Monte Carlo Meets Telephone Pole In Freak Accident

BURLINGTON, CT – Listen closely to the audio from surveillance videos recorded on Oct. 19 and you will hear a distinct “pop.” It’s followed quickly by four anguished cries of “No!” from the owner of a much-loved 1970 Chevrolet Monte Carlo as the car rolls away from him and sustains an estimated $11,000 in damage.

Look closely at the clips and you’ll see Mike Peters of Burlington running after the car he calls “Rodney” in a vain attempt to stop it from rolling backwards down his driveway. He falls or is pulled to the ground as the runaway car picks up speed.

The Monte Carlo brushes against his pickup truck that’s parked at the end of the driveway before crossing the road. With a loud, sickening crash, the car’s rear end smashes into a telephone pole across from his house. The Chevrolet then rolls forward and comes to rest with its nose back in the driveway.  

Peters has owned the Monte Carlo since 1979. He bought it for $600 and applied the nickname after standup comic Rodney Dangerfield. That’s because when compared to his other old models, the Monte Carlo doesn’t get any respect – especially when compared to his 1965 Buick Gran Sport muscle car that RIDE-CT wrote about in August 2023.

Of his four classic vehicles, the Monte Carlo is the one he’s owned the longest. It’s his favorite. “If you told me I had to get rid of all my cars, the Monte Carlo would have to stay,” he said at the time. 

1970 Chevrolet Monte Carlo and 1965 Buick GS

Peters had pulled the car out of his garage that sunny morning two-plus weeks ago with the intention of washing it before stowing it for winter. He put the automatic transmission in “P” (for park), turned off the engine, got out and closed the door, and was steps away when the “pop” rang out.

The transmission’s parking pawl, the device that locks the transmission, had suddenly failed after nearly 45 years. Gravity immediately took over, putting the 3,609-pound Monte Carlo in motion.

Image from surveillance video of Peters chasing the Monte Carlo

“I look over and the car had just started to move and it didn’t really register. It was like…,” said Peters this week, pausing as he recalled his astonishment while grasping for the proper words. “It just started rolling and I’m yelling at it ‘No, no, no’ like it’s a puppy that’s going to stop or something.”  

What transpired is largely a blur. “I don’t know what happened after that really. I know I got road rash, my knees (got banged up), my thumb got jammed,” said Peters, who doesn’t know for sure whether he slipped or got pulled down to the pavement by the car. 

“I think I was grabbing at it and I think it dragged me. I don’t know whether I got caught between the truck and the car, or the car dragged me down the driveway. It’s just a blur. I know it hurt.”

The tip of the right rear bumper of the truck put a long indentation in the left rear quarter panel of the Monte Carlo and the telephone pole crushed the rear bumper on the right side, which in turn warped the right rear quarter panel and splintered the paint.

Peters is still grieving the damage, but he’s also blaming himself for not engaging the emergency brake when he got out of the car.

“It’s never going to be the same. This car was never in an accident. No Bondo. No nothing. And why I wouldn’t put that emergency brake on for extra precaution, it’s beyond me. I’ll tell you what, I’ll be putting the emergency brake on whenever I park anything from now on,” he said.

The Hagerty insurance policy on the Monte Carlo has it valued at $10,000 and the adjuster awarded $8,200 for repairs. Peters said a restoration shop has pegged the cost of fixing it at $11,000, so he will have to dip into his own pocket to cover the rehab. It’s due to go in for repairs in two weeks and be ready by spring.

Peters has watched the video clips of his Monte Carlo’s unexpected journey, which he supplied to My Ride, “and it was painful. It’s like an out of body thing seeing yourself run down the driveway.”

He’s philosophical about the experience, grateful the damage was limited, and he has learned of the importance of engaging the emergency brake. “In the scheme of things, yeah, it hurts, but worse things happen to better people. I guess that’s the way I look at it,” said Peters, noting all the horrible news nationally and internationally of late.

“Every car to this day has an emergency brake and there’s a reason for that. You may never, ever, ever need it. It may never happen but, trust me, that one time you just don’t want that to happen. And actually my case is the best case scenario because if there was a car coming and if that hit somebody or something, I would have a lawsuit, I would have more damage. I could have hurt somebody, so, in a way, I got lucky.”

(A version of this story originally appeared in the “Republican-American” newspaper on Nov. 4, 2023.)

About Bud Wilkinson

Bud Wilkinson writes the "RIDE-CT" motorcycle column and the "My Ride" classic car feature in the "Republican-American" newspaper in Waterbury, CT. A graduate of Vermont Academy prep school, he holds a B.A. degree journalism from Ohio Wesleyan University. He is the recipient of a Scripps Howard Foundation National Journalism Award in 1992 and a 1991-92 regional Emmy Award for commentary. He currently rides a 1987 BMW R 80 RT and a 2014 Triumph Bonneville and drives a 2010 Mazda MX-5 Miata.

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