With our archives now 3,500+ articles deep, we’ve decided to republish a classic piece each Sunday to help our newer readers discover some of the best, evergreen gems from the past. This article was originally published in October 2018.
You’re cruising down a narrow road when you see two cars parked across it, blocking your path. It seems to be some kind of checkpoint or barricade. What should you do?
If it’s an official police or military checkpoint, you better stop. Despite what you see in movies, blowing through a police blockade is not a sound strategy: you can kill an officer, get shot yourself, and even if you get through, the authorities will be after you like white on rice, inevitably nabbing you in the high-speed chase that follows (if you don’t end it yourself by crashing).
But what if the blockade isn’t an official one? You’re in a war-torn foreign land and are about to be stopped by insurgents, or it’s a trap set up by carjackers, or you’re living in a Mad Max-esque dystopian future where some baby-eating cannibals see your car as a can full of tasty sardines? Well, then it might be worth ramming through the obstructing vehicles and continuing on your way.
Ramming a vehicular barricade is very dangerous, and should only be employed as a last resort — when there’s no other means of escape or alternative routes of navigation, and when breaching and stopping carry about equal chances of death. In such a situation, here’s how to most effectively carry out this defensive driving maneuver.
Picking an Ideal Ramming Vehicle
When it comes to the best kind of car for ramming through a blockade, not all vehicles are created equal. You want to think both about its frame type and its airbags.
Vehicle frame. Vehicles are basically built with two types of frames: body-on-frame and unibody.
With the body-on-frame build, the vehicle starts as a separate frame to which the body is attached. With a unibody car, the frame and body are integrated together. A body-on-frame chassis is made with heavier metals, while a unibody is made with lighter weight alloys.
In a unibody car (top), the frame and body are all one structure; in a body-on-frame vehicle (bottom), the body goes on top of a separate frame.
A unibody vehicle is statistically safer than the body-on-frame type because in the event of an accident, the stresses are evenly distributed throughout the vehicle, which is actually designed to crumple, even in a minor crash, in way that redirects the forces away from the passenger cabin.
But the reason they’re safer in a normal accident scenario also makes them less effective in a ramming situation. The key to an effective ramming is to hit a hard part of your car against a hard part of the obstructing car; this works better than a hard part of one hitting a soft part — like a crumple zone — of the other. You want the energy from the contact to move/bounce the obstructing car out of the way, rather than being absorbed.
A body-on-frame vehicle provides this desirable rigidity because the chassis is made with high-strength steel frame rails that run the entire length of the vehicle. Rather than being distributed throughout the body, contact forces will be concentrated in the frame, making for better bumping.
Almost all vehicles these days are made with unibody frames except trucks and a few heavy-duty SUVs. While a unibody car is capable of ramming, a body-on-frame truck will have tactical advantages in this (and in off-road capabilities as well).
Airbags. You should also keep airbags in mind in a ramming situation. Below we’ll