Why is it that historically some of the coolest human inventions were inherently dangerous? Perhaps it was the danger that added to their allure. Classic cars are certainly no exception to this rule. Some of the most iconic classic cars such as the 1957 Mercedes 300SL Gullwing or the 1966 Shelby 427 Cobra, for instance, were extremely dangerous vehicles to be driving if you got into an accident.
Classic cars were manufactured with no seatbelts and no headrests. At the time, this was standard. In fact, the first province in Canada to make a law requiring the use of seatbelts was Ontario in 1976. Up until that point, even if your car had been manufactured with seatbelts, you were not legally required to use them.
Today, people still own classic cars that do not have seatbelts in them. Surprisingly, some provinces allow adults to drive in a classic car without seatbelts if it was manufactured without one. You are not legally required to have them installed, depending on the province, unless children are passengers. Despite the fact that it may not be legally required in your province to install a seatbelt in your classic car, it significantly reduces your risk of injury in an accident if you are wearing one.
Headrests are another important safety feature of vehicles that often do not appear in classic cars. The main concern of driving without a headrest is whiplash. According to The Journal of the Canadian Chiropractic Association, “Whiplash is the most common injury type arising from motor vehicle collisions, often leading to long-term suffering and disability.
Prevention of such injuries is possible through the use of appropriate, correctly positioned, vehicular head restraints.” Just like with seatbelts, it is a good idea to install headrests into your classic car if you plan on taking it out on the road. This step typically requires the installation of modern replacement seats. Original specs might be cool, but safety is cooler.
A lesser known feature of classic cars that were quite dangerous were the steering columns. According to Byron Bloch, who is as an auto safety expert and advocate, “in anything pre-’68, you can get harpooned by the steering column ramming into your face, neck or chest…” Not really a fixable problem n a classic vehicle.
These days, steering columns are collapsible. This way, if your seatbelt is not fastened, if it breaks upon impact, or if it was never there to begin with, you will be less likely to seriously injure yourself against the steering column.
The Spare Tire
While classic cars may have a lot of features which render them danger-mobiles, they had the right idea about one thing: the spare tire. In fact, it was often an aesthetic feature of the classic car, proudly displayed on the back for all to see. Today, however, about 1/3 of new cars do not come with the spare tire.
According to Consumer Reports, “carmakers are skipping the spare because of the regulatory pressure to squeeze more miles out of every gallon of fuel: Ditching the 40 or 50 pounds that a tire and jack usually add to a car’s weight helps to increase fuel economy slightly.”
That being said, being stranded on the side of the road when the “run flats” finally collapse, and without the ability to change the flat might be considered a greater inconvenience to some drivers than a few extra bucks at the pump.