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Every Car Is a Pinto

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You can kiss that sweet rental deposit goodbye, chum!

"As everyone knows, cars are highly volatile machines, seemingly made of tissue paper, birch bark and lighter fluid. Or so you would think by how often, easily and massively they explode."

Car damage = instant fireball.

Any significant impact to a vehicle, particularly when falling off a cliff, will result in the vehicle exploding and/or immediately catching fire. Evidently fictional cars run on nitroglycerine. This trope comes from the public knowledge that vehicles are full of flammable substances like gasoline minus the less-public knowledge that liquid gasoline has to be vaporized and mixed with air at the proper ratio before a spark will ignite it. At worst your "exploding" car would actually be a car with a small fire. Needless to say, Rule of Cool is in full effect here.

While cars are the most common vehicle to go kaboom, it seems that any form of transport has a good chance of exploding in a huge ball of flames and debris if it's shot at or wrecked. Aircraft, locomotives, ships: pretty much anything gas-powered and motorized is a fireball waiting to happen. Sometimes vehicles tumbling off cliffs will burst into flames spontaneously, in midair, before they've even hit the ground. Some pretty egregious instances might even have them mushroom. Expect it to intersect frequently with Dangerous Clifftop Road (as in the page image).

The Trope Namer is the now-infamous Ford Pinto, a low-cost car launched by the Ford Motor Company in 1970. Its fatal flaw was that its gas tank was placed between the rear axle and the bumper — and the bumper itself was not sturdy — meaning that any damage to the car's back end could easily puncture the tank and spill fuel on the hot exhaust pipe. After several incidents when a Pinto burst into flames after a minor collision, its reputation as a cheap death trap was sealed, and it was taken off the market in 1980 to be replaced by the North American Ford Escortnote .

If the massive numbers of parodies (such as cars going poof at a touch, or things exploding that don't contain gas at all, like bicycles) and Lampshade Hangings in recent years is any indication, this is on its way to being a Discredited Trope, especially after MythBusters debunked it. Still, there are plenty of people who believe that any damaged car is inches from going up in flames, leading to well-meaning bystanders pulling injured persons out of their cars and causing further harm.

Subtrope of Artistic License – Explosives. Compare Made of Explodium, Hair-Trigger Explosive, Damage Is Fire. Molotov Truck is often a weaponized version of this. External Combustion combines this with Vehicular Sabotage. See also Shoot the Fuel Tank for a slightly more justified sub-trope.


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  • A KCL Productions Nintendo Commercial for Mario Superstar Baseball has Peach accidentally hitting Luigi's car with a baseball, causing it to burst into flames.
  • A Domino's Pizza Commercial has a flaming crossbow bolt hit the delivery driver's car, which promptly explodes. The delivery person is surprisingly not upset by this turn of events.
  • A KIA commercial has a KIA Rio RX-V in a grocery store parking lot when a runaway shopping cart rolls toward it quickly. The driver quickly slams on the accelerator and gets out of the way before the shopping cart hits it. Relieved, she drives out onto the street, but then looks in the rearview mirror to see the shopping cart is still following in hot pursuit, and quickly makes a hard left at a T intersection to dodge. The shopping cart drives straight through the T intersection — and explodes.
  • The explosion in this safety video notably starts before the cars collide.

    Anime and Manga 
  • Black Lagoon. Certain cars there will explode if they tip over.
  • Case Closed:
    • One member of the shadow organization eludes the FBI by shooting out the gas tank of the other car aiming backwards via the side view mirror.
    • Also, an early case has a Salary Man dying after his car crushes and explodes. His Office Lady girlfriend survives since some bystanders managed to pull her out of the vehicle before it went boom. She tricks Kogoro into finding the jerk asses who caused the accident so she can burn them and herself to death, but Conan and a friend of the deceased boyfriend manage to dissuade her.
  • Subverted in Gunsmith Cats: A villain drives off a raising bridge and her car explodes in midair. Two of the protagonists stare slack-jawed in amazement for a moment before suspecting that the third one had something to do with it. She smiles and shows that she's holding a remote detonator.
  • In the Mazin Kaiser OVA, Prof. Yumi and Roll inexplicably survive this without burns.
  • Futari wa Pretty Cure: In the 42nd episode, a variation of this trope results from a bad guy pressing Cure Black's Berserk Button, leading her to destroy an entire subway car with her Battle Aura, making this instance Every Subway Car Is A Pinto.
  • In the My Bride is a Mermaid OVA, a tanker truck crashes into a building and doesn't explode immediately, but it does start leaking and has somehow caused a fire to start in the building. Eventually it explodes.
  • In Speed Racer, there was a car that flew off of a cliff in every episode, which exploded in a violent manner. Since racing is the whole point of the show, one would think that they'd have the tracks a little bit further away from cliffs. Or active volcanoes, for that matter.
    • The intro also depicted a car crashing through a railing and flying through the air before crashing to the ground in a massive explosion.
  • Happens in Nerima Daikon Brothers between a motorcycle and a bicycle, of all things!
  • In Sailor Moon, Mimete tampers with the brakes of Eudial's car, which sends both car and driver off a cliff. The first explodes, killing the second, and causes a LARGE water column to rise.
  • In Mobile Suit Gundam Wing, most non-Gundams are Made of Explodium (when not piloted by a main character), but Leos in particular appear to be designed with their fuel or ammunition evenly distributed around the entire body. Shot in the arm? Kaboom. Same for a lot of mobile suits across the franchise, really. The original series at least justified this by way of said suits being powered by fusion reactors - touch them wrong and the entire suit goes up. This makes mobile suit combat in space colonies a generally bad idea, as these explosions are large and powerful enough to punch holes right through the walls of the colonies and open them to space.
  • Exaggerated in Pani Poni Dash! In episode 15, after being stuck on the edge of a cliff all episode long, a bus that the girls are trapped in falls into the water, and then blows up like a friggin' A-bomb! (Right afterward, though, Becky mentions that everyone was rescued safe and sound.)
  • Parodied in A Certain Magical Index when Touma and Misaki were once attacked by a street gang called Deadlock, whose gimmick is that they ride around on rocket-powered roller skates. Touma throws a remote control at one gang member's head and makes him crash, and the man's skates explode in a massive fireball. Touma and Misaki incredulously ask what kind of shoddy design that was.
  • In GTO: The Early Years, Eikichi blows up a bunch of motorcycles by driving another motorcycle into them.
  • In Heavy Object, during a raid on poachers a truck is shot in the tank but fails to explode. When Qwenthur complains about this, Havia points out shooting a vehicle's gas tank only blows them up in movies. The truck explodes immediately after due to static elecricity igniting the gasoline vapor.

    Comic Books 
  • Used in the climax of Batman: Hush when the titular villain fires a single bullet at the Batmobile which promptly explodes. Moments later Hush remarks that Batman hadn't noticed him strapping C4 to it (which also wouldn't explode after a single bullet, but that's another trope altogether).
  • In The Dark Tower comic, Alain blows up a large number of oil tankers by shooting them with a machine gun. In the books, however, this trope was averted; when Susan suggested that plan of action, Roland explained that crude oil isn't nearly as volatile as most people think.
  • Disney Ducks Comic Universe: In the Don Rosa story "Guardians of the Lost Library", Donald Duck watches a succession of television shows that repeatedly feature the hero's transport catching on fire, be it a car, a speedboat, or even a horse. In a sci-fi version of that show, even the comet the hero is riding bursts into flame. Or possibly not, as, to use Donald's words "It's kinda hard to tell with comets."
  • Played straight, then subverted in a G.I. Joe issue where Scarlett, ordered to kill a Joe as a way to prove her loyalty to Cobra, shot a sniper round at them, but intentionally missed, hitting the engine compartment of their Jeep, which subsequently explodes, and two immolated Joes climb out of the car, stagger a bit, then collapse. It's later revealed to the reader that the Joes knew the shot was coming, had been wearing fire-protective gear, and exploded the car themselves.
  • The Killer: Discussed and defied—the killer notes that unlike in the movies, cars don't just explode at the lightest scratch. The only way is to Shoot the Fuel Tank, and even that requires him getting armor-piercing incendiary rounds to have the kind of effect he wants.
  • Averted in Sin City despite the many crashes shown and the tendency for over-the-top violence.
  • In "Half-Baked", in Tales from the Crypt #40, the main character's car flipped over after a blowout and caught on fire almost immediately.
  • Tintin: A large number of car crashes fall into this trope. Land of Black Gold makes a plot point out of cars mysteriously exploding; the reason for this turns out to be Applied Phlebotinum being added to the oil supply as a deliberate act of sabotage.
  • Transformers: Animated tie-in comic The Arrival, like Tintin above, has a plot point when Recurring Villain Angry Archer's Getaway Vehicle explodes due to like the Pinto having a poorly placed gas tank. Does make a bit more sense knowing that the story was essentially a Take That! at the entire American Motor Industry.
  • Lampshaded rather neatly by Cyclops of the X-Men. "Blowing up a car is a lot harder than it looks in the movies. Puncturing both sides of a fuel tank to draw in the proper amount of oxygen is a million-to-one shot. Thankfully, I'm a pretty good shot." He zaps the fuel tank with his Eye Beams: kaboom. Then he makes a mental note to send a check to the owner.

    Comic Strips 
  • Calvin and Hobbes: Calvin once imagined a car falling into the Grand Canyon and exploding — in mid-air. Apparently a Mercedes is even worse than a Pinto.

    Fan Works 

    Film — Animated 
  • In Incredibles 2, the Elasticycle explodes rather dramatically when it crashes into a mountainside. While electric batteries are combustible under the right circumstances, it is a surprisingly large explosion for such a thin and lean motorcycle.
  • Parodied in Rango, when the bats that are used for transportation inexplicably explode upon crashing or when shot.
  • Lampshaded in Frozen. When Kristoff and Anna jump a ravine in the sled, the sled doesn't make it, crashing into the ravine. Kristoff looks down at it dismally, and the oil lamp explodes, despite the sled landing in thick snow. Somewhat justified in that the sled was coated in fresh lacquer, which is potentially flammable, and there IS an ignition source, but still...
    Kristoff: But I just paid it off...
  • In Anastasia, this is done with a train.
  • At the very end of A Goofy Movie, there is a hilarious use of this. This movie had not used a lot of slapstick comedy before this moment, so it comes as a complete surprise when Goofy kicks his car, which was a little broken and he smiles and points at it, resulting in a Beat after which the entire car BLOWS THE HELL UP and knocks Goofy straight up out of his socks until he crashes through Roxanne's roof.
  • Averted in 101 Dalmatians. When Horace and Jasper's truck crashes into Cruella's car at the end, both vehicles get smashed to bits as they fly off the edge of a cliff, but there's no explosion. Of course, the fact that Cruella, Horace and Jasper all survive this is with absolutely no injuries is somewhat improbable, but it has nothing to do with this trope.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • In 21 Jump Street, a truck hauling propane tanks and a gasoline tanker get put through the wringer during a freeway car chase, but inexplicably don't explode much to the protagonists' surprise. Then a runaway motorcycle collides with a chicken truck, and THAT one explodes.
  • Played straight in Alwaysnote . We see Richard Dreyfus — in a A-26 Intruder medium bomber-turned-firefighting-plane, mind you — make an impossible move to save a buddy's plane (a PBY Catalina), which has had an engine catch fire. He flies impossibly close over the buddy's plane, and dumps his tank of flame-retardant on the on-fire engine, dousing it. We then see that a single flaming splinter from the buddy's formerly-burning engine has embedded itself in the Intruder's wing. The two pilots look at each other — then boom! Never mind that the A-26 was a medium bomber from WWII and designed to be able to survive bullets through the flaming splinter is all it takes to make the plane explode. From the fuselage, natch.
  • Towards the end of American Psycho (the movie), Patrick is involved in a shootout with the police. He shoots at them and misses, hitting their squad cars, which explode in a humongous fireball. Patrick just stares at his gun with an utterly confused expression, giving evidence that the incident was just another product of his insane mind.
  • In Andhadhun, Simi crashes a car towards the end of the film, and it promptly bursts into flames. Or at least, that's what the Unreliable Narrator Akash claims happened.
  • At the beginning of Army of the Dead, the newly wed couple's car completely explodes upon collding with the military convoy for no logical reason.
  • The Avengers (1998). Mrs. Peel's car blows up after taking damage from attacking flying robot insects. Noteworthy in that the explosion takes place several minutes after the damage occurs and without any warning.
  • Back to the Future:
    • Averted in the first film with the Libyans' van, which merely tips over after hitting the photo booth. On the other hand, this does create a bit of a Plot Hole, since the terrorists are treated as no longer being a threat after this even though they apparently survived. (Granted, it's highly plausible that Doc and/or Marty called the cops on them since the radio next morning mentions their arrest.)
    • Back to the Future Part III:
      • A steam locomotive gets its boiler supercharged to the limit of its pressure capacity and then explodes in a quite realistically violent manner after it goes hurtling off a cliff. Steam locomotives occasionally exploded spectacularly in real life, sometimes hurling pieces of themselves tremendous distances.
      • Averted also in the third film when the DeLorean is hit by a train after returning to 1985. Rather than explode in a fireball (it didn't even have any gas in it that could have ignited in such an unrealistic fashion), it more or less shattered into pieces without any pyrotechnics.
  • At the end of Battletruck, the titular rig is run off a cliff and into the nearby ravine, in the process going up like a tinderbox.
  • The Beastmaster: In the sequel, the cops who enter Dar's world run away from their patrol car crying "It's gonna blow!" like the thing's full of live explosive when a fire starts nearby. The gas tank does indeed go up like it was a bomb right after this.
  • In Beverly Hills Cop, during the chase between the semi and the Detroit Police, one of the cars that gets rear ended by the semi driver bursts into flames. It's a Pinto, of course.
  • Billy Madison: In one of the most well-remembered scenes from the movie, the entire O'Doyle family is driving down the road chanting "O'Doyle rules!" over and over again. The car hits the banana peel that a guy threw out the window of a bus earlier in the movie, inexplicably causing the car to skid out of control and fly off a cliff (all while the family continues to chant "O'Doyle Rules!"). Though it isn't shown directly, the car inexplicably explodes in a loud explosion off screen.
  • Black Angel Vol. 1: To prevent the hit team from catching him after he has handed Ikko to Mayo, Yatsuda drives his car into two parked cars at a moderate speed and all three explode.
  • Spoofed in the Affectionate Parody Blaxploitation film Black Dynamite, in which a car flies off a cliff and explodes long before it hits the ground.
  • Any time anything happens to a vehicle in Blastfighter, it explodes. When Tiger's car runs off the road, it explodes before it even hits anything.
  • Probably the most hilarious aversion of this trope happens in The Blues Brothers: An actual 1970s Ford Pinto, the kind that this trope is named after, is dropped from one mile above ground (an unfinished raised highway In-Universe), punches a rectangular pit into a street upon impact, but doesn't explode. Another Pinto from that period falls into the pit the first Pinto caused which means it lands upon said first Pinto, but still none of the two explodes. The Bluesmobile simply jumps the pit.
  • Jerry Bruckheimer, creator of many modern action movies, revels in this trope.
  • In the classic Steve McQueen movie Bullitt, the iconic car chase ends with the villains' car suffering this fate. The car was forced off the road and ran into a row of gasoline pumps. note 
  • Cannonball:
    • One driver is killed when a bomb goes off in his car. (The bomb makes this a Justified example.)
    • Another driver is killed after he drives off of an overpass under construction and his car explodes when it hits the ground.
    • Another driver is shot in the head and flips his car. Then the car explodes for no readily explainable reason.
    • The movie exaggerates this trope during the mass pile-up near the end. Every single car that crashes explodes, most of them immediately. The three girls have to be extra careful to not hit any car no matter how slightly, lest their van would explode, too.
  • In The Cannonball Run, when a car runs into a van at about 5 MPH, the van explodes in a huge fireball. And falls off a bridge, for good measure.
  • The Car: At the end of this horror flick when the eponymous vehicle goes over a cliff, it really blows up, belching forth a devil's head mushroom cloud. In this case, at the bottom of the cliff was a very large pile of dynamite.
    • Practically every vehicle that fell victim to The Car also did this. In one scene, a police car rolls gets pushed off a cliff by The Car, and you can actually see that the fire starts from within the police car's passenger compartment as it starts rolling down.
  • Carrie (1976): When Chris and Billy try to run Carrie over after she leaves the prom, she uses her telekinetic powers to cause the car to spin out, roll over, and eventually explode. It's justified here by the strong implication that Carrie used her powers to blow the car up, judging by the "Psycho" Strings and closeup on Carrie's face just as the car explodes.
  • The Chase (1994): Near the end, one of the main characters, wanting to show the police she's serious, shoots a landed helicopter with one shot from a 9mm handgun. It promptly blows up.
  • Cherry 2000: Subverted, intentionally or otherwise, when a gang of wasteland marauders pushes a captured van off a cliff into a deep pit. The mangled van crunches to earth, the camera lingers, and... nothing happens. Perhaps the FX crew's explosives failed to detonate?
  • In Circus of Fear, Jackson's van explodes into flames several seconds after hitting a tree.
  • Circus of Horrors: When Dr. Rossiter's car runs off the road, it catches before it even collides with anything. Even more bizarrely, the fire seems to start in the back seat, rather than the engine or any of the other places one would expect a car to burst into flames.
  • Lampshaded in Citizen Toxie: The Toxic Avenger IV. After the car flips into the air, Evil Kabukiman notes that American cars that flip into the air and crash down always explode. Toxie and Evil Kabukiman get out of the car quickly and as noted, it explodes.
  • The 1981 cheeseball movie Condorman contained a chase scene that may be the penultimateultimate example of this trope. During the chase scene, the protagonists flee from a fleet of black sports cars driven by the KGB's vehicular stunt division or something. (It's that kind of movie, just go with it.) Excluding the car driven by the leader of the pack (who survives for future encounters), every single car that receives any sort of collateral damage worse than a sideswipe explodes into flames. Instantaneously. In one case it explodes in midair, before any collision has occurred. Guess the director was impatient...
  • In Corvette Summer, the villain's car horn starts blaring after a freeway accident. He shoots the car, causing it to explode, just to make the horn shut up.
  • In Crooked House, Lady Edith's car explodes after driving off a cliff in a quarry. In this case, the explosion is a visual shorthand to inform the viewer that the occupants of the car are dead without having to show the bodies.
  • In Darkman II: The Return of Durant, at the very end, Durant's limo explodes like the Fourth of July. This is only minutes after it was explained in detail the insane amount of armor plating, bulletproof glass, and other features added (including a 10-disk CD changer in the trunk). Of course, the car hadn't been designed to withstand bombs inside of it, but one would expect a car like that to contain the blast somewhat.
  • Played with in Daybreakers. During the car chase some of the human hunting vampires crash their car and there's a huge explosion. But it isn't the car that blows up from the crash, it's the vampires inside of the car who blow up, because in this universe that's what happens when vampires get staked, and the crash sent two very heavy and sharp metal beams straight through the windshield.
  • Death Race 2000. When the Resistance car chasing Frankenstein rolls over, it immediately explodes into flames for no apparent reason.
  • Deep Blue Sea: One of the more ridiculous examples of this trope. A regular rescue helicopter is pulled down to the research rig (in the middle of the ocean), by a shark that is holding onto the helicopter's rescue cord. Upon making contact with the research rig, it inexplicably explodes with an enormous fireball with a radius of at least fifty meters.
  • Death Wish 3 features a hilarious example: after Bronson's character briefly walks away from his love interest's car (by this point the movies had run out of his family members to stuff in the fridge) and some punks immediately-like, the second Bronson turns around-punch her out and shift her car into neutral. The car rolls down a slight grade and bonks into another vehicle at about 15 miles per hour. And then, after a beat, both cars explode.
  • In Deep Impact, the astronomer who discovers a comet capable of ending humanity races from his observatory to tell the world, only to run off the side of the road. On the very first bounce against the rocks on the way down the cliff, the car explodes in spectacular fashion.
  • In Déjà Vu (2006), Denzel Washington drives the car with the bomb in it off of the ferry. Every car his car bumps into on the way off explodes massively.
  • Demon Knight: While the Collector's car catching fire when Brayker shoots the engine is just about plausible, Brayker's car explodes in a fireball the second the Collector's car crashes into it.
  • It's actually a surprise in Der Clown ? Payday that only one police car explodes under machine gun fire, and that none of the police cars in the hand grenades on the Autobahn scene explodes upon impact on the tarmac.
  • Der Wixxer: The German Edgar Wallace spoof has a scene where two bicycles collide in mid-air (E.T. reference included) and explode. The sequel even features stairlifts exploding on impact.
  • Die Hard 2 had a plane crash and explode in a fireball... despite one of the reasons it tried to land in the first place was because it was running out of fuel. However, a nearly empty tank is actually more dangerous than a full one, as it's filled with fumes.
  • In Doomsday every car is a Pinto... except the Bentley.
  • Dates at least as far back as 1922 and Dr. Mabuse, the Gambler. A car plunges into a quarry and "explodes" via a very unconvincing smoke bomb.
  • Subtly parodied but ultimately averted in the Danny DeVito/Bette Midler film Drowning Mona. Every car in town is a Yugo GV, but there isn't a single one that explodes.
  • Brazenly inverted in Duel. A tanker truck (with "Flammable" prominently displayed on the side), after attempting to ram the protagonist off the road for the entire movie, is itself run off a cliff. The protagonist runs to the cliff, waiting for the inevitable explosion. And... nothing happens. Fade to black, roll credits - this despite the original story and the movie script (both written by Richard Matheson) actually featuring the explosion. Whereas David's ordinary car actually bursts into flames.
  • Electra Glide in Blue treats motorcycles this way. During a Chase Scene, a cop car drives over a crashed motorcycle, causing them both to explode. During the same scene, Zipper shoots a motorcycle, causing it to burst into flame and crash.
  • Eraser involves a car being struck by a train moments before the end of the film and blowing apart into manageably small pieces. Fate of occupants a foregone conclusion. Given that this was a real effects shot with a car actually being struck by a locomotive, though, it's at least excusable that they wanted to break up the car a little bit to try to avoid any unfortunate derailing during filming.
  • In Escape from L.A., practically every motorcycle is a Pinto. Snake also managed to turn one car into a giant Molotov cocktail.
  • Escape to Athena (1979). Telly Savalas sabotages the brakes on a Nazi officer's car. It not only slams into a wall and explodes, it also blows up a German ammunition dump in the process. Results!
  • A double subversion happens in The Fast and the Furious (2001). Johnny Tran's gang pumps Brian's car full of bullets. Brian and Dom just keep standing next to it as it catches fire without blowing up. Seconds later Dom shouts "NOS!" and the car goes up in a massive blue fireball as they run away .
  • Averted, in all places, in the Roger Corman exploitation flick Fighting Mad (1976). In an effort to intimidate farmers unwilling to sell their land, some Goons from a Big Bad Corporation rough up a family, tie them up in the back of their car, cover the vehicle in gas and push said car off a cliff into a rock quarry. The car crashes to the bottom of the quarry - and comes to a stop, unharmed, the Goons at the top of the cliff with "What the hell do we do now" looks on their faces.
  • Final Destination film series:
    • The 747 at the start of Final Destination blows up in a very Pinto-esque manner only a few seconds after takeoff. The problem isn't that the sequence is impossible; it's just that the NTSB animation of the real TWA 800 explosion is a million times scarier than the cartoon blow up in the movie.
    • The interstate vehicle pileup in Final Destination 2 is the complete embodiment of this trope. Regardless of if they're crashing headlong into a log or being hit by a garbage truck, just about every vehicle on the road blows up in spectacular fashion. Some even explode twice.
    • Ditto for Final Destination 4, with even less realism as the explosions of the NASCAR race cars are somehow able to propel enough shrapnel through the fence to kill an audience of spectators.
  • In Fool's Gold, a small bike driven by Matthew McConaughey goes off a cliff and explodes in an absurdly massive fireball.
  • Ghost Town (1988): When Langley's Ford Bronco gets shot up by Devlin, it immediately bursts into flames. Possibly justified, as Devlin's bullets are presumably supernatural.
  • Godzilla (1998): The director considered Godzilla's usual atomic breath "unrealistic", so it's totally absent here, but pressure from fans led to a nod at least, in two instances when Godzilla's roar causes some cars to explode and then propels the flames.
  • Averted in the film Good Girl Bad Girl, in the final chase scene the villain loses control of his car and goes off an overpass. The car hits the ground hard, but fails to explode, even when hit by an oncoming car.
  • In The Great Raid, a truck operated by a Japanese soldier is hit with bullets as it is coming out of a garage. The truck bursts into flames. At the same time, Japanese soldiers quickly evacuate the back of the truck. A little bit of fridge logic makes you wonder why the Japanese soldiers were loaded in the truck that was parked in the garage.
  • Parodied in Groundhog Day. When Phil Connors's car falls off a cliff, another character proclaims unconvincingly that he could still be alive. The car then immediately explodes. This being a "Groundhog Day" Loop, Phil gets better.
  • The Guns of Navarone. When a German truck is shoved over the edge of a cliff it explodes even before it touches the ground.
  • In Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers, Michael chases the protagonists in a car. Even though the car is barely going at a running-pace, it still explodes when it collides with a tree. Though this does add to the creepy factor when Michael nonchalantly gets out of the car completely unscathed.
  • Hard Boiled: Chow Yun-Fat's Tequila blows up several motorcycles with what appear to be explosive shells from his shotgun during the big warehouse shootout.
  • In Hell's Highway, Jack's car crashes into a gas station and everything immediately explodes.
  • In How the Grinch Stole Christmas!, at one point the Grinch attempts to flee on a tiny car (for "tiny", read "roller-skate size") and ultimately spins out and crashes. Upon crashing the car, the Grinch flees from the inevitable giant fireball.
  • Hudson Hawk. The safety features on ambulances are apparently disabled by the presence of stupid mobsters. In the chase scene, an ambulance driven by the bad guys hits a mound of dirt, flips over and explodes in mid-air. Although, given this was a movie with a talking crucifix and David Caruso, one may think it's not to be taken seriously.
  • Averted in Hulk, where the military vehicles smashed by the Hulk conspicuously fail to explode... although cynics might says this was a case of Never Say "Die" rather than attempted realism.
  • In The Immortals, Billy rams a police car off the road and it explodes into flame as it crashes through some garbage cans.
  • Played arrow-straight by The Incredible Hulk (2008). In the final fight scene between Hulk and The Abomination, cars occasionally blew up in anticipation of being hit.
  • Early in Independence Day, a decrepit satellite gets pulled in by the approaching alien mothership and explodes against it. The actual city destruction scenes avert this, though. Cars get thrown up, smashed, and consumed in the blaze, but they don't actually explode.
  • In Iron Eagle, you could say everything is a Pinto. Doug Masters steals an F-16 and everything he shoots at explodes whether it's explosive or not. He shoots at a radio tower - Boom! An anti-aircraft gun - Boom! A Jeep - Boom! A tent - Boom! Everything erupts in a big ball of fire with people doing flips to get away from it. To be fair, the F-16 is equipped with a 20mm Vulcan Cannon, but that shouldn't make buildings go up in huge balls of flame.
  • In a scene cut from Iron Man, a small Humongous Mecha is hit by an expensive car and is knocked into a hydrogen-powered bus. The bus explodes. In the final cut of the movie, the bus explodes after that same Humongous Mecha fires a rocket into it, which is easier to understand. The second-to-last scene before the credits actually mentions the bus explosion in a stream of news text.
  • James Bond films have this happen fairly frequently (the earlier ones in particular).
    • Dr. No has Bond in a high-speed road chase on a curvy mountain road. He passes an obstacle; his pursuers (driving a hearse) crash and burn. note 
    • Goldfinger has a moment where a car drives over a cliff and while it's just hanging in midair, it blows up in a spectacular fireball. Not after it hits anything, but when it's just about 15 feet past the cliff. This trope was abandoned fairly quickly in the series (except when explosives were concerned).
    • In the famed Water Chase scene of Live and Let Die, one of the villains ends up with a Pinto boat that explodes upon ramming something much bigger.
    • For Your Eyes Only: When Locque's car is kicked over the cliff by Bond, it gets totalled but doesn't explode. Surprisingly, only one car explodes in the whole film: 007's gadget-laden Lotus Esprit. It blows up after one of Kristatos' henchmen triggers the car's anti-theft mechanism. It also symbolised a parting of the ways with the gadget fetishes of earlier 007 films.
    • The Living Daylights with an exploding jeep that went off a cliff. The explosives contained in the rear are on fire. note 
    • In Die Another Day, when the hovercraft at the beginning collide into trees, they crumple up (as if they made of cardboard and tin foil) and burst into flames. They're driving over a mine-field, so things exploding with little to no warning does make a little more sense in that scene.
    • Averted, however, in the Daniel Craig films. In Casino Royale (2006) Bond's car gets in a rather spectacular accident but doesn't even start smoking. in Quantum of Solace several cars are wrecked during the Car Chase in the Action Prologue, one even rolling down an embankment much like Bond's pursuer back in Dr. No, but none catch fire.
  • In Killdozer!, Chub's truck explodes after being very slowly overturned by the bulldozer.
  • The Killer: At one point during the big shootout in the beach house, Chow Yun-Fat's title character blasts the hell out of a car to cover the escape of his maverick cop partner and his love interest. Eventually, the gas tank goes up and the car goes kaboom.
  • In King Kong (1976) the titular ape knocks over an 'electric elevated train' which, of course, bursts into flame when it hits the ground.
  • Last Action Hero.: Repeatedly parodied. A man is thrown from a moving car into an ice cream truck which then explodes for absolutely no reason. (Or so it seems. If one looks closely, he was holding dynamite at that moment.) Another car jumps off a bridge and explodes in midair, also for seemingly no reason. Additionally, when Jack Slater ends up shooting a taxi multiple times in the real world, he is quite surprised that it does not blow up and wonders about a world where all the cars are bulletproof.
  • The Last Boy Scout, has a car fall upside down in a pool before exploding. The villain aboard survives.
  • In the 2009 Made-for-TV Movie of The Last Templar, a rickety old pickup truck plows through a state of the art SUV causing the SUV to explode while the pickup truck emerges unharmed!
  • In Lethal Weapon 4, a car driven by some Triad Mooks try and ram Riggs' car into the path of an oncoming train. By cleverly pulling ahead, Riggs leaves them on the tracks instead, and their car is hit by the train, blowing up from the impact. Then the burned out wreck lands on the parallel tracks and get hits by another train going the opposite direction, causing it to blow up again.
  • Loaded Weapon 1: Parodied. Colt and Luger both commandeer two bicycles, which promptly explode. Later the pair hail a taxi, which also explodes for no reason.
  • Zigzagged in Lone Hero. When Gus shoots the fuel tank on one the bikes circling his trailer, it explodes in a fireball. However, when Sharon rams one of the bikes off a cliff into the quarry, it just becomes a crumpled heap of scrap metal on the rocks.
  • Appears in The Lost World: Jurassic Park. When the research trailer and the SUV fall off the cliff, they both violently explode. Strangely, the SUV's explosion is actually bigger than that of the trailer. Even more strange, the trailers/SUV were electric.
  • Possibly the most absurd example ever comes from 1955 Western film The Man from Laramie, in which a wooden wagon bursts into flame after falling 30-40 feet off a cliff. OK, fine, the wagon was carrying a shipment of rifles, but rifles won't burst into flame when you drop them either.
  • In Massacre at Central High, David gives Paul a Tap on the Head, locks him in his van, and shoves it downhill. The van runs off the road, rolls downhill, and explodes at the bottom.
  • The Matrix Reloaded:
    • The Rastafarian albino twins' SUV after Morpheus shot its gas tank on the freeway overpass.
    • The two semi trucks after they collided on the freeway (apparently their diesel fuel spilled and ignited.).
    • Trinity's motorcycle after she dropped it into the building.
    • Could be handwaved away by saying that, since the main characters are capable of bending the laws of physics while inside the Matrix, they made stuff blow-up-able.
  • In Maximum Overdrive, When the truck that was chasing Connie and Curt drives off the road, it catches fire in mid-jump and explodes completely when it stops.
  • In Metalstorm: The Destruction of Jared-Syn, the tank-like vehicles driven on Lemuria tend to explode into huge fireballs when damaged. Probably the best example is the vehicle that rolls down an incline and has just about come to a stop at the bottom when it suddenly explodes.
  • In Mr. & Mrs. Smith (2005), when John and Jane Smith are running away from their agencies who both want to kill them, John has a ridiculously easy time shooting at the cars chasing them in order to make them explode.
  • During the ambush of the Vulnerable Convoy inb Mr. Majestyk, several police cars explode for no reason. Later, during the Car Chase, Vince uses his truck to ram a carload of thugs off the mountain road, where it promptly explodes.
  • In Mr. Ricco, Ricco is run off the road. His car hits a tree and starts to steam. As he walks away with his dog in his arms, the car explodes.
  • Mystery Science Theater 3000: If it happens in a film viewed on the show, you can bet they will comment.
    • One of the most notable examples is in Space Mutiny in which two vehicles that can only be described as a cross between golf carts and floor cleaners crash into each other while doing speeds of nearly three miles per hour! This results in a huge explosion.
      Mike: Wow, big explosion for a tiny electric cart.
      Crow: Yeah he shouldn't have been carrying that case of cleaning fluid and nitroglycerin and gelignite in there.
      Tom: Plus he microwaved an egg at the same time.
    • Oddly reversed in Riding With Death, in which we are told that a truck is carrying a compound so unstable, that it could take out an entire town. When it finally does explode, it's relatively tame.
    • Also oddly averted in The Giant Gila Monster, when the hero destroys the titular monster by driving his car into the beast, killing it in the resulting explosion (he dove out of the car in the nick of time). Averted in that he is actually shown placing some bottles of nitroglycerin in the passenger seat of the car.
      Joel: (noticing that the only labels on the bottles have XXX on them) He must be using the other leading brand of nitroglycerin.
      Crow: Now it's a nitro-burning funny car!"
    • In ''Laserblast, there was a chase scene that ended with the bad guy's car going over the edge of a cliff, at which point it cut to footage of an entirely different type of car which exploded before it got anywhere near the ground.
      Crow: Oh no, it turned into a sedan and crashed and exploded!
    • In Escape 2000, vans explode in giant balls of flame after being hit by mere shotgun shells and pistol bullets. Not even high explosive rounds would do the amount of damage these bullets do. The trope even extends to a helicopter in the movie, as the hero Trash is able to blow it up with a regular pistol. At least American movies generally use high caliber bullets when they cause cars and helicopters to blow up.
    • Mike Nelson carried on this tradition when he started RiffTrax. Any time something explodes (especially if it's one of the movies he's riffing by himself), expect to hear him shout something like "No! I had my collection of antique dynamite in there!"
  • In The Naked Gun, a car-chase ends with the pursued villain crashing his car into the side of a tanker truck. Explosion #1. Then, straddling the flaming remains of his vehicle, he runs into an army missile being towed on a trailer. Explosion #2. Now riding the missile, he plows in through the front door of a fireworks factory. EXPLOSION NUMBER THREE, as Frank Drebin unsuccessfully attempts to shoo away gawking spectators: "Move along! There's nothing to see here!"
  • The final scene in Next of Kin (1982) has Kelvin's van exploding, taking the roadside café where the heroine had previously taken shelter with it.
  • Parodied in Night at the Museum. The toy car that the two little model guys (a Roman soldier and a cowboy from the diorama room) are driving flips over a snowbank and inexplicably explodes. They're assumed dead until we see them all smoky and climbing the steps of the museum in time to not get turned into ash.
  • Nightmare at Noon: Several cars explode when shot or crashed into. One car explodes when a man vaults over it, even though the car seems undamaged.
  • Nothing but the Night: When the car containing one of the trustees rolls over the cliff in the opening montage of deaths, it explodes the moment it leaves the cliff when it is not remotely close to hitting anything.
  • Ong-Bak: The Thai Warrior had a memorable chase scene involving tri-wheeled, golf cart-like taxis (Tuk Tuks), which explode rather dramatically one by one.
  • In The Outlaw Josey Wales, a Gatling Gun explodes after its been shot a few times.
  • Paycheck has a scene where the bad guys are in a car, chasing the protagonist on a motorcycle. The protagonist rides through a pipe too small for the car, and the car explodes in classic style on impact. John Woo likes this trope and uses it in several of his films.
  • Prophecies of Nostradamus provides an extreme example. When a car crashes on a highway during a traffic jam, every car on the highway explodes. This moment was used as Stock Footage for fellow Toho releases Deathquake and The Return of Godzilla.
  • Racing Stripes: In order for Channing to ride Stripes to work, Goose the pelican destroys her Motorcycle—somehow causing it to explode! Then Goose with a face full of ashes weakly walks back into the barn.
    Goose: Ya see...Ya call the Goose... and ba-da-bing— [faints]
    Tucker: [laughs] Bada-boom!
  • In Rage 2014 note , Nicolas Cage is in a car pursuing an SUV. He hits a parked car and doesn't stop, causing a police cruiser to pursue him. Cage runs a red light at an intersection, just missing traffic, while the police cruiser is sideswiped by a pickup truck, causing it to burst into flames while inexplicably changing vehicle model.note 
  • In Return of the Jedi the AT-ST's explode when hit by swinging logs or toppled over.
  • In The Rock, Sean Connery unlocks every trope in the car chase achievement guide — the fruit cart, the near-brush with pedestrians, the delivery truck with no sides — before hitting an electric go-cart, which causes a multiple-car explosion. Naturally, Connery keeps driving unharmed. Two minutes later, there's one last car on his tail — so he hits an old-fashioned trolley car, which, of course, explodes.
  • Ronin (1998): Several cars crash and explode during the car chase scenes. The effects people at least make it look as though it is the result of ruptured fuel tanks.
  • Saving Private Ryan: When the wounded Captain Miller (Tom Hanks) defiantly empties his pistol into an oncoming German tank, which explodes in spectacular fashion. As Miller stares in wonder an Allied aircraft swoops overhead, revealing that the tank had been destroyed from above.
  • In Scream and Scream Again, Ludwig's car catches fire immediately upon being shot by the border guards; even before it collides with anything.
  • Taken to its logical extreme in Sharknado. After a little scrape with a sky-fallen shark, the heroes' gas tank ruptures; the protagonists immediately bail out, and sure enough the car explodes with no further provocation. Nothing's around to actually spark the fuel, and the engine's stalled, but none of that matters. Gasoline = explosion.
  • The infamous "Garbage Day" sequence from Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2 includes Ricky shooting at an approaching car. He punctures the radiator, and the car swerves to avoid him, hitting a ramp and flipping over. It flips back onto its tires and then explodes, starting with the passenger compartment.
  • Averted in Woody Allen's Sleeper, wherein Woody Allen's character pushes a Volkswagen Beetle he'd used as a getaway car off a tall cliff into a lake to throw off pursuit. The car lands almost completely intact and the water turns out to be only a few inches deep.
  • Speed; when Annie gets asked if she can drive the bus (which is wired up to explode if it drops below 50mph) she replies "Yeah, it's just like driving a really big Pinto." And it explodes like a really big Pinto, along with the plane it collides with. Which was filled with fuel in anticipation of a scheduled takeoff. It doesn't help that the bus was rigged with a bomb that, due to flagging sleep, was about to go boom anyway. Yay pyrotechnics!
  • Averted in Speed Racer. The cars constantly crash, jump, flip, smash, and attack each other while racing at insane speeds. Only the most intense crashes (head-on into a solid structure at high speed) result in an explosion.
  • Parodied in The Spirit of '76, with a Pinto just missing getting hit in the midst of a car chase, but exploding anyway.
    Tommy: Uh oh. Is that the kind of car I think it is?
    Adam-11: But it didn't even hit it.
    Chris: Doesn't have to. Let's get out of here!
  • Thoren from Sunburn (1979) commits suicide by driving his car into a restaurant, where it bursts into flame.
  • Super 8:
    • Apparently, the pickup truck that kicks off the plot is Made of Explodium, as it is all that it takes to derail a train in a fiery spectacular fashion.
    • The deputy shoots a fuel-tank truck to make it explode as a distraction.
    • We also see a tank headed straight toward a parked Ford Pinto, but the scene is cut away from before any impact and the total lack of sound effects in the next shot (indoor, in the house the car's in front of) leaves the presumption the tank driver swerved in time.
  • The Swarm: This disaster movie had one scene where an ambulance crashed through a plate glass window, at which point it promptly exploded. Also a train overturns, and not just the engine, but the carriages explode.
  • Tangerines: Discussed Trope, and averted. Ivo, Magnus, and Juhan push one of the army jeeps off a bluff. It rolls and tumbles a good hundred feet into a ravine. Nothing happens.
    Juhan: I thought it would explode.
    Magnus: They explode in cinema.
    Ivo: Cinema is a big fraud.
  • In Terminator 2: Judgment Day, the T-1000's hijacked semi-truck crashes headlong into a concrete bridge, ruptures its fuel tanks and explodes after a cut electrical wire shorts it. This despite the fact spilled diesel fuel is not explosive.
  • In Terminator Salvation, Kyle shoots a tanker trunk several times, and is shocked when it doesn't explode. What does the trick is dropping a road flare on the spilled fuel.
  • Happens in the climax of Theodore Rex.
  • The Miss Marple film "They Do It With Mirrors" features an especially egregious example, when the cornered culprit makes a getaway only to crash into a closing pair of iron gates... on which the car instantly explodes into a roaring inferno. God only knows what they made those gates out of...
  • In the Blaxploitation film Three the Hard Way:
    • Jimmy Lait is being chased by mooks in two cars. He draws them up to the roof of the parking structure, and while his shooting at the cars doesn't cause them to explode, and they keep stopping from the other cars they bang into, they both are supposedly driving fast enough that when they hit a cinder-block wall hard enough to go through it and over the edge, one of the cars explodes just from having struck the wall.
    • Jimmy is lured to a full size phone booth at a vacant lot. A dump truck smashes the glass and steel booth, without any trouble, but Jimmy is able to hang on and jump in the back. He then pulls one of the mooks out of the passenger side of truck, and the other tries to shoot at him through the door and top of the cab, but Jimmy jumps off. The truck drives up a ramp, crashes through the cardboard sign on a billboard and explodes.
  • In Thunder Alley (1967), Tommy's car flips over, and a small fire starts under the hood. Tommy scurries free just before the whole car bursts into flame.
  • Thunderbirds Are Go mixed this with Made of Explodium—both the first Zero-X and the chopper on which the Hood escapes explode when they hit water.
  • In the original Total Recall (1990), Arnie uses a taxi ("JohnnyCab") to flee from the bad guys. He has to sabotage the robotic driver, though, and drive the car himself. Once he arrives at his destination, he leaves the taxi, but the robotic driver shorts out and the car starts moving forward. It narrowly misses Arnie, then hits a wall at a very moderate speed and blows up. This has plot consequences, as the bad guys are informed a car has blown up and show up at the place, thus discovering Arnie is headed for Mars.
  • Top Secret!: Parodied — an East German army vehicle is wildly out of control, until the driver realizes he's on a collision course with a Pinto that is inexplicably standing out by itself in the middle of an open field. In East Germany. (In a land of Trabants, the man with a Pinto is king?) Through dint of heroic effort, the driver wrestles his vehicle to a stop — almost. His front bumper ever-so-gently pings the rear bumper of the Pinto — the contact depicted aurally with a small bell — upon which the car promptly explodes. The German vehicle drives away from the accident, apparently running just fine, even though it's still got a few spot fires on it.
  • Transformers (2007) has an exploding bus. Bonecrusher (one of the baddies) rollerblades through a bus, causing it to split in half and explode in flames. The bus is labeled as being hydrogen powered. The rest of the film seems to avert this trope. Any damaged car simply is smashed, and doesn't explode. Also averted later in Transformers: Revenge of The Fallen; the car the heroes are in is dropped 20 feet into an abandoned warehouse by the Decepticons, but it doesn't blow up. Not surprising, considering they are the main characters. How they survive the fall and subsequent crash without getting any serious injuries, however.
  • In Tremors 2: Aftershocks this is averted, Burt shoots a shrieker with his last bullet, from a LAR Grizzly Big Boar rifle, blowing it in two. The bullet then penetrates several brick walls and oil barrels, before ripping a hole in the engine of the escape vehicle they were trying to reach. (The car is still rendered undrivable, but it doesn't explode.)
  • In True Lies, a van carrying a group of terrorists is attacked on a bridge by Marine Harriers, leaving it teetering at the end of the destroyed bridge. The van finally tips over (with help from a little birdie), and barely hits the water before exploding in a massive fireball. It falls a whopping ten feet. The film also has the scene where snowmobiles explode massively after hitting trees.
    • The terrorist van exploding could be explained from the large number of explosives it was carrying. One has to remember that that van DID shoot at the harriers with a Stinger. Odds are, there may have been more explosives in the van.
      • However, military ordnance is designed to be very difficult to set off, except as intended; unless the weapon is armed, generally it will only explode if triggered by another explosive, such as a bomb. Compounds like TNT and C-4 are almost impossible to detonate without a proper trigger— even if tossed in a fire they'll simply burn without going off.
  • Occurs twice in Undercover Brother:
    • Parodied when a pair of mooks drive a golf cart very slowly into a gas main. There is a small delay, and then the whole thing explodes violently.
    • During the big chase scene with White She Devil, one of her mook's motorcycles crashes and immediately bursts into flames.
  • Unstoppable: Every train is a Pinto. The film mostly portrays trains and railway operations realistically, but the one time a train derails, the force of the engine falling over onto the ground is apparently so violent that it causes the entire thing to blow up. Is it even possible for a diesel-electric locomotive to explode?
  • In Van Helsing, a horse-drawn carriage explodes, since it was filled with explosives, as an anti-vampire trap. Another one of those handy traps that work on regular folks too!
  • Vanishing Point: Kowalski's suicide crash at the end. Not only does the car explode before hitting the roadblock, but the Challenger is replaced with a Camaro for the explosion.
  • In the WWII movie Where Eagles Dare a car bursts into flames in mid air and another does so just rolling down an incline before reaching the cliff, and it was rolling on its wheels.
  • In The Wraith, every car that is crashed into the Turbo Interceptor blows up in a spectacular fireball. Makes sense due to the car's supernatural origin, but the only thing that are intact are the bodies of the opponent drivers...well mostly
  • If you look close enough, the Corvette in xXx explodes a split-second before hitting the ground.
    • The countless cars blown up by the helicopter-mounted Gatling are Truth in Television, though. Even the U.S. President's limousine would explode if shot with dozens of explosive rounds per second.
    • Also Pinto snowmobiles and a Pinto boat. The latter should definitely not have anything explosive in its bow, would this be Real Life.

  • Invoked near-verbatim in Bride of Dark and Stormy, a collected volume of entries in the annual Bulwer-Lytton contest:
    "He was, in a way, not unlike the car he drove; small, homely, and gutless; but like that car, an early-model Pinto, he had a latent tendency, when pushed too far or driven too hard, to explode." - Robert W. McConkey
  • Parodied in a scene in the Discworld novel Soul Music. Mort and Ysabell go round a hairpin bend and go over the edge of a cliff. Upon landing, there is a large explosion, and "because there are certain conventions, even in tragedy" a burning wheel rolls out of the wreckage. The only thing is that they're not in a car, with petrol and electronics and other vaguely explodable things - this is the Discworld, so they're in a coach. It's suggested it was triggered by the oil lamps, but really it just happens because that's what happens.
  • The Humongous Mecha in BattleTech novels explode, despite being powered by fusion reactors which in real life would shut down cleanly rather than going up as they'd no longer be able to sustain the nuclear reaction. The phenomenon is referred to as "stackpoling" after Michael A. Stackpole, who was particularly fond of it. (Ironically, fusion engines in the board game itself do not normally explode... except when explicitly using an optional rule intended to mimic the novels in turn.)
    • This actually became such an issue it was discussed at length in a source book which vainly attempts to explain how this could possibly happen. One explanation was that if the reactor was penetrated rapidly while still running air would get into it and then expand explosively... it came off as very Voodoo Shark'ish. In one particularly hilarious example they used they totally retconned one incident where some ships bombed a fusion reactor. (Which of course exploded like a nuclear bomb...) See what "really" happened was that the ships bombed the plant which had snow on the roof which then fell into a giant vat of liquid sodium that happened to be next to the reactor and THAT exploded like a nuclear bomb... Because that's way more plausible!
  • Stephanie Plum: Steph is very hard on cars. She seems to get them shot up, wrecked, set on fire, or blown up approximately once a book (on average). Uncle Sandor's 1953 Buick, on the other hand, is seemingly indestructible.
  • The Takers: Lampshaded in the Jerry Ahern novel where the hero Josh Culhane (a writer of action adventure novels) witnesses his brother shotgunned off the road.
    "His car went over the embankment and it caught fire. Big fallacy in movies and books like I write? Cars don't always explode and catch on fire when they do a nosedive, you know but, uh, but his did..."
  • John Dies at the End: The good guys shoot at a car's gas tank to kill some nasties. This simply puts a hole in the gas tank, and they have to light the gas manually.
  • Called out in Lady Slings the Booze, one of the Callahan's Crosstime Saloon novels, when private investigator Joe Quigley notes that even driving a car off a cliff won’t make it blow up: “Only a dissatisfied business rival or a stunt coordinator can do that.”
  • Parodied in Bill Fitzhugh's Pest Control, whose protagonist actually drives a Pinto. When some armed assassins open fire on him, the narration notes they could save time and effort by simply rear-ending his car. They don't. The car is blown up, though.
  • Harry Turtledove does this in his Alternate History WWII novels- there are multiple instances where truck convoys or civilian cars are set on fire by machine gun fire (which should just stop them or kill the occupants). Of course, as mentioned above, this also realistically happens when vehicles are strafed by fighters, which fire ammunition designed to turn Every Car into A Pinto.
  • Lampshaded and subverted in the Tom Clancy novel Debt of Honor. When two cars involved in a highway traffic accident explode and burn, killing most of their passengers, an NTSA investigation is immediately called because, unlike in Hollywood, cars usually don't burn. When the investigation results in the discovery of a serious safety defect in a popular brand of Japanese automobile, the public outcry and resulting Congressional investigation set off the main plot of the story.
  • Cars in The Adventures of Fox Tayle explode occasionally, but especially notable is a Honda Accord that gets flipped over before leaking gas and exploding.
  • Full Tilt justifies this via Amusement Park of Doom—the bumper cars in an early ride are designed to kill their occupants. Later on it takes this to the point of Refuge in Audacity with thousands of actual Pintos made to float in space as a sort of 3D minefield.
  • In a Noodle Incident from Sewer, Gas & Electric, businessman Christian Gomez, who considered safety features a waste of money, was ironically and fatally pinned in a freak collision between a driverless Lincoln Continental (failed parking brake) and a Pinto parked the wrong way around (this trope).
  • Justified in Cory Doctorow's novel Eastern Standard Tribe, because the car in question is a methane-powered "fartmobile".
  • Subverted in The Gods of Guilt. A Good Samaritan helps Mick out of his crashed Lincoln after he gets run off the road, noting that he smells gas leaking and citing the risk of the car catching fire/blowing up. It doesn't.
  • A straight example in the final act of Christine. Arnie and Regina are killed in a freak accident, during mild winter weather on the turnpike. The car hits the guardrail, going no more than 45, and explodes. In reality, there would be significant body damage to the car (especially a 70s-era Volvo, which were built like tanks), but it's unlikely there would even be any injuries if everyone was wearing seatbelts.
  • Villains Don't Date Heroes!: Police cars blow up instantly when hit by Night Terror's weapons, which makes her snarkily think in her internal thoughts how their contractor should look into improving that.

    Live-Action TV 

In General:

  • This was a staple of cheesy 1970s and -80s action shows (T.J. Hooker, Starsky & Hutch, etc).
    • Saturday Night Live parodies this with fake commercials of "The Man Channel" (years before Spike TV came out) which features nothing but cars exploding, driving off of cliffs, flipping over, or some combination thereof in slow motion.
    • Taken to an extreme in one episode of the 1970s buddy cop series CHiPs. In a second-season episode, a multi-car pileup occurs on the freeway, and a huge explosion occurs, resulting in mass deaths and destruction of vintage iron. (One cop makes a dark joke about finding an "F" that had blown off the tailgate of a Ford station wagon that was involved in the crash.) Ironically, no Pintos were damaged during the filming of this scene.
    • Even some of the more serious or realistic shows such as The Bill, The Professionals, The Sweeney, and Taggart aren't immune.
  • This trope is actually fairly common in Latin American Soap Operas. One of the most common deaths for the villains towards the end of the run tends to be losing control of a car (usually while trying to avoid capture), driving it off a cliff and then exploding into flames.
  • Parodied in a Russ Abbot sketch which was spoofing James Bond films; the hero is being chased by four nudists in a Sinclair C5 electric tricycle. Which still ends up exploding in a fireball.

By Series:

  • A car drives off a low cliff in 7 Days (1998) and immediately explodes in a huge fireball. Weirdly, when the past is altered and the event happens differently, the same car sails off a higher cliff and doesn't explode until five minutes later. The only difference is that in the first timeline the driver had eaten an infected shrimp salad sandwich, so.. maybe the shrimp was Made of Explodium?
  • 24:
    • In one episode, a helicopter survives the shockwave from a nuclear explosion to crash on the roof of a two-story house, intact. When it tumbles off the house, however, it explodes in a dramatic fireball.
    • In the first season, an escape car utilized by Teri and Kim to get away from a compromised safe house explodes after a fairly short drop off a steep slope.
    • Usually three times. First The Teaser to tell the viewers they are watching Alarm für Cobra 11. Then again halfway through to remind them they are watching Alarm für Cobra 11, and finally at the end as a reward for sitting through an entire episode of Alarm für Cobra 11.
  • Alarm für Cobra 11, every episode.
  • In an episode of America's Funniest Home Videos, a model airplane crashes and tumbles to a stop. There's a second-long pause, and then it explodes. The most common fuel for model engines is a mixture of nitromethane and methanol, because this requires less air to burn: the main limiting factor when building an engine that small is that it's hard to get enough air through it to burn petrol efficiently. It's no more dangerous to handle than petrol most of the time, but not so much if it's contaminated or degraded.
  • In the June 17, 2022 episode of Ang Probinsyano (2015), Cardo and Lito duke each other out for the last time has a Black Ops cruiser which Cardo stole collide with a motorcycle Lito stole from a random pedestrian, somehow causing a sizeable explosion on impact and decimating both vehicles as if they both run on nitroglycerin.
  • In The Aquabats! Super Show! episode "EagleClaw!", Eagleclaw blows up Eaglebones' motorcycle in this manner using a guitar that shoots lasers. Later on, in "Ladyfingers!" Eaglebones unintentionally blows up a van with his own guitar that shoots lasers, and the partygoers associated with the van end up taking refuge in the Battletram.
  • Variant in Bang Bang It's Reeves and Mortimer: one of the more surreal recurring sketches (and that's really saying something) involved the duo in a car where, at some point, Bob would hit a button that made the bonnet and boot lid blast off into the air - when they landed in a field, they would then detonate in absurdly large explosions.
  • Battlestar Galactica (2003) averts this, showing many scenes of Vipers and Cylon fighters simply breaking up with a minimal explosion (from the missile warhead or explosive tipped ammunition). The most memorable example of this aversion is from the mini-series: Cylon missiles impact the cockpits of the new Vipers, which causes the pilot to be blown out to space, leaving the rest of the Viper more or less intact.
  • When Booth shoots Kovac in the finale of Bones, the car he’s driving goes over a ridge and explodes upon hitting the ground. Possibly justified of what was in the oil barrels it hit was an explosive material.
    • To be fair, there are lots of barrels on the ground where the car lands, so it might not be the car that explodes. A couple of episodes earlier, however, the victim of the week is thrown off a bridge and lands on the hood of a car, causing the driver to panic and crash into a tree; the car promptly explodes (once the driver's got out), burning the corpse to a crisp.
  • Breaking Bad: In one of Walter White's first moments of awesome, it takes a wet squeegee being shoved between battery terminals to explosively take out the BMW of a Smug Snake businessman.
  • Directly addressed and averted in an episode of Burn Notice, as Michael's Helpful Explanatory Voice-Over tells us: "Most people think that shooting the gas tank of a vehicle makes it explode. Unless the car is on fire, you'll just spill a few bucks worth of gas. An explosion requires something extra... like a few bags of acetone peroxide taped to the gas tank."
    • Then he proceeds to shoot the gas tank, put on his glasses, and do an Unflinching Walk away from the scene.
    • The rule of thumb on the show is that if a car explodes, it's because they did something specific to make it explode, i.e. put a blasting cap on the tank, rigged it with C4, shot it with a rocket launcher, etc....
    • In an early episode, Fiona also accidentally rigs a con man's car incorrectly. The goal is to short the car when Sam presses a button, but she mistakenly attaches the electrical device to the fuel line. Cue the explosion, and the bad guy thinking his partners are trying to kill him.
  • The Devil Judge: A bus overturns, catches fire, and explodes minutes later.
  • Doctor Who: Parodied in "The Sontaran Stratagem": The Doctor is actually disappointed when the autopilot in the car he's just jumped out of self-destructs with a tiny "phut" instead of taking the whole car with it. According to The Other Wiki, the writer originally wanted to play the trope straight, but the lack of budget prompted her to lampoon the trope instead.
  • Due South:
    • Played with in an episode. Fraser and Ray (the second one) are driving a flaming car down the street— just go with it - and Fraser insists, "It's very, very rare that a car ever actually explodes." Two seconds later... the car explodes. Sort of.
    • In the episode "The Man Who Knew Too Little," Ian (who is a compulsive liar) says, "Are you aware that the gas tank in this particular make of car explodes on impact?" Later, Fraser, Vecchio and Ian have two bad guys shooting at them and have only One Bullet Left to kill both of them with:
      Fraser: When I was flipping through the service manual of your car, I discovered that your gas tank is only eleven inches from your rear fender.
      Vecchio: You opened my manual?
      Fraser: Only for three seconds. Now one bullet can penetrate the tank and spark an explosion.
      Ian: I was right?
      Vecchio: Yeah, and if you're lucky you can take that information to the grave.
  • Happened at least once in Eureka, season 2 episode 6: "Noche de Sueños". A gas truck filled with toxic waste, sideswipes a little sports car, causing it (the little car) to explode fantastically.
  • The Fall Guy has an egregious example in its opening credits. A muscle car smashes straight against the side of a moving train and crumples its hood. The car then catches fire, with the explosion visibly starting from the rear.
  • A variation of this trope is in effect in the Hawaii Five-O episode "Anybody Can Build a Bomb". An airplane blows up during takeoff when police snipers fire on it.
  • A major storyline in Hollyoaks involves the sixth-formers stealing a minibus to drive Jono and Ruby to Gretna Green to elope. The bus's brakes are faulty and they crash into a building where other characters are having a double wedding ceremony. Some leaking fuel ignites, and the bus explodes spectacularly, killing Neil who is trapped inside after Maddie chooses to leave him to die.
  • In an episode of House M.D. called "Distractions", a buggy explodes in a fireball after slamming into a pile of steel tubes. The ridiculous factor is cranked up to 11, since this pile of tubes is sitting in the middle of a forest.
  • On the season 6 finale of Impractical Jokers, Q's Jeep is destroyed by a tank as a punishment. Initially, the Jeep seems to have survived pretty well, but after a delay of several seconds it explodes in a massive fireball.
  • Subverted in It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia when Mac and Charlie try to fake their own deaths by creating a goodbye video and then trying to blow up the car they said they were in. They try speeding into a brick wall, shooting the gas tank of the car and even using a grenade to blow up the car, but nothing works.
  • Played with in Justified. The good guys want the car to explode, but even rigged with an IED and repeatedly shot at by a professional sniper, it doesn't blow until Tim throws a molotov cocktail at it.
  • KARR, the Evil Counterpart to KITT in Knight Rider explodes after going off a cliff — in spite of both vehicles supposedly being coated in a substance that makes components like their gas tanks effectively indestructible and incapable of exploding.
  • Happens hilariously in the Law & Order: Special Victims Unit episode "Bullseye". A suspected pedophile is leaving the courthouse when he sees his wife, whom he had planned on hiding his arrest from, there to pick him up. When she jumps out to greet him, he jumps in the car and speeds away, slamming perpendicularly into a trailer of an 18-wheeler. At first, it seems nothing is going to happen (maybe an attempt to trick the viewer into thinking the show is averting this trope) and the detectives start to run towards the car. Suddenly, there is a huge explosion, with flames literally two or three stories high (the amount of gasoline the special effects guys needed must have been mind-boggling). This was a particularly egregious example since there the only damage was to the front of the car and there was such a delay between collision and explosion.
  • Lampshaded in The Listener, first episode. Title character says that cars don't explode when on fire, and then it did.
  • In Mannix it was routine for a car to explode into flame after it drove off a cliff... even before impact, while still in mid-air. Someone apparently liked this so much that an example showed up in the opening title sequence so we could see it every week! (It's about 6 seconds in).
  • Mindhunter: Averted when the FBI protagonists get into a car accident with an actual Pinto. However this is a front-impact collision, not a rear-impact collision which risked damaging the fuel tank.
  • MythBusters thoroughly disproved this trope's real life existence when they shot up a car in an attempt to deliberately set off the gas tank — to no avail. In a later episode, they revisited the myth and were able to set the fuel on fire with a tracer round (eventually), though it still did not explode.
    • That said, if they're investigating a myth where there's even the slightest chance of an explosion, they will go out of their way to make sure it happens one way or another. A semi accurate description of the show's practices is, "Let's try it again, only with 50 pounds of TNT."
    • Later, in the Viewers Choice Special, they blow up a car the Real way (after having some Hollywood fun). And the singular flying wheel can be seen bouncing and rolling back onscreen from the bottom right.
    • In yet another episode, they try to detonate a gas tank from a burning trail of leaking gasoline (such as seen in movies like Payback), again to no avail. Even with a fire raging inside the tank, it refused to explode.
      • And if the car's moving faster than about two miles an hour, the flame will never catch up with it.
    • And in yet another myth ("Cement Mix-Up") they use inadvisable amounts of ANFO to absolutely annihilate a cement truck.You better believe it.
    • Recently they took a look at the "going over a cliff" part of this trope. They finally got an explosion on the fourth car ... the one with gas containers wrapped in det cord tucked neatly inside.
  • An episode of Nash Bridges concludes with the eponymous character driving an actual Pinto into a building on a disused Army base to rescue his partner being held captive by a couple of bad guys. The heroes escape before the car explodes in a huge fireball which, in a rather unlikely fashion, blows out every window in the large 3 or 4 storey building.
  • In one episode of NCIS, a car explodes when a runaway shopping cart taps the rear bumper. Because terrorists put explosives in the back trunk.
  • The Night Gallery segment "Hell's Bells" begins with a hippie driving off a cliff. His car explodes violently even though it's not staged as an action scene, probably to convince viewers he's dead without having to show his corpse.
  • In one episode of the seventies Cop Show Police Woman ("Requiem for Bored Wives"), there is a maritime example - the bad guy is trying to escape in a speedboat, but runs straight into a jetty, upon which the boat promptly explodes.
  • Power Rangers Ninja Steel. Cars are bombs on wheels in action media, and if you know Power Rangers you know everything explodes, so how do you think car damage goes here? The most extreme would be the time a Monster of the Week stabs the back door of a car with its drill arm. The result is an insanely massive fireball. One must wonder how auto makers in this universe cut the holes into the doors to install the handles without dying messily. Bonus points for him tossing motorcycles as projectile weapons in the same scene. They go up quite nicely. Of course, this is the show where someone being pushed into a stack of cardboard boxes results in a big shower of sparks, so it's about what you'd expect.
  • A plot point in Pushing Daisies, where a flaw in the design of a car causes it (under specific conditions) to explode.
  • Saturday Night Live: The Running Gag of the "Toonces, The Driving Cat" segments was that the eponymous cat always lost control of the car, leading to Stock Footage of a car plummeting off a cliff and invoking this trope.
  • Scrubs:
    • In one episode, the Janitor bets his van against Cox's sports car that he can get a date with Elliot "Blonde Doctor" Reed. Cox only accepted the bet for the joy of destroying Janitor's van in front of him. When Cox eventually wins the bet he ties a brick to the gas pedal and crashes the van into a wall. Ted assures the Janitor that the damage is minimal and it can easily be fixed when the van explodes spectacularly.
    • Also, in "My Unicorn", while on a model plane field, Matthew Perry's character dive-bombs his plane at JD, causing it to crash and not only burst into flame, but explode.
      JD: What an odd sized explosion.
  • Search: Played with. A jeep hits a tree, doesn't explode, and doesn't look like it's badly damaged. The driver has time to climb out and walk to safety. Then a massive fireball abruptly engulfs the jeep.
  • Double subverted on Sense8: Wolfgang rebukes Kala for shooting at a car's gas tank, telling her cars don't blow up when you shoot at them like in the movies. Being the resident science heroine, she knew that, and was waiting for the gas to leak down to where they were. She then sets fire to the gasoline trail, making the car explode.
  • Sherlock: In "The Six Thatchers", a drunk driver being chased by the police crashes into a parked car. Cue massive explosion accompanied by huge fire. According to the Blu-Ray extras, the scene was shot over two nights: the crash (with the stuntman playing the drunk having his legs protected by a steel frame), then they taped off the crash area with warning signs, then over the day removed most of the cars' fittings (including the protective frame) and fitted them with explosives and pyrotechnics; then filmed the explosion on the second night. They had just one chance to get both shots right.
  • Smallville:
    • In season one Clark manages to blow up a gas canister by throwing a screwdriver at it. No naked flames, no sparks, just a screwdriver. What. The. Hell.
    • Every car Clark seems to come in contact with explodes for no apparent reason other than "it looks real neat on camera."
    • In one notable instance, a man flips a car after a plant makes him delirious. Clark's father pulls the man from the car just before it blows up in a miniature MUSHROOM CLOUD explosion. Seriously.
  • Sons of Guns frequently features cars rigged to explode when fired upon, usually at the end of the episode.
  • Stargate SG-1: In "The Changeling", Teal'c gets in the explosion of a burning car. This is just the hallucination of a person with limited knowledge about Earth technology, but who has seen quite a lot of Earth movies, so of course everything happens as he has seen it on TV.
  • Sweet Home (2020): Downplayed. A damaged car does explode, but only because a fuel leak caught fire.
  • Averted in the fifth episode of Terriers, where main characters Britt and Hank drop a car from a cliff in order to get rid of evidence. Britt keeps staring at the car for a while after it has crashed to the ground: "Huh." To Hank's question "What were you thinking, that it would explode?", Britt replies: "I was kinda hoping, yeah."
  • In Thunderbirds, everything is Made of Explodium, including vehicles. The series is about a rescue organization, and they have to be kept busy. The opening credits had an oil refinery whose only reason for being there was to explode.
  • At least one episode of Walker, Texas Ranger, and probably more besides that, had a particularly bad instance of this: Walker confronts a car full of gang members by calmly walking out into the street, drawing his gun, and firing a single shot into the hood, setting it on fire and out of control.
    • This happens in nearly every episode of the show, but one of the worst is when a villain, in making his getaway, barely so much as taps another car on his way out of the area, only for said car to explode spectacularly. What makes it worse, is that a few scenes later, Walker's truck survives a grenade exploding under it with the only damage being the front bumper falling off.
  • The X-Files: In "Leonard Betts", the title character's retreating car blows up after Mulder and Scully each shoot one bullet in its general direction. Admittedly, Betts was trying to fake his death, but there's no mention of the car being packed with fuel cans or something.
  • The Young Ones: Look out! Cliff!

  • In the music video for Chicago's "Stay the Night", the pickup in which Peter Cetera is riding explodes spectacularly when it lands from its jump off a car hauler. In the next shot, we see Peter lying unconscious before being put in an ambulance. The other two guys in the truck? They aren't even singed.
  • In the music video for Fear Factory's cover of "Cars", Burton Bell's car, which has just been wrecked, explodes when he returns to it.
  • The Skip The Use video for the song 'nameless void' has a car roll over after being hid by a truck, land on its wheels, then explode for no apparent reason.


    Tabletop Games 
  • The rules of Diana: Warrior Princess explicitly state that every vehicle "going down" explodes and catches fire, even submarines.
  • The New World of Darkness provides rules for both regular vehicular damage and "dramatic" vehicular damage. Cars are far more likely to blow up in the latter case.
  • Vehicles in Paranoia will blow up whenever the GM damn well feels like it. Of course, in Paranoia, even the shoe polish is Made of Explodium, so it shouldn't come as too much of a surprise.
  • In Traveller a hit to the engine of a vehicle powered by anything but fusion has a good chance of causing a catastrophic explosion.
  • In BattleTech, 'Mechs and vehicles with internal combustion or fuel cell engines may spontaneously explode from fuel tank or engine hits (the rules differ a bit between unit types) even under the standard tournament rules. The reason this is listed here instead of under Shoot the Fuel Tank is that the relevant critical hit slots can't be targeted on purpose, but any damage may randomly strike them and set them off — including that from physical attacks or collisions. For additional fun, a VTOL that takes internal damage specifically from a crash automatically explodes.
    • Under the rules for ramming and movement on concrete, it is technically possible for a vehicle to fail to control itself while moving at high speeds on a road or other concrete surface, drift, and crash into a building, scenery, or other unit and cause one or both of them to explode from the resulting collision, provided they are operating on the aforementioned internal combustion or fuel cell engines. Since some of the various 'Mechs actually operate on internal combustion or fuel cell engines (especially with Industrial 'Mechs in the Post-Jihad era), it is theoretically possible for this scenario to occur with a bidpedal Humongous Mecha.
  • Played with in Warhammer 40,000. Any vehicle can explode as long as the weapon's stats are high enough to cause it. Unless a rule says otherwise vehicles don't explode after losing all their hit points however.

    Theme Parks 

    Video Games 
  • BeamNG executes this trope realistically; the "explosions" are actually gasoline combustion fireballs and this trope gets into play only in the biggest crashes.
  • Bio Lab Wars: In the stage 2 levels, you have to shoot at cars and motorcycles, as well as flying machines, to defeat enemies. Each one you damage enough explodes.
  • In most video games with guns, cars will explode if you shoot them enough. This makes them absolutely lousy as cover in the firefights that will inevitably ensue. Deus Ex: Human Revolution is a textbook example.
  • The cars in many racing games explode on impact. Pole Position is especially famous for this, where running into a billboard or even clipping an opponent's tire turns your car into a fireball. Pole Position II carried this a step further, with car parts spewing out of the exploding wreckage.
    • This was also the case with similar games of the era such as Road Fighter and F1 Race. Simply hitting on a wall, guard rail or even a safety barrier will cause the vehicle to go asplode.
    • Crazy Cars II has a Ferrari F40 that explodes upon crashing into anything, leaving nothing behind, no matter how slow the speed of impact.
    • The Hang-On motorcycle explodes after crashing, albeit without its rider. Super Hang-On averts this.
  • The Grand Theft Auto series of games fulfills this trope nicely, in that every vehicle will explode when damaged enough, even if it's from a guy standing on top of the car and stomping on the hood. Later games allow for cars (and trucks, motorcycles, helicopters, tanks, and anything else with a motor in it) to explode instantly if shot in the gas tank, and even a completely undamaged car will explode if overturned. Though maybe this is why there is little heat from the owners when you rob them of their forms of transportation. All wheeled vehicles tend to spontaneously lose at least one wheel.
    • If you manage to hijack a train in Grand Theft Auto (Classic), drive it around town for long enough to encounter a second train, and hit that train, all cars of both trains will explode. Someone must have played too much Transport Tycoon.
    • If you are able to steal a tank in Grand Theft Auto III (and other games of the series as well) even grazing a nearby car at relatively low speeds causes enough damage for the car to explode on impact. If you can call it that. More like touching. The tank, on the other hand, remains unaffected. Great fun for driving down highways in the wrong direction. It should be noted that a tank will eventually explode from damage. They're not invulnerable, they just have extremely high endurance.
      • In the same game, the M16, with its oddly gatling-like rate of fire can destroy almost any vehicle in just a couple of seconds.
    • In Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, shooting a car or bike's gas tank cap will cause it to explode, which is ridiculous because the tank is almost nowhere near the cap (not that the tank itself will explode if shot). One of the cars exploded when you shot its rear license plate - the Real Life car it was based on had the filler cap behind the rear plate.
      • If you melee a bicycle, or otherwise find a way to flip one over, it will smoke for a few seconds and explode.
      • Oddly, driving a car over a hundred foot cliff does nothing... if it lands square on all four wheels. But, as noted, one bullet to the cap...
    • Grand Theft Auto IV and Grand Theft Auto V avert this to a degree. When a car suffers massive damage from collisions, the engine usually just dies and grinds to a halt. Also, cars no longer catch fire or explode simply from being flipped over. Cars still blow up from explosives, gunshots, or catching fire. In the latter game, your car can also explode if you drive it off a cliff and land on the engine side too hard.
  • One should exercise caution when firing near vehicles in the Hunter: The Reckoning series of games. Stray gunfire can easily set off the many abandoned cars.
  • Burnout:
    • In the series, crashes and explosions are integral to the game. "Crash Junctions" challenge you to cause as much damage as possible by plowing into traffic. Starting with Burnout 3: Takedown, certain junctions have explosives strategically placed, making your car explode and creating even more havoc if you can hit them. Once enough cars have crashed, your car can explode yet again. Burnout Revenge carries the idea even further; when your car crashes during a crashbreaker race, a perfectly timed explosion can turn the tables on a rival. Note that you get to STEER your burning wreck in mid-air because Burnout is just that awesome.
    • Burnout Paradise allows you to turn any stretch of road into a Crash Junction. Simply turn on Crash mode, and your car will suddenly flip into the air and begin bouncing along the road. Even worse, most of the stuff you can run into will have at least minor explosions, but god help you if you run into a bus or a tanker truck.
  • In almost all Halo games, various armored military vehicles will spectacularly explode when they suffer sufficient damage from enemy fire:
    • From Halo 3 onward, it is even possible to make heavily-armored battle tanks explode by simply boarding them and punching them several times. Which is handwaved by the Spartans having enough Super Strength to turn a person's skull to mush with one punch, and wearing him Powered Armor which amplifies the wearer's strength tenfold. That said, while Master Chief might be able to tear a tank apart with his bare hands, his fists shouldn't be high-explosive weaponry, even if he's punching the engine.
    • If you're killed while in a vehicle in Halo 2 and 3, it will often suffer Critical Existence Failure and explode, no matter what cosmetic shape it's currently is in.
    • Averted in Halo: Combat Evolved, where the only destructible vehicles are Covenant vehicles in the singleplayer mode.
  • Cars in Scarface: The World Is Yours follow this trope, probably due to its GTA roots. Oddly enough, boats also suffer from Pinto Syndrome.
  • After arriving at the Oxynard's Sixty Miles bar and bringing Dorothy O‘Leary to your truck at the first campaign mission of Rig N Roll, you have to escape from a truck with someone shooting you at the exit of the city, if you fail to stay away from the chaser, your truck explodes, so you better have upgraded your engine or added the Booster N20 Agressor
  • Every vehicle in Mercenaries: Playground of Destruction has a health meter; when it's reduced to 20%, it automatically starts losing health, giving off flames and flashing and sending everyone nearby running for cover. Once it hits 0%, boom. Exploding vehicles deal splash damage, and thus you can even set off chain reactions if you weaken its neighbors enough. It was reported that the sequel would us a more realistic system, but it doesn't. Somewhat annoying when you are just trying to use a light vehicle to get to places quickly... For real fun in the first game, turn on God Mode, shoot a car enough to get it to that 20%, then quickly climb inside. Your invincibility will extend to the car, allowing you to drive a giant bomb around for pretty much as long as you want, until you ditch it at something at high speeds, bailing out at the last second.
  • This also plagues the first Sakura Wars game.
  • Every whole-looking car in Call of Duty 4 is apparently packed to the rafters with explosives. Enough damage to a vehicle will cause it to burn, then violently detonate. Inflicting a great deal of damage, such as with grenades or other explosives, makes it skip straight to the 'sploding. This is lampshaded in "Death From Above", where hitting a car and blowing it up will prompt one of the pilots to say, "Shit, musta been a full tank of gas", though considering the gun in question is from an AC-130... This dates back to at least the second game in the series, where it's possible to blow up an immobilized tank by smashing it with the stock of your rifle a few times.
  • In F.E.A.R.'s Vivendi expansions (Extraction Point and Perseus Mandate), there are times when hitting a car in any way, be it gunfire or punching, will immediately cause it to explode. Since it doesn't happen consistently, it could possibly be just a bug.
  • Every machine that gets destroyed a Super Robot Wars game explodes dramatically; even units that are ostensibly biological rather than mechanical explode when destroyed.
  • In Star Wars Episode I: Racer, blowing up your pod is fairly easy to do if you take too much damage or crash, though it's just a brief time penalty at worst. In the sequel, Revenge, blowing up your pod is much harder, but doing so makes you instantly lose the race (though now you can also inflict this on other racers).
  • Despite a general scarcity of explosive weapons in Supreme Commander (assuming UEF gauss cannons are simply kinetic-energy weapons and the various Aeon energy weapons are non-explosive), every unit and structure in the game goes out with a bang. Particular units helpfully tagged as "volatile" explode in an area of effect detonation.
  • There's an infamous part near the end of S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl where you can make an APC explode by stabbing it with a knife. Once. That's because the knife does a ridiculous amount of damage thanks to a glitch, and the APC is one of the only remaining intact vehicles in the game. The rest were Dummied Out because of bugs like this. It works on helicopters too, if you can get high enough.
  • In Shadow the Hedgehog and Sonic the Hedgehog (2006), whenever Shadow is in a vehicle that tips over, it simply lays on its back for a few awkward moments, then summarily explodes in a (reasonably tiny) fireball. Shadow is, naturally, unharmed as long as he has solid ground beneath him. Likewise, there are several moments in Sonic the Hedgehog where vehicles will explode for no apparent reason, such as a speedboat that blows up violently upon performing a ramped jump and a motorcycle that spontaneously explodes should Robotnik get too far away or past a certain point.
  • In Mad Max (2015), cars will burst into flames when they take enough damage. Odd, considering the fairly realistic cars in the movies.
  • The Simpsons Hit & Run ups the ante with ANY vehicle being set to explode at some point. Since you can commandeer almost any vehicle, it's a lot easier to get the coins you need for purchases.
  • GoldenEye does this for literally every object in the game. Boxes, chairs, televisions, computers, cameras, toy model helicopters, and just about anything else can and will explode when shot enough. Oh and of course cars are naturally blown up here as well. Wait, even toy model cars explode!
    • This is even more absurd when you comparing to the work that inspired it: in the movie, cars are brutally smashed when the tank runs over them, but don't explode. In the game, just touch a car with the tank and it blows to smithereens.
  • Everything in Starcraft blows up when it dies. Everything. Every Terran and Protoss building or vehicle (even SCVs and Probes) exploded either red/orange (Terran) or blue/white (Protoss); biological units might as well have, for all the blood involved. About the only exceptions were Zealots (Protoss soldiers in armored suits), which turned into little blue flares, and Dragoons (giant-spider Mecha), which cracked open when they died. Heck, if you killed a worker unit while it was carrying resources, the Vespene containers or minerals would go up in their own explosion.
  • Crysis make no effort to avert this trope. Most of the time. Wanna know the best way to get rid of the KPA cheap knock off of a hummer? Shoot one single bullet in the gas tank on the rear side. Wait 5 seconds. Boom. However, if you shoot the mounted missile launchers of a helicopter, it will only make a tiny explosion, and the helicopter will still be able to shoot you missiles. Nonsense at its best.
    • Furthermore, your meathead marine can, like Master Chief, punch vehicles to fiery explosions, including boats.
  • Lampooned in Escape from Monkey Island when a wooden catapult rolls backwards off of a cliff and explodes in a fireball.
  • Just Cause loves this one. Vehicles explode if you so much as look at them funny. You could say they explode Just 'cause? Strangely, when you're driving them, the vehicles are surprisingly durable, and only display their Pinto-like qualities when you're not driving them. In fact, they're most susceptible right after you've bailed out of your vehicle. A collision that would leave the car unscathed while you're driving tends to cause the vehicle to explode if you've just jumped out of it.
  • In Fallout 3, you'll find cars that explode with a mushroom cloud effect. Though the cars do run on nuclear power, any really big explosion, nuclear or non-nuclear, will produce a mushroom cloud. So in this case it's instead justified by the Rule of Cool. What makes it worse is that the AI likes to use these nuclear deathtraps as cover.
    • Usually there's only a few at a time in many places, but there's a road near the Theodore Roosevelt academy that has dozens of them lined up. If you're traveling on it, one should be careful because Super Mutants and Raiders like to hang around it. Misfire and at the very least, your computer will lag like crazy.
      • This is exaggerated with a long stretch of a multilane highway just north of the Red Racer Factory on the outskirts of western D.C. It is filled with dozens upon dozens of vehicles abandoned in gridlock. Clear out the local raiders, save your game, perch yourself up on the Scavenger Bridge, and shoot a car at the end of the chain until it catches on fire. Stand back and watch the fireworks. Hours of fun to be had... provided your computer can handle it.
    • The AI will also use them against you. The sniper Arkansas in Minefield is scripted to purposely shoot at the cars and set them off.
  • Every other car besides the player car in Zombie Driver will explode when you lightly tap into it.
  • In Red Steel on the Docks multiplayer map, shooting the car with anything, anywhere, three times will make it explode and kill anyone unfortunate enough to be close to it.
  • The Runabout series for the PlayStation, where you play as the world's most dedicated delivery driver out to deliver a package while crashing into assorted obstacles with either your car or motorcycle. Every vehicle on the street which isn't yours will explode upon collision.
  • In the Arcade game Point Blank (1994), one of the challenges is to unload 60 to 100 rounds into a parked car in approximately 15 seconds. Depending upon where you shoot the car, the windshield will break, tires will go flat, door hinges will break, and the hood will be blown off. And how do you know that you've successfully completed the challenge? The car explodes.
  • In Far Cry 2, vehicles will take damage, resulting the engine smoking white, and then black, as well as noticeably performing worse. If, however, you leave the engine alone while it's spewing black smoke, eventually it will catch on fire. At that point, you have about ten seconds before it goes boom. Oh, and shooting things with rockets or tossing grenades in the bed of a truck. Funny thing is that many cars in this game actually are Pintos!
  • In Total Overdose: A Gunslinger's Tale in Mexico, every vehicle has some cinema-realistic level of resistance to damage from collision. As in most driver-shooter sandboxes, a vehicle will explode if sufficiently damaged, usually after a warning flickering of flames. But leaping from that vehicle instantly transforms it into Explodium, a rolling missile that will impact with great balls of fire. Even a highly armored, perfectly undamaged vehicle coasting to a stop from a 10 MPH cruise will detonate on a front-end impact with something as small as a road sign.
  • In the Battlefield series, every single vehicle explodes when it suffers enough damage, turning into a blackened wreck, and then that explodes into tiny bits after it either suffers enough damage or stays there long enough.
    • Averted for dramatic effect in one mission of Battlefield: Bad Company 2: at one point, the armored convoy the player is currently fighting alongside is ambushed, and they take cover behind their Humvees. Despite the torrent of enemy bullets, said Humvees remain undamaged no matter how long the player hides behind them.
  • Saints Row series:
    • Throughout the series, almost any car can become a super-heated shrapnel dispenser, even if it is shot with the weakest pistol in game. Hell, motorcycles will explode just from having an actual car push into them from the side for two seconds.
    • In Saints Row: The Third, at one point in the "Return to Steelport" mission you ride in a chariot being pulled by a guy in gimp gear, while Morningstar goons who are also riding in "pony carts" chase you. Shoot the enemy gimps, and they explode.
    • With nitros and body upgrades, you can make your car cause other cars to explode if you ram them hard enough. Especially if you drive towards oncoming traffic.
    • Exaggerated in Saints Row: Gat Out of Hell with the Comet, which is not only likely to explode in a collision, but will inevitably catch fire and blow up just from driving sooner or later.
    • From the 2022 reboot:
      • Enemy cars are very fragile. A side-swipe is guaranteed to instantly take an entire bar off an enemy vehicle's health if you're going fast enough. Two or three of them are very likely to cause a car to crash and explode spectacularly.
      • In the Insurance Fraud activity, triggering Adrenaline mode now causes enemy vehicles to instantly explode at the slightest touch from the Boss.
  • True Crime: Streets of LA featured this, but not only in the form of cars crashing and the like: the protagonist can receive training which makes him an exceptionally good shot. Following this training, when aiming at the rear license plate the targeting reticule will turn red. If you fire, the car instantly explodes, killing everyone inside. Oddly, if you were in a mission that required the driver to survive, they would be unhurt in the following cutscene.
  • All of the Jak and Daxter games feature vehicles that explode. (One mission in the second game even let you bring down special upgraded enemy flying tanks simply by crashing your car in the appropriate place to cause a chain reaction).
  • Particularly annoying in Borderlands, due to the lethal combination of terrible driving controls (you can only steer by moving the camera), being very vulnerable to the explosion's damage, the vehicles being extremely fragile, and the "exit" animation taking a good full four seconds until you regain control, during which you're just as vulnerable to the potential explosion. In the second playthrough, they're really only useful for transportation; if you don't bail out the moment you start taking damage, you will be either killed or left vehicle-less at the very least. Oh, and if a car so much as grazes an Exploding Barrel, the barrel explodes, the car explodes with it, and you die.
  • The Godfather: The Game uses this trope. Crashing, shooting or even punching a vehicle enough would make it catch fire and explode.
  • In Operation Flashpoint and the ARMA series, vehicles that take enough damage from explosive weapons, such as an RPG launcher, explode. The torched wreck then explodes again. It keeps doing this occasionally for a significant period of time, typically when a player is walking by it.
  • In Enter the Matrix, the driving minigames tend to require that the player empty absurd amounts of ammunition into the police cars chasing them, all of which explode violently upon Critical Existence Failure. It's not necessary to shoot up civilian vehicles to pass the levels, but they take a lot less damage to blow up, and it's fun besides. The Agents' cars, however, are immune to damage.
  • Played more than straight in Transport Tycoon. When a train hits a road vehicle on a level crossing, the road vehicle explodes in a spectacular fireball including a mushroom cloud while the train moves on without the slightest speed loss. When two trains collide, every single vehicle in each train (and be it an empty steel car) explodes in a similarly spectacular fireball. Planes can crash and explode, too. The only non-explosive vehicles are ships which (like aircraft) don't support clipping anyway.
    • RollerCoaster Tycoon's explosions are less spectacular, but also affect all cars on a train (a roller coaster train, usually) instantly. It's not unheard of for one of the trains to survive unscathed, though.
  • Any prop in Stunt Island can be set up to explode upon impact. Yes, even street signs, rocks, and buildings.
  • The Nitrome game Off the Rails applies this to the protagonists' hand-powered trolley cart, in what seems to be a deliberate parody of the trope.
  • BloodRayne 2 has a least two vehicles that explode if you throw people at them.
  • San Francisco Rush cars will explode into a burning, charred husk if they land upside down. And then will respawn like nothing ever happened. Unless you have Deaths enabled. Rush 2: Extreme Racing USA exaggerates this trope with the "Suicide" cheat, in which even the lightest tap between cars will cause both of them to explode.
  • Fatal Racing proudly embraces this. You can even self-destruct by turning on engine damage and running a gear below your top gear.
  • In Syphon Filter, cars explode violently after just a few shots, preventing you from using them as cover.
  • Stranglehold: Blast up a vehicle badly enough in the game and it will go boom in classic John Woo style.
  • Every single non-native unit in Alpha Centauri does this when destroyed.
  • In Ghost Dogs of Moon Lake, you can blow up a boat simply by adjusting the outboard motor's screws the wrong way. You can also crash a snowmobile so it explodes in White Wolf of Icicle Creek, although it takes several collisions to do it.
    • And yet, in Trail of the Twister, crashing your car results in nothing but a game over.
  • [PROTOTYPE] plays it straight big time. All vehicles explode after losing their last hit point, even as they show progressive physical damage which culminates in flames on the vehicle just before going boom with Battlefield-style wreckage. Soft-skinned vehicles are more susceptible to trivial damage than armor, which results in funny situations where you can actually jump and land on a truck/car/helicopter enough times as it gets more beat up, then ka-boom.
    • Probably even more amusing is the fact that sometimes Alex kicks down hard enough on an object to actually do damage when parkour-ing over something. Meaning you can sprint over the same car over and over, until sufficient kicks blow the car up.
    • Maxed Musclemass jacks up the throw damage so much that weaker vehicles like sedans explode immediately upon impact, even if it did not suffer any damage prior to being thrown.
  • Despite having an actual Ford Pinto featured as a drivable car in Forza Motorsport 4 it will, unfortunately, not explode when rear-ended.
  • In Vigilante, bikers, like other enemies, will simply fall off the screen when defeated, but their toppled motorcycles will proceed to explode violently.
  • Lampshaded multiple times in Postal 2. The Dude repeatedly refers to all the cars in Paradise as "useless exploding props". Sure enough, any car you come across explodes violently and flies high into the air with just a few bullets.
  • All cars in APB, from the lowly Han Callente to a beefy armored car or cement truck, will explode if they take enough damage from bullets, explosions, or collisions. Or that jerk in the dump truck that pushed you into the wall at high speeds. Strangely enough, driving your car to a gas station can repair it, even if it is on fire and moments away from exploding.
  • At the end of the Bear trial in Heavy Rain, Ethan's car flips over and catches fire. It's scripted to explode immediately after Ethan escapes from the wreckage.
  • In Phantasy Star Online 2, the City area is dotted with numerous damaged, abandoned vehicles that will go up in flames shortly after receiving a few hits from anything. On higher difficulties, this causes enough damage to potentially be a One-Hit Kill if you're caught in the radius, so on fighting on or around them tends to be a bad idea.
  • Downplayed in Road of the Dead. It needs multiple collisions or massive firepower to blow up a car. Played straight with fuel trucks, which explode at the slightest touch.
  • Cars in Spider-Man: Web of Shadows will explode if they don't land on their wheels after getting knocked around; a single kick is enough to send a car spiraling through the air (justifiable, considering who's delivering the kick). Subsequently, the explosion will propel the car's driver through the air, who will then get up with no sign of injury.
  • X-COM:
    • XCOM: Enemy Unknown is a bit more reasonable about this; it takes Energy Weapons, a grenade or Reaper rounds (which are some kind of tracer) to set a vehicle on fire, in which case you have until the next turn to get clear before it blows up, and even then the blast radius is only one tile. The Heavy's rocket launcher and MEC Trooper's Collateral Damage skill can blow one up instantly, however, and the explosion will set any directly adjacent cars on fire. The explosion is quite powerful, at 6 damage, enough to kill anything less tough than a Muton, including your troops if they have no upgrades. A commander can exploit the fact that aliens will always move away from burning cars that are set to explode, making them ripe for flanking or Overwatch attacks; however, aliens killed by any sort of explosion leave nothing to salvage but corpses, which is a major inconvenience early on. In earlier versions of the game, some cars would spontaneously explode for no reason at all, a bug that has since been fixed.
    • XCOM 2's War of the Chosen expansion adds the Reaper faction, whose Hero Unit can unlock the "Remote Start" ability to detonate any environmental explosive object on the map in one shot, with a wider blast radius and more damage than a normal explosion. In city maps, cars are invariably the most common target.
  • In Unturned, cars explode when severely damaged. This includes when zombies tear it apart trying to get at you. The only vehicle that does not go boom is the bicycle, and even then it also did in earlier builds.
  • Exaggerated for laughs in Shadow Warrior (2013), when a single shuriken is enough to cause a car to smoke, catch fire, and explode like a pipe bomb about three seconds after being struck.
  • Roundabout applies this to limousines. Dying from anything in the game, whether you've crashed into one too many cars or fallen off a cliff into the sea, results in your limo exploding in a fiery ball. This happens to Renaldo's limo when you run him off the road as well.
  • In Max Payne 3, in addition to the wheeled vehicles, every boat is a Pinto, especially if the driver is killed. If your own boat gets too damaged, it goes boom as well.
  • Averted in Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater where Eva's motorcycle gets shot right through the fuel tank and all that happens is it leaks fuel. It's especially notable after watching every member of the Cobra Unit explode dramatically and fantastically into a rainfall of arrows or a massive fire ghost with little to no provocation upon their defeat
  • In World of Tanks, some nations have notoriously flammable tanks, including high-tier Russian/Chinese mediums (due to frontally mounted fuel tanks) and most German vehicles (due to frontal transmissions counting as 'engine' for fires), but for a long time the king of this trope was the Covenanter, a tier 4 British light tank with a distressing tendency to burst into flames from any hit from behind (and yes, this included being rammed). This was due to the staggering 40% chance for its engine to catch fire when struck. Some Covenanter drivers used to pack both a manual and automatic fire extinguisher just because of how often the tank would drive around spewing flames from its engine deck. Fortunately it was toned down to be more in line with other tanks in its line, now suffering from the fairly standard 20% ignition chance instead.
  • In TerraTech, control blocks such as AI modules and cabs explode violently when destroyed. The explosion is big enough that with small techs, it can seem like the entire tech is exploding.
  • Given the nature of the game, almost every vehicle in Goat Simulator will, naturally, explode if kicked, headbutted or even jumped on too hard. Oddly, boats and moving vehicles are completely indestructible. Drag a parked car into the road, and it will explode when hit, while the car that hit it will drive off without a scratch.
  • Formula Racer has your car. If it crashes in the first game, it explodes. In the second game, it turns into a chain of explosions.
  • Marvel's Avengers: Vehicles struck during battles tend to go up in dramatic, fiery explosions and leave behind small piles of smoldering wreckage.
  • Persona 5 Strikers has this as a field attack, where standing on top of certain vehicles smaller than a bus will give the option to shoot at it to blow it up and deal fire damage to all nearby enemies. Likely justified, since this takes place in a Mental World where toy guns shoot live rounds if someone thinks it's real, so everyone there would be following movie logic. Later objects such as giant ice crystals and nuclear tanks can do the same attack with different elements.
  • In many a LEGO Adaptation Game, vehicles will explode into pieces if they take enough damage or if you accelerate them against a wall for too long.


    Web Original 
  • In "Ayla and the Late Trevor James Goodkind" in the Whateley Universe, Phase specifically points out that gas tanks don't explode for real, like they do in movies. Just as the mutant supervillain blasts the car beside Phase and its gas tank explodes, blowing Phase across the street.
  • Happens on one memorable occasion in Survival of the Fittest - whereupon a car is crashed into a warehouse by a contestant and proceeds to explode a few seconds later. Bonus points for this causing the building to go up in a gigantic fireball too.
  • During the infamous DEATH BATTLE! between Justin Bieber and Rebecca Black, the "getaway car" Black was riding on crashed into Bieber and then into a wall, killing both driver and passenger. The Jonas Brothers walked on the scene, but could only get off a Flat "What" before the car exploded. Bieber's katana wound up flying through the air as a result... and landing in the forehead of Miley Cyrus.
  • This video describes it best: "As everyone knows, cars are highly volatile machines, seemingly made of tissue paper, birch bark, and lighter fluid, or so you would think by how often, easily, and massively they explode."
  • Final Fantasy Fugitive features an "1868 BC Ford Pinto".
  • Princess Natasha: In the two-part episode "Zoravian Lightning", Lubek uses a giant magnifying glass to make Ingo Pinto's race car catch fire and eventually explode. When Baron Von X is about to cross the finish line, Ingo Pinto walks in front of him and ends up being hit. The Baron's car crashes on a fast food restaurant and explodes.

    Western Animation 
  • American Dad!: In "100 A.D.", a bus full of 97 one-shot characters from previous episodes backs off a cliff and explodes on hitting the ground, killing almost everyone on board. The one who survived gets launched by the explosion into another one-shot character, killing them both.
  • The Simpsons:
    • Parodied many times, including an exploding milk truck and a Gremlin driven by Hans Moleman... which coasts to a stop and doesn't hit anything, but still explodes. And it's not just cars, either. At least one episode had an empty shopping cart run into a tree and burst into flames.
    • In another episode, Bart claims the ridiculously run down and unsafe school bus they are in is "much better than the old bus". Cut to said bus completely immobile on some bricks only to burst into flames when a leaf falls on it.
    • Speaking of buses, "The Otto Show" featured Spinal Tap's bus driving off the road and subsequently exploding into flames, the result of Otto's reckless driving.
    • In "Krusty Gets Cancelled", when a passing pickup truck driver drops a Duff Beer can on her road, Bette Midler angrily throws it back. Somehow the can makes the truck spin out of control, go off the guardrail and crash into the cliff, exploding and even making a mushroom cloud!
    • Lisa and Marge fire bees at a Jeep. All of the bees seen hit the tires, causing them to deflate. Then, the Jeep catches fire.
    • In "Miracle on Evergreen Terrace," the car the family buys with the $15,000 from the townspeople blows up from just sinking into icy water.
    • In another Halloween episode, Homer saves a baby from a stroller as the stroller rolls out into the street. The stroller then explodes and catches on fire.
    • The Canyonero, which might catch on fire randomly.
      Top of the line in utility sports. Unexplained fires are a matter for the courts!
    • Hans Moleman also drove a truck with a house on it. The house caught fire when going over a small bump.
    • "The Kids Are All Fight" did this with a toy ride-on car.
  • The South Park episode "Cartoon Wars" features a scene where Kyle's tricycle is driven off a cliff. The tricycle then bounces over rocks all the way down, hits the bottom... then explodes.
  • Family Guy:
    • An obligatory parody had Meg race a man on a horse-drawn carriage. The man loses control on a sharp turn and crashes through the guard rail. The carriage bursts into flame and the horse lands upright, notices what happened to the carriage, and flashes a nervous look to the viewer just before he too explodes. Maybe the horse was a 'pinto'.
    • Also parodied in the It's a Trap! spoof of Return of the Jedi with the famous speederbike chase, except with regular bicycles. And yes, they explode when hitting a tree. Additionally, a bicycle crashes, and a hurt stormtrooper gets up and limps a little before he blows up.
  • In Gargoyles, it was almost easier to count the number of plot-relevant vehicles that did not explode on impact. A motorbike exploded and burst into flames from a fairly slow impact with a wall in the opening arc of the series, and not long after a motorcycle exploded violently after being shot in the front fender.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants:
    • The episode "Jellyfishing" has Squidward falling off a cliff without any vehicle, and exploding in a mushroom cloud when he hits the bottom. It did happen to a few other characters throughout the series, too.
    • In "Something Smells", when SpongeBob jumps on a boat's windshield and blinds the driver with his horrible breath, the boat stops and suddenly explodes without crashing into anything at all.
  • Spoofed in an episode of Fillmore!, in which a floor waxer that had been subjected to a Flashed-Badge Hijack explodes when it hits the stairs.
  • Jonny Quest TOS episode "The Quetong Missile Mystery". When Lieutenant Singh's car falls into a gully and is smashed up, it bursts into flames seconds later.
  • Futurama does this in the episode "The Sting" when running from the giant space bees, several of them crash into the walls of the beehive and instantly burst into flames and explode.
  • Spoofed in the Duck Dodgers episode "Diamond Boogie", set on a planet that's a pastiche of seventies action movies. The bad guys' cars explode before they hit the ground.
    Cadet: W-w-why did those other cars burst into flames for no reason whatsoever?
    Paprika Solo: Not sure. Now that you mention it, that happens a lot around here.
  • According to Daria and Jane, Trent's car averts this. You have to hit a Pinto first before it bursts into flames. Tom's first car, however, actually was a Pinto; his mother had it towed away in the middle of the night before it could ever explode for any reason.
  • Generator Rex: In "Deadzone", Rex and company attempt to escape from Providence at an airport by stealing a mobile stairway. The mobile stairway explodes when it crashes into a hanger wall.
  • Parodied in Littlest Pet Shop (2012) after Roger leaps off a tricycle careening down a hill, and it explodes crashing into a nearby building.
  • We Bare Bears: Parodied in the chase scene in "Captain Craboo". A cop leaps out of his car just as it slowly collides with a tree... and then blows up in a spectacular fashion.
  • Parodied in the Penn Zero: Part-Time Hero episode "Chuckle City", where the heroes and villains are in a dimension inhabited entirely by clowns and therefore runs entirely on clown logic. When a police cruiser crashes into a canyon, it deploys a "Boom!" flag.

    Real Life 
  • The fact that the notorious real-life examples of exploding vehicles take up only a section of a relatively short webpage is testament to how this is really a Discredited Trope.
  • A series of fiery accidents involving 1973-1987 Chevrolet/GMC pickups prompted the TV magazine Dateline NBC to report on the crashworthiness of the trucks' gas tanks. A live demonstration seemed to back up the claim that the gas tanks were indeed susceptible to being damaged and causing deadly fires in the event of a side-impact crash on the gas-tank side (much like with the 1971-1976 Ford Pintos). However, a later investigation — at GM's request — showed the truck had been rigged to explode. The report severely damaged the reputation of NBC News (which settled a lawsuit with GM, and was forced to retract its story in an embarrassing on-air apology) and resulted in the resignation of its president, Michael Gartner, an Iowa journalist whose primary background was in newspapers... a career that eventually won him a Pulitzer Prize.
    • The video in question was shot by researchers at UCLA who were investigating what a gas tank explosion would do to a car's interior. Their first crash attempt had failed to produce a fire, so for their second attempt, they rigged the gas tank to explode on impact. 20/20 showed the film without mentioning that little detail, leaving an impression on viewers' minds that Ford Pintos would routinely explode on impact. They did have a design flaw where a rear impact could rupture the gas tank, leaking gas which could then be ignited by friction or sparks from broken wires in the electrical system. But even if both those events occurred, the result would be a fire, not an explosion.
    • They did the same thing with the "problem" with the gas tanks on Chevrolet pick-ups.
  • The Fiat Tipo in Brazil suffered from sudden fires. Thanks to a project error in the hydraulic hose, it could leak the fluid into the exhaust manifold, provoking the fire. The car was a huge import success to the point of Fiat deciding to manufacture locally, but the fire problems started to rise and multiple complaints were filled in courts; sales started to fall hard, making Fiat to discontinue the manufacturing of the car just in one year. Ironically, the locally built model had the design problem fixed.
  • Space shuttles and rockets during the takeoff phase tend to blow up when their fuel tanks are damaged. Thankfully, so far, Challenger has been the only US example that killed anyone.
    • Space Shuttle Columbia was lost because it was travelling about Mach 20 when, because of lost heat tiles, some of the aluminum frame melted or lost strength. Air at Mach 20 is very very hard if you are not streamlined... It wasn't the fall that killed them, it was that sudden midair stop...
      • ...and in reality, the Challenger explosion did not actually kill the astronauts. It was later revealed that the cabin survived and the passengers were still alive. Unfortunately they found themselves lacking air-worthiness and falling at high speed. Investigations concluded that the free-fall impact with the water killed them. And on top of that, signs pointed to the astronauts desperately trying to find a solution or exit during the fall.
      • ...and in further reality, Challenger didn't technically explode. It broke apart: the lower strut of one of the boosters, as well as the bottom section of the main fuel tank, failed. The entire load of liquid hydrogen and LOX was released and was quickly consumed in a large fireball, but what actually destroyed the shuttle was that it was turned sideways during near maximum aerodynamic forces, not the fireball. The largest components to survive were the boosters... and the crew compartment.
    • Note that unmanned rockets are usually fitted with self-destruct charges so that the Range Safety Officer can deliberately blow them to bits if they go off course. So any rocket malfunction which doesn't make the rocket explode... gets the rocket blown up.
      • Manned rockets also have self-destruct charges. In the Challenger accident, after it broke up (much like Columbia, it was the aerodynamic forces that destroyed the vehicle, not an explosion), the solid rocket boosters continued flying separated from the vehicle, and the RSO had to blow them up.
    • Soviet Soyuz rocket flying a Soyuz T-10 mission on September 26, 1983, suffered a fuel leak shortly before launch, setting the booster on fire and engulfing the spacecraft in a huge fireball. Fortunately, just like its American counterpart the Apollo, but unlike the Space Shuttle, Soyuz is equipped with a Launch Escape System, a powerful solid engine that pulls the capsule away from the main rocket, and it performed flawlessly, so the crew survived with nothing worse to wear than huge bruisesnote .
    • As of October 2018, it's happened again, and the system once again worked beautifully.
    • Rockets for launching things into space tend to be very, very fragile. The need to be as light as possible, and then they're made lighter still. Some designs actually use the pressure in the tanks to keep them rigid. They're very good at standing up to the thrust and aerodynamic forces as long as they stay pointed the right way and are intact, but if they get turned or suffer damage, they tend to behave like tissue paper.
  • All rockets, being designed to operate outside of the atmosphere, carry both fuel (say, hydrogen) and oxidizer (say, liquid oxygen). The two components are picked BECAUSE they burn together very very hot. Bad consequences if they mix and ignite in the wrong place (outside the engine) or at the wrong time. This has happened to every sort of rocket, from the pre-V2 rockets of both Robert Goddard and the VfR in Germany, to modern satellite carriers. Worse, some of them can use "hypergolic" fuel/oxidizer chemicals, which means they ignite themselves when mixed. One bad valve and FOOM!
    • The Me-163 Komet was a rocket powered interceptor in World War 2 that used hypergolic fuels. These occasionally exploded on landing. And sometimes on takeoff.
      • It used a high-proof hydrogen peroxide as an oxidizer, which is not only so corrosive that it routinely ate the tanks in which it was held, and in one case dissolved a pilot in seconds, but is also prone to spontaneous decomposition, a reaction that is both exothermic and activated by heat, resulting in a big "BOOM" and a cloud of very hot atomic oxygen. Spontaneous decomposition of the hydrogen peroxide in the torpedo engine and the subsequent warhead explosion is now believed to be responsible for the Russian submarine Kursk sinking in 2000.
    • Soviet SLBMs and ICBMs used a Hydrazine derivative and N2O4 as hypergolic fuels - leading to at least one accident: when a SSBN's silo was flooded with seawater, traces of N2O4 reacted to nitric acid which damaged the fuel tanks. Just search for K-219 or Hostile Waters.
    • Not only were hypergolic fuels used in Soviet ICBMs, some of the fuel components were also corrosive - a fact that, in combination with Poor Communication Kills led to the event known as the Nedelin catastrophe, claiming the lives of some 100 Soviet rocket engineers and military dignitaries.
      • Nedelin catastrophe has exactly zilch to do with the fuel and the properties thereof, it was caused by a haste during the launch preparation, which resulted in the launch timer of the second stage being improperly wired and mistakenly not being reset after one of the tests. When the next test begun, the current pulse went to the timer through the faulty wiring and caused it to advance to the "Launch" position, immolating everyone around and causing the first stage, with its much bigger fuel tanks to catch fire and subsequently explode. It was more of the Failsafe Failure case.
    • The TSA ban on carry-on liquids and gels is in part a precaution against homemade hypergolic bombs, following the discovery of a plot to use them on airplanes.
  • This car blew up upon being hit by a train.
  • The early versions of the World War II era M4 Sherman battle tank gained grim nicknames like "Tommycooker" (after a type of field stove and the fact that British soldiers are sometimes called "tommies") or "Ronson" (after a brand of lighter that, according to advertisements of the 1950s, "Lights up the first time, every time!") because of their Pinto-esque tendency to burn up when hit by high-velocity rounds.
    • All European Theatre Allied tanks used gasoline engines instead of diesel, because it was easier for logistics, as did the Germans (the Soviets, however, used diesel engines in all their vehicles). Most of these early tanks served with allied nations before the US joined the war, and many earned reputations (and nicknames) years before the US Army actually fielded them.
    • In the early Sherman types' case, it was a combination of being gasoline-powered, having ammo storage that was very vulnerable to flanking fire, and poor crew training (early Sherman crews would often stow extra ammo behind the armor instead of in the ammo rack). A modification to 'wet storage' of rounds (basically that damage to the ammo store would flood it, preventing fire from setting the ammo off) as well as better training caused a dramatic drop in crew deaths. A previous stopgap measure was to weld additional armor patches over the ammunition bins, but this was abandoned after captured Germans confirmed that the only real effect was making the ammo bins easier to aim at.
      • By the time the M1 Abrams was designed, it featured a heavy duty door sealing off the rounds when not firing and exterior panels which blow off should the ammo detonate, instead of sending the blast into the cabin... which most crews wedge up permanently open, due to it being somewhat uncomfortable to use.
    • The early versions of the Bradley Fighting Vehicle also had a problem with catching fire when hit.
    • The Panzer V Panther and T-34 both had serious problems, and were more likely to catch fire when hit than Shermans. In the Panther's case, this was a result of the engine compartment being completely watertight (to better ford rivers), causing overheating problems, and uninsulated fuel lines, which would rupture under a variety of circumstances. Neither problem was properly addressed. In the T-34's case, it was insufficient armour on earlier models, but was lessened by the use of less flamable diesel. Later models and the T-34-85 had more armour and were less susceptible to engine fires.
      • Ammunition, not fuel type, is usually the cause of fires in an armored vehicle. The refined propellant used in the M4 burned when hit. The cruder propellant used in T-34 ammunition, when hit, tended to explode.
  • While this trope does occur in real life sometimes, it is very rare. Sadly, Hollywood has convinced the public that it is extremely common and that crashed cars are in danger of exploding at any moment (typically, the instant the hero throws himself to the ground). Every year, dozens of car accident victims are injured further (sometimes to the point of paralysis), not by the car exploding, but by other people pulling the victim out of the car because Hollywood has taught them that cars explode and victims must be pulled out as soon as possible. Do not remove an accident victim from a wrecked car unless the car is actually burning! Sometimes not even if the car is actually burning. If a car is burning, it's usually burning at or near the engine. There's a lot of stuff that doesn't burn between the engine and the seats, including, y'know, the engine itself. (However, if there's leaking gasoline or there's fire near the gas tank, then getting people out quickly is advisable — even if the car doesn't actually explode, a gasoline-fed fire can very quickly turn lethal.)
    • Firefighters in the United States often encounter this trope's believers when responding to traffic accidents. A common exchange begins with the victim or a bystander mentioning a fear of explosion, a firefighter nonchalantly asking if the vehicle contains explosives, being told "no", and asserting, "Then the car ain't gonna explode."
    • That includes at least one case in New Zealand in about 2005, which caused a coroner to issue that very warning. Shows New Zealand teens are far too influenced by American TV, something the coroner mentioned as well.
    • It's also worth mentioning that several people get killed because they refuse to wear seat belts because of the "explosion hazard".
    • The pervasion of this trope leads many people to be killed when they exit their crashed vehicle under their own power (fearing the explosion) and then get run over by other traffic. Once again kids, stay in the vehicle unless it's on fire.
    • Zig-zagged in Spain in 2011 when a suicidal woman loaded her car to the top with gasoline cans, rear-ended a lorry, and survived with no damage due to fire. The trope was thus invoked, exaggerated, inverted and averted.
  • Frequently Truth in Television for airplanes, which carry far more fuel than a car and are also more likely to be damaged in ways that create fire hazards (e.g. exposed broken wiring); if a plane is badly damaged, fire and explosion (caused by the ignition of the fuel tanks) are very real dangers. It's because of this that evacuation preparedness is a major requirement in both aircraft design and crew training. (The international standard that planes are built to and flight attendants are trained for is for all passengers to be able to be evacuated in 90 seconds through half of the plane's total number of doors.)
    • This China Airlines plane didn't even crash, but internal damage to a fuel tank caused the plane to catch fire after it was parked at the gate and it subsequently exploded in rather spectacular fashion. Fortunately, the cabin crew had completed the evacuation before the explosion occurred, so there were no fatalities and only a few minor injuries.
    • Twenty-four years earlier, another plane fell victim to a flashover (a type of explosion that occurs when oxygen is suddenly introduced into a previously oxygen-starved fire, causing the fire to suddenly expand) after the doors of the nearly airtight plane were opened to begin the evacuation. Sadly, in this case, half of the 46 people on board did not make it off, although part of this was due to difficulty and inefficiencies in evacuating (Air Canada 797 was one of a few similar disasters that led to the development of the aforementioned standard, as well as new safety features to aid in an evacuation).
    • This was potentially the nail in the coffin for anyone who might have survived the crash of KLM Flight 4805. The impact alone might not have been universally fatal, but the plane had just refueled and, since the accident occurred on takeoff, had burned almost none of its fuel; as such, a fireball consumed the plane within seconds of the crash, giving anyone who might have survived the accident no chance to escape. Had the plane not been carrying so much fuel, some survivors, if there were anynote , might have been able to get out. (Then again, if the plane hadn't been weighed down by so much fuel, there probably wouldn't have been a crash in the first place, as the added weight, which translated to a longer takeoff roll, was a major factor in causing the accident.)
  • There are many videos of race cars crashing and exploding into flames. Most spectacularly, nitromethane-powered dragsters. This is partially because most racing accidents occur at very high speeds and are therefore a lot more severe than your typical highway accident, and partly because higher-octane fuels are used. The Indy Racing League, for example, uses methanol instead of gasoline—a much more volatile fuel.
    • Not entirely unexpected, as nitromethane is highly combustible and has a very energetic burn. Its vapors are even more volatile, so it is basically Explodium in liquid form.
    • As a demonstration of excellent safety design, Formula One cars nowadays don't burst into flames from crashing, even in the most spectacular crashes like what happened to Robert Kubica in one Canadian GP that totalled his car and landed him in the hospital. The most frequent instances of F1 cars going up in flames have been due to spilled fuel during refuelling, up until refuelling mid-race was halted chiefly to prevent this from happening. However, at the 2020 Bahrain Grand Prix, Haas driver Romain Grosjean experienced a high-speed collision with the trackside barriers which had enough force to rip the car in half and tear open the fuel tank, turning the car into a fireball. Fortunately Grosjean survived and was able to escape the burning wreckage with little more than burned hands.
    • A rather significant example from NASCAR would be Juan Pablo Montoya's collision with a jet fuel dryer on lap 160 of the 2012 Daytona 500, which destroyed Montoya's car and caused jet fuel in the dryer to leak and burst into flames, creating a fire wall across the track in turn 3, leading to a 2 hour long red flag.
    • Part of the reason the 1955 Le Mans disaster killed so many people was that the car body of the Mercedes that flew off the track was made of a magnesium alloy, and magnesium burns extremely intensely and also reacts vigorously with water under intense heat.
    • Dave MacDonald's car in the 1964 Indianapolis 500 had a fuel tank that was poorly positioned, on the left sidepod of his car. When he spun out early in the race, he hit the inside wall off turn four, igniting the fuel in the tank. MacDonald died later that day of smoke inhalation.note  This accident led to USAC legislating gasoline out of competition, meaning that the next year's field (and many years after) would use cars that ran on methanol. It also led to the introduction of a safer fuel cell that would be more difficult to breach.
    • The 1969 24 Hours of Le Mans had a Porsche crash on the first lap, get its fuel tank knocked out from under it and have a Ferrari run over it, causing it to explode into a giant pillar of smoke and fire. This, and the fact that the driver of the Porsche was killed due to not properly securing his safety harness thanks to the nature of the Le Mans start, was what caused a massive revamp of safety for next year's event.
    • One particularly stunning and breathtaking example of this trope played straight was Tetsuya Ota's crash at the 1998 JGTC Fuji Speedway race. A T-bone collision between his Ferrari and another racers Porsche sparked a tremendous explosive fireball that engulfed both cars. The Porsche driver was able to get out of his quickly and receive assistance, but Ota was trapped in his burning Ferrari for a full minute and a half, and his visor literally melted in the heat and sagged onto his face. The footage of the impact is not for the faint of heart.
    • This has happened at least twice during the Australian V8 Supercars races:
      • At Oran Park in 2000, Larry Perkins, Mark Larkham and Paul Morris were involved in a highly flammable rear-ender.
      • In Perth, Australia in 2011, a Holden Commodore driven by Karl Reindler exploded in flames after stalling and being rear-ended by another race car. Luckily, Reindler got out largely unhurt.
  • An old story. A very early prototype of what would eventually become the automobile was steam powered and could reach a top speed of three miles an hour. Despite these relatively innocuous details, it ran into a wall at "top speed" and its boiler exploded.
    • Richard Trevithic's Puffing Devil was probably the first practical self-propelled vehicle (or at least more practical than Cugnot's). It successfully transported passengers after being demonstrated for the first time on Christmas Eve of 1801. However, three days later it broke down due to a rough road, and was left on a shed where later on the boiler exploded (there are various versions of this story though). Boiler explosions were the cause of the fear of high pressure steam back in the day, accidents involving boiler explosions are not unheard of since then.
  • High-performance supercars can be slightly closer to Truth in Television here, because of the exotic materials used in their construction and the red-line conditions they're often subjected to. And regardless of the increased danger, they tend to burn up very quickly and intensely because of the exotic materials.
    • The best recent example would be the Ferrari 458 Italia, the manufacturer's former flagship RWD sports car. It had a minor design defect: the adhesive used in the rear wheel arches was too heat-sensitive. In the right conditions it could catch fire, and the fire could spread into the engine bay. Ten 458s caught fire this way in 2010, and Ferrari wound up recalling over a thousand cars to replace the glue with mechanical fasteners.
  • This car exploded in the face of a firefighter, but it was already well on fire and the culprit was an exploding airbag, not a gas tank.
  • The demise of Group B Rallying is partially to do with this trope (minimal regulations on power and safety, along with tight roads and overenthusiastic spectators, really), especially after an infamous accident in 1986, where Henri Toivonen, one of the champions of the class, went off a cliff, had his fuel cell (mounted under his seat) punctured, killing him and his navigator, and, as the car's body was made of kevlar and plastic, burning the car down to its space frame.
  • One inventor once combined a Ford Pinto with the rear part of a small airplane. True to this trope, it crashed during a test flight and caught fire, killing its inventor.
  • On June 18, 2013, Michael Hastings was driving his Mercedes at a high rate of speed when it burst into flames, jackknifed, and crashed into a tree, exploding and sending pieces over 100 feet away. Hastings was known as the man who wrote the article for Rolling Stone that ended General McChrystal's career.
  • This Trans Am caught on fire after the owner powerwashed the engine bay (which somehow created a misfire), then revved the engine to try and get it to work right, which instead destroyed his catalytic converter, and then, well...
  • Barquisimeto, Venezuela: This car went up in flames right when the driver had filled up the tank.
  • The Chevy Bolt got this reputation due to battery defects that could cause the car to spontaneously combust when charging. The entire 2017-2021 production run had to be recalled and given replacement batteries due to this.
  • If you stretch the definition of 'car' to include all vehicles, it's easy to make a case for many ships fitting the trope; ships' boilers have been known to explode under stress, merchant ships may carry dangerous cargo loads, and warships have to carry all sorts of explosives that will hopefully make the enemy explode but may make you do the same if you get really unlucky and/or mishandle it.
    • The Halifax Explosion, which took out most of Halifax port, occured when a passenger ship swiped a ship carrying ammunition to Britain during World War 1. A fire started on the ammunition ship, and the crew abandoned ship. To their credit, they did warn the harbor workers that their ship was on fire and carrying tons of explosives on board, but it didn't stop the drifting ship from blowing up and taking a good chunk of the city with it.
    • The case of HMS Hood is probably the most famous instance of a warship blowing up seemingly out of nowhere. In her case, she was exchanging fire with the Bismarck when one of the Bismarck's shells managed to find a weaker area of armor, punch through, and ignite a magazine. Pretty much everyone involved was quite surprised by the Hood's sudden explosion and subsequent sinking with only 3 survivors.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Every Car Explodes


Genji blows up cars

As the cars speed towards Genji, he tosses shuriken into their wheels without looking, causing them to flip and explode. Still not looking, he raises a hand for Mercy to catch and carry him out of the way just in time.

How well does it match the trope?

4.17 (6 votes)

Example of:

Main / UnflinchingWalk

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