1959 Chevrolet Bel Air vs. 2009 Chevrolet Malibu Videos for Engineers
Very recently while watching a 1960s era TV show I asked myself a question I've asked many times before: If one of those heavy, bulky vintage cars constructed of thick pressed sheet steel body components, full steel tube frames, and cast iron 8-cylinder engine blocks was to have a head-on collision with a modern car built with light-weight materials of composite construction and minimal structural bulk, which would be the victor? My gut reaction was to think that the result would be like a sledge hammer and a Coke can colliding; I'd rather be the sledge hammer. I know cars are engineered to sacrifice the car to preserve the passenger compartment by selectively absorbing and directing energy away from the passengers, but intuitively my money was on the 1959 Bel Air. I pitied the test dummy in the 2009 Malibu as the family transports careened toward each other; what if he had a dummy wife and dummy kids who depended on his income and leadership in the home? It was not until watching this video - admittedly chosen by its producers (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety) to convey the intended impression - that I fully appreciated the extent to which designers have been successful at achieving their goal in contemporary vehicles. I won't spoil the video by tipping the outcome, but take note of the integrity of the passenger compartments of both autos after all the metal bending. You have to believe that crash survivability technology has gotten even better in the seven years since the 2009 model was produced. Impressive!
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