Ever wonder why most new cars look like a rolling sweet potato? Seems they all have high window sills, bluff bows and big, broad butts. Not much difference than a Loomis truck, really. Well, many forces have permanently altered car styling but none more pervasively than safety ratings and crash standards. After you take a look at this Insurance Institute for Highway Safety crash film of a 2009 Malibu crashed into a 1959 full size Chevy sedan, you’ll know why modern cars all kinda look the same.
The footage is dramatic to say the least. First off, a moment of silence for the fallen. Four door or not, we hope this ’59 Bel Air was a gussied up junk yard dog and not a complete, running car. Watching acres of Harley Earl sheet metal crumpling like tin foil is not for the faint of heart.
What’s worse is the ferocious intrusion into the driver’s area of this old Bel Air. This offset crash is one of most devastating and as you can see (from multiple angles) the driver of the ’59 probably wouldn’t have made it.
The way to avoid this intrusion is to beef up the cowl and A-pillars, raise height of side window sills and essentially create a “cage” around the passenger area. Adding 10 airbags helps too. If you look carefully, the ’09 Malibu interior escapes relatively unscathed.
Combine all that with pedestrian regulations (originating from Europe) that require a knee friendly, broad front end and a “cushion” built into the hood should a human skull slam down on it and you can see where all this is headed, no pun intended.
Next time we lament that new cars seem to be getting taller and lumpier, why not marvel at how designers have taken these hard points required by the government (and new car buyers) and created really cool new cars with all that stuff built in. See new SS, Vette and Camaro for proof there is still room for great design and the ability to walk away from a crash.