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08 May 2017


Cyclone Debbie versus three Volvos

At 2PM on Tuesday 28th March 2017 Tropical Cyclone Debbie crossed the Queensland coastline at Airlie Beach.

With wind speeds of 190 km/h and peak gusts of up to 270 km/h there was always going to be a lot of damage from the Category 4 cyclone, and the popular resort islands of the Whitsundays were hardest hit.

At the moment that Cyclone Debbie crossed the Queensland coast my surgery was over 1,000 km to the SSE and I was still enjoying sunny skies.

I’d just left my beloved 1997 Volvo V70 wagon at a local repairer for some maintenance.

Having learnt to ignore whatever politicians say and being unable to read the sign language, I didn’t heed Wednesday’s warnings from our Premier to stay at home all day on Thursday.

But I did try to postpone my bookings, all to no avail.

By 5PM I’d finished my clinic to start on paperwork and my dictation.

At that moment, the power went out.

I soldiered on with a torch, but then decided it was time to go home, only to find that my loan car was trapped in the car park as the electric gate wouldn’t open.

Two hours later and I was finally on my way.

The worst of the bad weather was over, but there were trees down everywhere.

By Friday morning there were clear skies again, so I decided to recover my V70.

I wasn’t really ready for the damage I encountered at the mechanical workshop when I discovered that a 30 metre tall gum tree had fallen in the storm on top of at least three Volvos.

Like an anxious parent I scanned the yard for my car.

I couldn’t see it among the foliage.  Surely it wasn’t under the mass of branches in front of me?

After 20 years of ownership would I finally be saying goodbye to my V70.

Well the anxiety was unwarranted because my car was intact some distance from the fallen trunk.

But how did the other Volvos fare under such a mass of wood and leaves?

Surprisingly well was my observation.

They all had broken windscreens, front and back.

The roofs were dented, but none were crushed.

And yes, true to Volvo’s claims, all of the doors still opened.

The scene reminded me of that wonderful 1971 Volvo advertisement which showed seven Volvo 140’s stacked on top of one another.

The theory was that Volvos had six steel pillars supporting the roof and that each one could support the entire weight of the vehicle.

On paper, six cars could be stacked on top of a Volvo.

It was a marketing masterpiece when Volvo was being criticized for boxy styling and staid dynamics.

Fast forward to today and there is still no ANCAP fallen gum tree crush test.

If there was I could confirm that all of the Volvos would have passed.

So I thought that I would introduce more real world testing into this column.

I’ll be looking in particular at how the technology in modern cars enables them to avoid collisions with feral pigs, and what happens when one hits a kangaroo.

Please send your stories of other non-ANCAP collisions to

Safe motoring,
Doctor Clive Fraser

Published: 08 May 2017