Myth or Fact? Did a Grandmother Really Lift a Full Size Car off of a Child?

In 1982, a remarkable story made headlines around the world. Angela Cavallo, a grandmother from Lawrenceville, Georgia, reportedly lifted a 1964 Chevy Impala off of her son who was trapped underneath the vehicle. It seemed like a miraculous feat of strength, but many people questioned whether it was really possible. Could a grandmother really possess the strength to lift a full-sized car? The notion that a mother’s love and adrenaline can overcome the laws of physics and human strength has been passed on from generation to generation. But is there any truth to this myth? The answer came as quite a shock to us!

What Happened in May of 1982?

Angela, who is in her late 50’s and is a grandmother, said her 18-year-old-son Tony was working underneath his 1964 Chevrolet Impala when the car slipped off its jack stands, trapping him beneath the vehicle. She was the only person there at the time Tony became trapped.

Tony Cavallo

Tony Was Trapped

Tony was helpless and in excruciating pain, screaming for his mother to come and help him.
Without a second thought, Angela raced out of her house and saw the nightmarish sight of her son trapped under the car. She immediately began to assess the situation and realized that there was no way she could lift the car with her bare hands.

Johnny Edwards

“I was kicking him,”

Tony Cavallo

In a moment of incredible strength and courage, Angela Cavallo ran to the car, grabbed the bumper, and lifted it up. Angela said she lifted the car about four inches but was unable to rouse her son, a high school junior. “I was kicking him, saying, ‘Get out, get out,” she said in an interview.

Pulling Tony Out From Under The Impala

Johnny Edwards

It’s said Mrs. Cavallo held the car while Johnny Edwards, 11, who was visiting his grandparents next door, rushed down the street and found two neighbors who reinserted the jack and dragged Tony out from under the 1964 Chevy Impala.

Mrs. Cavallo Credits Prayers

Tony was rushed to the hospital where a neurologists found no brain damage. He was allowed to leave the hospital two days later. Mrs. Cavallo said she “was saying prayers” all through the ordeal and credits her son’s lack of injuries to the prayers of fellow members or St. Lawrence Catholic Church.

Her Story Spread Like Wildfire

The story quickly spread, and Angela Cavallo became a hero in the eyes of many. People marveled at her strength and bravery, and the tale of the grandmother who lifted a car with her bare hands became a legend. But is the story true? Or is it just another example of an urban legend that’s taken on a life of its own? Let’s take a closer look.

Second or Third Hand

The story of Angela Cavallo lifting a car off of her grandson has been circulating for more than three decades. And yet, despite its widespread popularity, there are surprisingly few concrete details available about the event itself. Much of what we know about the story comes from second- or third-hand…

The Car

However, some elements of the story are consistent across various retellings. For example, it’s generally agreed upon that the car in question was a Chevrolet, and that it was a full-sized model. Some sources specify that it was a 1964 Chevrolet Impala, while others simply refer to it as a “large” or “full-sized” car.

How much does a 1964 Chevy Impala weigh?

Let’s take a look at the exact car Angela Cavallo is said to have lifted, the 1964 Chevrolet Impala. This car came off the manufacturing line at 3,300 pounds. To lift such a weight, a person would need immense strength and a proper lifting technique.

Hysterical Strength?

It’s also generally agreed upon that Angela Cavallo was able to lift the car by herself, using only her bare hands. Some sources suggest that she used a technique called “hysterical strength” to accomplish the feat, while others simply state that she somehow found the strength to lift the car in a moment of desperation.


However, there are also many inconsistencies and discrepancies in the various retellings of the story. Some sources suggest that Tony was trapped under the car for as long as 30 minutes before Angela Cavallo arrived on the scene, while others claim that she lifted the car within seconds of the accident occurring.

Serious Injuries?

Some sources state that Angela Cavallo suffered serious injuries as a result of lifting the car, while others suggest that she was completely unharmed. It is incredible to imagine a grandmother in her late 50s lifting a 3,000 lb car and walking away with no injuries.

Discrepancies in the Story

There are also questions about the accuracy of some of the details in the story. For example, some sources suggest that the car was lifted high enough for Tony to crawl out from underneath it, while others state that Angela Cavallo lifted the car only high enough for someone else to pull him out.

Warner Bros.

How many people were really there?

There are also discrepancies in the accounts of who was present at the scene, and how many people were involved in the rescue. Some say there was one person there and some say there were three others. A young 11 year old boy and two grown men that reinserted the car jacks.

Did the two men help lift the car?

Warner Bros.

If there were actually 3 others there, including two grown men (according to news articles from 1982), it seems plausible that the two men could have helped lift the car and even forgot that they did due to the stress of the event. After all, it should only take one person to reinsert the jacks.

Human Strength

While it is true that humans are capable of amazing feats of strength, there are limits to what our bodies can do. Understanding these limits is essential to determining whether it is scientifically possible for someone like Angela Cavallo to lift a car off of a child. There are several factors that can affect a person’s strength, including genetics, age, sex, and physical training.

What About Genetics?

Genetics play a significant role in determining a person’s strength potential. People with a higher percentage of fast-twitch muscle fibers tend to be stronger than those with more slow-twitch muscle fibers. Fast-twitch muscle fibers contract quickly and powerfully, making them well-suited for explosive movements such as lifting heavy weights. Maybe Angela’s genetics played a roll here.

What About Age?

As people age, their muscle mass and strength tend to decrease. This is because the body’s ability to build and maintain muscle tissue declines with age. Additionally, older adults may have more health conditions that limit their ability to exercise and maintain muscle mass. Let’s keep in mind Angela was in her late 50s.

What About Gender?

Men are generally stronger than women due to higher levels of testosterone, which plays a key role in building muscle mass and strength. All strength records are held by men and the best of these men can barely lift a car and generally require something to grip to do so.

Physical Training

Physical training can significantly increase a person’s strength. Resistance training, such as weightlifting, is particularly effective at building muscle mass and strength. It’s been said the extent of Angela’s training was being a mother, lifting groceries and generally household chores.

The Real Limits of Human Strength

While humans are capable of amazing feats of strength, there are limits to what our bodies can do. The following are some examples of the limits of human strength including world records, animal strength and more.

World Record Strength

World records in strength sports provide a good indication of the upper limits of human strength. For example, the current world record for the squat is held by Ray Williams, who lifted 1,102 pounds (500 kg) in 2016. The world record for the deadlift is held by Hafthor Bjornsson, who lifted 1,104 pounds (501 kg) in 2020. These numbers represent the absolute upper limit of what humans are currently capable of lifting.

Animal Strength

While humans are among the strongest animals on the planet, there are several other species that are significantly stronger. For example, elephants are capable of lifting objects weighing up to 600 pounds (272 kg) with their trunks. Gorillas, which are closely related to humans, can lift up to 4,000 pounds (1,814 kg) – more than seven times their body weight.

Natural Disasters

In times of crisis, people have been known to perform incredible feats of strength. For example, during the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan, a man was able to lift a 1.5-ton (1,360 kg) car off of a trapped cyclist. While these stories are inspiring, they are also rare and should not be taken as evidence that humans are capable of routinely lifting such heavy objects.


One of the most commonly cited explanations for how Angela Cavallo was able to lift the car is the adrenaline rush she would have experienced in the moment. Adrenaline is a hormone that is released by the body in response to stress or danger. It can increase heart rate, blood pressure, and respiratory rate, and can also cause the body to release other stress hormones, leading to the classic “fight or flight” response.

Temporary Strength

As we have seen, the adrenaline rush that occurs in a crisis can temporarily enhance human strength and performance beyond what is normally possible. While it’s said that Angela Cavallo lifted a car off her son, it’s likely that she wasn’t able to do so under normal circumstances. Adrenaline would have to play a roll.

Adrenaline has its limits.

It’s not possible to accurately measure the amount of force a person can generate in a high-stress situation, but it’s clear that the body can produce more strength and power than we might otherwise think. But there are also many articles arguing that the the increased strength from adrenaline is often over exaggerated.

Could Angela Cavallo Have Lifted the Car?

While the story of Angela Cavallo’s feat of strength is certainly awe-inspiring, it’s important to approach it with a critical eye. While we cannot definitively say whether or not she lifted the car, it’s clear that human beings are capable of extraordinary feats when faced with a life-or-death situation.

If True, Wow!

We should celebrate the bravery and courage displayed by those who have faced life-threatening situations and emerged victorious, but we should also be careful not to sensationalize their achievements beyond what science and reason allow.

Human Spirit

If Angela Cavallo’s story is true, it would be testament to the strength of the human spirit and the power of a mother’s love, but it should also serve as a reminder to be cautious when interpreting stories of extraordinary physical feats.

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