12/09/13 11:15PM , Buick, Cars, classic, vintage

Cars Then and Now

Vintage and Classic Cars,Photos

Cars Then and Now: Who Comes Out On Top?

There have been all sorts of technological and safety advances to vehicles over the past few decades. Seat belts and air bags are mandatory, many come equipped with reverse cameras and brakes that the car applies if you get to close to something in front of you. With all of these achievements, are we any safer than we were 50-some years ago?

Safety Features

The big sedans of the '60s were boats – big fuel hogs that were works of art on wheels. They were woefully short of safety features – like seat belts – but made up for it by sheer size and solidity, right? To my surprise, the answer is a most emphatic “no.” Look at this video from Consumer Reports showing a 2009 Chevy Malibu in an offset head-on collision with a 1959 Chevy Bel Air. It's painfully clear that all that metal and weight didn't protect drivers or passengers. And the statistics prove it. In 1959, there were 36,223 deaths due to motor vehicle accidents. The VMT (Vehicle Miles Traveled) was just over 700,000 million, leaving a fatality rate of 5.171 per 100 million VMT. Those same numbers, for 2012 are rather shocking. There were LESS total deaths than in 1959, at 34,080. The fatality rate was at 1.16. This despite the fact that there are around 240 million cars on the roads in the U.S. today versus 67 million in 1958.



There's no denying that cars from the late 50s were nothing short of works of art. The 50s saw Von Dutch popularize the customization of car paint by going beyond pin stripes. Hot rodding and drag racing became mainstream with the first drag racing strips in the U.S. - the Santa Ana Drags. These were the cars that inspired or had roles in songs such as Rocket 88, Hot Rod Lincoln, Maybellene, Wake Up Little Susie and Teen Angel. There's no doubt that today's rides are far less exciting to look at than the vehicles of the 50s.



Which cars last longer? There are a few relics of the 50s still being driven around. Will we be able to say the same of today's cars in 2060? In the 50s, cars were expected to run for around 100,000 miles. Most odometers only went to 99,999 then flipped to all zeros. In comparison, Jagadish Sorab of Ford Motors says they ran their EcoBoost engines to 250,000 miles. They then tore the engine apart and saw no evidence of wear (NY Times). And it's not just Ford. Auto research firm Polk has determined that the average age of vehicles on the road is at an all-time high of 11.4 years (CNBC).


Conclusion? Although the fin and flare cars of the 50s are gorgeous as works of art and a tangible reminder of our pasts, today's modern cars are safer and will last longer than ever before. If you want a safe, reliable ride without the car failures typical of 1950s technology, choose new.