AutotopiaLA provides many muscle car fans with their weekly or biweekly fix of adrenaline-pumping V8 monsters with perfect paint jobs. However, as you’re probably aware, Shawn Davis couldn’t film live walkaround videos for a while because a serious car crash put him out of commission. Some months later, we finally get to see that crash, involving complete brake failure on a powerful Mercury Comet.
AutotopiaLA still released videos at the time, but at the end of each one, we saw Shawn in a cast, apologizing for his absence. We always wondered what happened, especially since nobody talks about how dangerous these classics can be in a crash. No crumple zones, no airbags, no collapsible steering wheel.
The day of the accident was December 17th, 2021. Shawn and his film crew were at their usual location, So Cal Classic Car Storage where they were about to do a video on this amazing 1964 Mercury Comet that had been fully built into a speed demon.
The Comet Caliente belonged to Russ and Jo Stover, a life-long dream that took 23 years to finish. The build had just been finished a few months prior to that, and sticking right through the hood was this amazing new engine, a Merlin IV Big Block Chevy that had been bored and stroked to 632 cubic inches, which is 10.35 liters of displacement.
An advanced fuel injection system and powerful blower ensured this gigantic motor could produce 1,332 horsepower and 1,040 pound-feet on pump gas. The owner had hundreds of thousands of dollars spent on everything from the custom lowered suspension (no airbags) to the full roll cage and wheelie bar. But that day, one important component decided to give up: the brakes.
17-year-old brakes: the red flag
Shawn notes that during the interview, the owner pointed out one of the things he wants to further upgrade is the brakes. The car has Wilwoods, but the system is 17 years old, so not only has brake technology advanced in that time, but the car is also not driven a lot.
That should have been a red flag right there, but the muscle car community has always had a “no airbags, we go out like real men” attitude to safety. The perfect storm needs just a few more elements to happen: the accelerator is sticking at about 2,200rpm, and because the V8 idols at about 1,200rpm, the owner is riding the brakes when he’s cruising.
Complete brake failure occurs just a couple of miles from where they set off. The driver puts it in neutral, and swerves a little but knows they have to brace for impact. The red Mercury Comet plows into the back of a Honda Odyssey at about 45 miles per hour. Shawn was only wearing a lap belt so he smashed into the metal dashboard, which broke four of his teeth and busted his lip.
The owner suffered major injuries to his right elbow, but the good news is that he’s recovering. Cars can be rebuilt, and dreams can be remade, but this video remains a lesson to the muscle car community to prioritize safety.