If you’re like many people, you enjoy the process of living. Metabolizing, converting food and drink into solid and liquid wastes, attempting to reproduce, sweating, the whole thing. That means, generally, you probably want to keep living, even if you, say, wreck your car. Well, the reason why that’s a realistic possibility has a lot to do with a series of experimental cars from the 1970s called Experimental Safety Vehicles.

I know I tend only to drive deathtraps, but I’m always impressed with the safety of modern cars, and how much they owe to these strange vehicles.


I found a pair of brochures about ESVs in my piles of crap, one from Toyota and one from Volkswagen, both showing off their ESV attempts from the early 1970s.

Illustration for article titled Check Out These Rare And Weird Experimental Safety Car Brochures

They’re both fascinating and impressive designs, but I’m especially drawn to the VW one, as it could easily be the most advanced development of VW’s old rear-engine, air-cooled design philosophy ever. It’s easy to imagine an alternate reality where the future of VW grew out of this ESV project, and we’d have Passat-sized, twin-trunked rear boxer-engined sedans and wagons and maybe even SUVs today.

Or, another universe’s today, I guess.

That’s a tangent, of course, but the actual story of the ESVs is plenty interesting on its own, so, you know, watch that video and you can hear me yammer on about it plenty.

Just remember the sad irony that about an hour after I said all that I was driving around in a car with no airbags.

Senior Editor, Jalopnik • Running: 1973 VW Beetle, 2006 Scion xB, 1990 Nissan Pao, 1991 Yugo GV Plus, 2020 Changli EV • Not-so-running: 1973 Reliant Scimitar, 1977 Dodge Tioga RV (also, buy my book!)

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