1948 Mercury - Safe at any speed, especially stopped.

Here's a nice ad from Collier's magazine for a 1949 Mercury. For those not in the know, Collier's was, like Life, a national weekly magazine at a time when few people had TVs. So, it was pretty much  their window to the world. This is made clear by the scope of the magazine's content. It had things about all aspects of life, not just politics, as we have come to expect from news magazines today.

So anyway, Mercury seemed pretty proud of their new model's safety features.
In a nutshell, 1948 was an idiot when it came to safety. Of particular not is the "heavy gauge all-steel body". In 1948, manufacturer's idea of "safe" meant "rigid and strong". We now know that a car accident involves two collisions: the first happens when the car hits whatever - say, a 20-foot cube of superdense neutron star material. The second collision is when the squishy meat bags in the car hit the inside of the car. A car designed to survive a crash very well sort of insures that the people won't.

The "crumple zone" wasn't even patented until 1952, by Mercedes-Benz, and didn't appear on a concept car until 1959. In a collision, the nose of the car collapses intentionally, spreading out the deceleration over an extra fraction of a second, while the passenger compartment remains rigid, reducing what auto manufacturers called "uh-oh's". When one is stopping from sixty miles per hour, an extra twenty milliseconds really helps.

Here's a video of a crash test between a 1959 Chevy Bel-Air and a 2009 Chevy Malibu. The 2009 model was designed with crumple zones surrounding a "safety cage", making the Malibu much more survivable in a crash. The results of this test were surprising to a lot of old timers who traditionally swore up and down about the safety of old time engineering and good solid cars. My dad would have been "flabbergasted", or possibly "dipped in hogshit", as was his manner of expressing sincere astonishment.

So when your 49 Mercury hit an ordinary cube of superdense neutron star material, stopping dead in it's tracks, what could you, the driver look forward to? I found a picture of a '49 Mercury's steering wheel at autorestoration101.com. It's a spear.
At the time, I'm sure a Mercury salesman would have bragged about the car's "super reliable never-telescope steering column, ensuring sure-footed handling", moving on to describe the steering wheel's "beautifully sculpted speed bullet center cap". They just didn't know any better is all.
Nice job rendering the chrome, though.


Post a Comment