A minor felicity

Some people have all the luck. These are not their stories.

Roads Report Article November 01, 2017
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David Matthews

Leap of faith

Parents: “Did you have fun playing at the Naphys’ house today?”


Daughter: “I sure did! First their dad jumped his car over an open drawbridge with all of us in it, then we . . . ”


Parents: “Hold on, he jumped his car over what?!”


This is not the conversation you expect to have with your daughter after a playdate, but then again, you don’t expect a drawbridge to open while you’re driving across it.


That’s exactly what happened as Terence Naphys tried to cross New Jersey’s Middle Thorofare Bridge with his wife, daughter and daughter’s friend in tow this past August.


As they were driving, the bridge suddenly began to lift up underneath their Toyota RAV4. Naphys was afraid that the SUV would slip through the opening in the bridge and fall 65 ft down into the water below.


So with nerves of steel, he made a split-second decision to accelerate and jump the gap.


The vehicle made it to the other side of the bridge and no one was injured. The RAV4, however, sustained $10,000 in damage.


But why did the drawbridge open up while a vehicle was traveling across? The bridge operator told police that the glare from the sun must have temporarily blinded him, preventing him from seeing the RAV4 when he went to open the bridge for a passing commercial fishing vessel.


As for Mr. Naphys, he said he may never have the courage to cross a drawbridge again.


That’s bad news for his daughter, who’s never had so many kids asking to come over for playdates.


Tough break

The words “totaled car” usually bring to mind images of charred metal and twisted steel.


But for a Corvette owner this past summer, the damage on his “totaled” vehicle required a magnifying glass to see.


The bad luck tale of the year began on I-35 near Ankeny, Iowa, where the driver of a 2017 Corvette Grand Sport spotted what appeared to be a rock or piece of metal in his lane.


Due to heavy traffic, the driver was forced to straddle the object, which he could hear hit several places on the underside of his car as he passed over it.


One of the largest Chevrolet dealerships in the country is located in Ankeny, so the driver took his car there immediately to check for any damage.


To the driver’s surprise, the garage called a few days later and said that the transmission tunnel, which is part of the car’s frame, had a 1-in. crack that couldn’t be repaired. GM stated that “replacing the part would compromise the structure,” and they also classify the transmission tunnel as unrepairable, meaning that a welding fix would void Chevrolet’s warranty.


Therefore the only way to fix the Corvette was with a complete frame assembly, which meant the sub-10,000-mile Corvette would have to be totaled.


The incredulous owner spent weeks going back and forth with his insurance company and Chevrolet, but ultimately his insurer agreed that the car was a total loss, and wrote a generous check to the owner, allowing him to purchase a 2018 version of the same vehicle.


In the end, the driver wasn’t sure what was crazier: a 1-in. crack totaling a new car, or receiving a “generous check” from an insurance company.


Spider vs. donkey

Last year, Markus Zahn kicked off his own bad luck story when he parked his bright orange $350,000 McLaren 650S Spider in a parking lot next to a livestock enclosure in the German state of Hesse.


Zahn took off to run some errands, and when he returned to his car, he noticed a pair of tall, fluffy ears in his side-view mirror. Then he heard something strange that sounded like scraping and crunching.


The ears belonged to Fitus the donkey, and the sound was Fitus taking a bite out of the Spider’s rear fender.


Zahn and the local police speculated that Fitus had mistaken the orange car for a carrot, and that mistake resulted in $35,000 in damage.


Zahn took Fitus and his owner to court. Fitus’s owner and their insurance company placed the blame on Zahn for choosing to park beside Fitus’s pen.


In September the court ruled in favor of Zahn, finding the donkey guilty and his owner liable for damages. 


Fitus is reportedly now considering a countersuit over the claims that he mistook the car for a carrot, stating, “Look, I may be a donkey, but I’m no jackass.”


About the author: 
Matthews has been chronicling the unexpectedly humorous side of transportation news since 2000. The stories are all true.
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