23 October 2014

Losses and Lessons: Empty gas tank puts Bel Air owner in a sticky situation

VEHICLE: 1968 Chevrolet Bel Air

WHAT WENT WRONG: Sometimes simple mistakes can complicate things rather quickly. The owner of a 1968 Chevy Bel Air was out for a cruise when his car ran out of gas while ascending a hill. After a friend arrived with some gas, the owner put the car in neutral and applied the emergency/parking brake before starting the car. He pumped the accelerator pedal a few times and the Bel Air roared to life, but when he attempted to release the brake, it wouldn’t budge. So he turned off the car, got out, and – with his friend looking over his shoulder – pulled on the brake release as hard as he could until it popped free. With the Bel Air still in neutral, the car began rolling backwards down the hill, pinning both men under the door and dragging them 50 feet before hitting the curb and coming to a stop. Stunned bystanders had to lift up on the door to free the men.

DAMAGE/LOSS: Fortunately, the men didn’t suffer any serious injuries, escaping with scrapes and bruises. There was damage to the front trim panel and hinges on the driver’s door – all repairable with minor refresh to the door and fender edge. Total repair bill was $793.94, which Hagerty paid.

LESSON: Always make sure the vehicle is secure before releasing the brake, and never release the brake from outside the vehicle. You can never be too careful, but even a momentary lapse in judgment can be costly.

18 Reader Comments

  • 1
    JACK FLORIDA October 28, 2014 at 14:44
    This goes under the file of "Duh" really?
  • 2
    Dave Fort Defiance, Virginia October 29, 2014 at 16:49
    Wow, that sounds painful. Two guys trying to stop a 58 Chevy rolling down hill by hand. I'll bet neither one does a lot of their own work. For most people the weight of a car is not obvious. Move a little lever, press a little pedal and it goes or stops. Very little effort involved. But anyone who has used a floor jack to lift a car has a clear picture of how heavy their machine is. The idea of trying to catch a runaway by hand is, well, nuts. Chasing it down, getting inside without getting run over and actually stopping it is difficult and dangerous enough. Trying to stop it with only your fragile body is a little suicidal. I'm really glad these guys weren't killed. They easily could have been.
  • 3
    Mike K. United States October 29, 2014 at 17:45
    On a hill, car in neutral, no wheel chocks, wheels not turned towards curb, on has to wonder if they should be allowed to operate a motor vehicle.
  • 4
    Ian Healey Ridgeway Ontario October 29, 2014 at 18:35
    Re: parking brake. Some of us collectors (with rear drum brakes) may forget to loosen before, and RESET park brake cable AFTER installing and adjusting new rear brake shoes.
  • 5
    Grant West Haven, CT October 29, 2014 at 20:54
    My '69 Eldorado ran out of gas on a hill; I was alone and it's a HEAVY car. I tried to roll it back into a driveway but without the power assist on the steering and brakes it was almost impossible. And forget one person pushing a Fleetwood Eldo. No damage but Don't Run Out Of Gas.
  • 6
    clark green bay October 30, 2014 at 13:17
    Interesting animation/styling of Bel Air trunk.
  • 7
    Alan Detrick Salem, Oregon October 30, 2014 at 13:31
    I must assume this car is a manual transmission otherwise PARK would have been an excellent option.
  • 8
    Utes Milwaukee October 30, 2014 at 13:44
    These are 2 really lucky SOB'S !
  • 9
    John illinois October 30, 2014 at 14:03
    People who live in glass houses should NEVER throw rocks! OK,which of you experts have NEVER done a bone head move in your entire gear head life?
  • 10
    Ronald Wheeler Redmond, Or. October 30, 2014 at 04:56
    What a moron and who pays his bill, the next guy who has insurance with you. Do give a person like this any kind of penalty?
  • 11
    Scott Washington October 30, 2014 at 07:23
    Hope they received a Darwin Award for this
  • 12
    Mark Newtown CT October 30, 2014 at 12:38
    Lighten up guys! You never made a mistake? I had a similar problem with my '70 Chevy K20 pickup truck at the town transfer station. I turned off the ignition and got out to unload. I neglected to put the transmission in 1st gear, or set the parking brake. The truck was on a slight grade. A guy comes up to me and says "Is that your truck?". I turned to see it slowly rolling toward another car. I knew the 4" steel pipe filled with cement that made up the front bumper would do a number on that car. I ran after the truck, but realized there was not enough time to open the door & climb in (3" lift), so I opened the door, and dove in hands-first and hit the parking brake. I stopped the truck about an inch from disaster.
  • 13
    Steve Iowa October 31, 2014 at 14:42
    Why would you take your classic for a ride without looking at the gas gauge? Why wouldn't your turn your wheels toward the curb on a hill? Why would you let this happen to begin with? Sorry guys, this is a case of maybe you need to leave the car in the garage.
  • 14
    Frank Wichita, Ks October 31, 2014 at 00:31
    Glad these guys are OK, this is a true 'accident'
  • 15
    COOL BREEZE LENOIR CITY, TN. November 1, 2014 at 12:55
  • 16
    TJ Welland, ON November 3, 2014 at 09:56
    Had a similar incident many years ago with my 79 Mustang 4 spd. .Thought I had it in gear but no PB applied. Was in a restaurant with a very large slight grade parking lot. While I was enjoying my lunch another customer suddenly jumped up and ran out the restaurant hollering there was a car rolling out towards the rad with no one in it! I looked and saw my "stang" about to get stung by the next semi that would probably come down the busy road. I ran out as well and managed to stop the car as it crossed the road and almost into a deep ditch! Call it a brain fart but no one was hurt and no damage done other than a brown skid mark in my shorts! LOL!! I paid for the other fella's lunch that day and have faithfully used my parking since!
  • 17
    C. Lewis CA January 18, 2015 at 23:49
    Scott - People who are still breathing are not eligible for the Darwin award. They need to try again. Hagerty - why is there no reply option in your comment system?
  • 18
    GJM Crichton AZThese September 24, 2015 at 07:49
    both lads need to eat HAGGIS before playing with their car. Great that they were not badly hurt

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