Journal: What is the Scariest Car You've Ever Driven?

What is the Scariest Car You’ve Ever Driven?

Avatar By Yoav Gilad
October 24, 2014
77 comments

Photography by Rémi Dargegen and Yoav Gilad

Over the last few years there has been a big fuss about cars that try to kill you. Typically, they pack lots of horsepower into a razor sharp package like the Lancia Stratos, which was designed with a short wheelbase so that it could pivot easily over rally courses. According to Phil Toledano, who owns one, “I live in terror when I drive it,” due to horror stories related to its twitchy nature. The Stratos Stradale didn’t make close to 300hp, but it was extremely light. As output climbed through the ’80s and ’90s, and tires became wider and wider, supercars’ limits climbed and so too did the risk of disaster.

But this phenomenon knows no geographic boundaries–turbocharged Porsches are notorious for swapping ends. 1960s American muscle cars with big-block V8s up front and rear-wheel drive are notorious for poor road-holding ability. The scariest car I’ve ever driven is pictured below, a 1996 Dodge Viper GTS. Its limits are so beyond my own, and safety nets (ABS, traction, or stability control) absent, that the couple of times I’ve approached them I have been properly terrified at the resultant spin or slide. Not only are both cars nervous and unforgiving, but vision out of the Stratos or Viper is less than stellar. So with Halloween coming up this Friday, we’d like to know: What is the scariest car you’ve ever driven?

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Jarro Cabañes
Jarro Cabañes

320whp/360wtq Subaru Forester with stock brakes and suspension. It was like driving it on a lake.

Mark Xion
Mark Xion

Renault Clio V6. Nothing makes you feel more alive than courting death by revving that thing

Cater forall
Cater forall

The Ariel Atom Supercharged … no doubt it is one of the scariest car on the road ever.

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Mickaël Z.
Mickaël Z.

My first car, a 300.000 kilometers 1989 Citroën AX K-way. I did 200.000 more with it.
Sometimes, with no reason, the brakes stopped braking a few minutes. I’ve learned anticipation and a good use of the gearbox. ^^

Ian Harbour

Porsche 911 Turbo 3.3
Scary but also great fun

Lars Birkemose

BMW 525, but only because my girlfriend was driving …

Peter J Smith
Peter J Smith

1973 Carrera 2.7 RS. When Porsches still required skill to drive them. From an age when “traction control”, and, “stability control” were determined by your hands, feet, and, how big a pair you had! Driving that on a track was equal parts terrifying, and, exhilarating. Get it right, and, you feel like Fangio reincarnated.

Justa Kierownica
Justa Kierownica

The Fiat 126p. It was so unsafe that every accident could easily be fatal (there were no seatbelts in rear seats so passengers seating there crushed the front-seaters and the seats had no head restraints). It had short wheelbase, light front and engine hanging behind rear axle, so it liked to understeer heavily, especially at higher (for said car) speeds. It had also next to ‘no power so it was very difficult to overtake slower cars. It was scary to drive in a completely different sense. Oh, and the handbrake liked to get stuck with shoes constantly sliding against drums… Read more »

Alex
Alex

my Morgan Plus 8 – 225 HP V8 in a wooden Morgan frame with no weight, RWD with slip dif. Will wheelspin in the dry in 3rd gear, in the damp you literally ease it around corners shaking.

Jim Levitt
Jim Levitt

I was 21 years old and just handed the keys to a brand new 427 Shelby Cobra… in the middle of the winter… on wet roads … complete with bias ply Goodyear 670/15 Blue Dot tires!
Let me tell you boys and girls THAT is one scary car to drive, especially when you’re a kid, even if you were driving a Corvette!!!

JMM
JMM

The two scarciest cars I drove (and owned) were a Maserati Mistral Spyder 3,7 (126 ex.) and Lamborghini 400 GT 2+2 (240 ex.)

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Jim Levitt
Jim Levitt

Seriously?

Albert Gacsadi
Albert Gacsadi

East German Trabant (plastic Jaguar) from the eastern block 🙂

Name
Name

My brand new ND Miata when I turned off the ESP. I said to myself “come on, you’ve driven rwd’s back when they were pretty much all that was available, what can go wrong”. And I cruised up to the junction where I had to do a left turn. Out of a habit (15 years of driving FWD) just turned the wheel and pushed the pedal to the floor. And the car did a pretty 180. Luckily, the approaching bus was still a bit away.

Chris Greta
Chris Greta

I owned a C5 Corvette with full Lingenfelter set up. Magnuson supercharger, cold air intake, Corsa exhaust. The engine internals were stock, but the supercharger bumped it up to 480HP. While it was a great car for everyday driving, tame around town, comfortable, predictable, it could also be utterly insane. I could be cruising along at 60mph and drop it into third and stomp on it and break the back tires loose. It would light them up in first, and keep going into second. The sound was full batmobile as the supercharger whine added to the V8 burble. Every time… Read more »

Mike
Mike

I spend some seat time at Laguna Seca in a friends bone stock 1977 911 Turbo. I figured that since I’d owned a ’77 911s and was pretty familiar with the overall handling and balance of the 911, in particular the way they like to go from a little tail-happy to swapping ends on you so quickly, that I’d be able to really push the Turbo around the track. I’m a pretty decent driver but that little car took me to school and scared the ever-loving crap out of me in the process. What a wonderful machine.

Jack B
Jack B

My car that scared me the most was my 1973 2.7RS that was converted to 2.8RSR spec by Ruf. I had put a set of Avon racing tires on it for track days, and those things must have been ancient because it was like driving on ice!

John Grafelman
John Grafelman

A 2001 or so GMC Safari with pretty much no brakes and no power steering. I only had to drive it out of a parking lot and onto a lift, so I guess I’ve had it easy.

massimo amodeo
massimo amodeo

My fiat 1283p when the brake pump jumped ship when everybody was braking on a 4 lane motorway. And my Ford Taunus, bald tires and spent dampers, that decided to do a drift on a busy motorway at 70mph+ without telling me.

Walter Havens

Test drove a Fiat Dino in the early eighties. Undoubtely the fastest car I have ever driven. The roof line was barely above my belt, and with the V6 Ferrari engine with three two barrel Webers, that car flew. Wish I had it now, but I probably wouldn’t be alive now, had I bought it at that young age.

Reid Huff

My 1999 SAAB 9-3 usually felt pretty safe but it became really scary when both of the top strut mounts failed due to poor quality parts. I was on an entrance ramp with a curve going the suggested speed and all of a sudden I lost all feeling in the wheel and the whole front started to shake in a freaky way.

Martijn Sjoorda
Martijn Sjoorda

A 1999 Subaru built at Prodrive to WRX specs. No aids, apart from a diff you could adjust with a button.

Very exciting and not for the fainthearted. And that’s an understatement.

Vitalii
Vitalii

Scariest one was my first car here in Ukraine – Lada 2104. One time I was driving down 5% hill and my brakeline coming from a brake fluid reservoir failed and leaked all the fluid. Was braking with a handbrake and grinding a curb with my wheels. 2 weeks later I sold this piece of s*** and used bicycle as my commute transport. 3 years later bought a new car.

Jason Jen
Jason Jen

S2000 with bad tires in the wet…

Derick Yan

My s2000 in the snow with summer tires = not the smartest thing ive done…

Victor Smith
Victor Smith

Scariest was the first time riding my brothers Old Honda 600 motorcycle at 16. Having never ridden any motorcycle he sends me off around town on this beast, every time I accelerated the front end came up, I spent half the trip on only the back wheel.

Sean Chander
Sean Chander

I had a 1972 beetle that had been fitted with a 1776 cc engine with dual Dellorto carbs and a very loud exhaust. To amuse and terrify my friends I would lift the throttle to get the back end moving as we approached a corner. Af best I achieved a 50% success rate of beautiful drift or terrifying spin. My Bug is reviled as a death trap to this day.

Sean Chander
Sean Chander

Went to test drive a MkII Ford Escort that had been built as a rally car. Approaching the first corner at speed I noticed that the roll cage was vibrating in an alarming fashion and the brakes were doing nothing to scrub off speed. After making it round the first corner I drove back to the sellers house at a very sedate speed. My Escort owning friend who had gone along for the ride with me only said 4 words as we slowly made our way back. “What a fucking shed.”

John Carder
John Carder

Probably a last-generation Bronco. The combination of a short wheelbase and wide track meant it would swap ends on a whim and the high center of gravity meant it would roll if your tires found an obstruction while swapping ends. I loved that beast.
I would dearly love to drive a Lancia Stratos.

Aaron
Aaron

In high school in the late ’80s I was lucky enough to have two classics: a ’71 VW Super Beetle (a hoot in fresh snow), and a ’71 Camaro. The Camaro was a big, beautiful, terrifying beast. Why terrifying? At 100mph the front wheels would lift off the road. I remember the first time it happened. Houston, we have a problem! Gently, gently… lift off the accelerator… still alive.

Steve Goudy
Steve Goudy

My first car. A 1980 Buick Skylark Sorts Coup Limited. It had been damaged in an accident before I owned it & the rear suspension was not what it should have been. If I hit a bump in the middle of a corner, the back end would try to come around. Since it was front wheel drive, I would have to over slow for a corner and make sure I was on the power going around the corner to the front end in front. Local dirt road that would get little stutter bumps in the breaking zones were almost impossible.… Read more »

Yusten Motts
Yusten Motts

My first car my parents bought for me to drive was an ’89 toyota pickup. It had rusted out engine mounts, was horrifically out of alignment, had no brakes, bald tires, was lifted, and neither of the seatbelts worked. Once I got it on the freeway over 50 mph the whole thing would start rattling and trying to drive off the road. I was so happy when they got rid of that thing.

frontkratzer
frontkratzer

XJ220 no more words needed

martin
martin

Dodge Coronet 440 with a street hemi 426. Bought it new as the car was reported to be legend. “Legend” in it’s near total inability to do anything well….aside accelerate! Front disc brakes were an option! Aero of a brick. Handling of a taxi. Looks like a common car (nice that!). Ran it to perhaps 100+ mph, easily enough to do, then nearly scared myself blind when I could not stop it!

Tom J

I say yes to this. ‘Had one also. Fast does not have enough letters in it to define this car.

Manuel
Manuel

2001 Fisher Fury R1
180 HP 440 Kg with sequential gearbox and flatshifter

Built to kill

Boxerman
Boxerman

My 69 baja bug beetle. Comming down a long downhill straight into a 90 degree right hander, taught me all abpout lifttoff oversteer as the back went into serious positive canber. The speeds in a bettle were rleatively low and it was easy to catch but the real danger was from the car rolling which these easily did. It was my only driving a 4 weel vehicle on two wheel experience. The next most scary was my BBI circa 1995 or so, still runiing its 13 you factory trx tires, by then rock hard. It took 4 lanes of a… Read more »

Richard Love
Richard Love

A TR8! Short wheelbase, light, solid axle, and a Ford V8. You can break the rear end loose by looking at the accelerator.

TJG Heideveld
TJG Heideveld

2013 BMW 760LI, this may sound like a strange choice but I will explain. I have driven many powerful cars and been drifting etc. But I chose this one because I underestimated it and it proved me wrong. I pulled up to a traffic light and was persuaded into a little drag race. I turned off the esp and traction and though it was damp it went fast for the first 200 meters, but then the full power of both turbo s kicked in which resulted in 750nm of torque. Drifting is fun but drifting in a drag race with… Read more »

Al Perry
Al Perry

’76 Mercury Capri. A guy had this up for sale out in the country, and looked like it had been driven like it was the last time he was gonna see her. As if the strong smell of gasoline once I got inside wasn’t warning enough I soon found out that the front suspension was absolutely shot and I was all over the road just trying to survive and make it back. Pass

Tsvetan Tsekov
Tsvetan Tsekov

My ’94 BMW E36 320i Coupe, with stripped out interior, sport springs, not very good tires and limited slip diff driving down the very narrow and twisty mountain road in the wet…downshifting from 4th to 3rd just before a right corner, letting the clutch a tad too quick and the rear end breaking away with incredible force, decided to try to turn it into a 360 spin, the only way not to crash terribly, managed to do it and pulled over in a few hundred meters….my legs were shaking for quite a long time. I’ve driven hundreds of times up… Read more »

Raman Dooman
Raman Dooman

1971 Corvette Stingray. When I punched the throttle in a straight line, the car had virtually no steering, almost as if the front wheels were off the grand.

TrafficMadman
TrafficMadman

Honda S2000 on any wet road.

T.G.
T.G.

Hands down has to be the f40. A glorious way to almost crap your pants.

Pete Brissing
Pete Brissing

1962 Corvair Spyder convertible; 17 years old, halfway around a ninety degree corner and the supercharger kicks in spinning me down the road like a top. It stayed on the road so there I sat trying to regain composure and check my shorts when 15 seconds later my parents drove by in the opposite direction, but didn’t see what just happened. I never said a word.

Michael Squeo
Michael Squeo

1965 Corvair Corsa. 4 carbs. 4 speed. Beautiful car, quick, not fast, but four wheel drums, a wet road, crappy tires, a need to get to my afternoon college classes and going too fast pulling off Rt 46 to get on the NJ Turnpike. Spun it twice, hit nothing, and almost soiled my trousers. If I had more control I would have remembered to hit the clutch but while watching the world spin by I forgot, and it stalled. I restarted it and drove like grandma while waiting for my heart rate to come back to normal, which took quite… Read more »

Martini
Martini

My S50 M Coupé.

Not crazy scary but it’s mine 😀

Ali G
Ali G

4 wheeled terror for me could be found in a bone-stock Porsche 911SC sporting its tippy-toe USA spec ride height. I have never experienced a car so eager to swap ends. Most of these cars seem to gotten lowered early on, but this one didnt. Terrible. 2 wheeled terror was an ancient Suzuki 2 valve GS1000 allegedly tuned by Yoshimura. Full-throttle roll-ons on the freeway were something to behold. Everything was ok until you got “on the cam,” then the entire frame would twist just as the front end would get light and then the bars would literally slap the… Read more »

Mike Sengbusch
Mike Sengbusch

1994 Lotus Esprit V8 Turbo… I drove one, [b]once[/b]. Not knowing anything about it’s driveablity and taking off like a bat of hell, the turbos spooled about halfway through a sweeping left hander. Being pressed into the seat and holding on for dear life, I was thoroughly impressed at it’s then almost 20 year-old power….and scared.

Jono51
Jono51

That would be my father’s 1954 Austin A40 – 1,200cc and 42bhp – the first car I ever drove. The feeling of getting behind the wheel and really not having a clue what I was doing will live with me forever. Everything since has been pretty straightforward.

Lou
Lou

1968 Chevy c30 1 ton dually. Filler neck was bent so if tank was full and you made a right gas came pouring out. Brake were press and pray. Seats were aftermarket and just seatbelts in…. No power steering with a 12″ grant gt wheel. Lug studs up front were rated for 1/2 ton truck (found that out as they started snapping off while I drove), could see through the floors and the steering gearbox had a 45 degree dead zone with no power steering so when you hit a bump the front end would shake violently.

Derek Entesano
Derek Entesano

Toyota Camry Wagon. I used to nearly fall asleep at the wheel every time I drove it :p

gordon
gordon

A 1925 Trojan truck, solid tires, no diff, no doors, one drum brake on the whole car, super dim lights, and a hand operated wiper. It wasn’t so scary when it was parked, but driving it in the rain while semi trailers roar past was.