On November 17, 1992 NBC’s Dateline aired a segment about the dangerous positioning of gas tanks on 1973 to 1987 GM pickup trucks. The show contained a fiery crash test, demonstrating that when hit in a certain way the tank could rupture and explode. Following an investigation by General Motors, the company filed a lawsuit on this day in 1993, suing NBC for defamation.
The suit claimed NBC producers staged the test, using remote controlled model rocket engines placed in the fuel tank to ignite the crashes. Just two days after the lawsuit was filed, NBC issued a public apology on air as part of a settlement, acknowledging that they did not inform the viewership of any sort of tampering with the vehicles.
The gas tanks of Chevrolet and GMC C/K series trucks built between 1973 and 1987 are located outside of the frame, making them vulnerable to impact. Multiple lawsuits were filed against GM due to deaths said to be caused by the flawed design, some of which were won by plaintiffs. At the time of the GM vs NBC lawsuit as many as 300 people had been killed in the trucks, possibly due to the design, approximately ten times as many people who were killed in Ford Pintos, which infamously suffered from explosive gas tank issues as well.
Cover: 1975-1976 GMC C/K