T Nation

Jet Assisted take-Off

The recent gerbil story posted inspired me to hunt down my favorite Darwin Award story. Enjoy:…The Arizona Highway Patrol were mystified when they came upon a pile of smoldering wreckage embedded in the side of a cliff rising above the road at the apex of a curve. The metal debris resembled the site of an airplane crash, but it turned out to be the vaporized remains of an automobile. The make of the vehicle was unidentifiable at the scene.

The folks in the lab finally figured out what it was, and pieced together the events that led up to its demise.

It seems that a former Air Force sergeant had somehow got hold of a JATO (Jet Assisted Take-Off) unit. JATO units are solid fuel rockets used to give heavy military transport airplanes an extra push for take-off from short airfields.

Dried desert lakebeds are the location of choice for breaking the world ground vehicle speed record. The sergeant took the JATO unit into the Arizona desert and found a long, straight stretch of road. He attached the JATO unit to his car, jumped in, accelerated to a high speed, and fired off the rocket.
The facts, as best as could be determined, are as follows:

The operator was driving a 1967 Chevy Impala. He ignited the JATO unit approximately 3.9 miles from the crash site. This was established by the location of a prominently scorched and melted strip of asphalt. The vehicle quickly reached a speed of between 250 and 300 mph and continued at that speed, under full power, for an additional 20-25 seconds. The soon-to-be pilot experienced G-forces usually reserved for dog-fighting F-14 jocks under full afterburners.

The Chevy remained on the straight highway for approximately 2.6 miles (15-20 seconds) before the driver applied the brakes, completely melting them, blowing the tires, and leaving thick rubber marks on the road surface. The vehicle then became airborne for an additional 1.3 miles, impacted the cliff face at a height of 125 feet, and left a blackened crater 3 feet deep in the rock.

Most of the driver’s remains were not recovered; however, small fragments of bone, teeth, and hair were extracted from the crater, and fingernail and bone shards were removed from a piece of debris believed to be a portion of the steering wheel.

Ironically a still-legible bumper sticker was found, reading
“How do you like my driving? Dial 1-800-EAT-SHIT.”

Sorry huck… That is another bullshit story. Go to the about.com site regarding urban legends and they explain why.

That never happened. It’s an urban legend just like that rat thing. Wendy Northcutt, the creator of the Darwin Awards put out a book & that’s one of the things in the ‘fakes’ chapter.

Hey guys, I know. I have the book. They still list it as the winner for 95 because it is such a great story, even though it is an urban legend.

Even though I know this and the Raggot story are not true, I still think they are both fucking hilarious. Any time I get an e-mail with some crazy ass story, I don’t worry about it being true, I just enjoy it and laugh my ass off.

Great story Huck. The best part is the bumper sticker. Needs more homosexuals though.

And gerbils.

homosexual gerbils.

Ok, this one actually does have a basis in fact. I’ll try to find the magazine, but a guy wrote in it (yeah, I know I’m skipping sources, but I swear I read this) about how his father was a surplus dealer/junkyard owner, and had acquired some military surplus. Surplus auctions sell lots, and if you find anything “active” or weapons related, you’re supposed to give it back to the military. Anyway, long story short, these guys stole some surplus from the one guy’s dad, and hooked it up to an old ElCamino (I think). They did a non-piloted test run, and it crashed. I’ll see if I can find the magazine (it was a reputable one). The article was quite detailed.