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Widowmakers: 5 of the Most Dangerous Cars Ever Made

As the saying goes, it’s all fun and games until someone loses an eye… or until someone overcorrects and slams into a guardrail.

Here are five dangerous cars that appear to be designed to ensure a fool and his money are soon parted.


Dodge Viper

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The Dodge Viper was the last car to be made without traction control or electronic stability control, two nifty computerized gadgets that can prevent one from crashing due to an accidental over-application of power — which is frightfully easy to do in the V10-powered Viper. No surprise that the attrition rate among these cars is huge….

SEE ALSO: 15 Most Dangerous Highways in the US


AC-Shelby 427 Cobra

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The 427 Cobra is dangerous for the same reason as the Viper: An excess of power and a shortage of electronic safety nets. But the Cobra ups the danger ante with primitive brakes, insufficient seat belts and open body work. There isn’t even an airbag to give you a fighting chance. Replicas may have somewhat more modern hardware, but a badly handled Cobra is still a tricky beast.


Old Porsche 911s

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The 911’s design, with the engine behind the rear wheels, is a fundamentally bad idea: Once the rear end breaks loose, it swings around like a pendulum. Porsche spent years trying to mitigate the 911’s dangerous tenancies, but it wasn’t until 1998 with the introduction of electronic stability control (Porsche Stability Management, or PSM) that the problem was largely nullified. (Of course, you can still turn PSM off.) 911s have lots of grip, but drive them too fast and they can quickly result in an untimely demise. While the original Turbo (930) is perhaps best known for its snap-oversteer tendencies, even later generation GT2s were so powerful that it took a fair measure of skill just to keep them between the lines and pointed the right way.

SEE ALSO: Top 10 Most Dangerous Cars in America


Any muscle car of the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s

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Detroit developed powerful engines long before they developed competent suspensions or adequate brakes. Most fire-breathing muscle cars have soggy springs that all but eliminate the option of high-speed directional changes, along with drum brakes that are barely useful to begin with and purely decorative after a few hard stops. Once up to speed, they are more like unguided missiles than cars.


Volkswagen Beetle

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“What?” you say. “The innocent-looking Beetle wouldn’t hurt a fly!”

Indeed, while flies may be safe in the confines of the Beetle, humans are not. Older Bugs have the same swing-axle suspension that flipped the Corvair on its roof, along with seats seemingly designed to launch occupants out the rear window if the car is rear ended. After his attack on the Corvair, Ralph Nader went after the Beetle (read Small on Safety: The Designed-In Dangers of the Volkswagen). People liked VW more than GM so they didn’t pay attention, but you should.

SEE ALSO: Top 10 Most Dangerous States for Senior Drivers


Recent Updates

November 30, 2021 – Updated introduction for accuracy. Removed inaccurate text from footer. Removed and replaced outdated links. 

74 Comments

Titus213 says:

A man’s got to know his limitations…

TMS 007 says:

Too simplistic. Disregards aggresivity crash results in many cases here. I would much prefer my chances in a
head on against a Pickup truck in a Viper vs The same crash in a Smart car. Which would you prefer?

partsmike says:

Just another slap in the face of those of us that know how to control whatever they are driving. Those that drive should keep away from distractions. I question the “CHP” officer driving the Lexus that killed he and his family, was either trying to do just that or he never should have been issued a driver’s license if he was so stupid that he didn’t know you can shift to neutral.
Our wonderful government (NHTSA) caused us all to never two foot any car with an automatic transmission built after 2013, it is known as the Toyota rule (brake override).

ABT says:

I have to agree; how hard is it to turn off a car’s engine or put the transmission in neutral? I work at a a car dealership and I often have some poor fool tell me; “I can’t buy a RWD car- because I need something that I can drive in the rain.”
Unbelievable.

pocchr says:

ANYTHING Ralph Nader said should be taken with a lot more than a Grain of Salt. He had an agenda as most Progressives have. It was to ruin the Automotive Industry. He partially succeeded.

David Rupprecht says:

You couldn’t possibly be more wrong. Nader, almost singlehandedly, got the engine started on the freeway of events that resulted in governments and states saving the international automobile industry from, at the time, the excesses of it’s own balance sheet obsessed dictators; that is, the industries’ presidents, executives, officers, chairmen, directors. Whatever Nader’s “progressive motivations”, the men who were in power and authority, and Nader was certainly not among them, were terrified that the largest industry in their industrial societies would collapse; which seemed more and more likely upon reflection on Nader’s hard evidence, points, conclusions, recommendations. This is coming from classic car guy, I’ve been car crazy ever since I can remember; and most of my car crazy friends, about both contemporary cars and classic cars, who are usually mostly objective and generally open minded, largely share my views on this. Many of us, myself included, are old enough to remember just how dire the conditions became for the industry before effective regulation, even before the first petroleum “crisis”. Whatever opinion any of us may have about Ralph Naders “progressive motivations”; for my part, I hold the view that all of us, including all of my fellow automobile enthusiasts in the contemporary car and classic car enthusiast fraternity, owe Ralph Nader an enormous debt of gratitude for being willing to do the hard work and make the sacrifices and endure the abuse, and having the intelligence and the ability, and the backbone, and the courage, to speak truth and stand up to, what was, at the time, an ologopolized mega industry out of control.