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Disposable Vehicle Section

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One or more characters are travelling somewhere in a vehicle. The vehicle is damaged, runs out of fuel, the reactor malfunctions, etc. Or maybe it's just not fast or maneuverable enough. Normally, that would be bad news for everyone on board, but instead someone pushes a switch and a large section of the vehicle containing the problem detaches itself, leaving the characters with a smaller, undamaged, fully fuelled vehicle to continue the mission.


  • This will be Played for Drama, as the characters have to leave something (or someone) behind in order to escape or are in a Race Against the Clock to complete the separation.
  • The part left behind is still capable of carrying out a supporting role, often giving the separated vehicle covering fire.
  • The smaller vehicle has a third, even smaller vehicle that the characters end up in at the end of the sequence or plotline.

Do note: This is not for a small vehicle carried aboard a larger one. It has to be an integral portion of the vehicle so that the disposable section is not functional (or at least functional only for distraction; intentionally disposing it as a means of attack doesn't count).

A form of Travel Cool. Related to Combining Mecha, Detachment Combat, Didn't Need Those Anyway!. May serve as a justification for Shed Armor, Gain Speed for armored vehicles. Compare Escape Pod (a specialized compartment used in emergencies to escape certain doom on your vehicle), Life-or-Limb Decision (when the disposable thing happens to be your own limb), and Rail-Car Separation (when the portion of the vehicle that's being disposed of consists of cars from a railroad train).


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  • There was a commercial for some beer company (possibly a Super Bowl Special) where an airplane full of passengers and cases of the beer was forced to land place far away from any help. The pilot (or someone) says that in order to get back up, they have to reduce the weight of the plane, the assumption being that they'll have to leave the beer behind. The next shot is the plane taking off, without its outside fuselage.

    Anime & Manga 
  • Super Dimension Fortress Macross/Robotech:
    • The Zentraedi recon pod can detach the legs and use the body of the mecha as a shuttlepod.
    • Hikaru Ichijo/Rick Hunter, piloting the heavy armored space fighter, detaches the armor after battling a Zentraedi cruiser, revealing an ordinary Valkyrie mecha inside.
    • In the Dream Sequence Clip Show episode "Phantasm", a comatose Hikaru imagines his fighter's nose section ejecting and converting into his old racing plane.
  • In Macross II, after taking heavy damage, the bridge of the Macross detaches to become an airborne command post.
  • Gall Force
    • In "Eternal Story", the Star Leaf's forward section splits apart to reveal a landing pod that can act as an oversize escape pod.
    • In "Destruction", a heavy shuttle detaches the rear section to act as a decoy while the forward section and mecha launched from it's cargo hold infiltrate an Elaborate Underground Base.
  • In Broken Blade, the Delphine goes into battle wearing colossal heavy armor plates. Once those are too damaged to help anymore, Rygart drops them and gets about 200% faster.
  • Played for laughs in Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann with the Dai-Gurren, a mobile fortress in the shape of a humanoid mecha with a knife-shaped battleship deck positioned in order to effect a Gag Penis. During the Battle of Teppelin, the Dai-Gurren rams the enemy city's giant hammer with the knife section, then "detaches" by sliding out of it and running away. The remnant is shaped like a skeletal pelvis.
  • Batman Ninja: The cockpit of the Batmobile detaches and transforms into the Batwing. When the Batwing is grabbed, Batman is again able to detach the cockpit, which becomes the Batcycle.
  • Halo Legends. In "The Package", when the team of Spartans led by Master Chief gets too close to their objective, the Elite Supreme Commander starts ejecting parts of his spacecraft in an effort to stop him, throwing everyone inside those sections into space.
  • Likely copied from the James Bond film Thunderball, in one episode of Marine Boy, the title hero has the episode's Big Bad cornered when he's driving off on his speedboat. So he presses a switch which splits the boat, with him speeding away and Marine Boy left behind on the rear half.

    Comic Books 
  • Downplayed in the issue of G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero (Marvel) that introduced the BATs. The Awe Striker is being pursued by a Cobra Stinger driven by one of the BATs and their main cannon has been unloaded. When Bazooka complains about the situation, Crankcase suggests getting rid of the cannon to save them some weight. He does and throws the cannon at the Stinger, decapitating the BAT.
  • Robin: While the Redbird's shifting panels were designed that way in order to change the car's appearance into that of a commercially available sports car they can be jettisoned off the car if they're damaged or stuck.

    Films — Animation 
  • In Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs, Scrat the squirrel and his love interest are fighting over an acorn when a geyser erupts beneath them, sending the three and a large rock skyward. As the two squirrels climb the rock toward the acorn, the bottom of the rock falls away in a Shout-Out to staged rockets (see below).
  • In The Transformers: The Movie, the Autobots perform an "emergency separation" of the front cockpit so the rear portion would be destroyed and fool the Decepticons into thinking they were killed.
    Arcee: Did we have to let them detonate three-quarters of the ship?
    Springer: Seeing as how they were going to detonate four-quarters, I think it was a good choice.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • James Bond:
    • In the climax of Thunderball, the Disco Volante, Emilio Largo's yacht, jettisons its stern to confuse and divert the American and British warships closing in. The mooks left aboard the stern section use a variety of guns, from machine guns to a 40mm cannon, to fire on the pursuing warships. Meanwhile, the forward half becomes a hydrofoil, which is far faster than any of the pursuing ships and might have escaped if not for Bond's interference.
    • Quantum of Solace opens with a chase scene, during which a truck sideswipes Bond's car ramming part of its fender through the car door. Bond elects to dispose of that door to free himself—unfortunately this means there's a vulnerability in his bulletproof car that the men chasing him try to exploit.
  • In Star Wars: Attack of the Clones, Obi Wan Kenobi's starfighter is shown to have a separate bulky hyperdrive section that it docks with to travel in Hyperspace. As soon as he drops back into real space, his fighter disengages and continues on its way, leaving behind the extra mass to allow his ship to stay as lean as possible.
  • The Dark Knight has Batman ejecting from the Batmobile on a motorcycle, leaving behind the damaged part to self-destruct.
  • In Batman Returns, the Batmobile split off the flarings on both sides and the wheels retracted to form a vehicle (the "batmissile") that could fit through a narrow alley.
  • Death Race: The hero's car has a 6-inch-thick armor plating in the back called "The Tombstone". When it gets damaged and his other defensive weapons aren't working, the hero jettisons it in the hope that it will damage the car behind him. The disadvantage of this tactic is that it leaves the fuel tank exposed.
  • In Van Helsing, when the titular character's riding a horse-pulled cart away from Dracula's brides, he has to sacrifice the cart in order for his horses to jump over a ravine. The brides fly towards the falling cart, thinking that Anna and the Frankenstein's Monster might be inside... and then they're greeted by silver stakes instead, courtesy of the exploding cart.
    • Minus the vampires, Van Helsing's tactic of cutting the horses loose from a doomed stagecoach and riding them to safety is a classic for old Westerns.
  • The Green Hornet film showcases that the Black Beauty has front-wheel drive, which allows the car to keep on moving when the rear end is torn off by an elevator.
  • In Innerspace, the assassin pulls this trick when his miniaturized pod is damaged beyond repair. In the style of an Implacable Man he ejects himself out of it and continues attacking the hero wearing a gadget-loaded space suit.
  • As with the TV shows, this is a fixture of the Star Trek films starting with Generations:
    • In Star Trek: Generations, the Enterprise crew have to evacuate to the Saucer section and separate it from the Engineering section before the Warp Core breaches. The Saucer gets far enough away to almost Outrun The Fire Ball, surviving intact enough to make a crash landing on the nearest planet.
    • This happens again in Star Trek: First Contact, where a Borg sphere shoots out of the nearly destroyed Borg cube and carries on with its mission to assimilate the Earth. In another play on the trope, the Phoenix is launched via a multi-stage rocket, similar to the 20th- and 21st-century rockets it was based on.
    • And again in Star Trek Beyond, where Kirk orders the Enterprise's saucer separated after the ship is severely damaged in battle. Both sections of the ship end up crashing anyways, despite efforts at Damage Control.
  • Occurs during the second battle between the smaller British Surprise and the larger French Acheron in Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, when a cannon shot by the Acheron fells a mast on the Surprise. One poor sailor falls into the raging sea with the debris, and desperately tries to climb the rigging back aboard the Surprise. However, the rigging and the mast debris are acting as a sea anchor, slowing the Surprise in its flight to escape the pursuing Acheron. Captain Jack orders the rigging cut, to gain speed by marooning the sailor.
  • In the opening of Pitch Black, the co-pilot of the space transport faces a moral dilemma: should she eject the rear compartments of her crashing vessel (one of which contains passengers) to improve the chance that the forward compartment in which she's sitting won't be destroyed? Several cargo compartments are purged, but the pilot intervenes and stops her from sacrificing the one with the passengers.
  • In The Core, the drill vehicle carrying the scientists to the centre of the Earth was designed to jettison damaged parts. In the end, they force-jettisoned the ship segments to pull off their big plan.
  • The Big Bus: The Cyclops is equipped with an automatic tire changer so the bus can eject punctured tires and replace them with new ones while still rolling along.
  • The protagonists' car in Mad Mission has an escape pod which ejects from the car, and is actually a small vehicle itself.
  • In Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Yondu reveals that the front section of his ship is a fully-functional ship in and of itself. Which comes in handy when he blows up the rear section in order to finish off the mutineers.
  • Five Weeks in a Balloon: At the climax of the film, the heroes have performed an Emergency Cargo Dump to try to keep the balloon aloft after it gets damaged, but when it turns out it's still not enough weight and that the villainous team of slavers are about to cross a bridge to get to the uncharted territory they're all racing for and conquer it, they intentionally allow the balloon's passenger section to hook on to the bridge and then they release the balloon, flying off in a smaller "crow's nest" section while the bridge collapses.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog (2020): Doctor Robotnik's first attack vehicle has three separate stages - a large menacing black semitruck, a smaller white vehicle that pops out of the underside of the first and can function with even one wheel, and finally one of his Badniks, a little white drone armed with a laser that becomes a Sticky Bomb when damaged.
  • in Avengers: Age of Ultron, Tony's Hulkbuster Armor uses a very modular build, allowing any damaged piece to be ejected and replaced on the fly.

  • Known Space features a freighter owned by Sigmund Ausfaller, built as bait for a pirate gang. When the pirates attack, the ship would ditch the huge lumbering cargo module, revealing itself as a devastating miniature battleship with an invincible General Products hull.
  • Startide Rising has a mostly dolphin-crewed starship unable to escape its pursuers...until it suddenly jettisons all its swimming-around water. The pursuing ships smash into the resulting ice cloud and go boom, and the suddenly much lighter Terran ship easily outruns the survivors.
  • During the railway pursuit of kidnapper Baron von Leinsdorf in Nicholas Meyer's Sherlock Holmes thriller The Seven Per Cent Solution, Holmes and Watson demolish the train cars from back to front to fuel the locomotive's boiler. Once each car was bereft of combustibles, it was uncoupled. This effort succeeds in catching up to the Baron's special. This sequence was faithfully adapted to film in 1976 by Universal Pictures.
  • Seen in Perry Rhodan's Andromeda arc. One contemporary linear drive unit simply doesn't have the range to cross the void between the galaxies with while the enemy can take a convenient large-scale intergalactic transmitter shortcut? Well, let's just revive the old multi-stage principle with additional external units and jettison each as it burns out!
  • The Shroakes' first rule is that you never leave anything too valuable in the last coach or wagon. The reason for this is first demonstrated when they are attacked by a giant owl which carries off the last vehicle in their train.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In the Buck Rogers in the 25th Century episode "Space Vampire", the ship that the Vorvon and Vamp!Wilma escape on is programmed to fly into a star. Once the star's radiation returns Wilma to normal, she detaches the rear portion of the ship and flies to safety while the Vorvon continues into the star in the front portion.
  • A specific Top Gear example: the Homemade Limo challenge. Clarkson's Absurdly-Long Limousine had to have a large section removed to be made road legal. The modification was poorly done, and the limo eventually split apart. Undeterred, Clarkson plops the celebrity he's escorting in the front passenger seat and drives off in the front half, leaving the rest behind.
  • In the Doctor Who episode "Castrovalva", we learn that in an emergency the TARDIS can eject one quarter of itself in order to propel it. Problem: You can't decide which quarter will be ejected, it just might be the part you're standing in at the time. When something similar happens in "The Doctor's Wife" the Doctor explains that he's now added a safeguard: the occupants of ejected rooms are moved to the main control room.
  • Shows up quite a bit in the various Star Trek shows. Gets a mention as a possibility once in the Original Series, and is done multiple times in Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Voyager. This is done variously to evacuate the crew due to damage, get civilians out of danger before an expected battle, or to give the ship an advantage in combat by giving the enemy multiple ships to fight instead of one big one. And as seen in the Film section above, the tradition carries on into the films.

  • Earthsearch. The protagonists are away in a shuttle when their starship is hijacked and leaves without them. They do an Emergency Cargo Dump in a desperate effort to catch up before they are Almost Out of Oxygen. Sharna decides to Read the Freaking Manual and finds the engine section can be detached with explosive bolts in event of an overload, so once they're out of fuel they dump that as well.

    Video Games 
  • In Final Fantasy VII, the ending FMV of the game has an emergency switch to eject the bridge from the Highwind, which transforms into a functional airplane.
  • Many Gradius-like shoot-em-ups have this trope in force (creating Sequential Boss in the process), so it's impossible to list them all. They all follow a similar pattern: Shoot the large flying mechanical boss; when it takes enough damage it ejects the damaged portions, becoming smaller, but faster and more likely to unleash Bullet Hell upon you.
  • The final boss in FTL: Faster Than Light can lose its two wings and keep fighting, though not without making a jump to safety first.
  • In Kerbal Space Program, any multi-stage craft will be built this way, and completely justified. After all, getting to orbit requires a lot of propulsion and fuel, and once up there the empty fuel containers and excessively large engines just become dead weight. Any craft that averts this is considered a single-stage-to-orbit vehicle, and depending on engineering and mission goal can range from Awesome, but Impractical to Difficult, but Awesome.
  • The Interceptors in the Spy Hunter 2001 reboot, its sequel and Nowhere to Run can eject sections and convert to a cycle-like Secondary Escape Vehicle mode after taking sufficient damage. The one in the sequel could also convert on player command.
  • In Kid Icarus: Uprising the Great Sacred Treasures is designed to be able to keep fighting no matter how damaged it gets. Throughout the final battle, it takes on five different forms, shedding parts either deliberately for more mobility or necessity due to damage.
  • The Corpus Obelisks in Warframe can eject their bridges in case something goes wrong, as Frohd Bek demonstrates after you sneak hacked Ambulases on his ship in Pluto assassination mission.

    Web Comics 
  • In The Order of the Stick, the Mechane included a feature to jettison its ballistae, as a means of passing itself off as a civilian ship in situations when the crew may find themselves in the middle of a warzone (referred to as the "Innocent Traveler" plan). This was used to lighten the load of the ship during the events of the story to help get them over a cliffside.

    Western Animation 
  • Birdman (1967) episode "Number One". When Birdman breaks into the title villain's pirate satellite, Number One activates a Self-Destruct Mechanism and escapes in the detached head of the satellite.
  • The Galaxy Trio episode "The Duplitrons". When a rocket pod in which the Trio are flying malfunctions, Meteor Man presses a button and the pod splits in half. The rear section falls away and Meteor Man continues to fly on in the front half.
  • The page image is taken from the Where on Earth Is Carmen Sandiego? episode "The Trial of Carmen Sandiego", in which Carmen and her henchmen escape from the Salisbury Cathedral having nabbed the Magna Carta, leaving brother-sister detectives Zack and Ivy trapped inside. The two siblings escape by rappelling out a window, throwing a spear to use as an anchor and damaging the tires of Carmen's getaway vehicle in the process. The duo manage to subdue the henchmen while Carmen gets away. At first unable because of the damaged tire, she converts the vehicle into a mini rocket ship and blasts off, leaving some of the damaged part of the vehicle behind with her henchmen.
    Carmen: I'd call this attempted entrapment, detectives. You'll have to do better!
  • Batman: The Animated Series: In "Harley and Ivy", the Joker's car gets snagged with a grapple line. Harley ejects the rear section, allowing her and Mistah J to escape while the discarded piece slams into the Batmobile and nearly sends it off a bridge.
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1987): The Turtle Blimp that was introduced in later seasons had the ability to detach the gondola from the balloon and function as a glider in the event that the balloon was damaged. Naturally, this happened on a regular basis. The toy based on it had the same ability.
    • One episode notably did the reverse, where the gondola section was shot off the blimp but the Turtles clung to the still flying balloon via the cables that usually held the gondola on.

    Real Life 
  • Many larger rockets are designed to stage, separating an engine along with the now-empty fuel tanks feeding it to lighten the load after reaching the upper atmosphere, perhaps most notably the Saturn V.
    • What landed back on Earth was a small capsule the size of a car and comprising less than 0.2% of the 110-meter-tall, 3,000-tonne rocket. Every shed gram having been necessary to send this small thing to the Moon and back.
  • Drop tanks, as used on military aircraft, function similarly to the rocket stages above, though in this case, the section being disposed of is simply a fuel tank, rather than an engine.
  • Many JATO or RATO units are designed to be jettisoned from their parent aircraft after takeoff.
  • A few aircraft such as the Me 163 and U-2 were designed to take off using devices such as a dolly under the fuselagenote  or bogey wheels supporting the wingtipsnote  that would be released once the plane was airborne. In each case, the aircraft was specially designed to land without the dropped wheels.
  • Allegedly, some passengers incorrectly believed the Titanic could do this.
  • Tank Goodness: Later World War II German tanks were designed with add-on armoured panels, deliberately sacrificial appliqué armour spaced out from the main armoured shell of body and tank. These were designed to take the impact of infantry anti-tank weapons—expending their destructive power some distance away from anything important—and could be discarded and replaced according to need. Other parts of the tank, such as track guards and front/rear fenders, could also take damage and be removed, as they were not critical components.
    • Modular armor and weapons are now a fairly common feature for combat vehicles, allowing both for easier repair of damaged armor and easier mobility, by stripping unneeded armor to make the vehicle lighter and easier to transport.
  • This is the logic of crumple zones in automobiles, though in this case, it's not so that the car can keep moving but so that the passenger compartment can stay intact in the event of a bad crash. Before crumple zones were invented, cars would compress like aluminum cans when they crashed: as a single unit, with the passenger compartment deforming as readily as the front, all while the driver and passengers sustained whiplash from the entire car stopping all at once. Crumple zones not only cause the car to decelerate more slowly, reducing whiplash, they absorb the entire blow so that the passenger compartment doesn't collapse and crush the people inside. This crash test where a 2009 Chevrolet Malibu slams into a 1959 Chevrolet Bel Air demonstrates how they work.
  • All-or-nothing armor is this concept applied to warships, as a result of lessons learned from World War I naval combat. The idea was that there was no point in armoring a ship in non-essential areas, like crew berths, since the ship could take a hit there and keep fighting just fine; instead, armor should be applied only to critical areas like the engines and powder magazines, which should be placed low down in the center of the ship to minimize the amount of armor needed to completely enclose them.