Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Cars That My Brother Sends Me #1

My brother Troy has "eclectic" taste in vintage cars. He finds the rare, the cool, the one-of-a-kind, and usually cheap (with exceptions) and then sends me the "For Sale" ads. So here's a batch, and I'll post more groups of them as he sends them to me...

1978 Dodge W150 "True Spirit" truck...$5000

1977 Pontiac Grand Am...$2000

1936 Dodge Truck...$575

(From Ty) 1972 Dodge Charger ...$2600

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Could Paul Walker of Fast And Furious Fame Have Survived The Fatal Porsche Carrera GT Crash?

On Saturday afternoon, the news reports began to trickle in. Paul Walker, the 40-year-old star of "The Fast And The Furious"movie franchise, had died in a horrific car accident.

 The accounts so far have pinned down these details; Paul was the passenger in Roger Rodas's Porsche Carrera GT, a mind-blowingly powerful car capable of 0-to-60-mph in less than four seconds, with an approximate horsepower of 612bhp and a 205-mph top speed.

 This is not a toy.

Jeremy Clarkson, of Top Gear UK test-drove one, and remarked that it was like driving on a knife edge; exhilarating, but scary. 


 (click on the link above for the Top Gear feature)

Also (again according to early reports), the police found rubber-tread marks on the nearby pavement, as if someone was doing figure-eights and "donuts". Obviously, these can't be tied conclusively to the accident, but circumstantially, it seems that the duo, with Roger, a former race-car driver and business partner of Paul's at the wheel, may have been speeding before they made their way back to a special event. According to eyewitnesses and unofficial police reports; 


"In fact the impact from the crash was so fierce that debris from the Porsche destroyed parts of a landscape garden and shattered windows of buildings hundreds of feet away. A property manager for a complex located more than 100ft from the scene told radaronline.com that the crash hit the building where he works. 'Debris flew down the hill into our parking lot,' said Melvin Termain. 'A tree got broken, it messed up a little of the landscaping.'Debris flew up and hit the window in the furthest unit'.  "


  Sheriff's detective Jeff Maag told People magazine the driver "was doing well over 45 [mph] – [it's] fair to say at least twice that."


 The gathering they were returning to was sponsored by the Roger Rodas and Paul Walker "Reach Out Worldwide" charity, to raise money for the Typhoon victims in the Philippines.

There were early reports that indicate the Porsche was racing.  That doesn't appear to be the case. Parking lot CCTV footage shows an obstructed view of the crash of the unaccompanied Porsche , and what appears to be a dark souped-up race import (Honda?) appearing quickly on the scene. But there doesn't appear to be another vehicle in close proximity to the Porsche when it hits the pole and tree.

Here's a Google street view of the road. You can see that it's very tempting stretch to put the petal down.

Here's an aerial view.

Other cars arrive quickly to the scene, but in vain.

There is also other footage of the crash filmed by a couple who worked in the business park, who thought they were filming an action movie. This does give credence to the theory that there was some noticeable tire squealing happening, as it would be odd to make the assumption that there was an action movie happening if a car was simply driving around the area, unless they start filming at the sound of the crash itself, which may very well have been the case.

 From the crash scene, it appears that the car spun out of control, hitting both a tree and a light pole, nearly severing in half before coming to rest and bursting into flames. The explosion was apparently so loud that several friends of the two heard the accident 1/2 mile away and raced to the scene, and with handheld fire extinguishers tried to put out the fire. The inferno was too intense, and they were unable to reach Paul, who was described as unconscious and buckled in his seat. When the police and firefighters arrived, the car was fully-consumed in flames, and the friends of the trapped men had to be forcibly restrained from endangering themselves as they attempted time and again to reach Paul, who was the only one of the pair visible inside.

The bodies were badly burnt, and the coroner withheld formal identification until dental records were received.

According to the released coroner's report, Los Angeles County Coroner's Assistant Chief Ed Winter said the men died "within seconds" of the crash. More details will be available when the final autopsy is released, Winter said.

Collision-caused fire deaths are not common in the US, but on average, someone is killed in a car-collision fire approximately every two days (according to the National Fire Protection Association, 2007).




So back to the original question: Could Paul Walker have survived this crash?


The Porsche Carrera GT is a top-shelf sports car. The body is mainly composed of carbon fiber, which is stronger than steel, and much lighter. The safety features are top-notch, utilizing the Porsche Side Impact Protection System (POSIP)

As described by the company itself:

"POSIP, fitted as standard, consists of side impact protection beams in the doors and two side airbags on each side: an integral thorax airbag is located in each seat side bolster and an upwards-inflating head airbag incorporated within each door. Additional safety features include the headrests which form an integral part of each seat, an energy-absorbing steering column, three-point seat belts with pretensioners and force limiters and energy-elements in the dashboard."
These are the latest 2014 safety features, the crashed car was a 2005 which had dual front airbags and front side airbag. The other airbags mentioned above were for later models.

Still, sounds pretty good, right? Unfortunately, the problem isn't necessarily in the surface of impact, but rather the deceleration of the body in G-force. When the body in motion comes to a rapid stop from high speeds the force is tremendous. They estimate that Princess Diana suffered head G-force of over a 100, and her torso of 70g's in her fatal accident, tearing the main artery in her heart. The amount of force that Paul and Roger was subjected to is still conjecture, but it could have easily been enough to render them unconscious.
Here's a chart giving examples of G-force at rising speeds...

Which begs the question of whether they could have even been saved.

If they were to be rescued, it would have had to have been attempted very quickly. The advantage of carbon fiber is that it is strong and light, a very tough shell to crack. But, the trade-off in this instance is profound. CF in cars normally uses a bonding resin, and this resin in combination with the carbon fiber can be deadly. It burns at a high temperature, and would have created a heat barrier impossible to broach without fire suits, and prevented anyone getting close to the car. It is interesting to note that Porsche recalled it's $100,000 911 series last year due to faulty fuel lines that could possibly cause fires, but there's no evidence to suggest mechanical failure here. It seems here that outside of determined mechanical failure, that it was simple hubris, perhaps over-confidence in the veteran's race car driver skills at high-speed, that led to "pilot error" and cost the life of a man made famous starring in movies about speeding cars doing dangerous stunts.