Yes, The IIHS-Crashed '59 Chevy Had An Engine

Illustration for article titled Yes, The IIHS-Crashed '59 Chevy Had An Engine

We pegged this week's "Crash Week" to the 50th anniversary of the IIHS, kicking off their birthday with a video of a 1959 Chevy crumpling into a 2009 Chevy. But some folks think the '59 smelled funny. They're wrong.


Christopher Jensen of the NYT's Wheels blog, in response to commenter claims, spent some time on the phone talking to David Zuby, the senior vice president at the institute's crash-test center in Virginia about last week's IIHS video of the 1959 Chevy Bel Air crashing into the 2009 Chevy Malibu, shown again below.

Commenters seemed to think the '59 didn't have an engine under the hood. More than likely this was just wishful thinking on the part of car-obsessive Jalopnik readers. According to Zuby, by way of the NYT:

when the institute went looking for a 1959 Bel Air to crash-test there was one thing the organization didn't want and some things it did.

"We didn't want to crash a museum piece," Mr. Zuby said. "We were not looking for one that had been restored for museum or show quality." But the vehicle had to have a solid structure, although a little surface rust would be acceptable.

They found what they wanted in Indiana. "The frame was sound and all the body panels were sound," he said. It had a 3.9-liter 6-cylinder engine and was in driving condition.

The car was bought for about $8,500 and had about 74,000 miles on the odometer, which was broken. It was trucked to the test center in Virginia.

But what about those "clouds of rust?" Zuby has an answer for that too:

"Mr. Zuby said the cloud that shows in the crash video wasn't rust. "Most of that is road dirt that accumulates in nooks and crannies that you can't get it," he said."


So there you have it. [via NYT Wheels]


I will give you this, no more, no less: Modern cars are designed specifically to do well in crash tests. So they are pretty much uniformly safe to that degree. Older cars are pretty much a mixed bag of chocolates- you never know what you’re going to get. There were such a variety of designs, and such a variety of possible accident combinations, that its hard to quantify safety for them. Crashing a car that was not designed with an eye to passing a randomly-devised test into another that was specifically designed to pass that test shows absolutely nothing. NOTHING.