Sure, it probably surprises you to see me touting a Ford Explorer gas-guzzling SUV monster as the best car I ever owned, but there is a specific reason for that. This car saved my life.
I only had three months with the car; it was shiny new, bought in August of 1998. I had done vast amounts of internet research preparatory to buying it, and it had come down between the Explorer and a Jeep Cherokee. The one deciding factor was the crash test rating. The Explorer’s acceptable rating raised it over the Jeep Grand Cherokee’s marginal rating. In 1998, I had found a source that rated the Explorer at 5-stars and the Grand Cherokee at 4-stars, and that’s what I used at the time. The ratings I just cited are from a contemporary MSN website, and they seem to bear out my memories in the comparative realm, at least. To my recollection, most of the other factors under consideration were similar'”gas mileage, room, features, etc. But the fact that I chose the Explorer over the Cherokee means, in my humble opinion, that I am here to write this article today instead of moldering away in a forgotten cemetery.
My husband and I had the occasion to crash test the car ourselves at a busy intersection in Tuscaloosa, Alabama in October of 1998, not that we set out to do that. We were on our way out of town for a Halloween party, and two blocks from our home, we were hit in the right side front by a truck that was speeding through the intersection. The accident was spectacular. We flipped over and slid on the roof to one corner of the intersection. It made the evening news. I was told that the reporters had opined that no one could have survived it. And yet everyone survived it.
My husband, who had been driving, sustained cuts from side window glass but, other than some bruising, he had no other injuries. I was on the side receiving impact, and although I had a nasty bone bruise that kept me on crutches for a month, I had no broken bones. I was back at my martial arts class in a month! As for the air bags, they didn’t deploy, but this was technically a side impact, and the air bags were in the front.
The other guys, a pair of men who were sharing a six-pack of beer while speeding blithely along, managed with moderate injuries as well, facial cuts for one and an unspecified arm injury for the other. They had been driving an older model pickup truck (my memory does not bring up the model). Both cars were totaled.
So, why tout a total loss of a car as the best car I ever owned? I’ll tell you. I guess I tend to get all sentimental about a vehicle that saved my life. The best car doesn’t reach its full potential without a damn good insurance policy, and we were fortunate enough to have taken out a good State Farm auto insurance policy that paid for the car’s replacement (minus the “drive off the lot depreciation”). Guess what we bought with the settlement? Another Ford Explorer Sport, of course!
MSN Autos, 1998 Jeep Grand Cherokee Safety and Crash Tests, http://autos.msn.com/research/vip/safety.aspx?year=1998&make=Jeep&model=Grand%20Cherokee, accessed 5/27/2011.
MSN Autos, 1998 Ford Explorer Safety and Crash Tests, http://autos.msn.com/research/vip/safety.aspx?year=1998&make=Ford&model=Explorer&trimid=406, accessed 5/27/2011.