I’m a big fan of old cop and detective shows. One of my favorites is The Rockford Files that aired in the 1970s and starred the legendary James Garner as private detective Jim Rockford. The Rockford Files was famous for the car chase scenes in which Rockford would race down bad guys in his Firebird Esprit. Rockford’s signature car maneuver was the J-Turn in which he would start off in reverse, spin the car 180 degrees and then continue forward in the same direction. Because the move was used so often on the show, the J-turn is often called “The Rockford Turn.”
I thought it was a cool move and could come in handy if I’m ever outrunning bad guys like Jason Bourne or something. So I asked Wyatt Knox at Team O’Neil Rally School how exactly one performs a J-turn. Knox teaches this skill as part of Team O’Neil’s tactical driving course and above you’ll find his instructions illustrated by Ted Slampyak.
Wyatt noted that J-turns don’t really work with newer cars that have “Stability Control.” He also recommends not doing this in high center of gravity cars like SUVs and trucks because of the risk of rollover.
- Come to a complete stop and shift into reverse. Left hand at 12 o’clock on the wheel, looking over shoulder out rear window.
- Reverse aggressively (but without too much wheelspin) for 2-3 seconds in a straight line to build necessary momentum.
- Lift off gas abruptly and quickly turn wheel 180ْ ْ (left hand from 12:00 to 6:00). Usually done “left hand down” in the US (counterclockwise) so you’ll end up in the other lane instead of a ditch.
- Car will begin to spin.
- Keep looking where you want to go as the vehicle spins around.
- About halfway around, engage forward gear.
- As vehicle finishes spin, left hand back to 12 o’clock (straight) and accelerate.
- After car completes spin, zoom forward to catch those bad guys. Tell’em “Freeze, turkey!”