Home » When Was A Time You Used A Car For Something It’s Not Really Good At? Autopian Asks

When Was A Time You Used A Car For Something It’s Not Really Good At? Autopian Asks

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Many vehicles are designed with a specific goal in mind. Maybe it’s a pickup truck designed to be a tow beast, an economy car designed to be absurdly cheap, or a little lad of a city car meant to make city parking easier. Sure, you can make these cars do things outside of their mission, but they aren’t great for it. You won’t be setting lap records hustling a Toyota Tundra around a track just like a Porsche 911 isn’t going to be towing your Airstream. But some people make their vehicles do tasks they weren’t really built for all of the time. I want to know about that time you used a car for something it wasn’t built to excel at.

One of the greatest joys I get in life is doing something unexpected with an unlikely car. Most people take Jeeps and pickup trucks off-road, but one of my favorite off-roaders was my little 2012 Smart Fortwo. I started off-roading Smarts before it was cool and along the way, I learned these little cars are pretty darn good at it. I mean, you have no overhangs, a tiny wheelbase, and a narrow body. A Smart is basically a side-by-side that you can drive on an interstate. The cars are also so light that the thick plastic factory belly pans take some glancing blows before they break.

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Sure, it’s unlikely that Smart’s engineers in Germany ever considered “Gambler 500” as a use case, but the little car, which was designed to be a sort of city supercar, is pretty fun in the sticks.

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Add a lift kit and all-terrains and you’ll get anywhere a person with a rear-wheel-drive pickup is going. Towing is also not a part of a Smart’s mission, but I’ve used my little car to fetch countless motorcycles all over the Midwest. Yes, U-Haul installed the hitch, too. The rental giant seems to think Smarts tow 2,000 pounds.

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Of course, I never do anything normal with cars, so when my wife and I went on our belated honeymoon Route 66 road trip in February, we didn’t take one of my comfortable German cars. Instead, we hopped into her Scion iQ, a car only marginally better at being a car than a Smart Fortwo. We drove the car 4,000 miles in a little over a week and you know what? It was a great road trip companion. This was a car sold to city dwellers, not couples racing their way across America. Yet, aside from tiring road noise, the little car was fantastic. We even managed to average 30 mpg despite revving the piss out of that 1.3-liter engine and climbing the Rockies.

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Sheryl and I loved the first trip in the iQ so much that when we drove to a friend’s wedding over the weekend, we took the iQ for the ride. Sure, my new-to-me Volkswagen Phaeton would have been perfect for the trip, but it’s hard not to root for the little city car. I still have to write about the experience of taking the tiny car across America, but know that it was a blast.

Here’s where I toss you the microphone. When was a time you used a car for something it wasn’t really meant for? Do you make poor Geo Metros into rally cars or Chevy Suburbans into track cars?

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AceRimmer
AceRimmer
22 days ago

Travel physical therapist all over the US. In a Boss 302. And half that space was my large plasma and surround sound. Looking back I have no idea how I did it.

Defenestrator
Defenestrator
23 days ago

The Elise is surprisingly decent for moving stuff. I’ve done a few Home Depot runs and only sometimes had to stick stuff out of the roof. Also moved a tall plant in the passenger’s lap. The shopvac did require some disassembly to fit, though.

Arguably worse was just using a half-ton truck to go anywhere in San Francisco. That city was very much not built for something that size.

The F--kshambolic Cretinoid Harvey Park
The F--kshambolic Cretinoid Harvey Park
26 days ago

I once went to Home Depot in a 560SL (R107) and it wasn’t my finest moment.

Chris D
Chris D
26 days ago

I remember when I was a kid my dad used the municipal Dodge pickup from his work to try to pull a walnut stump out of the yard. I remember the burnout marks on the lawn… That’s not a really great story, I know… Way back when, I hauled a new dryer, in the box, on the roof rack of my ’78 Honda Civic – the box was almost as big as the car, and got a few funny looks. I also towed my friends’ vehicles with that Honda, with a tow strap, whenever they broke down.
I towed a Volvo V70 on a dolly with my Volvo V70 – that got some looks, because the towed Volvo was even the same color as the tow vehicle.

Myk El
Myk El
27 days ago

Closest thing I can say is taking a Mini Cooper on multiple long road trips. It was fine traveling over 70 MPH, but fuel economy suffered when going that fast due to not being set up for high speed cruising.

Ben
Ben
27 days ago

I once used our family’s Ford Aspire to haul my moped home from college. Took out all the seats except the driver’s and laid the moped on its side. Can’t recommend it due to the egregious gas fumes that accumulated in the car, but it did the job.

I also made the mistake of picking up a large decorative clock in my Prius. When I went to load it I discovered it was too large to fit through the hatch. I was eventually able to wedge it in through the front doors and then slid it into the back over the fully reclined seats, but I really wish I had just taken the truck that day. The worst part is I found out later that it was actually two pieces and I could have just removed a couple of screws to make it fit. 😀

Mike B
Mike B
27 days ago

I commute 60 miles a day, 5 days a week in a 5th gen 4Runner with full steel skids and sliders.

MetalMan
MetalMan
27 days ago

Back in the 80’s, I hauled a motorcycle INSIDE my 1979 VW Rabbit 2 door! Granted, it was my Yamaha YSR 50, but it actually fit. After removing the rear seat, parcel shelf, and front passenger seat, I was able to back it in through the passenger door. I then used a couple of tiedown straps to anchor it to the passenger seat rails and we were off. Hauled it from Medford OR to Klamath Falls OR like this.

Definitely not the intended use case for a Rabbit, but it worked.

I also Waterskied behind this car. There was a stretch of highway near where I went to school where the lake came to within about 10 feet of the pavement. After clearing some “obstacles”, a friend and I hooked a ski rope to the passenger door at the seatbelt anchor (remember those seatbelts that swung out with the doors?). I swam out about 30 or 40 feet, put on my ski and yelled “hit it!”. Got to ski about 1/2 mile before running out of room. Two other friends then gave it a go. Traffic was stopping to watch us – including a school bus full of kids. Too bad that this was in the late 80’s. Would have made for a great viral video.

Ricardo Mercio
Ricardo Mercio
27 days ago

Fairly recently took my Boxster to Microcenter to build my wife a new PC. I severely underestimated the size of the boxes, and had to unbox the case in the parking lot to fit in the frunk, then slide her seat forward to slot the monitor in behind it. During this process, a Subaru Sambar came in and parked, and I could feel the Signature Look of Superiority in its driver. I ended up meeting him on my walk back inside to throw away the case’s box.

A longer time ago, I had a WRX with 1001 problems, my college’s car club put on a free autocross and I attended taking turns in my friend’s burgundy and tan 2008 Forester L.L. Bean 2.5 4-speed. It had so much body roll that it was impossible not to laugh. A few years later someone attended that same autocross with a rental Ecosport, whose handling was even more hilarious.

Now getting into stories about a decade old, I unzipped my Miata’s rear window to load lumber through into the passenger footwell. A roadster without a passenger is basically a truck.

Cheap Bastard
Cheap Bastard
26 days ago
Reply to  Ricardo Mercio

“A roadster without a passenger is basically a truck.”

Is it? Lets see that roadster haul 1300 lbs of concrete rubble…

The F--kshambolic Cretinoid Harvey Park
The F--kshambolic Cretinoid Harvey Park
26 days ago
Reply to  Ricardo Mercio

Funny, I saw someone at best buy this weekend struggling to cram a huge flat screen TV through the back door of a recent Lincoln sedan. If they managed to take the TV home, I’d be surprised if it actually worked anymore.

Steve Jones
Steve Jones
27 days ago

I have been doing maintenance work at a local disc golf course with my daily driver a 1939 Chev Master 85 Businessman coupe. I don’t have a truck so I haul rocks and dirt around the course in 5 gallon buckets in the trunk and deck as the panel between the trunk and cab is out.

Bizness Comma Nunya
Bizness Comma Nunya
27 days ago
Reply to  Steve Jones

This comment makes me think you live in 3 different timelines.

Last edited 27 days ago by Bizness Comma Nunya
Scott Wangler
Scott Wangler
27 days ago

I once hauled a 2.3l ford 4cylinder in the trunk of my 65 Mustang

Bizness Comma Nunya
Bizness Comma Nunya
27 days ago
Reply to  Scott Wangler

Twin engine mustang!

Cheap Bastard
Cheap Bastard
27 days ago

I got a tow home from my Dad in a Pinto. A Pinto as a tow vehicle was bad enough but the only thing we had on hand to tie the cars together was an old electrical extension cord.

Freelivin1327
Freelivin1327
27 days ago

I used to have a green 70’s Audi wagon that I got for $100 total which lasted for 6 months then got $25 for at junkyard. Once or twice I would take it off road all the way to the top of a mountain- it was just a dirt road and it was dry so sorta like a gravel road in the country. Obviously it wasn’t off roading w/ ditches and up rocks but it was fun. This is the same car w/ my funniest car story: The accelerator cable broke one time so I hooked up thin rope from the throttle in the engine through the hood into the driver’s window and pulled the “string” to accelerate. I was ghetto/cheap back then ha ha

Boxing Pistons
Boxing Pistons
27 days ago

One of my favorite sightings of people working with what they have was a guy on a Harley with a mountain bike strapped to the back seat. He had built a special rack to haul it around! I love stuff like that. He was all-in on daily riding that old Harley and no one was going to tell him he needed a truck for that!

Boxing Pistons
Boxing Pistons
27 days ago

I did a lot of dumb stuff in Saturns way back when. I remember some off-roading in my parents’ ‘95 SL-1 back in high school. I also remember carrying way more than the 5 passengers while sober driving in college in my ‘95 SL-2. One time I pull up to the bar and 7 people are standing there. We piled all those drunks in and maybe had one in the trunk for a total of 8 including the driver. When we got back to the house, a tire was completely flat. I guess it had a slow leak that accelerated under that crazy load. I kinda miss the old “plastic fantastic”. What a trooper!

Musicman27
Musicman27
27 days ago

My dad uses a 2006 Toyota Corolla S to haul his mechanic’s tools. We’re lucky if he doesn’t have to rearrange things for someone to sit in the front, let alone the back.

Last edited 27 days ago by Musicman27
BoneBrothOutback
BoneBrothOutback
27 days ago

“Sir this area is for people dropping off deer to be processed”
::opens up rear liftgate of 2008 Ford Escape::
“Holy shit he has three deer in here”

Boxing Pistons
Boxing Pistons
27 days ago

Nice! I’ll always remember my dad hauling a deer home tied to the top of his ‘80’s Rabbit waaay back when.

BoneBrothOutback
BoneBrothOutback
27 days ago
Reply to  Boxing Pistons

i once saw two does in the trunk of a CABRIOLET

Bizness Comma Nunya
Bizness Comma Nunya
26 days ago

Ok, this has gotta be the winner hahaha

VanGuy
VanGuy
27 days ago

I’ve never towed anything, nor have I put anything other than a proper storage container (Sears X-Cargo) on my old van’s roof rack. The most I can say is overloading the van (and later, my Prius) at least once.

The van was an Econoline-150 with 1500 pounds of spare weight capacity with me already in it, and 7 total seat belts, but I’m pretty sure we were well over that for a short excursion with 11 people crammed in there.

The other was a small mishap that ended with me taking myself and 6 passengers in my Prius v…which claims a 915 pound capacity and 5 seat belts, total.

It handled fine until a speed bump scraped somewhere between the wheels. Although that was a pretty tall speed bump and I was later inspired to get a 1.5″ lift.

So, yeah. Nothing particularly extreme compared to most of you. Y’all crazy.

Jonathan Green
Jonathan Green
27 days ago

Teenaged me used a 1980 Olds Diesel Custom Cruiser Wagon with the Fake Wood Trim to pick up girls. Went as well as you would expect.

Last edited 27 days ago by Jonathan Green
Cheap Bastard
Cheap Bastard
26 days ago
Reply to  Jonathan Green

A 10 yo Pinto country squire wasn’t much better.

Danny Zabolotny
Danny Zabolotny
27 days ago

Me, every time I take a 90’s BMW 5-series on the track. Everybody calls it a boat and thinks it’s funny until I put the sticky tires on and run circles around all the E36’s and E46’s.

Col Lingus
Col Lingus
27 days ago

Around 1967 my old man decided to pave our 100 foot driveway using bricks from the local dump, and the free slave labor of his 4 sons. We had a brand new 66 VW Bus.

After removing the center seat we had a big ass flat loading area. We would stack bricks till the suspension bottomed out. And it would not be an exaggeration to say we loaded it up like that at least 100 times easily.

After a few months the clutch finally fried to a crisp, the shocks were toast, and the bias ply tires were done. Of course my old man took it into the VW dealer. And they covered everything under warranty.

It was a different time and world. And VW still built a decent vehicle back then.

Morgan Thomas
Morgan Thomas
27 days ago

I used my Datsun 1000 wagon (665kg, with a 68hp A12 swap from a Datsun 120Y) to tow a Nissan Patrol and an FJ60 Landcuiser out of a muddy creek crossing they had both got stuck in. The Patrol had got stuck first, then the Cruiser had got stuck trying to pull the Patrol out. Elastic snatch strap, reverse right up to the edge of the mud, then accelerate as hard as possible until the strap dragged me to a stop. Each time I pulled the towed vehicle a few inches, and just kept repeating it until I had both of them pulled out. It felt like the whole rear end was going to tear off the car, but somehow it suffered no damage at all!
I also towed a friend’s Leyland P76 on a rented trailer behind one of my Datsun 1600s – about 950kg towing about 1700kg, which wasn’t very smart but I managed not to crash it.

Knowonelse
Knowonelse
27 days ago

I needed to haul a motorcycle from Seattle to Sacramento and all I had was my ’67 VW squareback. I built a wood frame for the front wheel and attached it on top of the bumper strapped to the roof rack. The rear wheel stayed on the ground and there was enough articulation in the attachment of the front wheel to allow it to absorb bumps, ditches, and curb cuts. Worked really well, but I had to remember that going into reverse was an absolute no-go. The bike would not be controllable and would bind up very fast. Weird, but it worked.

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