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Learn How to Properly Ram a Car in This Vintage Police Training Video

Ever wanted to learn to escape a roadside ambush in 1976? Now's your chance.

Police are often charged with escorting around VIPs, and regularly deal with high-speed chases and other dangerous driving situations. For these reasons, in 1976, the California State Police produced a video for its members on how to ram a car when ambushed on the road.

The California State Police, at the time a standalone organization (it’s since merged with the California Highway Patrol), was charged with protecting the Governor of California, members of the judiciary, as well as important buildings like the California State Capitol and other government facilities. Many state police would thus find themselves guarding people of public interest that could be targets for kidnapping or violence. Thus, this video was produced for use in training efforts to minimize casualties in the event of such an attack.

Ramming broadside is a no-no, as it’s ineffective at pushing the blocking car out of the way., YouTube/US Auto Industry

It’s a great piece of ’70s cinema, with the appropriate chikka-chikka bass lines and mustaches aplenty. The video covers basic principles like situational awareness and varying schedules to minimize the likelihood of attack in the first place. The primary message, however, is on what to do when you’re surprised by an armed ambush as you’re driving down the street. The video discusses single and multi-car ambush techniques, and instructs drivers on how to best ram their way out of a roadblock. 

When driving up to a single-car roadblock, the video advises the driver to slow down, to make the kidnappers believe they intend to surrender. The car should then be shifted into low gear, before pumping the brakes hard to confuse the attackers. At this point, having assessed the situation in those vital seconds, the driver should accelerate hard, aiming their vehicle at the rear of the car blocking the road. A clean impact with the rear should pivot the blocking car out of the way, allowing the driver to flee to safety. 

Aiming at the rear quarter of the blocking car is the best way to ram, as it usually pivots the car out of the way., YouTube/US Auto Industry

The video highlights the need for training and mental conditioning to allow the driver to execute such a maneuver in a situation with guns out and lives on the line. It specifically discusses the need to break away from “chauffeur psychology” in a combat situation, noting that “…to save your life or the life of another, you may have to damage your vehicle.”

The basic techniques of how to properly ram another vehicle still apply today, but they’re not something you should ever try in a modern pedestrian vehicle. Impact-absorbing crumple zones and tight engine bays in today’s passenger cars make them less effective at such techniques, particularly compared to the big-iron sedans of the 1970s. Additionally, such an impact could easily trigger airbags which could potentially incapacitate a driver attempting such an escape. 

The video notes that it’s futile to attempt ramming one of these., YouTube/US Auto Industry

These days, without acres of extra sheet metal on modern cars, such techniques would best be left to dedicated police cruisers or vehicles modified for bodyguard duty. Fitted with bash bars and other features to handle such emergency situations, they’re more likely to come out ahead in such a confrontation. Of course, modern cars are also festooned with airbags and sensors and a host of complex electronic systems that don’t take too kindly to demolition derby techniques.

The video was likely a useful tool when educating law enforcement on how to deal with ambush attacks when driving around the streets of California. There’s no substitute for real experience behind the wheel, however. If you’re worried about being ambushed on the way to the grocery store, or just want to win your next shoving match in the parking lot, maybe get yourself some professional training. 

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