5 Scariest Stunt Car Feats


Image Gallery: Car Safety
Image Gallery: Car Safety

Stuntman Spanky Spangler crashes his car into two old Butte-Silver Bow metro transit buses during the second day of Evel Knievel Days in uptown Butte, Mont. See pictures of car safety.

AP Photo/Montana Standard, Walter Hinick

5 Scariest Stunt Car Feats

For some people, using a car to get from point A to point B simply isn't enough. In fact, many have taken an automobile to the edge of destruction (or beyond) in the name of adventure, thrill-seeking and of course, for big-name blockbuster movies. To honor those men and women who've come up with some creative ways to use a car, we've collected five of the scariest car stunts we could find, and assembled them right here in no particular order.

Some are famous and some are just downright crazy, but all involve a car and a whole lot of danger. Fortunately, in each one of these examples, no one was permanently injured -- but that doesn't necessarily mean they were completely unharmed either.

British actor Christopher Lee, left, who plays villain Francisco Scaramanga, and British actor Roger Moore, as James Bond, film a scene of Ian Flemming's "The Man with the Golden Gun," on location at Phang Nga, Thailand, Aug. 15, 1974.

AP Photo/HO

5: The 360-degree Cork-Screw Jump

Not all of the scariest stunt car feats come from the movies, but this one definitely does. Famous for its degree of difficulty, a 360-degree cork-screw jump was performed by British stunt driver "Bumps" Willard in the 1974 James Bond film, "The Man with the Golden Gun," in just one take. This barrel roll stunt successfully launched a red 1974 AMC Hornet X Hatchback Special Coupe off of a slanted ramp, causing it to cork-screw mid-air over a narrow river and then successfully land on the other side. The car was moving so fast that the film had to be slowed down in order for moviegoers to catch what had actually happened.

The jump was thought up years before the movie was ever made and producers Harry Saltzman and Albert R. Broccoli took out patents on the jump to keep people from using it before it made its way into a film. The stunt was the first of its kind to use a computer to calculate the jump, borrowing the use of some of the most sophisticated computers at the time from Cornell University.

In 2008, the British automotive show, Top Gear, tried to recreate the cork-screw jump but failed to pull it off. Top Gear claims the stunt has never been successfully recreated.

Liu Suozhu from China's Henan province drives a car on two steel ropes above the Miluo River in Pingjiang, central China's Hunan province, on April 27, 2008.

AP Photo/Xinhua, Long Hongtao

4: Car Rope Walking

Some stunt car feats don't involve ramps, jumping or even speed. In 2008, a Chinese stuntman named Liu Suozhu successfully drove his car across the Miluo River in China while balancing the vehicle on two steel cables.

It took Suozhu, also called "The Car King," 30 minutes to drive his vehicle across the cables suspended 150 feet (45.7 meters) over the river. He moved slowly to ensure that all four tires remained on the cables. Only two months of preparation were involved in the stunt, and the driver said that the hardest part was the last few minutes when the steep incline blocked his view rearward, making it difficult to align the rear tires with the cable.

What's the longest jump ever attempted in a car? Find out on the next page.

Obviously, this is not Kenny Powers jumping the St. Lawrence River in his 1976 Lincoln Continental. It's Taiwanese stuntman Ke Shouliang jumping a Mitsubishi across the Yellow River at China's Shaanxi province in north China.

AP Photo/Xinhua HO

3: The Mile-long Jump

In 1976, stunt driver Kenny Powers attempted one of the most extreme car stunts ever performed. Powers stepped in for stunt driver Ken Carter, who was originally supposed to make the jump, but couldn't. An eight-and-a-half story ramp was constructed above the St. Lawrence River in Morrisburg, Canada. Powers planned to jump his rocket-powered Lincoln Continental over the mile-wide river that separates Canada from the United States. It was the longest jump ever attempted and would have shattered all the records -- that is, if he had made it across.

Five years of planning and more than $1 million was spent in preparation for the jump. Powers' car, complete with small wings attached to the doors, reached a top speed of 280 miles per hour (450.6 kilometers per hour) before launching off of the end of the ramp. Just as the vehicle was in the air, several pieces of the car flew off (even the tiny wings) and a parachute deployed seconds before the car crashed into a shallow area on the Canadian side of the river. Powers survived, but broke his back in the failed attempt. Despite all the time and money put into this stunt, most people say the impossible physics of the jump doomed it from the very beginning.

To find out about a stunt that cost significantly less, but raised the stakes even higher than the mile-long jump stunt, go on to the next page.

French director Claude Lelouch speaks in the Master Class during the Pusan International Film Festival in Pusan, south of Seoul, on Oct. 10, 2007.

AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon

2: The Paris Stunt

This stunt didn't involve any heights or jumps, but it's one of the most famous car stunts ever pulled off. In 1978, a short film director named Claude Lelouch wanted to film himself racing through the streets of Paris. The problem was this: He didn't get any permits to stop traffic or close the roads.

Instead, Lelouch strapped a camera to the bumper of a Mercedes-Benz and started on a 9-minute wild ride on the streets of Paris at 5:00 in the morning. He dodged traffic, drove on the sidewalk, whisked around the Arc de Triomphe and went against one-way traffic -- all at speeds up to 140 miles per hour (225.3 kilometers per hour). He never stopped the car during the entire ride and treated everything in his path as an object to avoid. After almost 10 minutes of high-speed, terrifying driving, Lelouch parks his car at the Sacré-Coeur Basilica just as a woman ran up the stairs to meet him for a date. Lelouch opened his film to the public, and was arrested after the first showing for endangering the citizens of Paris during his reckless driving stunt.

Some eighty-eight skydivers from Skydiving the Point, a Virginia skydiving club, are shown over West Point, Va., on Oct. 23, 1997.

AP Photo/Paul "Oscar" Oczkowski/Ho

1: Skydiving with Cars

While this might not be a typical car stunt, it does have all the ingredients of a scary stunt car feat: a car, high altitude and some thrill-seeking adventurers.

A group of skydivers in Arizona periodically roll out of the back of planes sitting in old convertibles and then jump out of the car to complete the dive. Sometimes seating up to four or five people in the convertible at once, the divers remain seated in the car as it's pushed out of the back of the plane. After a few seconds of sitting the car, the divers then jump out, while the convertible continues to plummet earthward, usually spinning and flipping end over end in the process.

During one such jump, skydiver Olof Zipster (after pushing the car out of the plane), jumped out to film the car's free-fall to the ground. He ended up getting a little too close to the vehicle and it suddenly flipped and hit Zipster in the head. Another skydiver, who was filming the jump as well, caught the entire incident on tape. While the other jumpers landed safely, they wondered where Zipster was. The impact had given Zipster a concussion, but fortunately, he was still able to open his parachute and land safely.

For more information about stunts, cars and other related topics, jump to the links on the next page.

Lots More Information

Related HowStuffWorks ArticlesSources
  • BlameItOnTheVoices.com. "Car Rope Walking Stunt." May 14, 2008. (Feb. 4, 2010)http://www.blameitonthevoices.com/2008/05/car-ropewalking-stunt.html
  • Conley, Kevin. "That Was Awesome." Slate.com. July 6, 2009. (Feb. 3, 2010)http://www.slate.com/id/2221388/pagenum/all/#A
  • Discovery. "Moments of Impact: Skydiver Hit By Car." Sept. 25, 2009. (Feb. 5, 2010)http://dsc.discovery.com/videos/moments-of-impact-skydiver-hit-by-car.html
  • Internet Movie Database. "The Man With the Golden Gun - 1974." (Feb. 4, 2010)http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0071807/trivia
  • Lelouch, Claude. "C'était un Rendezvous." (Feb. 4, 2010)http://www.vimeo.com/757553
  • Weiner, Adam. "Riverjump." Popular Science. July 14, 2008. (Feb. 3, 2010)http://www.popsci.com/breakdown/article/2008-07/riverjump
  • YouTube.com. "Top Gear Stuntman: MG Maestro 360-degree spin Jump." (Feb. 3, 2010)http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AhZXDM87izE