Crash testing old cars vs. new cars

Originally published at: Crash testing old cars vs. new cars | Boing Boing


You can’t see out of them (newer cars), with the bigger roof posts. This makes city driving more dangerous for pedestrians.


That got my “crumple zones” moving.


The lack of good forward visibility on modern trucks and SUVs due to the hood height is especially dangerous. And it’s all because of stupid styling choices rather than functionality! It’s perfectly possible to build a ridiculously powerful truck with a much shorter hood.


Now that we know how my '58 Chevy will do in a crash, let’s see how my Corvair would maim me.


Well yes, the thing is that road deaths are down, partially due to car on car crashes being more survivable than they were. People usually avoid the significance of the lack of other road use as people are, justifiably, terrified of giant SUVs and parents don’t let their children cycle to school any more.


Seen these before and I’m glad this compilation includes international ones. People in the states can complain about regulations all they want, but look at how these cars for American drivers are designed to basically sacrifice themselves for your safety compared to others.


It’s always interesting that the only test they show is the offset frontal crash. Obviously cars in the 50’s weren’t design around crash testing hardly at all. But even in the 90’s, offset frontal crash testing was not a routine thing. I’m not saying the older cars are safer than this video shows, but it is highlighting one of the worst case scenarios as well.

My first car was a 96 Chevy Cavalier coupe. The side impact survival rate was right about 50%. But I’m gonna be honest and say that I still love coupes, even if the side impact is horrible and getting out of them in tight spaces is a pain. (Obviously a 2 seater coupe would survive better than anything with a rear seat - since the distance between the A and B pillar is much shorter. The doors on a Cavalier coupe where like a mile long compared to anything modern and cheap.)


B pillar is behind the drivers seat. The nice part was with the windows down the air didn’t blow right in on the side of your head, it was all behind you. The bad part was the tiny chance of dying in a crash? (and depending on how you look at it driving a Chevy and or Cavalier.)


Really well made video, thank you.
Though I’m probably not the only person who winced a little bit when they destroyed that '59 Bel Air…


It makes me wonder where they get these cars. Like, do they have a warehouse of them?

And another general query…I wonder if anyone tried to introduce air bags for the cars themselves (like in front of the engine) at any point in safety development? Not that it would work. I simply wonder if anyone’s mind ever went there.


I got an excellent first hand demonstration of that. One weekend afternoon I had left a section of an extension ladder outside, and my wife didn’t want to put it away herself. So she thought it would be a good idea to lay it along the edge of driveway in front of the passenger side of my parked truck’s garage stall, so that I’d see it and hang it back in the garage before driving off the next morning. I literally could not see an inch of the 12’ long ladder sticking straight out from in front of the garage, so I of course destroyed it immediately as I pulled out.

And this was in a Ford Ranger pickup truck, which in America is considered a very small truck . Of course I eventually replaced it with an F-150 in order to pull our caravan. And now I can’t even see the end of the driveway over the hood of that kaiju.


It may have been nice old body work that was destroyed, but the crash test cars aren’t in working condition. And when they’re that unsafe, how much incentive is there to keep them around? I suppose they could have cut it up and sold the shiny bits to a 50’s themed restaurant, but that’s hardly a better use of the scrap metal.

Love the sandy silt that explodes out from the innards of the Belch Air.


I’ve been aware that newer cars rate better for survivability in such offset head-on crashes. But it makes me wonder if all those crumple zones and whatever else that’s providing that safety has anything to do with little fender benders end up being many thousands of dollars of damage.

Today, it seems that in a little wreck, this thing broke that thing which isn’t repairable, so you need a new one, and then it has to be installed in a certain way, which means… aw hell, we’ll just total it, says the insurance company, and just pay you to buy yourself a ‘replacement’ car. That also gives them the chance to low ball the hell out of you unless you have the means and the methods of having your lawyer go after the insurance company’s lawyers. And on and on…

All that is way cheaper for the insurance company to deal with than someone getting hurt or killed, I guess. And better for those involved, too, I guess.

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Yet another reminder to listen to the Normal’s “Warm Leatherette”.

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From a purely pragmatic standpoint, I get that. But there are folks that restore cars like these so they can continue to be appreciated for what they are. TBH, I’m not really sure how helpful it even is to smash a '59 Bel Air up compared to a modern vehicle given that those things have been done and proven long ago. Now, comparing two cars from like the 90’s or early aughts to now, that has a lot more use because more of those are on the road.


I’m fine in my Amazon, right?

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That’s backwards. The engine is an air bag for the passengers. Take a look at a newish car that’s been in a front end collision. You will see that the entire contents of the engine compartment act as a shock absorber for the impact, thereby dramatically reducing the stresses on the passenger compartment. This is a significant part of the safety equipment.


I am one of the few people who drives cars of that vintage as transportation. The video’s main purpose is to scare my wife, who’s extra cognizant of such dangers.
The folks who restore these cars tend to not drive them much. I don’t ‘restore’ so much as ‘maintain’ my old cars. I don’t own a modern car.

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This is going to be a really, really weird rant. Sorry. Not really aimed at you.

This is just so frustrating because it’s an unintended consequence of people trying to do good.

That truck is ugly. I mean… darn, that truck is ugly. Compare that truck’s ugly mug with say, a 1999 Dodge Ram 1500. Or a 1979 Ford F150. Or a Chevy Square Body truck.

The tires are big, because everyone wants big tires. 33" tires are the new standard, where tires used to be like under 30" standard. Part of that is because the roads suck so much, and because having big tires and big wheels makes fuel economy easier with the final ratios. So you have a work truck rolling on 20’s now.

That pushes the axels up, which pushes the engine up, which pushes the hood up.

But this means the bumper needs to extend down, below the axles, way down, so it hits other vehicles on their bumpers.

And safety standards says that the hood needs to have crush space on top of the engine - about 3-4". of the largest engine. Which is already pushed up because of the axles. So you have to have the entire V8 engine on top of the axles. And another 3-4" on top of that.

Which gives you that ugly vertical wall that’s like 4’-5’ tall and looks like complete arse. So let’s fill it with sparkly lights, nonfunctional doodads to distract you from it, and a large grill that is mostly fake.

Of course, the hood needs to be high to protect pedestrians, and no one ever considered that the pedestrians might be safer if people could actually see them…

And yet, the streets are filled with these ugly, ugly trucks. Why? ROAL COAL BOYS!!!

No. Wait. Not really. I mean, country assholes going to be country assholes, but they’ve always been country assholes. They would have had stupid trucks since the invention of stupid trucks, at least if they could have afforded them. They are loud and vocal and annoying… but they aren’t really why there are so many more trucks on the road.

It’s really more of a problem with environmental standards and safety standards. Cars and SUVs have gotten more and more specialized to carrying humans. Which is what humans use them for, 90%+ of the time. Cars and SUVs are optimized for carrying humans, trucks are optimized for carrying stuff. The problem is, as the optimizations for cars for efficiently carrying humans around safely and fuel efficiently have improved, their ability to haul stuff has decreased.

Cars used to be capable of towing stuff. Now, most cars can’t. SUVs used to be capable of hauling stuff and towing stuff. Now, not so much. (There are some that can, but most SUVs are now cars that are really, really tall.)

And this is where things get really, really frustrating.

If you own a trailer or need to haul something more than about 2 times a year, your kind of stuck owning a truck so you can haul it. Owning a truck costs a little bit more than owning a car. Owning a car and a truck costs a lot more than owning a truck.

And yes, “Just rent a truck when you need one”. Have you tried renting a truck to pull a trailer that will seat four people? Go ahead and go check the national rental agency’s web sites. Hint: most of them will not let you tow with their trucks, even if they rent them. There’s always uHaul who will rent you a truck that you can tow with - it’s a 15’ box truck that costs $19.95 a day plus mileage, your soul, and dignity.

So, this all combines to mean that a lot of people who would prefer to be driving a nice car instead need to drive a nice truck. Which means a lot more trucks on the road. Which makes the roads more dangerous for everyone, because of that guy who you hate for driving the 350 truck into the office every day when he could easily be driving a small, reasonable car who would love to be driving a small, reasonable car but can’t because he owns a trailer that he likes to use to go camping with his family six times a year and he can afford the F350 but he can’t afford the F350 and the small car.

Except it’s really because of those increased safety standards and efficiency standards which make vehicles less suited for some tasks and push people into the vehicles suited for their needs which people then blame them for. (Most people are not, in fact, absolute idiots; they tend to optimize for their situations.)

Which is a very long-winded way of saying- perhaps we need to reevaluate the pedestrian safety standards when it comes to consumer trucks because we seem to have made a wrong turn somewhere along the way and figure out some way of encouraging automakers to build non-truck vehicles which have more tow capacity.

If we can convince people that 20" wheels on trucks look stupid, that might help too.