1959 Chevrolet Bel Air Vs. 2009 Chevrolet Malibu

I saw that video this morning, when I signed onto the NYT website.
That might help to dispel the, “They aren’t making them like they used to” statements of the uninformed. Whenever I hear someone make that statement, my reply is, “Yes, thank God”.

Incidentally, if you think that the frontal impact damage to that '59 Chevy was bad, that is nothing compared to what side impact would look like. Although all other GM models had full perimeter frames (as did Ford, Chrysler, and Studebaker vehicles), Chevy alone had the notorious “X” frame. This meant that a strong side impact allowed the impacting vehicle to penetrate–literally–to the centerline of the Chevy’s chassis. Few people survived a side impact in Chevies of that era.

That car probably had a steel dashboard too! Good if you want to look like a hockey player. It might have had safety glass for the windsheild.

Too bad they had to destroy a nice car making that video. The 1959 Bel Air that is.


I agree…If they didn’t want the Bel Air anymore they should have given it to me!

I saw this video yesterday and it is amazing. It is a shame that 2 nice cars got wrecked, it would be worth it if a Dodge Neon & a Plymouth Fury went nose to nose. The Malibu held up nicely but if you study the Bel-Air closely the roof flexes greatly, the lt ft door gets shoved back half way past the rear door and the steering column shoots into the driver.
The shame of “they don’t make them like they used to” is in the styling, IMOO.

It definitely had laminated safety glass for the windshield and side windows. You can see the windshied pop out partially intact. Laminated safety glass has been the norm since the late '20s. Have you even noticed how discolored and, sometimes bubbly, OLD car glass is when you see them on salvage yaards? That’s the plastic sandwiched between two layers of thin glasss. Tempered door class came along when the door windows became curved. It can also be made thinner and be just as strong.

these cars were made on the crap x frame, where the drive shaft was part of the frame.
they chose this car over anything else just to get all un-car people to freak out and buy new cars. its all shock and horror, not real hard hitting science.

Is there another route in which I can view this video? Apparently there is a copyright claim against it.

I still feel like the jury is out on the “old vs new” question. I have a hard time believing that a car made to “crush” to absorb a blow is more safe than one designed to withstand an impact.

“I have a hard time believing that a car made to “crush” to absorb a blow is more safe than one designed to withstand an impact.”

I am interpreting your statement to mean that the car that is designed to “crush” is the '09 Malibu, and that the one designed to “withstand an impact” is the '59 Bel Air. If that is the case, you are wrong on two points.

The basic laws of physics dictate that the car that is designed to “crush” in a scientifically controlled fashion will absorb impact forces and thus will transmit far less of the impact force to the occupants than one that is more rigid overall. (Passengers die as a result of high impact forces and/or from intrusion of metal into the passenger cabin.)

However, that '59 Chevy did not even withstand the impact very well. In addition to folding up like like a cheap accordion, the passenger cabin sustained severe damage, unlike the passenger cabin on the '09 Malibu. “Withstand an impact”? I don’t think so!

Be sure to pay special attention to the views inside the passenger cabin of both cars at the point of impact. The '09 Malibu has almost no evidence of intrusion into the cabin, whereas the dashboard and the steering wheel of the '59 model are violently driven back toward the passengers. Throw in such details as a ripped-off door and severely deformed roof pillars, and it is obvious that the occupants of the '59 model would be very lucky if they only sustained very serious injuries in a crash such as this. Death would be more likely.

Take a look at that video and tell me if you would want any of your children to ride in a vehicle made like the '59 Chevy.

If you go directly to youtube, you can view the video with no problem whatsoever:

Also, Modern Cars Are Designed To Absorb Impact By “Crushing” At A Controlled Rate In Areas That Don’t House Passengers. The Passenger Area Is Designed To Be A More Rigid “Capsule”.

Thanks for the link. That was an eye opener. And yes you were right about the “crush” and “withstand” interpretation. And even more correct about my kids. I would not allow them to ride in an “X” frame car, without seat belts and shoulder harnesses. But, if it had a true frame, with belts, and maybe even a welded roll cage installed, I believe it could take a lot more abuse.

And to save myself from ridicule, or possibly bring more :), I under stand the concept of cousioning the blow verses a hard impact. A coushioned impact is far better on the old internal organs & bones, but if the meds can’t get you out of a car because the coushioned frame is wrapped around you, what good is it?

" if the meds can’t get you out of a car because the coushioned frame is wrapped around you, what good is it?"

On the other hand, if your family has all suffered fatal injuries as a result of the impact forces in that old car, does it really matter how quickly their bodies can be extricated from the car?

I remember the Consumer Reports commented about the lack of side protection of this type of frame back in this time period. I wonder how the unit frame construction of cars of this period would hold up. The American Motors Ramblers had unit frame construction and Chrysler corporation cars beginning in 1960 had a unitized construction with a bolted on subframe for the engine for all its cars except the Imperial. Would the unit bodies of this time period absorb the impact and protect the passenger compartment or would these unit frame cars share the same fate as the 1959 Chevrolet?

Just one more note–The Chrysler Airflow and DeSoto models made from about 1934 through 1937 had unitized construction. I remember looking through old magazines and seeing an advertisement where they pushed a Chrysler Airflow off a high cliff. It rolled over several times when it hit the bottom and a driver got in and drove it off. As I remember from having seen a couple of these old Airflows, the dashboard knobs were recessed. I wonder how a Chrysler Airflow would stand up in a crash with either the 1959 Chevrolet Bel Air or the 2009 Malibu? (Let’s keep this a hypothetical question–I would hate to see a good Airflow destroyed.)

Everyone in here is right, the old styles were horrible for protection. Honestly, I should know better due to the accidents I’ve had in my own travels.

93 Dodge 1/2 ton. 50 mph head on with an old oak tree. The bumper was litterally wrapped around the tree, while I was safe in the cab. Minor scratches which I got attempting to climb out of bushes.

But then there’s the 98 Mazda 2 door car (couldn’t tell you what model wasn’t my car). Yet another head on, 40 mph, off into a ditch bank. They had to saw thier way into the car to get me out. Broken foot (my knees seemed to be in my chest) and a broken nose via the air bag. Everything in the car seemed to be touching me.

In all this, I was wearing a seat belt (a must have!!!) and I walked away. So I guess the cars have only gotten better at safety with time, but I have often wondered, “What if I was in my Mom’s 65 Ford Fairlane? Or Dad’s 51 Chevy Deluxe?”

Will Ralph Nader and we concerned citizens here be given credit for the lives saved and for all our work in this area ? One of the real reasons why our cars are safer than dad’s. This improvement didn’t just start happening out of thin air and the benevolent attitude of GM, Chrysler and Ford. They were happy making money on tuck and roll Corvairs and exploding Pintos.

“Nader’s advocacy of automobile safety and the publicity generated by the publication of Unsafe at Any Speed, along with concern over escalating nationwide traffic fatalities, contributed to the unanimous passage of the 1966 National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act. The act established the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and marked a historic shift in responsibility for automobile safety from the consumer to the manufacturer. The legislation mandated a series of safety features for automobiles, beginning with safety belts and stronger windshields.”

One of the sad things about the early Corvair is that the bean counters at GM were more interested in profits than in auto safety. I owned a 1961 “tuck and roll” Corvair. I purchased for $12 a transverse spring that bolted across the rear control arms that was specifically made for the Corvair to cure this problem. This 15 minute bolt on modification made the Corvair a very good handling car. This became standard equipment in the 1964 Corvair. In 1965, Corvair replaced the swing axles with a fully independent rear suspensionand these cars handled very well for the times.

One problem that was potentially even worse in the Corvairs was exhaust fumes leaking into the hot air heater. There were reports of carbon monoxide poisoning in the Corvair and this problem was never addressed. As the cars became older, the seals between the cylinders and the block would deteriorate causing this problem. Interestingly, the first Corvair, the 1960 model, didn’t have this problem. It had a gasoline heater as opposed to a hot air heater.

Let us also not forget the design of the steering column on the original Corvairs.
Unlike most cars of the day, whose steering box was much further back, the steering box on the Corvair was directly behind that pathetic little front bumper that was essentially only minimal protection from parking mishaps.

And, of course, with no engine in the front to provide some buffering of impact forces, the nose of these vehicles essentially imploded upon impact, but not in a controlled fashion.

The result of this defective design was with even a fairly minor impact to the front driver’s side of the vehicle, the steering column was driven back into the passenger compartment. The degree to which it was driven back was proportional to the speed of impact. In a substantial crash, the non-collapsible rigid steering column was thrust directly into the sternum of the driver, almost always with fatal results.

Ralph Nader is an exaggerator, and a liar. I’ met a guy that raced a corvair, and He went through Ralph’s scenario, with the whole uncontrolable spin out and death thing, and nothing happened. nothing. no roll. no horror.

if Ralph’s theory was right, it WOULD have happened.

doesnt anybody find it strange, that he never went after every single VW, Renault, or any other car, besides an American made car?

point still stands that Nader is a quack.