My first road-legal vehicle is/was a 1987 Dodge Dakota with an automatic, rear wheel drive, and a V6. With no weight over the rear end and a fair amount of low end torque, it was a hoot to blast around on dirt roads.

Well, up until I overcooked it. About a second after entering the turn, the front end grips hard, the rear ends swings wider than I can catch with the dinky little drag-racing wheel, and I have enough to realise just how boned I am and brace for impact before the truck rolls into a ditch at sixty kilometers an hour. Thankfully I stayed conscious and relatively aware, so I shut the engine off before the leaking gas could ignite, and busted my way out the rear window and managed to flag down help in the middle of nowhere. Total injuries are a little cut, a medium sized bruise, a hefty dent in my wallet, and the utter murder of my pride.

Oh yeah, and now my truck looks like this.

Hindsight being 20/20, I can tell you where I (think) I went wrong, and maybe help you avoid doing the same thing.

First issue, the surface. A dirt road with a very, very loose surface. Fun, but tricky with inconsistent traction and no weight over the drive wheels. I should have found a harder packed surface before leaning on it. Always find a surface where you can get consistent grip to avoid being surprised.

Second issue, inexperience. I got cocky with too little seat time, and it bit me in the arse. This is the biggest issue, by far. Always know your limits, and find them before you wreck your vehicle.

Third issue, the vehicle itself. The Dakota hauled great, but the suspension was set up to deal with weight, not fast inputs. It was riding on winter tires. It had a 13 inch drag racing wheel that made over correcting far too easy. Set up your vehicle for what you want to do.

I got lucky, and my seatbelt kept my head from ending up between the door and the water filled ditch. You might not get so lucky. Watch yourself out there, and don't do what I did. Save yourself the aches, pains, and soul-crushing feeling of "I loved my car and now it's gone."