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head-on collision: old car vs new

Discussion in 'The Observation Bar' started by scottyrocks, May 5, 2012.

  1. I love old cars cars as much as the next guy, but for those of you who like to say that they'd rather have all 2 tons (or more) of steel around them instead of today's rinky-dink plastic-laden vehicles, take a look at this video of a 2009 Chevy Malibu and a 1959 Chevy Bel-Air in a head-on. The results are not pretty, especially for the driver (crash test dummy) of the Bel-Air.


    Quite the reality check.
  2. vitanola

    vitanola My Mail is Forwarded Here

    Good point, but remember that the crash test chose a car, the '59 Bel-Air, with a known weakness in tjust that sort of crash due to a very poorly designed "X" frame. The car was hit in just the rignt spot to cause it to crumple, and a six cylinder engine model was chosen so that the impact would bypass the engine entirely. In this way the accellerautin of the mass of the engine would not absorb any of the energy which could otherwise be used to crumple the passenger compartment..
  3. What bothered me most is that they destroyed a '59 Bel-Air.
  4. O2BSwank

    O2BSwank One of the Regulars

    I had seen this video before. I made a comment on this awhile back, in an old truck thread. The intrusion of the steering column into the driver's compartment was the cause of many broken necks, as you can see that the steering wheel almost went up to the roof. The driver was not seat belted either as the car was not equipped with them as standard equipment. Also you can see how the door opened up and the driver was in danger of being ejected, sustaining even more injury. Earlier cars are even worse there is a similar video of a late twenties car colliding with a solid barrier and the doors fly open, the seats are torn from the floor and the body itself is partially torn free from the frame. To top it off, the fuel tank, in the cowl ruptures. The driver is ejected. Unless you are a real vintage car fan, or have been involved in traffic collision investigations you have no idea of how much safer modern cars are. It's something that is taken for granted. I have read of several collisions where a modern hot rodder was killed in what was really a minor collision. And those "rat rods", wow. those are death traps on wheels. Both to the driver and to the other unlucky driver's sharing the road with them.

    I like old cars. I drove a 57 Cad as a daily driver in college. I've driven a 56 Cad and then did use a 66 Buick Riviera as a daily car until 7 or 8 yrs ago. There are realistic safety modifications that can be made that will improve safety but you really have to think about using your 40 or 50 something car as an everyday family hauler. After 1966 many cars had collapsible steering columns and safety belts, but these are not Golden Age vehicles.
  5. I actually survived a pretty severe collision in a car of similar vintage. When I was six years old, my year-old sister and I were riding in a '61 Chevy Biscayne with my mother -- all three of us in the front seat, no belts -- when the brakes let go and she ended up driving it into the side of a house. The nose of the car was completely demolished, and both my sister and I were flung off the seat under the dashboard. I got a severe bruise on my chin when I hit the dash, but that was the only injury any of us suffered. My mother was flung out the door and did a gymnast's roll when she hit the ground, but wasn't otherwise hurt. The house was in pretty bad shape, though.
  6. Regardless, there were tons of them out there. The point is that safety was not at the forefront of design back then. Basically, as with so much back then there was limited knowledge.
  7. Not using seat belts allows for the ultimate safety of being "Thrown Clear!" of a wreck. This has happened to numerous people but it also seems to rely on all windows down so the glass and car structure doesn't impede ones exit during a crash or roll over. Also driving those old large autos meant that all collisions were "way out there" on the fringe of the body of the car.

    I was a passenger in a 77 Olds back when there wasn't a seat belt law. My brother was driving and had to lock up the brakes if there had been about another foot of open space we would.n't have rear ended that Nova with the huge bumpers. My knees were sore for weeks as ramming them into an all steel dash smarted. Worn seats belts ever since.
  8. lframe

    lframe One of the Regulars

    I tangled with a '66 Chevy in a '97 Ford Mustang. She pulled out in front of me, her son was standing up in the backseat and I turned to hit the ditch. Hit the side of the car. Totaled mine, gave me a severe case of whiplash, while hers had a dent. That car was a beast.
  9. One important thing to consider is that cars in the Era weren't being driven the way cars are driven today: they weren't being gunned down freeways at 75mph by drivers fiddling with cellphones or GPSes or whatever. Most cars were being driven in stop-and-go city/town traffic at speeds rarely over 35mph, and when they got on the open road they'd rarely be driven over 45 or so. An impact at 45mph is bad -- but it's a lot, lot worse at 75.

    It's important also to remember that then, as now, the vast majority of drivers never had an accident -- and the majority of drivers who were in accidents walked away from them. And no matter how safe a vehicle is on the drawing board, its ultimate safety depends on how prudent and careful the driver is -- an idiot is going to be just as much a hazard to himself and others in a Prius as he is in a Model A.
  10. Me, too.

    I was in a wreck with a Chevy truck and I was in a 60 Bel-Air, more or less the exact same car as in the video, sans some design changes. My car had a frame rotted so bad that pieces would fall off while I was driving. The frame did buckle, the front of the car suffered some damage, I was not wearing seatbelts. I came out just fine and went to work afterwards, though late. She was going about 40-45 when she hit me.

    Lizzie's point is very true, people weren't driving like they do today and the interstate system was in its infancy in 1959. When every car on the road was built similarly with manual brakes, manual steering, etc, you know the limitations of those vehicles. Most people give classics on the road some room because they're 'pretty' but I do know a lot of folks do the same because they know the limitations of that classic car. When driving one, I always leave ample distance between me and the car ahead of me, because I know a single master cylinder, 4-wheel drums, and no power booster means I need some real distance to stop!
  11. Stanley Doble

    Stanley Doble Call Me a Cab

    Ha ha ha Chevs are junk. If my 51 DeSoto was in that video it would wreck everything.

    Having said that, you would be safer in a head on crash in the cheapest new car, than in the best 1959 car. There is such a thing as progress especially in safety features. Auto safety was in its infancy back then.
  12. I remember before they dropped the speed limits to 55. 65 was the usual highway speed and that's what people did, if not a little more. True, we weren't on the highway most of th time when we were driving, but my dad was. His commute was from Brooklyn to Mount Vernon or Tarrytown every day. That's a lot of highway.

    Regardless, the original video does show the safety advances of the last bunch of years.

    But that doesn't mean that all cars in all countries progressed at at the same rate. Here is another video showing the 10 worst vehicles in crash tests. By the looks of the cars, it appears the video was made 20 or more years ago. Some cars faired pretty well, and some, namely numbers 1 and 2, disintegrated upon impact. Back then, safety standards weren't what they are today, and some European countries (and worse in Slavic countries) were even further behind. The standardization of design safety since then has yielded much safer cars for the occupants.

    That doesn't mean I no longer want an MG Midget or original Mini Cooper, but hey, waddayagonnado?


    Sorry about the music. You can just mute it if you don't like it.
  13. True, but in the Era, there weren't many high-speed highways away from the big cities. Robert Moses had his way with New York, and crazy stuff was happening in Los Angeles, but the overwhelming majority of drivers before the mid-fifties were poking along on two-lane blacktop that took them straight thru every town along the way. We have no freeways here, and I live fifty miles from the nearest interstate -- and I hardly ever drive above 30 mph, maybe 40 between towns.

    Some pre-war cars actually had warning indicators on the speedometers that would flash a danger signal if you hit 40. Speed just wasn't the obsession that it became in the freeway era, and during the war era it was downright unpatriotic: the national speed limit was 35 for the duration.
    Last edited: May 6, 2012
  14. FountainPenGirl

    FountainPenGirl One of the Regulars

    I just have to jump in here. I have lived with and worked on cars all my life. I have experience with cars from the '90's back to the teens. Early cars with mechanical brakes can have questionable stopping distances but anything from the later 1930's up propperly maintained and in correct operating condition will stop as good or better than anything on the road today. I know this to be true because we've made thousands of cars work at the shop over the last 40 years. Now a little know fact is that power brakes have been around since the early 1930's. I just worked on a 1934 Packard V12 Dietrich Victoria Convertible with vacuum boosted Bendix mechanical brakes. You can actually vary the amount of boost to suit your taste. You can stop that car on a dime with just tip toe pressure.
    I did see this crash video. It went around a couple of years ago. It was carefully planned with one of the worst cars ever built to make old cars look bad. '59's had a particular week spot on that front corner. If the hit would have been square in the front the damage would not have been as bad. Frames and construction were changed extensively after that. Even the 1960 Chev although appearing much similar was a much improved version and much more rigid. I think most automotive enthusiasts have realized false appearance of this video.
    I just remembered this, My Mom and Dad and I were in a forward left corner crash in the 1951 Oldsmobile pictured in my AV. It was in the late '60's and a 1957 Studebaker ran into us. The Studebaker was totalled but the Oldsmobile is on the road yet today. All of us in both cars were unhurt.
    Last edited: May 6, 2012
  15. I don't mean to start a flame war, but are you SERIOUSLY suggesting that NOT WEARING SEATBELTS represents the "ultimate safety"????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????


    imple fact folks - the average car produced today is better and safer than anything from the golden era. I love old cars, looking forward to getting one. But let's not let nostalgia colour our views. If I am forced to be involved in a crash in a car from the forties or fifties, or one from the 21st century, it's the 2012 ANyTHING. Period.
    Last edited: May 6, 2012
  16. 1999HondaAccord.jpg
    bad520.jpg 1956-Crash-Test.jpg
    Last edited: May 6, 2012
  17. Cobden

    Cobden Practically Family

    Those pictures prove the safety of modern cars. They are significantly more damaged then the Merc, yes, but it is the fact that they are more heavily damaged that actually makes them safer - the car absorbs the impact.
  18. And the passenger compartments are uncompromised, at least in the front-, and rear-enders, as far as I can see. Wrapping a car around a poll sideways at highway speed? Some things are more difficult to protect against than others.

    And these picture help prove the point. All the cars shown in the F and R ender pictures have engineered-in crumple zones. Older cars that could 'take a punch' would take a hit and not give way. That sudden stop is more harmful to the human body than a car that will absorb impact via its crumple zones. Even a hit at 40 mph can rattle your cage, as it were. As much as I love my cars, and want something from the 40's, in a choice between my health and the car's, I'll take mine.

    If I ever bought a classic, now that you mention it, Lizzie, I would most likely only drive it around town, at the speeds it was intended.
  19. I know there's a lot of love for cars of the late fifties from a design standpoint, but as pieces of engineering they leave an awful lot to be desired. Read "The Insolent Chariots" by journalist John Keats, published in 1958 -- an extremely hard-hitting expose of what planned obsolesence was already doing to the American auto industry. Keats contended that the cars from the mid-fifties forward were far less reliable and far less safe than those of the late prewar era, and that the industry was placing short-term profits ahead of quality -- a strategy which would backfire disastrously in the years to come.
  20. There were also fewer cars and tractor trailers on the roads back then. Most goods were still being transported by rail, which cut down on transport traffic. Most cities still had somewhat decent rail or trolley transportation. Most families owned one car. Suburbs were closer to the cities and a larger portion of the population was relatively sedentary and didn't commute everyday (farmers, for instance, would only go into town once a week or to services). Fewer cars on the road are fewer things to run into.

    Safety is probably one of my top reasons to drive a modern car. The last car we purchased for my husband the deciding factor was the safety tests. I always wear my seatbelt. All my passengers do too if they want to move anyplace, it's my rule. I've seen far too many people who have lost their lives in cars and motorcycles. Most of the time it's someone else's fault, but it being someone else's fault doesn't heal your wounds or revive you.

    An older car would only be a Sunday driver for me for those reasons. Also, I wouldn't drive an older car here in the winter because of the massive amounts of salt on the roads.

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