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Jalopnik: Jalopnik Crash Week Begins: 1959 Chevy Vs. 2009 Chevy [Crash Week]

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500x_Crash_Week_Announcement_2.jpgThe magnificent collision below, performed for the 50th anniversary of the IIHS, demonstrates how far car crash technology has come in 50 years. Now we're using it to announce next week's Jalopnik Crash Week! The video, plus an explanation, below.

Our fascination with crashing covers the entire spectrum of thought, emotion, and frankly, respectability. Certainly we all want our cars to be safer, but on any given day you can hear someone complaining that safety has made cars less enjoyable. People love watching a good car crash, but hasten to add that they hope nobody was harmed. And while most people don't want to be in a crash, almost everyone loves telling stories about near misses, bad driving and out-and-out crashes.

So, to commemorate the dark side of the culture we love, we'll be taking a look at crashing from all sides next week, from a world atlas of bad driving to explorations of safety technology to the impact of safety on motorsports. Meanwhile, let's wish the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety a happy 50th and thank them for the incredible video — and try not to verbally castigate them for destroying that classic metal Chevy beast. Still wonder whether cars haven't gotten safer in the last 50 years? See what happens when a 1959 Chevy Bel Air crashes at speed into a 2009 Chevy Malibu.

See what we meant about "dark side?" Tell us what you're feeling after watching this in the comments below.
[video via IIHS]

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I think I may sell the '57 Buick wagon now...holy schnikies!

It really does demonstrate how far we have come in the automotive arena!

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I think I may sell the '57 Buick wagon now...holy schnikies!

It really does demonstrate how far we have come in the automotive arena!

The ancients really are death traps by comparison to modern cars... no crush zones, no seatbelts, metal dashes, giant steering wheels to gore you, primitive brakes. They are fun to look at at a car show, but I wouldn't want to drive one on the road.

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Impressive display of how much safer cars are these days, even when colliding with heavier older vehicles.

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Impressive display of how much safer cars are these days, even when colliding with heavier older vehicles.

Yes...what is sobering is to realize the results would have been similar had the older vehicle been a late model Astro/Safari or Blazer/Jimmy...those things were just as bad as something from 50 years ago.

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Too bad about the '59, hate to see stuff like that being destroyed unnecessarily.

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Filed under: Classics, Coupe, Sedan, Safety, Videos, Chevrolet

iihs-malibu-bel-air.jpg
2009 Chevy Malibu versus 1959 Chevy Bel Air - Click above to watch the video after the break

They just don't build 'em like they used to. While that old saying is constantly bandied about in regards to modern-day cars and trucks, it's once again worth saying and was the first thing that popped into our heads after watching the video pasted after the break.

You see, most of the time, we like to think of our old automobiles as tank-like hunks of metal with full frames and acres of dead space in front of the driver and the massive chrome front bumper. While that may often be the case, all those thick bits of steel don't automatically equal safety. This point is driven home by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, which decided to celebrate its 50th anniversary by crash testing a 1959 Chevrolet Bel Air into a 2009 Chevy Malibu. The results were eye-opening. Says the IIHS of the Bel Air's performance:
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.... 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.

Ouch.... an instant death according to the IIHS. And the '09 Malibu? "A high acceleration was recorded on the left foot, indicating that foot injuries would be possible." Well now, as much as we like our left foot (perfect for operating the clutch, ya know), we'd rather take our chances in the new car, thank you very much. Click past the break to watch the video in all its car-crushing glory, and take a moment to mourn the passing of what used to be a rather nice '59 Bel Air.

[source: YouTube]

Continue reading VIDEO: IIHS celebrates 50th anniversary by crashing modern Malibu into '59 Bel Air

VIDEO: IIHS celebrates 50th anniversary by crashing modern Malibu into '59 Bel Air originally appeared on Autoblog on Thu, 17 Sep 2009 19:59:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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WOW look at the passenger cell of the BelAir collapse!

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WOW look at the passenger cell of the BelAir collapse!

The passenger cell was part of the crush zone.

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Not every 50-yr old car performs the same in a crash... just as not every new car -even with the current strict safety requirement roster- performs the same today.

1. this was a 50-yr old car- what was it's structural condition ? The paint is shiny (IIHS repaint ??) but it billows rust dust in the collision. I also have other suspicions based on watching & rewatching the video (my potential biases are far less significant than IIHS's potential agenda), but as I have no proof (and IIHS doesn't supply any after stills)- I'll keep them to myself.

OK, I'll mention one: the hood of the C-59 comes damned close to puncturing the windshield of the Malibu... even a slightly different angle/instance could have it decapitating the Malibu driver.

2. Chevys have no-side-rail, C-channel X-frames, not only to worst of '59 but possibly the worst post- WWII. The same car as a Buick weighs 400-500 lbs more, and a great deal of that is the fully-boxed perimeter frame with a boxed K-member brace in the transmission area.

Now, you know the last thing I'd like to see is a B-59 willfully destroyed, but it would undoubtedly fare far better than a bottom-barrel Chevy, structurally.

Edited by balthazar
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Not every 50-yr old car performs the same in a crash... just as not every new car -even with the current strict safety requirement roster- performs the same today.

Now, you know the last thing I'd like to see is a B-59 willfully destroyed, but it would undoubtedly fare far better than a bottom-barrel Chevy, structurally.

You have an '09 Malibu now, you could set up and stage this yourself w/ your '59 Buick... :)

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You have an '09 Malibu now, you could set up and stage this yourself w/ your '59 Buick... :)

Have you ever measured the width of your evil streak, moltie? ;)

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Have you ever measured the width of your evil streak, moltie? ;)

Just joking... :)

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Impressive display of how much safer cars are these days, even when colliding with heavier older vehicles.

'59 Bel Air has about a 100 pound advantage... negligible. Older cars are considerably less dense than new ones.

Yes...what is sobering is to realize the results would have been similar had the older vehicle been a late model Astro/Safari or Blazer/Jimmy...those things were just as bad as something from 50 years ago.

A Safari/Astro, would have crappy results... they were well known for having poor crash results.... but some car between the '59 Bel Air and Astro/Safari will fair better. Balthy notes the X-frame was not a great setup, and I concur... ESPECIALLY in an offset crash. I find the idea of crash testing a '59 Bel Air offset is a travesty... in that the NHTSA obviously has a bias. The '59 was not designed for offset crashes... the Malibu was. I understand that the bulk of crashes are offset, but this was not really understood and designed for until 20 years ago. A full-on crash would have helped the Bel Air, IMHO.

On the other hand, I'd like to see the Malibu take on a '73 Caprice. Full bumpers, seatbelts, door reinforcements, full frame... I'm sure that would start to push the Malibu's drivetrain backward. In fact, I've advocated a '70s vs the present crash testing for years in the name of science.

If they really want to pick on old cars, have the Malibu take on a '27 Chevy... in those in any crash over 30 mph, the body/frame bolts sheared off and the the body flew off and disintegrated upon landing killing everyone. Yeah, cars have gotten safer... but in some cases, at the loss of functionality. The Malibu is so dense compared to older cars, its almost pre-crashed from the factory... which makes them hard to work on and hard to fit people and things into them. At some point, cars have to be 'safe enough'... its makes no sense to build a 1/12 scale Malibu out of solid titanium and declare it safer just because it can tear through the fullsize Malibu like tissuepaper if nobody can fit in it to drive it.

I'm also stunned by the rust cloud... I'd like to see how intact that car was... in the name of saving money, it was likely a rusted wreck with a nice paintjob.

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Another board claims it was a 60K mile original from IN.... but that still does not tell either way about any previous damage or compromising 'weathering'.

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That was among the dumbest things I have ever seen in my life. I got a great idea, during fire safety week we should burn down 300+ year old historical homes to prove the dangers of all wood construction in a fire.

Maybe I'll start a petition to get the guy running the IIHS stoned to death, or better yet have him slammed into a 2009 Malibu at 40 mph.

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The pillars on the Malibu are like twice as thick as those on the Bel Air. In a crash, I know which one I'd rather be in...

I think the differences in side crash performance would be similarly dramatic. Rear crashes, too - I've always wondered why it took so long to develop something as simple as an effective head restraint.

Edited by pow
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Another board claims it was a 60K mile original from IN.... but that still does not tell either way about any previous damage or compromising 'weathering'.

So, you're saying the same test performed on the brand new cars of the same era would produce different results? We all know cars made 50 years ago were essentially death traps in comparison to today's safety technology. My point being that I seriously doubt there would be any less damage or potential for fatal injury. Maybe the damage would just 'look' different.

I certainly wouldn't mind riding in a classic car; however, I just wouldn't want to be in a major wreck while in one.

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The rust cloud was significant...

Nonsense, that's just sepia tone to further illustrate the age of the Bel Air!

...I didn't notice the rust until after you guys pointed it out. That's pretty bad, yes. If you had a brand new 59 Bel Air today it might fare better, but -- in the interest of comparing the test to reality -- how many people would be driving brand new 59 Bel Airs? Sure, this test doesn't indicate how the structure would have held off the assembly line, but it definitely indicates how the car might fare if you were still driving one all these years later.

Also, one of the commenters on the video suggests there's no engine in the Bel Air. If nothing else, the engine would add weight/mass in favor of the Bel Air.

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I was fairly impressed that the malibu's windshield didn't even appear to crack.

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curious.... do these cars weight about the same? hehe

Malibu is about 3480... Bel Air is about 3600... options will cause these to vary. Keep in mind, that the Bel Air has less of that weight in the body and in the motor than the Malibu.

...I didn't notice the rust until after you guys pointed it out. That's pretty bad, yes. If you had a brand new 59 Bel Air today it might fare better, but -- in the interest of comparing the test to reality -- how many people would be driving brand new 59 Bel Airs? Sure, this test doesn't indicate how the structure would have held off the assembly line, but it definitely indicates how the car might fare if you were still driving one all these years later.

Wonder how the Malibu will perform after 50 years of rust?

Also, one of the commenters on the video suggests there's no engine in the Bel Air. If nothing else, the engine would add weight/mass in favor of the Bel Air.

If the Bel Air doesn't have an engine, the Bel Air would have a 400 lb disadvantage (It would have a 100 lb advantage with the engine), but I feel the engine is a major factor in the front crash structure... that would help explain the video. Of course, if the Bel Air was without engine, the Malibu would have started pushing it backwards.

Also, thinking a bit more... I think we are assuming this is a V8 Bel Air... an inline six, coupled with the width of the Bel Air over the Malibu might cause the Malibu to completely miss or glance off the engine during an offset crash.

I'll have to watch it a couple more times.

Edit: They changed the video slightly, I suppose addressing some of the comments, including the claiming it had no engine. It had an engine.

Edited by SAmadei
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ShadowDog - >>"So, you're saying the same test performed on the brand new cars of the same era would produce different results?"<<

Are you saying that's impossible??

I've taken cars apart that -at a glance- looked structrurally sound, yet the steel underneath in spots was practically gone. On one car with a vinyl roof- 75% of the steel underneath was swiss cheese.

>>My point being that I seriously doubt there would be any less damage or potential for fatal injury."<<

You are probably right. My problem here is the blanket assumption that ALL cars of this era would perform the same- their structures then were hugely different then by marque, as opposed to today's which all have to meet the same standards. I don't want to see that false assumption made from this video.

-- -- -- -- --

>>"The pillars on the Malibu are like twice as thick as those on the Bel Air."<<

How much of that is 'structural plastic" tho ? ;)

Seriously, tho the A-pillar on the C-59 is triple layer steel and hard as hell to cut thru, how it's attached to the cowl / rest of the body structure is something else. That just wasn't tested back then.

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