Life Before Seatbelts: For The Lucky Few

Paul Niedermeyer
by Paul Niedermeyer
life before seatbelts for the lucky few

I know racing is not a TTAC thing per se. But safety, old photos, lady luck and the human face at work are, at least on Sunday. Going through some an old Car & Driver from 1963, I ran across some remarkable photographs of Julius Weitmann. Two are about those rare cases when drivers lived to remember their rude ejections from race cars, as Hans Hermann here looking warily at the BRM that bucked him at Avus in 1958 after a few flips.

Again at Avus the year later, Weinmann caught Richard van Falkenberg as he was exiting his flying Porsche. Falkenberg survived, but took the hint and retired from racing. Drivers initially actually resisted adding seat belts, because they thought their odds were better in being ejected than impaled or crumpled inside their cockpits. Add these two to that camp.

Modern racing helmets don’t give photographers a chance to capture the faces of drivers at speed. But in the fifties, that was a different story. Here’s a study in facial contrasts: the determination of Hermann Lang; the imperturbable Stirling Moss; and the relaxed disdain of Fangio (left to right).

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  • Carve Carve on Jan 25, 2010

    Driving is dangerous enough WITH all the safety features. These days, when I buy a daily-driver, it must fall in the top 10% on 's ratings. However, in this country we seem to be overlooking the one area that has the biggest potential to save lives: stricter licensing standards (should be closer to getting a pilot's license in difficulty) & more stringent driver's training.

  • Highway27 Highway27 on Jan 25, 2010

    Not to play the one-up game, but in an interesting anecdote, my father had a separate mount installed for a toddler harness in both of our vehicles when my brother and I were little. This was the early to mid-70's, when people used infant seats, but there were no toddler seats or booster seats. So instead of using a lap belt, up around our tummies (which is somewhat better than being tossed around a vehicle cabin, but a great source of internal injuries), the younger of us wore this harness which was then attached to the seat belt mounts. Additionally, he had 3-point belts ordered for the front seats of the vehicles, a 1969 Ford Fairlane 500, and a 1972 VW Microbus. One interesting effect of having the harness was that it allowed us to have 8 people secured in the Microbus, handy for trips to visit family with guests.

  • Chuck Norton And guys are having wide spread issues with the 10 speed transmission with the HP numbers out of the factory......
  • Zerofoo "Hyundais just got better and better during the 1990s, though, and memories of those shoddy Excels faded."Never. A friend had an early 90s Hyundai Excel as his college beater. One day he decided that the last tank of gas he bought was worth more than the car. He drove it to empty and then he and his fraternity brothers pushed it into the woods and left it there.
  • Kwik_Shift There are no new Renegades for sale within my geographic circle of up to 85 kms. Looks like the artificial shortage game. They bring one in, 10 buyers line up for it, $10,000 over MSRP. Yeah. Like with a lot of new cars.
  • Ribbedroof In Oklahoma, no less!
  • Ribbedroof Have one in the shop for minor front collision repairs right now,I've seen more of these in the comments than in the 30 years I've been in collision repair.