Viper Nation

Supercar Dodge Viper site with pictures, technical info, experiential stories with a few other winter action extreme stories posted.

RTTTTed On January - 11 - 2011


Staring Into the Face of Death

            Ted Hlokoff


      The Grille of the Freightliner filled the passenger side window, framing Deana’s face. Spinning out at 60mph we slid down the wrong side of the highway towards a head-on collision with a Freightliner pulling a loaded 50’ trailer.

      Deana and I had flown to Chicago’s O’hare Airport and driven as far as Georgia shopping for the ‘perfect’ Viper GTS.  Not just a Viper GTS, but a Roe Racing supercharged, hp exhausted, 10 spoke polished wheels, upgraded brakes and stereo Dodge Viper GTS.  Finding a Red with silver stripes 98 GTS in better than new condition Deana and I had driven it back from Pekin, Ill. with the only problems being snow and the export paperwork.

      Car Show Sunday started badly, the sky was grey, it was raining heavily, cold and miserable.  We left our the Best Western Motel in Abbotsford and drove through the nasty weather to Mission to meet up with new Viper Club members and attend a Charity Car Show for Hospitals and their support groups.  Four Car Clubs arrange every year to show cars in a grassy park to help hospitals buy equipment that is drastically needed.    It was easy to appreciate the hardtop of the GTS in heavy rain.  I was certainly happy that I had not bought a roadster.     

     We found 3 Vipers waiting for us at the Tim Horton’s parking lot and bought coffee while waiting for more Vipers to show up.   The Vipers from Washington State did not show up and no one blamed them since the weather was so terrible.  Leaving Nimpo Lake the day before the weather had been good.  The weatherman had forecast “a few showers” for today.  He sure was wrong.

       We met Fred Kappler, his wife Eloise and their daughter Melodie.  They were the ones bringing lunch, and more importantly … the tent!  With donations at the entry gate and 5 Vipers to the Corvette Clubs 3 vettes, our Viper Club produced a better showing and higher donations towards the event.  Eloise and Melodie deserve credit for slaving “over a hot stove/BBQ” cooking onions, buns, smokies, hot dogs and handing out drinks to Viper owners.  They were instrumental in providing a smile for anyone that looked like they needed a break from the rain. 

     Although this particular Car Show usually has over 1200 cars on display, there were only 252 accompanying our Vipers in the wet grassy field.  It was great meeting the Viper Club people and we had several interesting conversations with our new friends before we finally left the soggy field and started our 500 mile trip home to Nimpo Lake.

     As luck would have it the Sun came out and shone on us as we drove north through Hope and Hwy #1 dried up nicely.  There were wet spots along our route but only the slightest of showers.  There were deep puddles often as the highway surface was rutted and depressions in the pavement held a few inches of water.  Not a big deal I thought until one puddle threw my car into the other lane.  Oops, that got me a really nasty look from the passenger side of the car.  After that I slowed to slightly under the speed limit and tried avoiding the puddles when possible.  The Sun was warm and I was enjoying the drive in my first ever Supercar. 

     Nearing Ashcroft I had decided to stop and visit Larry and Edna Hlokoff to show off my new Dodge Viper (again).  As the highway started to climb out of the Fraser Canyon above the River the rain started, again.  Like a “Tropical Storm” or a Hurricane the rain came down like an ocean falling on us.  I passed the car beside me and pulled into the slow lane slowing my speed to slightly under the speed limit while turning the wipers up.  Nearing the top of the long hill two lanes became one and I started to move over.  At the conjunction of both lanes I saw twin puddles of water with a stream of water running down the hill.  As the left tire hit the first puddle I felt the car lift and start to pull to the right.  Hitting the second puddle with the right front tire was like a stunt in a film with my Viper instantly doing an about face.  As we spun around to the front again I could see twin rock cliffs to either side of the pavement, but we were still generally aimed straight down the highway and between the two rock faces. As soon as my car had started to spin my reactions had turned the wheel into the skid – nothing.  I spun the steering wheel from left to the right and then back to the left – nothing and no reaction.  I stomped on the brake pedal – nothing.  I lifted my foot – nothing.  I looked at the tachometer and it was showing 1200rpm.  Oil pressure, water temp, all was good, except for the spin.  That we were going to crash was obvious so I revved the engine, checked the oil pressure again, pushed the shifter into neutral and shut the engine off.   As the highway came into view again the view had changed and now we were sliding through the rock cliffs and there was a Tractor Trailer coming towards us about a half mile away.  Another spin and the Semi was right there!  His grille was all that could be seen through the passenger side window.  Deana’s face staring at me with the grille close behind her stuck me dumb.  “She’s going to hit the massive diesel engine block just before I do,” was in my mind as my world suddenly dipped, bumped and seemed to stop.  After the flash of Deana and grille my eyes had discontinued functioning.  As sight came back I realized that I was seeing my hood open about a foot, some slight mist and a hillside covered with weeds just past the barbwire fence that was against the front of my Viper.  A quick glance around showed that we were in the ditch facing away from the highway. 

“Deana, are you OK?” she looked fine.  Her eyes became dark and her lips thinned while she looked at me.  “You don’t know how lucky you are that you checked on me before your car,” was the reply.

        I jumped out of the car.  Standing back I saw that there was a large ‘shark bite’ out of the side of my clamshell hood.  As I walked to the front of the car I could see that the entire front of the car was missing.  The engine was obvious as the radiator, headlights, bumper cover, oil cooler and fog lamps were .. just gone.  The driver’s compartment was perfect and seemed to have sustained no damage at all.  Rockers were perfect, doors and mirrors were all OK.  The windshield had become broken when the windshield lifted and hit it. 

     A woman came running down the embankment from the highway, “I’m a trauma nurse from the Hospital down the road.  Are you OK?” she asked.  I told her I was perfect to which she replied, “I’ll check on your wife.”

     I thought of the darkening of Deana’s eyes and said, “She’ll be OK, she just needs a few moments alone.”  When the nurse said she was going to check her anyway, I shrugged and went to check on the Semi’s truck driver.  As I walked along the trailer an older Gent turned from the cab and asked if I was OK.  “Sure,” I replied and asked about the driver.  He was fine so I walked around the truck.  It had no front bumper.  On the passenger side the front of the fender was gone and the right front tire was pushed back and flattened.  Looking under the Semi I saw that the air tanks that normally bolt to the inside of the frame were sitting on the ground, beside the 100gl fuel tank which was also sitting on the pavement.  The tanks steps were also gone.  I looked around, but all I saw was my Viper’s bumper cover and some little pieces of plastic.  Amazing, this was a self cleaning accident?  We had spun under and around the Semi, losing our momentum and then dropped into the ditch, safely.  There was a cliff on the other side of the highway and rock outcroppings in the hillside everywhere except where we had landed. 

    I later found out later that the worst tires on a Viper were the Gen 1 Goodyear’s and the Pilot Sport ZP (Zero Pressure) were also called “runcraps” because they didn’t have good handling characteristics.  Although dodge discontinued the Runcrap tires in 2006, Goodyear versions are still being made for Corvettes.

    We were all examined in the ambulance that showed up soon after we crashed.  Apparently, the Truck driver had a broken wrist.  Interesting that a Viper wins a crash contest with a Semi?  After I saw the grille filling the passenger window and felt that life was about finished, I felt heat throughout my body and ‘heard’ a voice say, “It’ll be OK.”  I was calm and thought, “It’s gonna be OK?  This I gotta see.”  Well, it was OK and neither Deana or I even got a bruise.  THAT WAS OK!  Miracles do happen.


-the end-


Postscript –

This is a true story.

I had my Viper featured in and my first carshow brought me home a First place trophy.  Keeping a positive attitude and a 21 year safe driver discount made dealing with the insurance company much easier.  The trophy and feature story on my Viper proved the condition of the car and allowed the insurance company to pay me an extra $5,000.

The fault of this accident was the massive puddles on the road, although I believe that with PS2 tires there would have been NO loss of control.  Road maintenance.

I received a ticket for “refusing to keep my vehicle on the correct side of the road.”

My affidavit stating the conditions of the engine and that I had shut it off prior to the oil cooler being torn off increased the amount that the wrecked Viper sold for.  ($17,853.)

The clamshell had a new value of $28,000 (plus 12% taxes and paint costs) which was almost enough to write the car off. 

The broken wheels and bent frame testify to the tremendous impact of the vehicles. 

The Truck Driver needed a few months time off for his wrist to heal.


Categories: Dodge Viper Stories

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