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  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 21,846
    Yeah, I was kinda shocked by the results of that crash test, too. I had always been under the impression that those old cars would perform horribly if you ran into something that just flat-out will not budge, like a big enough tree, bridge abutment, etc. Or another, similarly-built car. But I figured that with a newer car that has crumple zones and such, that in effect, the new car would pretty much become the crumple zone for the old car!

    But that doesn't seem to be the case here, as that 2009 Malibu tore into the 1959 pretty severely. Now in all fairness, both cars were reduced to scrap metal. But it is an eye opener, to see what a difference airbags, seatbelts with shoulder straps, collapsible steering columns, controlled crumple zones, etc make in car safety.

    That being said, I've also heard that the 1959 Chevy isn't exactly the cream-of-the-crop when it comes to old cars. That old wasp-waisted/hourglass shaped "X-frame" evidently isn't so tough. I always knew it was a bit marginal in side impacts, but I've heard that it ain't the best with front-end collisions, either. A more conventional ladder frame or perimeter frame probably would have held up better. I imagine something like a 1957-58 Buick would have held up very well, as they had a ladder frame with an X-member in the center! You'd still have the problem of an unbelted occupant getting thrown forward, though.

    Also, GM used to have the bad habit of mounting the steering box way too far forward in the engine compartment. In those days, that was one of the biggest safety factors, since if you mount it too far forward, even a slight impact to the front could send the steering column back into the passenger compartment. However, that might apply mainly to older GM cars...I'm not sure about the 1959 models. Now it's mounted awfully far forward on my '85 Silverado pickup, but at least by that time they had collapsible steering columns.

    I'd also like to know what was going on with that '59 Chevy, when the front seat pulled loose on the driver's side. Did the whole seat rip from the floor, or did that side of the seat just come loose from the track? That might have been something attributable to old age, and not necessarily poor design.

    Still, that crash test was an eye opener. Now I never had any delusions of invincibility when I drove around in my '57 DeSoto, but seeing that test convinces me that it's even less safe than I thought it was!
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 44,403
    I keep telling people that old cars are death traps when it comes to any kind of collision at speed, and that I would ALWAYS, without hesitation, rather take a hit in a 2009 car than anything built before the 1990s. I'd rather take a hit in a MINI than a 59 Chevrolet when it comes to my personal safety.

    Old cars are merely a series of parts hung on a ladder frame like clothes on a clothesline. Think of a cardboard box with no top and a weak bottom at best.

    Why do you think that 60s cars with huge engines often cracked their frames? There's really not much structural strength ---just weight and a bunch of bolts.

    A 59 Chevrolet IS built like a tank---and that's precisely the problem.


  • fintailfintail Posts: 33,496
    I have a suspicion that old car might have had some age-related structural issues. No doubt cars from that area didn't crash like modern ones, but that thing collapsed just a little too dramatically. The rust cloud is also indicative of something, IMO.

    I am lucky in that my fintail is the first production car with crumple zones, and it has many interior safety features - so I think it would fare better. The ancient seatbelts in the front might not do a good job at restraining, though.
  • That car was supposed to be in good shape and complete with an engine. The IIHS paid around 8,500 bucks IIRC from reading the reports.

    Does that price sound right for a good driver 59 Bel Air Shifty? Not a #1 show queen car just a good driver.
  • fintailfintail Posts: 33,496
    I'm not Shifty, but I think $8500 would be more than enough to buy an excellent 59 Chevy 4 door post.

    Did any American automaker perform crash tests back then? I've seen a good amount of footage of period MB crash tests, but nothing from NA.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 44,403
    For a 4-door sedan? Sounds even a bit high for a #3 "clean driver". I'd figure more like $6500---but close enough. You could buy a mighty fine '59 4-door Belair for $8500 in my neck of the woods.


  • texasestexases Posts: 5,510
    "I keep telling people that old cars are death traps when it comes to any kind of collision at speed, and that I would ALWAYS, without hesitation, rather take a hit in a 2009 car than anything built before the 1990s."

    I agree. I've gotten some negative responses on some discussion boards when I try to tell somebody's daddy not to buy a 'neat 60's car' for their son or daughter's first car. Just a bad idea all the way around.
  • euphoniumeuphonium Great Northwest, West of the Cascades.Posts: 3,321
    Did any American automaker perform crash tests back then?

    Many years ago, I saw a film, "Small Car Crashes". In the film Impalas vs Vegas,
    Galaxie 500 vs Pintos and a full size Plymouth vs Colt.

    In all three headon crashes, the bigger car penetrated the passenger compartment of the smaller car. In the case of the Vega, its hood lifted up, went through the windshield and decapitated the two dummies in the front seat.
  • fintailfintail Posts: 33,496
    Ha, I'd like to see that...guess I need to root through youtube and see if it is there.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 44,403
    My partner and I once did a cartoon for Road & Track where a cop is at the front door of a house. Answering the door is a Crash Test Dummy with an apron on. The cop is saying:

    "Mrs Dummy? I'm afraid there's been an accident".


  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 21,846
    Did any American automaker perform crash tests back then? I've seen a good amount of footage of period MB crash tests, but nothing from NA.

    I remember seeing a picture somewhere of two 1956 Fords running into each other at an angle. However, it looked like a bit of a stupid test, where one car was hitting the other at a 90 degree angle. However, instead of doing a T-bone at the passenger compartment, the car was getting hit at the front right fender.

    Also, I have no idea where the picture originally came from, but here's a pic of a 1956 Chevy hitting a solid block of concrete...

    It actually looks like the car is crunching up quite well, in a controlled fashion, but I wouldn't take this one pic to be the gospel truth or anything. Plus, who knows how far back the steering wheel is getting pushed in that car? Or how fast it's hitting that wall?
  • fintailfintail Posts: 33,496
    That looks surprisingly good, yeah - not much different than how fintails looked in period crash tests. Of course, that might be a 20mph impact or something :shades:

    I remember when my 66 Galaxie got hit, it did that trick that seems to have been common with period cars - the hood didn't crumple, rather it was pushed up a little and just kind of bent. The passenger side corner off it hit the windshield hard enough to crack it. I have to imagine back then many hoods flew off in collisions, or injured people in the car.
  • grbeckgrbeck Posts: 2,361
    Another automotive website tracked down the actual seller of this particular Bel Air. The car was in good shape without any rust.

    The GM X-frame wasn't noted for its ability to resist collisions. I believe that Ralph Nader brought up this very issue in his first book.

    Ford also compared the X-frame to its ladder frame in sales brochures (without specifically naming Chevrolet or GM), asking prospective buyers which one they would prefer in a collision.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 44,403
    I have one anecdotal story. My brother and I were driving in a Renault R8 (ex-rallye car, I really like that car) and a Buick Riviera cut in front of us to make a turn. We T-boned it and while I don't know its ultimate fate I do recall that both our cars had to be towed away---neither was drivable. I do remember that the Riv damaged pretty badly at the mid-point on the body. We were not hurt at all but the Buick driver did request an ambulance (maybe just for show--he seemed okay). We were belted in with those nice rallye-type seat belts. The R8 was junked. Being rear-engined, it folded up pretty easily to the windshield. I suspect the Buick was junked because that's a very bad place for a 2D HT to be hit--at mid-point on the frame and roofline.


  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 21,846
    I suspect the Buick was junked because that's a very bad place for a 2D HT to be hit--at mid-point on the frame and roofline.

    Do you remember how far in that Riviera got smashed in? I'm kinda shocked that the car wasn't driveable, unless it was a really hard hit. And if it smashed the Renault up to the windshield, it might have been! Back in 1992 I got run off the road and hit a traffic light pole sideways in my '69 Dart GT. The pole hit at the passenger-side door, maybe a foot ahead of the rear quarter. Overall the car got punched in about a foot, but inside it only penetrated to where the door panel pushed up against the passenger seat. The hit was enough to mis-align the trunk and hood though, and the seam where the rocker panel joins the rear quarter on the driver's side ripped apart, so the car had started to fold around that light pole before it snapped off.

    The part where the B-pillar would have been still appeared level, but underneath the rear window there was a stress crease on the quarter panel from the twisting motion.

    Surprisingly though, that car was still driveable! Well, maybe I shouldn't have driven it, but I was able to drive it the rest of the way to school that day (although I got a rather embarrassing ride to class in the back seat of a police car), and it made it home with no trouble, although I had a friend follow me just in case.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 44,403
    Well it's interesting but if you think about it, a car with a strong ladder frame could be hard to smash in lengthwise but very easy to destroy side-ways or on a glancing blow. Once you distort that ladder frame enough, that's about the end of that car--because you have stressed all the joints---some of which are only bolted in anyway.

    Monocoque cars, even those re-inforced in plywood or balsa, proved to be a lot stronger in all the weird forms of collision that beset the average car.

    Ladder frame passenger cars were cheap and easy to build. It's no coincidence that they pretty much disappeared when stricter safety requirements came into being.


  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 21,846
    Do you remember what year this Riviera was that you hit? I don't think any Riviera actually used a ladder frame...unless you're just using "ladder frame" in a generic sense. Or if you're talking about an older 1950's Riviera, where "Riviera" just denoted the hardtop version of any given body style.

    I think the '63-65 Riviera actually used an X-frame, so it would've been every bit as vulnerable in a side impact as a 1958 or 1959-64 Chevy.

    For 1966 through 1985, the Riviera was on a perimeter frame, a style where the body of the car sinks down around the frame rails, rather than just sitting on top of them. It's supposed to be stronger, because you have the frame rails further outboard, but also the creases of the floorpan and body as it folds around the frame rails add some strength.

    From 1986 onward, the Riv was unit body, but they weren't hardtop by that time, either.

    As for my Dart, it was Unibody, so maybe that actually helped it a bit in my little pole-vault exercise? I dunno how a BOF car would compare...but by the 1960's nobody did BOF compacts...they were all unitized, with the exception of Studebaker I guess.

    I wonder how those old unit body Nashes held up in a collision?

    *edit...yep, the '63-65 Riviera was indeed X-frame. Here's a pic of a '65 frame...
  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 21,846
    about another T-bone accident I was in. Delivering pizzas one night back in 1998, I got t-boned in the parking lot by a kid in a 1992 Tempo who ran a stop sign and plowed right into me. It was actually kind of embarrassing, because that Tempo totaled my Monte Carlo, but the Tempo survived, got put back together, and I almost hit it with my '89 Gran Fury a few months later when the same driver cut me off (I recognized the license plate, and it was a unique, teal color).

    One reason that my Monte might have gotten it so bad though, was because I was moving, so the Tempo left a pretty wide swath of destruction. The damage started at the right wheel, which got thrown out of alignment, and I lost the hubcap. The right fender was gouged out behind the wheel opening. The passenger side door was gouged pretty deeply, and the rear quarter under the opera window was also gouged out. The impact was also just enough to move the A-pillar and crack the windshield. The rocker panel seemed okay at a glance, but who knows? That design was pretty "fuselaged", so the rocker itself might have been out of harm's way.

    If the window had been down it probably would have shattered, but it was up all the way. After the hit, it would roll down to the point of the smash. And surprisingly, that door could still be opened and closed.

    I have no idea how fast that kid was going. Since it was just a parking lot, you wouldn't think too fast, but it's amazing what people will do in a parking lot! The hit was hard enough that the Tempo pretty much stopped dead in its tracks, while my car got thrown over a few feet...initially I thought I was going to hit oncoming traffic!

    I wonder though, how the circumstances would've been if that kid had been just a little bit faster, gotten out in front of me, and been the T-bone-ee, rather than the T-bone-er? I'm sure my Monte would've done a good little number on that car.

    Probably best it turned out the way it did though. I got hit on the passenger side, and other than an adrenaline rush and being shook up, no real body damage done. And the kid driving didn't get hurt. However, if it had been the other way around, I would've gotten her on the driver's side, and with a much heavier car. That might've been messy.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 44,403
    Yes X Frame--that's what I meant.

    When I say ladder frame, what I really mean is a car where you can lift the body off the frame.

    I think it was a 65 or 66. It's been a while since that happened.


  • fintailfintail Posts: 33,496
    Well, if I sold a 50 year old car, I'd say it was rust free too...with a wink and a nod ;)

    That X-frame looks like a really bad design, almost no thought to side impact collisions.
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