On The Tube: Classic Car Safety

October 31, 2011

A look at some early safety device tests and commercials on YouTube.
The Corvair in Action!

Brake-pumping stops, wicked rear-enders, and rollovers. In 1964, Ralph Nader attacked GM and the Corvair in his book, Unsafe At Any Speed. Chevrolet responded with this promotional film:
First in the Bag?

The 1973 Oldsmobile Toronado was the first car with a passenger air bag intended for sale to the public. General Motors later offered an option of driver side airbags in full-sized, production Oldsmobiles and Buicks in 1975 and 1976, respectively. Cadillacs were available with driver and passenger airbag options during those same years. Even so, many car makers—including Mercedes—claim they were the real leaders in this technology. It wasn’t until 1981 that the company introduced the airbag as an option in their S-Class production models. This video gives some perspective on just how far airbags have come.    
Safety Firsts: Mercedes Benz

In 1949, Mercedes patented safety door locks. In 1951, the company came up with the concept of front and rear crumple zones. This commercial gives a rundown of Mercedes Benz safety innovations over the last 50 years.

Volvo Does Safety Belts

In 1956, General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler were the first to offer seat belts as optional safety equipment in their cars. But the three-point safety belt we know today came by way of Volvo. On Thursday August 13, 1959, the world's first car with standard-fit three-point safety belts—a Volvo PV544—was delivered to a Volvo dealer in the Swedish town of Kristianstad. Over the next 50 years, the V-shaped three-point safety belt saved well over one million lives.   

Bel Air vs. Malibu

What better way to celebrate 50 years since U.S. insurers organized the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety than to crash some cars?  In this video, a modern car and a rock-solid classic go head-to-head to show just how far auto safety has come. The result is an explosion of glass, metal, and plastic that leaves at least one dummy driver “crumpled.” Can you guess which car comes out on top?



  1. Don Gorham, ME

    I'm a little disappointed to see that the HVA is not admonishing that Bel Air vs. Malibu test. It was awful to see a well preserved classic destroyed for no good reason a couple years ago, and it's just as awful to see it again today. The public doesn't need to see such a test to know that auto safety has improved "a 'bit" in 50 YEARS! And a good way to stack the deck? Use a Chevy X-frame car........and oh yeah, take out the engine before you crash it. Disgusting.

  2. Charleigh Boom shakalaka boom boom, problem sovled.

    Boom shakalaka boom boom, problem sovled.