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                   Safety For Classic Cars

Drivers of classic cars must be especially careful. Classic cars often lack what are now considered basic safety features, such as seat belts , crumple zones or rollover protection. On September 10, 2009, ABC News 'Good Morning America' and 'World News' showed a U.S. Insurance Institute of Highway Safety crash test of a 2009 Chevrolet Malibu in an offset head-on collision with a 1959 Chevrolet Bel Air sedan. It dramatically demonstrated the effectiveness of modern car safety design, over 1950s X-frame design, particularly of rigid passenger safety cells and crumple zones. The 1959 Chevrolets used an X frame design which lacked structural rigidity; had the IIHS used a pre-1958 Chevrolet with a Unibody design, the results would have been much better. Vehicle handling characteristics (particularly steering and suspension) and brake performance are likely to be poorer than current standards, hence requiring greater road-awareness on the part of the driver. In certain areas of the United States, using a classic car as a daily vehicle is strongly discouraged and may even be considered illegal in some places.Retro-styled (color-coded with chromed buckles) 2-point and 3-point seat (safety) belts are manufactured according to Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS). However, most classic car bodies (manufactured before the late 1960s) did not include safety belts as standard equipment, and do not include readily available reinforced mounting points, on the vehicle body, therefore it can be problematic to install such equipment properly: specific studies and calculations should be performed before any attempts. Proper installation is critical, which means locating attachment points on the body/frame, assuring the strength by proper reinforcement, and following the seat belt installation instructions properly to reduce the risk of malfunction or failure. Some classic car owners are reluctant to retrofit seat belts for the loss of originality this modification implies. There have also been instances of cars losing points at shows for being retrofitted with seat belts. Fitting modern tires is also a suggestion to improve the handling. However, most modern tires may be much wider and have a lower profile than those used on classic cars when new, therefore they may interfere with suspension elements and the tire walls may become damaged. The suspension of a classic car may not be suitable for radial ply tires, having been designed to only accommodate bias ply tires. Narrow classic car wheels may have been designed for narrow high profile tubed tires and not be suitable for modern tubeless radial tires. Another problem with modern tires on classic cars is that increased grip requires increased steering effort; many classic cars do not come with power steering. Many major tire companies have dedicated classic car tire marketing departments and will be able to give expert technical advice to address all these issues. It is important to know how radial tires will affect the performance of a car originally fitted with bias-ply tires, and the considerations needed to compensate for the differences. Upgrading braking using either bespoke parts, parts produced by the vehicle's manufacturer, from later versions of the same model or later models that may be compatible with minor modification, is an effective method of improving safety. Popular examples include drum brake to disc brake conversions, or adding a vacuum servo to cars with front disc brakes that did not originally have one. Despite these concerns, classic cars are involved in significantly fewer accidents.



If you have a classic project and just don't have the time to restore it yourself then check out one of our partner networks. They are some of the best in total restoration in the country. If they are to far away from you contact us and we will locate a good one in your area.

Ph. 501-628-4527


Classic Car Hunters