If you crashed (a '56 Buick), they could wipe you off the dashboard and sell it to the next sucker!
So, your character has an older car. It may be a Cool Car
, the Alleged Car
, or somewhere in between - but it has a slight gimmick. It can survive harsh crashes that would maim a modern car - it's the Invincible Classic Car. While old cars tend to survive crashes better than new ones, this trope usually takes it Up to Eleven
. Only applies to classic cars (classic = 20+ years old at time of production) and the cars do not have to be completely
invincible, per se. Commonly overlaps with What a Piece of Junk
Contrary to popular myth, this is not Truth in Television
. While pre-war manufacturers would go to extreme lengths to build cars that could survive extreme abuse - even to the extent of throwing them off cliffs and seeing if they still worked - this was simply because the uses of a car were much different. Indeed, the Model T was designed to operate in a world without paved roads outside of cities, and was often even used as a stationary engine for farming.
As the world modernized in the post war period, manufacturers traded agricultural ruggedness for style, refinement and planned obsolescence. While a 1950's yank tank may look large and imposing, the rapid yearly style changes left little time for structural engineering - they simply focused on creating the most fashionable coachwork and placed it over primitive ladder frames.
The biggest reason for this trope in real life, however, is the "crumple zone" misconception. Modern Cars use are designed to dissipate crash energy by spreading it across the frame as evenly as possible, and into sacrificial areas. The idea of a "Crumple zone" is misunderstood to mean the car collapses like an accordion, since vintage ones don't have them (and are built in a much heavier looking way), they are falsely assumed to be stronger. The reality is quite different.
In fiction of course, the heroes are Made of Iron
or wear Plot Armor
, so the Invincible Classic Car surviving treatment that would shred a modern car just goes to show how cool it is.
Compare/contrast They Don't Make Them Like They Used To
, Watch the Paint Job
and The Precious, Precious Car
- This 21st Century ad has a 1962 Cadillac parallel park by smashing the front and rear of two Miatas in its way. While the two new cars were drivable but damaged badly, the Caddy lacked even a scratch.
- Stephanie Plum occasionally is forced to drive her grandfather's 1953 Buick, which has damaged many other cars but has never been dented or scratched.
- Boko Fittleworth's car in Joy in the Morning is an early example:
It was a thing about the size of a young tank, which he had bought second-hand in his less oofy days and refused to part with because its admirable solidity served him so well in the give and take of traffic. He told me once that it brushed ordinary sports models aside like flies, and that his money would be on it even in the event of a collision with an omnibus.
- Justified in Good Omens. Crowley's car is a Bentley from the 20s, which still is in perfect condition when the book (which takes place some time in the late 80s) starts. Of course, Crowley is a fallen angel, and when he decides he wants something around him to be a certain way, reality usually realigns itself accordingly.
- Night Court: Christine's father buys her a 1949 Oldsmobile. She gets in an accident and the car flips several times; the only injury she or the car suffers is that she chips a nail.
- Supernatural has a 1967 Chevrolet Impala that may or may not be intelligent. She (referred to as their baby) is indestructible even after a major crash in the first season, and had a hand (wheel rim) in saving the world.
- Although in a slight aversion, Dean is shown to spend a lot of time working on repairing the car when it receives major damage.
- Angel's '67 Plymouth managed to survive multiple collisions and various forms of abuse, including a trip to a Hell dimension without so much as a scratch.
- Top Gear purchased an ancient Toyota Hilux pick-up truck which they proceeded to drive down a set of concrete stairs, crash into a tree, submerge in the sea, drive through a shed, set on fire, drop a caravan on it, and place on top of a 22-story building just before it was demolished. With minimal repairs, it re-started every single time. It now has a place of honor in the Top Gear studio.
- On top of that, when they drove it into the studio, the frame (normally the sturdiest part of the car) wsa held together by the body (there to streamline and make it look pretty). Since body-plates are usually not held on by much (making them easier to replace), that really says something about the Hilux's construction.
- When driving to the North Pole, guess which model of car they chose.
- Toyota Hilux is the basis for both the Finnish Army Engineers' minelaying vehicle and minesweeping vehicle - tasks usually reserved for specialized tanks. Hilux is far cheaper than a tank and can do most such tasks as well as any tank.
- Additional bonus is that it is also lighter than a tank and will not detonate undetected anti-tank mines, while it is durable enough to stand the explosion of anti-personnel mines.
- On Burn Notice, Michael drives a 1973 Dodge Charger that his father had owned. This car has survived being blown up twice and shot repeatedly while the more modern cars owned by everyone else have generally been destroyed.
- In the pilot, this trope is discussed. Michael specifically picks a classic car without airbags so that after a collision when his opponent will be disabled and distracted by his airbag, Michael will be free to get out and tie him to his steering wheel.
- The Dukes of Hazzard's '69 Charger surely counts. To be sure, the reality was that they destroyed so many of them that towards the end of the series they began to have difficulty finding any more to smash up, but the on-screen portrayal (truckload of continuity errors notwithstanding) is of one single car that survived no end of Ramp Jumps and other comparably destructive stunts.
- The perceptions of Classic Cars being Invincible (or at least more invincible than modern cars) comes from the Body on Frame method of construction. In this manner the critical parts of the car's structure, the frame, was protected by a shroud of thick gauge cosmetic steel. All sorts of minor accidents could be "fixed" by replacing or repairing the dented body panels. Cars with a Unibody construction risk damaging critical elements of the frame in even a minor impact and moreover are also designed to be sacrificed in order to absorb impact energy to protect the occupants. Rigid frames do not crumple (easily) leaving the occupant's face as the only thing available to decellerate them.
- Even if frame were damaged there were ways available to straighten them out and return the car to the road.
- Note that at the time these designs were being used average road speeds were far lower than they are today.
- Jay Leno had, in his collections of funny newspaper titles, a story about a '57 Chevy which stalled across a railroad crossing with a train oncoming. The train was totaled. Not a scratch on the car.
- Volvo cars in general have the aura of indestructibilty.
- Subverted when the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety marked its' 50th annniversary by crashing a 1959 Chevrolet Biscayne into a 2009 Chevrolet Malibu. Both cars were destroyed beyond repair at 35 mph, but the modern car's driver would've had a few cuts and bruises while the '59's driver "would've been killed instantly" (read: impaled on the steering column).
- In Need for Speed II, there's a bonus car (accessible by a Cheat Code) called the "Bomber BFS", which is a Hot Rod based on a 1957 Chevrolet. Not only is it capable of surviving damage, but it also apparently has the ability to ram traffic cars out of the way.
- The Muscle Car in Half-Life 2: Episode Two is a 1969 Dodge Charger stripped down, with modified engine. It looks exactly as you imagine it, but can shrug off anything you do to it, including multiple Ramp Jumps in quick succession, excessive chases under heavy gunfire and running Hunters over. In fact, the only breakdown it ever suffers is scripted.