2009 Chevy Malibu vrs 1959 Bel Air crash test - a world of difference

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2009 Chevy Malibu vrs 1959 Bel Air crash test - a world of difference

A video produced by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety shows a 1959 Chevrolet Bel Air hurtling into a collision with a 2009 Malibu at 40mph. The outcome wasn’t pretty. The driver of the Bel Air would be close to dead, while the driver of the Chevy, may have walked away.

The idea was to show how much automotive safety has progressed in five decades. While some people still think that the big steel bodies and sturdy frames of old cars meant stronger vehicles and good crash protection, the institute’s crash test shows that that just isn’t the case.

Sophisticated engineering and high-strength steel give modern vehicles a huge advantage.

Here’s how the institute described what happened to the Bel Air:

“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 I.I.H.S. has crash-tested hundreds of vehicles, and Mr. Zuby said he doesn’t know of any that performed worst than the Bel Air.

The institute rates vehicles as Good, Acceptable, Marginal or Poor. The group looks at how well the structure of the vehicle held up and the likelihood of injuries to the head, chest and legs. The Bel Air got a Poor rating in every category.

The 2009 Malibu got Good in every category but the one for the left leg and foot, which was rated Marginal.

And what does this mean to owners of 1959 Bel Airs? Mr. Zuby said driving in a parade was probably safe because the speeds were slow and it was a controlled environment.

“I wouldn’t recommend that anybody use an antique car like this for their daily driving around,” he said.


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By netchicken: posted on 18-9-2009

That test was sorta suprising, because I for one thought that the all american steel Bel Air would slice like a "knife through butter" through the plastic Malibu. But I guess it shows you can even make plastic, through today's technologies to survive a hit from a huge steel vehicle.
By mg.mikael: posted on 19-9-2009

An interesting debate on the video of the 2009 Chevy Malibu vrs 1959 Bel Air crash test is occurring on Reddit that readers might consider reading.

On the debate over just how original the Be Air was, as some thought the engine was missing, and others that the car was full of rust, another article investigated and found:

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety released on Thursday a video of a crash test between a 1959 Chevrolet Bel Air and a 2009 Malibu to demonstrate how car safety has improved. Not to simplify matters too much, but the Malibu won. And several Wheels readers speculated in comments that the car didn’t contain an engine, which would have affected the test.

Armed with these conspiracy theories, I returned to David Zuby, the senior vice president at the institute’s crash-test center in Virginia. He explained that when the institute went looking for a 1959 Bel Air to crash-test there was one thing the organization didn’t want and some things it did.

“We didn’t want to crash a museum piece,” Mr. Zuby said. “We were not looking for one that had been restored for museum or show quality.” But the vehicle had to have a solid structure, although a little surface rust would be acceptable.

They found what they wanted in Indiana. “The frame was sound and all the body panels were sound,” he said. It had a 3.9-liter 6-cylinder engine and was in driving condition.

The car was bought for about $8,500 and had about 74,000 miles on the odometer, which was broken. It was trucked to the test center in Virginia.

Mr. Zuby said the cloud that shows in the crash video wasn’t rust. “Most of that is road dirt that accumulates in nooks and crannies that you can’t get it,” he said.

By netchicken: posted on 17-4-2011

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