In the late 1970s, the Department of Transportation hired a California-based company called Approved Engineering Test Laboratories to crash 30 vehicles, testing for windshield intrusion, windshield mounting and fuel system integrity. The resulting footage is amazing.
Ten of the 30 cars that underwent testing—including the 1979 Chevy C20, the 1979 Dodge D50 pickup, the 1979 Chevy Silverado, the 1979 Ford F350, the 1979 Mazda B2000, the 1979 Toyota Pickup, the 1979 Jeep Wagoneer and a bunch of motorhomes—were driven into rigid concrete barriers at 30 mph.
The footage from those tests includes some great underbody shots of then-brand new trucks—a great reference for those of us wondering how the suspension, frame, and sheetmetal under these vehicles is supposed to look. Plus, there are some shots of the engine bay, detailed footage of the exterior, a few interior shots, and plenty of video showing the instrumentation setup.
But the really awesome imagery is the actual crash footage. Yes, the side shots, interior shots, and overhead clips are great, but just look at this:
No, you aren’t dreaming, that is actual underbody crash footage of a 1979 Jeep Wagoneer. Just watch as that powertrain shifts rearwards, and those beefy frame rails buckle under the immense loads associated with bringing a 5,000 pound vehicle to a halt in a tenth of a second.
Speaking of the time it took to get the big SJ-platform Jeep to stop, here’s a look at the vehicle’s speed trace over time:
And here’s what the Jeep’s longitudinal acceleration looked like as a function of time (I’m not entirely sure why the acceleration isn’t negative throughout the impact):
In case you’re wondering how many inches the Jeep’s center of gravity shifted rearward during the test (looks like a maximum of two inches), here you go:
The fact that someone even crash tested a vehicle as primitive as a Wagoneer is already amazing to me; that there is this much data available for public consumption has sent me down a rabbit hole so deep, this article has taken about 10 times what it should have (I can’t help it).
After the 30 mph frontal crash, researchers tied the Wagoneer onto a hoist, turned it 90 degrees in the direction of the fuel filler, and then flipped the Jeep completely upside down for a few minutes to check for gas leaks:
It’s quite a spectacle to behold: a massive 2.5 ton iron giant just dangling from a big metal jig:
You can read the full report showing how this Jeep—whose platform went into production way back in the early 1960s—fared in the crash test, but prepare to drool over beautifully detailed images of a brand new Wagoneer’s gorgeous mechanical bits.