To celebrate to the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the organization crashed two cars. This was no ordinary crash, however. They took a 1959 Chevrolet Bel Air and a 2009 Chevrolet Malibu, and after strapping in the crash-test dummies, they wrecked the cars against each other in a 65 km/h (40 mph) frontal offset crash test. Check it out:


You can begin to see how the two cars were damaged. What surprised me the most is how the Bel Air fared. I thought those old cars were more solid. I expected the Bel Air to sustain less visible damage. The Malibu would absorb the impact, using the crush-zones designed for this purpose, absorbing the energy of the collision. This would save the driver from experiencing it.

Looking at the Malibu, you can see that this is what happened. The car is indeed a write-off, but the majority of the impact damage is in front of the firewall. The passenger compartment is completely intact. The dummy looks just fine.


Now looking at the Bel Air, we see a different story.


The dummy is looking like he’s got some rehab to look forward to with the way his legs are crushed. Goodness knows where the engine went. It was either pushed completely to the side, or the passenger has it in his lap.

Even more amazing is the video of the crash, linked from the press release. They had multiple cameras around and in the cars, recording the impact in slow motion. From the video, it seems to me the Malibu driver will walk away with nothing more than airbag abrasions, while the Bel Air driver will have to deal with a face full of dashboard with his own knees mixed in for good measure.

Say what you will about how cars are damaged in accidents, but there’s little doubt in my mind that they’re far safer than they used to be.

Images courtesy of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

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  1. Shawn
    Posted September 30, 2009 at 08:37 | Permalink

    AWESOME!!!!! this is the best I have ever seen.

    Now imagine my 1928 Chev, no seatbelts, wood floor and plate glass windows (not safety glass).

  2. Jonathan
    Posted October 9, 2009 at 18:26 | Permalink

    Love the colour matched fuzzy dice in the Bel Air

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