I’m someone who absolutely and unironically loves cab-over designed vehicles, which is why I’ve always hated smug clamholes telling me that “the crumple zone is your legs” or other frustratingly accurate comments about the relative lack of safety of such hood-free designs. Volkswagen must have been sick of all those comments, too, because in the ‘80s they had these videos made showing how safe they made their Type 2s vans.
The Type 2 vans they’re focusing on here are really the first ones where VW really, really tried to make safe, the third-generation Type 2s, which we knew in America as the Vanagon.
Not having a long front hood to absorb impact meant that VW had to come up with a pretty beefy double-Y-shaped frame member solution that, when you see it in action, is surprisingly effective, I think.
This is a long video, but it’s interesting. Well, I think it is, but I can easily imagine many better-adjusted people disagreeing:
The video also shows VW’s LT series of vans and trucks, which looked like larger Vanagons but were actually sort of mid-engine/rear drive, a very unusual layout for VW.
This other video is similar, but pits the Vanagon against a variety of other hood-less cabover designs from various Japanese manufacturers.
Even after watching those Japanese vans crash so alarmingly and horrifically, I still would happily drive any of those vans. I think I lose some real ability for rational thought when looking at the big, flat faces of these things.
There’s not an airbag to be seen here, and by modern standards nothing here is much more than a deathtrap, but I have to admit I’m pretty impressed with how (relatively, based on 1970s and 1980s standards) safe they managed to be, especially with such a minimal area between driver and impact.
So, when carmakers tell me they can’t make amazing vehicles like these modernized Jeep FC trucks or other revived cabover designs, I’m going to make them sit down and watch these videos until their suitably shamed/inspired to give modern, safe cabovers another try.
That’ll show ‘em.