We’ve seen the horrible aftermath of some pretty devastating crashes, and this one ranks right up there with the worst of them. Texas True 10.5 racer Clifton Hicks from Burleson, Texas was making some test ‘n tune hits at Texas Raceway in Kennedale, Texas last Wednesday in his 8-second, turbocharged Fox body Mustang when things went terribly wrong, ending in a violent end-over-end crash that completely destroyed his beautiful race car. Amazingly, Hicks walked away mostly unscathed from this twisted pile of steel and chromoly.
“I’ve still got people coming up to me saying, are you serious?”
When asked about the crash, he was able to sum it up in three words that the photos of the wreckage can certainly back up.
”It was spectacular.”
“It actually rolled in the middle of the track. I’m not quite sure if it barrel-rolled into the guardrail, but either way, it slammed into the guardrail and hit a big wooden post. Evidently, then the back end actually caught on a post and that’s what sent it into the air. They said it flew something like 83 feet and cart wheeled through the air, end-over-end and then bounced end-over-end three more times.”
Clifton went on to explain, “The car is set up for Drag Radials and I left the same suspension tune-up, which might’ve been a little soft for the car to squat real good and hard on the radials. The car kind of started to drift toward the centerline at the end and I thought, well, not a problem – I’ll go ahead and stay in it and let it carry, no big deal. When I let off the gas, boy, the back end just washed out. I carried it wall-to-wall three to four times trying to save it, never hitting the brakes and trying not to oversteer it. I thought I had plenty of track to save this thing, just barely steering it wall-to-wall and I about had it and just out of nowhere, the backend just washed out and here we go for a ride.”
Hicks indicated that the track was completely clean before his run, and had been dragged and sprayed shortly before his fateful pass. He estimates that he was about the tenth car down the track, and even after the crash, track officials found only the damaged pieces of his car anywhere on the track surface.
“While they were down there repairing the guardrail, I went down and said hey, do I owe you guys some money? They said, for what? and I said for tearing up that guardrail and stuff. They thought the ambulance had carried me off but they just checked me out and took off.”
Despite the wreckage of the car that upon first glance looks as though it were parked on a set of train tracks and plowed by a loaded convoy of locomotives and cars, some parts and pieces are indeed salvageable and Hicks already has plans to pull what he can in order to rebuild another car.
“The car is completely trashed. In the pictures you can see the strut tower came up and knocked the valve cover off the car. It even knocked the carburetor off the top of the manifold and they found it was off in the woods.”
The engine, transmission, rear end, rear suspension, and all of the electronics were left mostly undamaged and have been pulled from the destroyed shell that has been stripped and ready for a ride to the scrap yard. The oil pan was dented slightly, the valve covers and carburetor will have to replaced, the rear throttle shaft was bent, and one rocker was damaged. The turbo piping and related components were completely destroyed, but the turbocharger itself was left with only a chip in the impeller. Clifton is already set to pick up another car this weekend to get started on the rebuild.
“There’s just some catastrophic damage to the car. Some of the cage tubing was .125 and some .180 wall, and the tubing actually ripped. I’ve never seen tubing actually rip right in the middle. That was a little bit of force. Some are saying the weld broke or someone didn’t know what they were doing, but you can tell by the impact on that passenger side that it was a fairly tremendous hit so I can see the weld breaking. It didn’t have any gussets welded in and was a basic 10-point. It did a good job, but it went through a lot of stress.”
As Hicks looks over the wreckage of his mangled Mustang, he can’t help but wonder how he walked away from such a forceful accident.
“I still go out in the garage and sit and look at it and go, ‘what in the world? How? They always say there’s a purpose, and evidently there’s a purpose for me. More than likely I’ll put another car together and get it going and possibly sell it. I’ve got a wife and two kids and I’ve had my fun for a lot of years. We’ll see what happens when I get it done though. We’ll probably slow it down a little, and it’ll definitely have a better cage. I’m just taking it one step at a time here.”
Clifton came away from the incident with only some blurred vision in his left eye that doctors have diagnosed as optic never damage, which should repair itself over time. Otherwise, his only physical signs of his experience is the usual bruising from the seatbelts on his shoulders and inner thigh from the crotch strap.
“I’m one of those guys that after the burnout, I cinch those straps down so tight they hurt, so I didn’t move around much in the car. Safety equipment, safety equipment, safety equipment. That little $15 foam neck brace, man, no neck pain or anything. I’m really lucky.”
Hicks hopes to be back out racing next spring, with a whole different perspective after surviving a crash that most would be surprised one could walk away from based on the cars’ remains.
“We’ll be back out there. Probably a little slower, but it’ll be exciting.”