So WTF is "Turret Top"? Well, it's a registered marketing name, so of course it has little to do with reality. It's Fisher's attempt to get you to associate their cars with safety and defense, even though a turret is either a cylindrical architectural feature or a rotating gun installation. "What's that have to do with the roof of a car?" you ask? Nothing! Whee!
Basically, the shape of the sheet metal forming the roof of GM cars was slightly convex (domed) for rigidity. Back in the Thirties, this mattered because the skin of the car was far more structural than today. The sheet metal forming the Modern (heh) cars are basically an intricate labyrinth of sheet metal with a very thin cosmetic set of body panels laid over it. Back in '36, what you saw on the outside was much closer to "what you get", in that the car was simpler in construction without the structure of the car and the appearance of the car being divided between two sets of sheet metal.
Actual numbers are hard to find, but it seems that, back when this ad first ran, sheet metal on the outside of cars was about 18 gauge (1.2 millimeters thick), while current cars use something like 22 gauge (0.68 millimeters thick). This makes sense, because in the old cars, that sheet metal was doing more to hold the car's shape, whereas today it's mostly not. The car is pretty much just as rigid without the body panels as it is with them, thanks to the unibody.
Pathetically, Volkswagen tried to use the same argument to tout the strength of the New Beetle in the early 2000's. The "Round for a Reason" campaign made a comparison between the New Beetle and the arched structure of the Roman aqueduct. This is bullshit. The car was round to make it cute, appealing to retro-minded people. It had nothing to do with strength. The current state of car design can produce a safe, rigid car that meets or exceeds all safety requirements regardless of whether it's round or square or whatever. The New Beetle was one of the worst cars of the time. It didn't have a reputation for being more or less structurally flimsy that other cars, but mechanically the New Beetle was junk.
So does all this mean your modern (heh) car is less safe than the 1936 ford? Absolutely not. Crumple zones, antilock brakes, and airbags make your car far safer than the Turret Top. Back then, cars were designed to be a stiff as possible in a crash. So when you hit something, the car stopped immediately, and your soft gooey body smashed into the steering wheel, dash, and windshield, releasing it's various goos and fluids all over the car's interior... if you're lucky. It's just as likely that the passenger compartment would fold up around you. Car designers did their best to make the car survive, but they had no clue how to keep the passengers alive.
As early as 1955, American cars offered two-point lap belts as an option, giving buyers the choice of being folded in half before being compressed longitudinally. This had the end result of folding you into quarters upon impact. This allowed the use of much smaller burial plots, and eased cemetery overcrowding substantially.
Here's that great crash test between a 1959 Malibu and a 2009 Chevy Malibu. It shows you everything you need to know.
Lastly, it's kind of funny that you can see the obvious shadow of the photographer, complete with fedora, on the little girl. Is this intentional or was it an unavoidable reality? No no. Of course there had to be a shadow. I mean did he have to wear a hat? Of course. It was 1936.
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