Classic Car - Safety

Safety

Drivers of classic cars must be especially careful. Classic cars often lack what are now regarded as basic safety features, such as seat belts, crumple zones or rollover protection. On September 10, 2009, ABC News 'Good Morning America' and 'World News' showed a U.S. Insurance Institute of Highway Safety crash test of a 2009 Chevrolet Malibu in an offset head-on collision with a 1959 Chevrolet Bel Air sedan. It dramatically demonstrated the effectiveness of modern car safety design, over 1950s X-frame design, particularly of rigid passenger safety cells and crumple zones. The 1959 Chevrolets used an X frame design which lacked structural rigidity; had the IIHS used a pre-1958 Chevrolet with a Unibody design, the results would have been much better. Vehicle handling characteristics (particularly steering and suspension) and brake performance are likely to be poorer than current standards, hence requiring greater road-awareness on the part of the driver. In certain areas of the United States, using a classic car as a daily vehicle is strongly discouraged and in some places even prohibited.

Retro-styled (color-coded with chromed buckles) 2-point and 3-point seat (safety) belts are manufactured according to Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS). However, most classic car bodies (before the late 1960s) did not include safety belts as standard equipment, and do not possess readily available reinforced mounting points, on the vehicle body, therefore it can be problematic to install such equipment properly: specific studies and calculations should be performed before any attempts. Proper installation is critical, which means locating attachment points on the body/frame. Assure the strength by proper reinforcement, and follow the seat belt installation instructions to reduce the risk of malfunction or failure. Some classic car owners are reluctant to retrofit seat belts for the loss of originality this modification implies. There have also been instances of cars losing points at shows for being retrofitted with seat belts.

Fitting modern tires is also a suggestion to improve the handling. However, most modern tires may be much wider and have a lower profile than those used on classic cars when new, therefore they may interfere with suspension elements and the tire walls may become damaged. The suspension of classic cars may not be suitable for radial ply tyres, having been designed for bias ply tires. Narrow classic car wheels may have been designed for narrow high profile tubed tires and not be suitable for modern tubeless radial tires. Another problem with modern tyres on classic cars is that increased grip requires increased steering effort; many classic cars do not have power steering. Many major tire companies have dedicated classic car tire marketing departments and will be able to give expert technical advice to address all these issues. It is important to know how radial tires will change the performance of a car originally fitted with bias-ply tires, and the considerations needed to compensate for the differences.

Upgrading braking using either bespoke parts, parts produced by the vehicle's manufacturer, from later versions of the same model or later models that may be compatible with minor modification, is an effective method of improving safety. Popular examples include drum brake to disc brake conversions, or adding a vacuum servo to cars with front disc brakes that did not originally have one.

Despite these concerns, classic cars are involved in relatively very few accidents.

Read more about this topic:  Classic Car

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