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KDMatt

Opinion time: How would I have fared?

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We just got into a car accident in my dad's Escort ZX2.

Another driver didn't yield on a green light, and turned in front of us, at ~40 mph. The front end of the 'scort took 85% of the impact, and is now, almost undoubtedly, a total write-off.

Inevitably, this has led me to thinking what would have happened if it'd been my Z instead. I know that the 280's (and later 260s) have somewhat beefier (albeit, uglier) looking bumpers, but the question remains, in a thirty year old car, lacking airbags, would I have been allright?

The three-point seatbelts, I know, are touchy, and lock very fast, but surely this cannot take the place of an airbag.

Four-point seatbelts?

What are some things I can do to the Z to make it as safe as possible, or things I shouldn't do or neglect when I "revive" her in the spring?

Thanks in advance guys, I always appreciate your input.

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Ok first of all, air bags do way more harm then good. I was just in a wreck i am thankfull i maid it through. I was ok then the air bag busted my lip and smashed my hand. Not to mention the black eye.

Now that im off that rant. You probably wouldnt get a thousand dollers for the Z given its age. Plus its a Z for crying out loud!

I think you did ok you are typing arnt you :)

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Airbags are designed as a supplement to the seat belts, designed to save people who can't be bothered to use the belts. The belts alone - when worn and adjusted properly - will do a good job keeping you out of the windshield and steering wheel. So if you are wearing the seatbelts in your Z, and they are in decent shape, don't worry about the lack of airbags.

That said, modern cars have a lot of passive safety (crumple zones, etc.) built in. Things that were basically unheard of in the 60's and 70's. So the Z can't be as survivable as a modern car.

But I won't let that stop me from driving and enjoying my Z when it's finished, anymore than I let it stop me from riding my motorcycle. It's life - there are risks...

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I have been driving my Z for thirty years and its size and age a not a factor when I get in it. 1970 240. I drive it when the mood strikes. I am in the process of refreshing her right now so, will be alittle while before she hits the street again. You can bet I am not building a garage ornament. So, you can see I agree with Arne.

We need to be aware of whats around us no matter what we are driving. Got hit a few years ago in my one ton Chevrolet truck. No, big deal until you find out that I was hit by a Semi pulling doubles hauling hay. Nothing left of the truck. Climbed in my Z to get to the doctors office.

Jim

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Heh...

Yeah I suppose I did allright given that I'm typing... granted though, my right hand (particular the joints in my thumb) hurt a bit... I was clutching an empty Dr. Pepper can when the airbags went off. No injury came to anyone involved, just some minor bruising and such.

Anyway, Arne, thanks for that info about airbags, that does make me feel better... though I've always thought that modern seatbelts were designed to be used in conjunction with airbags, and weren't really meant to be standalone (at least anymore). The seatbelts in my Z lock up so fast, sometimes it's tough just to pull enough slack out to fasten them.

However, I still have a major question... Has anyone ever been in a wreck in their Z? What was the experience like (other than heartwrenching)... Looking at their design, are they safer than you'd expect, as safe as you'd expect, or deathtraps? I just kind of want to know now... I realize that statistically, my odds of being involved in another serious wreck are somewhat low, but yeah... it's sort of got me thinking now.

I'm a paranoid driver... it's just the other guy that's got me worried...

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Hey mate, a good discussion took place in this thread : http://www.classiczcars.com/forums/showthread.php?t=17881&page=1&pp=15 a while ago FYI

Anyway, I have a hard time digesting the comment made by Arne about air bags being designed to supplement seatbelts. Seatbelts were invented first, and the only country I know of where you get to choose whether you wear one or not is America. So air bags were invented to protect those lazy/macho Americans who chose not to wear a seatbelt - at the cost of everyone else? I believe air bags were designed to complement seat belts.

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I believe air bags were designed to complement seat belts.
Yes, complement is a better description than supplement. Thanks for the correction.

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Hey mate, a good discussion took place in this thread : http://www.classiczcars.com/forums/showthread.php?t=17881&page=1&pp=15 a while ago FYI

Anyway, I have a hard time digesting the comment made by Arne about air bags being designed to supplement seatbelts. Seatbelts were invented first, and the only country I know of where you get to choose whether you wear one or not is America. So air bags were invented to protect those lazy/macho Americans who chose not to wear a seatbelt - at the cost of everyone else? I believe air bags were designed to complement seat belts.

Actually the US federal standards specify that air bags be powerful enough to stop a man who is not belted. In other words, they pop out with enough force that they are overkill. (http://www.iihs.org/laws/testimony/pdf/brief_stk_122302.pdf pg 3) Indeed, in American market cars, you will see the acronym SRS on the airbag cover. SRS stands for supplemental restraint system.

Frankly, I think that it's ridiculous to design airbags to protect unbelted passengers. If they have so much of a death wish that they do not want to use seat belts, we should just let Darwin take over and allow them to remove themselves from the gene pool.

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I can't seem to find the photos of Nissan's crash testing program for the 240Z It was a discussion a l o n g time ago and there were photos of the test cars and dummies, etc. In the archives - somewhere.

My opinion is kind of a wierd one, perhaps. I'm a believer in air bags and have seen plenty of people walk away from wrecks that would have killed them otherwise. You are not very safe in an S30 chassis - not at all. A later 280 Z chassis is probably better than something like my early chassis, but either way. The cars crumple badly. There's a good chance you have survived a 40 mph front impact, KDMatt, but it would have totalled my Z and probably yours.

I suggest the first rule of thumb when driving a car. Don't hit anything. :-)

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Hey mate, a good discussion took place in this thread : http://www.classiczcars.com/forums/showthread.php?t=17881&page=1&pp=15 a while ago FYI

Anyway, I have a hard time digesting the comment made by Arne about air bags being designed to supplement seatbelts. Seatbelts were invented first, and the only country I know of where you get to choose whether you wear one or not is America. So air bags were invented to protect those lazy/macho Americans who chose not to wear a seatbelt - at the cost of everyone else? I believe air bags were designed to complement seat belts.

In our WA (Washington State, USA) you could say you get to choose, but only if you choose not to buckle up you get a $200+ fine. If you have children that are not buckled up you get to pay for each instance as well. If another adult in the car chooses not to buckle up it is my understanding they get the fine, not the driver. I believe most U.S. states have the same or similar laws with varying fine amounts. I'm sure there are countries and some U.S. states out there with the right to choose, but Washington State isn't one of them. Not that very long ago the coppers couldn't pull you over for no seat belt in my state, but even that has changed. Just north of the border from me in British Columbia, Canada buckling up is the law as well. How about the rest of you U.S. Z'ers and those from other countries?

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Well, I have to admit that I think it is silly to legislate against stupidity. If a person doesn't want to wear a seatbelt, fine with me. Just don't complain when you find yourself thrown from the vehicle, perhaps severed in half and dead. Oh, let's see...I guess if you're dead you can't complain...

Anyway, I had a '91 Toyota pickup once. I was enjoying a nice, leisurely drive through Lucerne, MN, when a young driver in a flatbed delivery truck pulled right out in front of me. I was travelling at the posted speed limit of 50 mph. Needless to say, there was no time for me to react, and the collision sent me off the road and down an embankment. My little Toyota truck rolled 3 or 4 times. I still remember the roof caving in, the windshield shattering, and the side window blowing out.

When my little truck finally came to rest, I was amazed and relieved to find that all fingers & toes wiggled, all bones were intact, & I was still in one piece. I had a few cuts on my head from the breaking glass, and a 4 inch gash on my right forearm that required a few stitches. Other than that, I walked away from the accident. My truck, on the otherhand, was beyond totalled.

That Toyota truck had no airbags, and I'm not sure how it was designed to absorb an impact. Fortunately, I was wearing my seatbelt, a choice I've made EVERY time I get into a motor vehicle, whether I'm driving or not. Quite simply, it saved my life.

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Hi KDMatt:

As previously mentioned, Air Bags are a passive restraint system - intended to protect people who are not actively wearing a properly adjusted three point lap and shoulder belt. To date there is no evidence to suggest that the Air Bag offers any greater degree of safety, than using a three point lap and shoulder belt. There is some evidence that the Air Bags when inappropriately inflated, can do serious damage to people. (many children have been killed by them).

The bumpers on the 240Z or on the 280Z would make no real difference in the end outcome of a 40 mph head on collision, as both would simply be pushed back to the engine.

Although some might not be aware of it, providing some degree of safety in a crash has been not only a design goal but public law since 1968 here in the USA. The Datsun 240-Z like all cars in 1970 had to take and pass Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FVMSS); one of which was a frontal impact test at 30 mph.

See: <a href=http://ZHome.com/History/240ZSafety.htm TARGET=NEW>http://ZHome.com/History/240ZSafety.htm</a>

On the one hand the 240-Z is pretty light - so you aren't carrying a lot of energy in the first place, on the other hand the uni-body is very light and doesn't offer much mass to both absorb the energy nor redirect it... Add 10mph to the above test, and the front tires would most likely be pushed farther back... but I would guess that you'd have a pretty good chance of living through it.

FWIW,

Carl B.

Carl Beck

Clearwater, FL USA

http://ZHome.com

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Carl, Alfa: Thank you for the links guys.

Everyone else: your thoughts and blessings are always helpful. We're all over the initial shock now, as well as my father's grief over losing his favorite car (ya can't blame the man, he's never driven my Z).

Carl, that link was especially instrumental in helping me breathe a sigh of relief. Being as naive as I can be at times, I was completely unaware that collision tests of that magnitude were required in the 70's. Thank you.

I now feel a lot safer about driving my car, and I think I'm going to hold off on my clutch project in favor of addressing the suspension and brakes. Reading about collisions and accidents has made me realize how instrumental good handling and stopping power can be in avoiding an accident.

Your guys's input has helped me realize that while safety equipment and technology may have changed over the years, the basic formula for staying safe has always remained the same: fastening your seatbelt and being a good driver.

Peace.

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This amazes me. According to the link above, the 240z had 'crumple zones' 25 years before the advertising gimmicks. Then again, maybe it doesn't surprise me. The marketing departments have always been keen on buzzwords.

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I can tell you exactly how you would have faired. Several years ago I was in this exact kind of accident in a '72 240. I was going around 40mph or so and the traffic was backed up going the other direction. As I entered an intersection a kid in a brand new Hardbody P/U turned left right across my path. It happened so quickly that I literally was only able to mutter "sh" before we hit. I ran headlong into the side of the truck. Any discussion of the seat belts in a Z car is moot. They are practically useless. Mine simply came unbuckled, I slid forward actually bending the steering wheel back to the dash. My chin hit the dash, bouncing my head into the windshield. Amazingly, aside from some cuts and serious bruising, I was able to walk away from the crash. Here is the part you will be interested in. The right front wheel was pushed all the way to the footwell buckling the frame on that side. The windshield was cracked, but that was from my head. The engine seemed to take most of the impact. Surprisingly, it was not moved to far. The front of the car kind of wrapped itself around the engine. Now, you have a 280. That car would definately take the impact even better given the heavy bumpers and beefier frame. But, I was surprised at just how well the car handled it. Had I been strapped in with more functional seat belts, I would bet that the most I would have to complain about would be getting the wind knocked out of me.

Brian

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I can tell you exactly how you would have faired. Several years ago I was in this exact kind of accident in a '72 240. I was going around 40mph or so and the traffic was backed up going the other direction. As I entered an intersection a kid in a brand new Hardbody P/U turned left right across my path. It happened so quickly that I literally was only able to mutter "sh" before we hit. I ran headlong into the side of the truck. Any discussion of the seat belts in a Z car is moot. They are practically useless. Mine simply came unbuckled, I slid forward actually bending the steering wheel back to the dash. My chin hit the dash, bouncing my head into the windshield. Amazingly, aside from some cuts and serious bruising, I was able to walk away from the crash. Here is the part you will be interested in. The right front wheel was pushed all the way to the footwell buckling the frame on that side. The windshield was cracked, but that was from my head. The engine seemed to take most of the impact. Surprisingly, it was not moved to far. The front of the car kind of wrapped itself around the engine. Now, you have a 280. That car would definately take the impact even better given the heavy bumpers and beefier frame. But, I was surprised at just how well the car handled it. Had I been strapped in with more functional seat belts, I would bet that the most I would have to complain about would be getting the wind knocked out of me.

Brian

Wow, what a story.

I can't help but wonder if the seatbelts were changed at some point. I mean, 72 to 76 is a lot of room for changes (especially for Nissan it seems like). I'm curious, were your belts like mine... like, were the motion-lock mechanisms (or whatever you officially term them as) so sensitive that you could scarcely pull the belts over yourself without locking them? Or are you talking about the buckling mechanism itself attached to the seat?

In either case, how big of a hassle is it to install four-point restraints?

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In either case, how big of a hassle is it to install four-point restraints?

To truly install a 4 point harness correctly, you'd need a roll cage to mount it on.

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Here's my Z crash story:

Entering highway at 65mph, turn to see if left lane is clear (uphill climb with lots of semi's in the right lane), turn my eyes forward to see large dog, swerve left, hit patch of sand, both feet in now, Z goes sideways and then head on into guard rail, Z scrapes along rail until it hits upright, then spins around 180 degress to crush the back end. Z totaled, insurance coughs up the dough reluctantly, slight sore shoulders and neck but the 5-point harness, roll bar, and Cobra seats kept me in place and safe. A 4-point is okay but a 5-point is made so you don't submarine under the belt itself. Proper fitment is as important as wearing one in the first place.

Here's my $.02 on airbags:

1) they were made as was stated earlier as an accessory to seat belt use.

2) they are made to protect a 180 lb male who is NOT wearing a seat belt

3) they travel at speeds up to 200mph to do so (see #2 above)

4) the most common injuries from an airbag deployment are black eyes and a broken nose

If the bag deploys when your hands are at locations higher than 10 & 2, the bag will throw your hands into your face (at speeds approaching 200mph!). Now imagine someone who had both hands at the 12 position and got into a head on accident. Concussion-city.

For the reasons stated above that is why short people are very likely to be harmed by airbag deployments, as are children riding in the front seat. It is also the reason why there are now slower version available and cut-off switches. The use of pedal extensions on a single driver vehicle should be considered. Mulitiple driver cars should seek a dealer's help. Some newer models (mostly SUVs) come with adjustable pedals. This puts the driver farther from the airbag.

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I'll share my 240 accident story. In my 72 I was stopped waiting to turn left into a fast food joint. I was wearing my lap belt, but I had just unhooked the shoulder harness because I couldn't reach the damn window crank with the shoulder harness on. My girlfriend (now wife) was in the passenger seat with her seatbelt on normally. I got hit by a late 90's Firebird doing ~50 mph. Her car hit mine right about where the right tail light was. The hit pushed me across the road into oncoming traffic where I hit an early 90's Acura Legend almost head on. The Acura was going ~35. So I figure I took a 50 mph hit to the rear and probably a combined 50 mph hit to the front. This hit then spun the car counterclockwise about 270º where it stopped in the middle of the street. We're talking two HARD hits. Now for the damage.

The rear of the car was pushed in about a foot and a half. The nose of the Firebird is really low, so it hit the Z under the hatch. Although the hatch was tweaked, the glass did not break. In fact, NONE of the glass in the car broke. There was no gas spilled at the scene.

In the front the car was mangled up to the radiator core support. Once there, the damage was pretty minimal. I'd guess that the core support was pushed back maybe 2 or 3 inches, and the frame rails from the firewall forward were pushed over to the left about the same amount (because the hit from the Acura was slightly off to the right side of the car).

I broke my nose on the steering wheel. I jumped out of the car and started walking towards the restaurant to get help. At this point I realized that my wife wasn't with me. I went back down to the car and had to really yank the door open. She was crying but OK. Despite being belted in, she hit her forehead on the dashboard. When I later tried to close her door, it was bent so that the door overlapped the jamb by about an inch and a half. So the chassis was seriously bent all the way up into the rocker and floorboard area.

When the cops arrived they asked what had happened and the lady said she never even saw my Z. She never even touched the brakes. The cop asked if my lights were on (it was dusk) and I said, "Look for yourself, they still are." Despite the hit and the broken tail light lens in the RR, every single BULB in the rear was still on, and the blinker was still flashing.

So I think the Z is pretty good in a crash. I don't know that I'd be too keen on testing a side impact at the same speeds, but the front and rear definitely absorb energy well.

I still can't believe that the glass didn't break! I guess I can thank the engineers for that little miracle.

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Has anyone ever been in a wreck in their Z? What was the experience like (other than heartwrenching)...

http://www.classiczcars.com/forums/showthread.php?t=1770

This accident happened over 3-1/2 years ago by another member on this board (not sure if he's still around now, though). He rolled his Z and walked away. It's a shame the pics are no longer with the thread. They clearly showed the strength of the roof in these cars. It was amazing to see how intact the roof line was after this accident.

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http://www.classiczcars.com/forums/showthread.php?t=1770

This accident happened over 3-1/2 years ago by another member on this board (not sure if he's still around now, though). He rolled his Z and walked away. It's a shame the pics are no longer with the thread. They clearly showed the strength of the roof in these cars. It was amazing to see how intact the roof line was after this accident.

What a story! Holy shitake!

... Yet another testament to how resilient these cars are...

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The Z is not a particularly safe car, especially in a side impact crash. It is very low and light, two major factors that decrease crash survivability. The safety of a Z doesn't even come close to the most recent cars. I hear a lot of "whistling past the graveyard" delusions on these threads. If you really are worried, I would recommend getting an Excursion or a Hummer. I agree with a previous thread that being alive isn't safe, so you have to decide how much you really want to worry about a future crash. Drive with as much awareness as you can muster, forget how flimsy the metal is around you, and just enjoy the ride. Glad you survived. Victor.

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Ok first of all, air bags do way more harm then good. I was just in a wreck i am thankfull i maid it through. I was ok then the air bag busted my lip and smashed my hand. Not to mention the black eye.

Now that im off that rant. You probably wouldnt get a thousand dollers for the Z given its age. Plus its a Z for crying out loud!

I think you did ok you are typing arnt you :)

I beg to differ! seat belts do much more good than harm! a bloody lip and a black eye is better than a broken face and neck. I do alot of studing of the brain and how things effect it especially trauma, and air bags help lessen the blow greatly!! If they did more harm that good, they wouldn't be standard on almost every car made today! hell they might not even be standard, they might be required!

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