The auto industry continues to take steps forward, sometimes big, sometimes small. They’re tinkering with electric and driverless cars, and they’re finding ways to improve the safety of everyday vehicles already on the road. How much incremental progress have we made? Just watch the video produced by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. A 2009 Chevy Malibu crashes into a colossal 1959 Chevy Bel Air at 40 miles per hour. And despite its “Safety-Girder” cruciform frame (a safety innovation Chevy developed during the 1950s) the bigger Bel Air didn’t fare well at all. The same applies to the dummy inside.
Here’s how the Institute described what happened to the Bel Air to The New York Times:
This car had no seat belts or air bags. Dummy movement wasn’t well controlled, and there was far too much upward and rearward movement of the steering wheel. The dummy’s head struck the steering wheel rim and hub and then the roof and unpadded metal instrument panel to the left of the steering wheel.
During rebound, the dummy’s head remained in contact with the roof and slid rearward and somewhat inward. The windshield was completely dislodged from the car and the driver door opened during the crash, both presenting a risk of ejection. In addition, the front bench seat was torn away from the floor on the driver side.
The Bel Air got a “Poor” rating in every safety category; the Malibu a “Good.”
Although a lot of America seems stuck in reverse, car design is one area where we’re moving forward, hopefully with even better days to come.
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Two things: First, ‘hulking’ is a misnomer. The newer vehicle likely outweighs the older.
Second, the ’59 Impala is suffering from rust, evident in the explosive spray of same in the video. No wonder it folds up like a Dixie cup. In addition, the ’59 Impala’s frame is a terrible design, an ‘X’ configuration noted for its weakness even back then.
There’s no question new vehicles are better designed to protect occupants. However, this ‘test’ is at best a risible demonstration of that fact…and a damned waste of a nice old car.
One last note: I doubt many will cherish a transportation appliance like the ’09 Malibu in the same way the ’59 managed to survive for 50 years until this bit of pointless showboating, because, well….look at it. Feh. I’ll take the old Impala. It’s a car to love.
It’s a four door six cylinder junior model with a B post.
That’s dirt and paint flying off the Bel Air.