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1988 Army Evasive Driving Video Makes Me Want to Neutral Drop a Dodge Aries

"Worry about your radiator later," the narrator tells us. I wasn't worried at all, actually.
G.P.R. via YouTube

There’s just something about your average American sedan being abused that never fails to put a smile on my face. There are fewer and fewer small four-door cars around today, but this retro evasive driving video from the U.S. Army reminded me of the joy of seeing them taken to the limit. After filming this instructional video, the Dodge Aries on screen definitely needed a break.

The video was posted to YouTube a few years ago, but it seems to have been originally released in 1988. It’s more or less exactly what you expect out of an Army training film from the ’80s: Lots of official procedures, some bad acting, and plenty of bad guys with guns who don’t shoot anybody.

The star of the show is a four-door Dodge Aries, which seems to be a 1988 model. The Aries was one of Chrysler’s original “K” cars. Small, economical, and slow. That comes across very clearly in the video.

In the first half of the film, the driver basically does everything wrong and gets himself and the general he’s driving around caught up in an ambush. Through the power of a little training, a modified parking brake pedal, and some carefully prepared paperwork—this is the Army we’re talking about—he manages to overcome these challenges in the second half.

Bad guys pulling out ahead of him are thwarted by what the film calls a “bootleg,” or a hand brake turn. Except the Dodge Aries has no actual hand brake, so the driver just mashes the parking brake on the floor which now has some kind of elastic cord on it, making it more of a button as opposed to a toggle. Not for the first time in the film, the antagonists forget they are armed with guns that can actually fire bullets faster than the mighty Aries can accelerate. As the car swings around and lumbers away, the villains chalk the whole ambush up to a loss. Better luck next time, fellas.

Later, the video goes over how to do a J-turn in a confined area, which again the Aries seems to really like. Yes, the guns all seem to be out of ammo this time, too. After throwing the car into reverse and flipping around, the humble K car and its passengers once again escape without a scratch.

In two instances, the instructions are to simply ram stuff out of the way, whether it’s a motorcycle carrying a passenger with a malfunctioning gun or two cars blocking the road—naturally, set up by bad guys with malfunctioning guns. My personal favorite is when the Aries gets taken off-road, though. The Army narrator is very careful to explain that taking an Aries up a curb, over someone’s yard, or through a mailbox is really no big deal. It’s all about the technique. “Worry about your radiator later,” he says.

G.P.R. via YouTube

This video is a funny time capsule. Today, generals may be driven around in Tahoes or something of the sort—I’m sure the friendly commentariat will be keen to correct me there—but before the SUV really took off, it was stuff like the Plymouth Reliant or Chevy Celebrity that served as government fleet vehicles. They weren’t great cars, but there were OK products. Not many lasted, and rightfully so. It’s always fun to see them taken to their limits.

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