty.

LESSON: Regularly check the wheels of your classic and make sure the lug nuts or knock-offs are secure. While you’re at it, it’s a good idea to look at the tires for wear or cracks in the sidewalls that indicate dry rot. At the very least, make this inspection part of your annual spring tune-up routine. It only takes a moment and may save you from a costly accident.

12 Reader Comments

  • 1
    Joe Santana Portland, Oregon March 27, 2013 at 17:17
    O, you guys, I heard that story as a country song on Car Talk..."You took a Fine Time to Leave Me, LeftWheel."
  • 2
    Steven Reynolds Indiana March 28, 2013 at 13:49
    I witnessed the same thing happen to a 1968 Nova SS. The left wheel came off and he lost control of the car crossing over my lane on stopping in the front yard of home. No one was hurt and no other car was involved. I have a Jaguar with center spinners and I tap them with the hammer just to be sure the wheel are tight every now and then.
  • 3
    Chris Maryland March 28, 2013 at 20:48
    After totally restoring my 68 RallySport, to the point of even replacing the original lug nuts with new ones from a vendor at Carlisle, I tightened them up and forgot them. 3 years later, I hear a rattle noise in one of the derby hats on the right front. 3 of my lugs were off and the other two were loose. I was lucky not to wind up like the guy in the story. I now check my lugs and air in my tires routinely, especially prior to cruising season.
  • 4
    ken moore Templeton, California March 28, 2013 at 11:54
    I had a similar situation - I just purchased the car of my dreams,1963 Corvette split window, just restored. I was driving it for the first time to the local classic car mechanic to have him go over the car, about 5 minutes into my drive I hear this god awful sound and realized that the front left knock-off spinner came off, the wheel was still on the front spindle and the tire was jambed up into the wheel wheel. I was lucky, the fender was cracked and chipped, aluminum wheel and tire was damaged, but no mechanical underbody damage. I never thought about checkng the wheels since the car was restored and commercially shipped to me, I thought all was well. I have to say that Hagerty road service was great (flat bed tow), towed me to the mechanic that I was driving to, Hagerty adjustor came out the next day and my car was repaired and on the road in 2 weeks, great service.
  • 5
    bob pennsylvania April 24, 2013 at 10:28
    i was returning home from a local mall in my 82 bmw 320i when a heard a clunking noise from the front of the car. since i only had about 2 more miles to go, i thought i would wait until i got home to check it out. but good sense prevailed and i pulled over. three wheel bolts were missing from the right front . someone was trying to steal my alloy rims and must have been interrupted by my return. lucky!!
  • 6
    Joe Pennsylvania April 29, 2013 at 14:59
    Back in the '70s I had a 1968 Chevelle SS. It developed a creaking noise which increased in frequency as I would accelerate. I was sure that I needed new universal joints as the sound was so similar. My mechanic checked it out and said that the U-joints were fine. I still had the creak, creak, creak, noise with the revolutions of the wheels. I was perplexed and out of (process of elimination) I began checking lug nuts and found one wheel to have all 5 nuts partially loose. (I thought that someone may have started to "liberate" my (used) chrome reverse slotted wheels that I recently purchased.)
  • 7
    Frank Wichita May 30, 2013 at 12:42
    Perhaps the more people I tell my similar story too the more I will make sure it never happens again. I had just finished polishing up my 'Boyd' Aluminum wheels in preparation for the Black Top Nationals in Wichita Kansas. I had removed the rear wheels to do the polishing because of obvious restrictions to having access to the total wheel while the wheels were on the ground. I put the wheels back on and tightened the lug nuts on both sides. I then drove off and just after entering the highway to take me to downtown Wichita, I heard a horrific noise in the drivers side rear wheel. Immediately knew what was wrong and before I could even stop I had given myself the worst cussing out that I had ever given anyone in my now 68 years. I had anticipated the worst when I first stared at the rear wheel. Much to my surprise, the wheel was still in the wheel well and no damage was apparent to the body. After a friendly policeman blocked my lane on the highway, I jacked up my car and inspected the damage; I found only some scarring to the inside of my wheel, luckily I had an extra set of lug nuts with me and I tightened them up and proceeded on to downtown Wichita with no visible damage. The Boyd Coddington Aluminum wheel is still in perfect round a thousand or so miles after that incident. No insurance road side service was needed, and no claims had to be filed.
  • 8
    Ed Pittsburgh, PA June 12, 2013 at 16:25
    Back in the 70's, I had a beautiful 1970 Olds 442 with Drag Mags. Same story as the others, the lug nuts on the rear drivers wheel came loose and the wheel started to wobble. At the time, I had no idea what it was, only that it was going to cost me money from my measly income at a local gas station. Fortunately, I only lost two lug nuts, and had 3 loose ones that were getting ready to exit my vehicle. I took one lug nut from one of the other wheels, and tightened all of them. I was able to continue however, I learned a lesson about mag wheels, and the loose lug nut problems they occasionally have. Check the lug nuts at least monthly, to assure they're not coming loose. Drag Mags were unique and scarce. I'm happy mine wasn't damaged in this incident. Now, if I can only find that 442 and buy it back!!!!!
  • 9
    Milo Woodsdale June 12, 2013 at 17:06
    My first car was a '55 Chevy which I was doing my best to restore as a 16 yr old in the early '70's with my limited knowledge. There was no indication at all of a problem but while going down a 4 lane road at 55 mph, there was a sudden thump and I pulled into the median turnaround. All 5 studs on the left rear tire had broken and were completely gone. The tire and SS Cragar rim stayed inside the tire well on the brake drum and there was no damage to anything. My brother brought tools and we installed 5 new studs on the roadside. Never had anymore trouble out of it. If anyone can offer a reasonable explanation for what happened, I am all ears.
  • 10
    Brian Parsippany, NJ September 26, 2013 at 11:01
    Milo, maybe someone over torqued those studs with a air ratchet and stretched them... many years ago when young, I borrowed my buddies 73 Nova SS to go to school. Ten minutes after returning it to him the rear tire fell off snapping all the lugs...he wasn't happy with me. I helped him get a new rim, fix the lugs all before dinner.
  • 11
    Will Irby Jackson, MS February 25, 2015 at 18:58
    I had a similar experience in the early '70's in my '66 Valiant (powered by a '68 340). A buddy was helping me put the rear axles back in, and I naturally assumed that he had tightened the lug nuts on "his" side--bad assumption. A few days later, as I rounded a right turn, I felt a sickening "clunk", just as my left rear wheel and tire passed me and rolled into the adjacent yard. Amazingly, I was able to walk back a couple of blocks and find three of the lug nuts, which enabled me to get the car home. Even more amazingly, the only damage was a slight dent in the outer skirt of the brake drum, which is still there today (although the rear end now resides in my '65 Barracuda, powered by the same 340).
  • 12
    ErnieSC South Carolina February 25, 2015 at 19:32
    We were returning home from W/S, NC at Hwy Speed. All of a sudden my steering wheel started wobbling tremendously. New Mags and Tires just installed Cause - 3 Lugs off. 3 Very loose. 2 Studs Broken. Nighttime and very dark and dangerous on Hwy side of Interstate. Moved lugs from other wheels, tightened everything and drove more slowly home. Next morning in daylight, I immediately saw problem. Idiot had installed new alloy wheels requiring washers and flat lugs with Cone Style Lug Nuts. All 4 Wheels were ruined. Idiot had apparently never attended "Lug Nut" School!

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