1959 Chevrolet Bel Air vs. 2009 Chevrolet Malibu Videos for Engineers
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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