A car had to be partially dismantled after a stowaway cat got "well and truly trapped" in the front grille.
It is thought the male tabby might have been stuck for up to two days when the driver of the Ford Focus noticed it staring back at him in Clacton, Essex.
Steven Kane had driven about 80 miles (128km) on a holiday from Hertfordshire and said he had no idea when "our little hitchhiker" got on board.
The AA took the car apart to get to the "very smelly" cat.
The unchipped moggy - nicknamed Ford - was both a little whiffy and hungry when he was pulled to safety after the car owner parked up on the seafront in Clacton, RSPCA inspector Lucy Brennan said.
The charity had to call in the AA, who "carefully dismantled the car by taking out the headlights and bumper and freeing the poor moggy".
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"He was very smelly and very hungry," Ms Brennan said.
"The AA explained that even if the cat had been trapped when the motorist was driving the car, luckily the area he was in has no moving parts and doesn't get hot when the engine is on.
"Having said that, it must have been quite an ordeal for poor Ford," she added.
The cat is now recovering after his moment of Top Gear-type madness earlier this month, but the RSPCA said his tail will need to be amputated as it was injured, although they are not sure whether this happened as a result of being stuck in the vent.