2009 Chevy Malibu vs 1959 Bel Air crash test

This crash test between a modern sedan and the classic 1959 Chevrolet Bel Air shows just how far passenger protection has come in the last fifty years.

The first inclination is, “Oh, those old cars were built like tanks!” but its quickly apparent that the myriad safety features found on newer cars are literally lifesaving. Thanks to Dan Moren for the link.



  • GS

    I’m old enough to remember these. They drove like tanks, but were built like toys. The car industry wanted you to be “free”. Free to be ejected in a crash, or crushed inside, while they were free to be indifferent to safety. People were free to smoke anywhere back then too. Ahhh, freedom.

    • James Hughes

      Yup, hospital waiting rooms, airplanes.

  • awesome. wow.

  • DanielSw

    I was nine years old in the model year. Funny, I never even thought of such crashes and the fact that there were no seatbelts back then—or at least the requirement to wear them.

    • James Hughes

      And I am sure at the time you were all over the place in the back seat. Waving to people behind you and so on. I remember my father had a 65 Chevy Mailbu, that’s what we were doing!

      • DanielSw

        How did you know?! How did we ever make it through all those horrible safety hazards!

        • James Hughes

          I do wonder sometimes what the statistics say. If there were any reliable statistics at the time. It’s great to be safe and all, but I wouldn’t miss showing someone moose ears for anything!

  • The Cappy

    Fascinating watching the interior keep its shape.

  • Mo

    Everyone, repeat after me:

    “But mandatory seatbelts will bankrupt the auto industry!”

  • Dana Pellerin

    Ahh the good old days, when seat belts were optional and when you got done with your McDonalds you just threw your trash out the window onto the 405. We’ve come a long way. 🙂

  • Paul Chernoff

    When I was very young I was involved in a minor accident. Front seat, no seatbelts, hit other car head on. Head meet windshield. Next week seal belts installed on car, always used.

    • Mo

      Glad it didn’t take more to make that change.

  • Cranky Observer

    A friend of mine spent the 1980s on a team building the computer code that makes the calculation of crumple zones routine (and just as important from the automakers standpoint, inexpensive). Their software has probably saved 100 million lives since then but of course they were never recognized outside some very specialized automotive trade press. Unsung heros for sure.

  • Cranky Observer

    Every once in a while someone at a car show or with a bunch of old cars in the barn offers to let me drive one of the cars I grew up with/learned to drive on in the early 1970s. This is why I decline. (0_0)

  • Brandon

    I wanted to cry when I saw the 59 Bel Air was in immaculate condition. But I couldn’t help but be amazed at how both vehicles faired. No doubt, I wouldn’t want to be in a wreck in a classic car.