By on July 22, 2015


Somewhat oddly for the site that used to prioritize being FIRST POST above everything else, Jalopnik was last out of the gate with their review of the Viper ACR. I think it was worth the wait, because it was written by legitimate sports-car-racing hero Andy Lally. You can check it out here. As competent a racer and driver as I think I am, Andy’s obviously on the proverbial next level.

Which is why it made me sad to read one of the story’s last paragraphs.

Andy tells us:

Last but not least, if you are serious about buying this car please take these next words as serious as you will take any other advice. BUY THE SIX POINT SEATBELT UPGRADE. I did three flying laps in this car with a regular belt and had to pull into the pits because for as much grip as you can generate, a regular shoulder belt does not keep you in place well enough.

In Dodge’s defense, I was vocal about this right away and they explained that they are prohibited from selling a street car with these belts. They did have a car on-site with six-point belts installed and it was much more pleasant. The car is built so that you can easily install them. Check that box when ordering.

In Andy’s defense, I think he has about as much experience with “trackday specials” as I do with any kind of lambskin condoms. He is what they call a “real racer” who “really races” in “real race cars”. So when he gets in a car on-track it has six-point belts and a full rollcage and, more often than not, a monocoque designed to distribute crash impact.

The Viper ACR is capable of hitting a wall at a racetrack at nearly the same speed a World Challenge GT car could achieve. But it has absolutely no additional rollover protection besides what is built into the body. It is designed to roll over in a way that protects conventionally belted passengers. The interior is made of things that are softer than a steel tube. If the roof collapses because there aren’t enough steel tubes around the driver, the three-point belt will allow said driver to slide a bit to avoid said collapsing roof.

Unless, that is, you have shoulder harnesses, in which case your neck will be the fulcrum on which the car’s entire weight is focused. Do not expect to be able to resume your place in your high-school track team after that happens.

This is not the first time I’ve written about this. Nor will it be the last. Because it’s important for you to know. If, however, you happen to be able to drive a Viper ACR as quickly as Andy Lally undoubtedly can, you can make a change to your car that will bridge the gap between the loosey-goosey but rollover-safe feel of a three-point belt and the strapped-in immobilization of a proper racing harness. It’s called a CG-Lock, and it works well enough that Bob Lutz put one on his car when he and I did the CTS-V Challenge way back in the Stone Age.

And if you, like many TTACers, thought the Chevette photo was the coolest part of article, go check out Darren’s site, why don’t ya?

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24 Comments on “Just A Reminder About Adding Shoulder Harnesses To Street Cars, Even Vipers...”

  • avatar

    “And if you, like many TTACers, thought the Chevette photo was the coolest part of article, go check out Darren’s site, why don’t ya?”

    I’ve always wanted to try ice racing. I’m going to be in that part of the country for a while, I’ll have to check that out this winter.

  • avatar
    Spanish Inquisition

    Slide your seat back, pull the belt to activate the inertia lock, plug in the seat belt, hold it, and slide the seat forward. If your seat has enough adjusting range, you’ll be able to get very snug.

  • avatar

    The Chevette/Acadian ice racing looks like a relatively cheap and safe way to have a lot of fun.

    Not a lot of roof strength on those Chevettes, but is there any possibility that the current Viper has enough roof strength to make a six-point belt just as safe or safer in most crash situations? It seems strange that Dodge would be willing to install something blatantly unsafe.

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      The Viper roof is certainly much stronger than a Chevette roof (note that the car above DOES have a single roll hoop).

      But the Viper also has literally ten times the power of a Chevette.

      So that’s worth considering.

  • avatar

    I’ll take your broad point that folks need to know the risks of adding safety gear to a car. But if I’m The Guy who can both afford this thing and drive it into the grey where flipping it is a real risk I will hire a fabricator to weld in a cage.

  • avatar

    As much as I can offer respect to someone who races, that opening line of “I’m not a car guy, I’m a RACER” was about the most pretentious thing I’ve read in quite some time. Puh-LEEZE, it’s nice of you to lower yourself for a moment to communicate with the lumpemproletariat and share your divine wisdom with us chumps.

    • 0 avatar

      >> that opening line of “I’m not a car guy, I’m a RACER”

      I’m not seeing this, is this a quotation or an interpretation?

    • 0 avatar

      I got all con-founded when I read that there line.

    • 0 avatar

      I think it was an important distinction to make. Doug DeMuro is a nice guy but I wouldn’t want to be associated with his kind either.

    • 0 avatar

      It’s not meant to be condescending, it is a distinction of outlook. Andy is telling you he likes to go racing but is not really an auto enthusiast, and so doesn’t pay that much attention as to what goes on in the auto industry.

      Remember one of Jack’s posts a while back where he was decrying the tendency of some of his students to spend more time fiddling with their cars than doing things that would improve their driving skills? Those folks are more car enthusiasts than they are drivers. Andy is the other side of the coin.

  • avatar

    Hot Rod magazine would periodically give similar advice in the vein of – if the car is fast enough to require shoulder harnesses than it is fast enough to require an NHRA approved and inspected cage. (Of course their focus being drag racing.)

  • avatar

    I’m surprised that CG-Locks aren’t more popular than they are, even if it’s for nothing else than the kids who buy brightly-coloured shoulder belt pads to show that they’re serious drivers, yo.

    For an overpriced $60 piece of metal that in 2 minutes screws onto your seatbelt latch without damaging it, it’s a surprisingly effective device. I’ve had mine in my car for a couple of years, and in regular driving it’s unobtrusive (although if your car has multiple drivers, you do have to readjust every time), and holds the lower body in place nicely during spirited maneuvers. Bonus: I find that it keeps me from slouching during long highway stints, improving back comfort. As long as it’s adjusted properly (you don’t leave it slack), the seatbelt works normally in an accident.

    On roll safety: it’s not uncommon for enthusiasts to play armchair engineer in the name of safety and end up making their car more dangerous than before. In addition to adding harnesses in a car that’s not designed for it, you’ve got guys adding roll bars on their dailies, thinking it makes them safer. In reality, getting crushed in a rollover (or even being involved in one) in a low, sporty car is a lot less likely than smashing your unhelmeted head on a solid steel tube inches behind your head in any moderate side or rear impact. Stock seatbacks move a lot in an accident, and thus so do your neck and head.

    Some people think I’m irresponsible that I do the occasional lapping day without a roll bar in my Miata. I think it’s a calculated risk, and much less dangerous than driving around with one the 98% of the time that I’m driving in traffic without a helmet.

    Now if it was a track-only car with a racing seat and harnesses, it would be a different story, but there’s a reason why OEMs sell street cars with street safety equipment, and track cars are set up with track safety equipment. The risks and priorities are different.

  • avatar

    A very similar thing can be said about roll bars/roll cages in street cars. Unless you drive around town with a helmet on, they are not a great idea.

  • avatar

    “the three-point belt will allow said driver to slide a bit to avoid said collapsing roof”

    is there a basis for this assumption? after your original article i searched and every technical journal publication i found stated higher risk of injury correlating to a higher degree of the occupant moving around in a rollover circumstance. effectively suggesting that the three point is a compromise but the objective is to keep the passenger as still as possible.

    i raise the question genuinely as opposed to trollishly as i think it is a very worthwhile discussion, but predicated on that single important assumption.

    • 0 avatar

      Are the technical journals you read in reference to race cars or road cars?

      Track organizers typically don’t allow street cars to run without harnesses without roll bars for the exact reasons Jack explains. It’s also not legal, at least where I live, to wear harnesses on the street.

      I guess the question is whether the logic behind these decisions is due to liability concerns (wearing non-factory-approved restraints) or practical ones. Personally, I see a significant danger of being crushed by a collapsing roof when your torso is held in place. If you’ve got a roll bar/cage, the equation changes, but Jack was specifically talking about uncaged road cars.

      • 0 avatar

        i was specifically looking for research relating to restraint design and crash simulation for cars without roll cages in rollover conditions so they were typical passenger vehicles

  • avatar

    No matter how many times this site links its good pals at Jalopnik, I’m still not reading anything there.

    I hope this site doesn’t become a hub for “Link this article and I’ll pay you some ad revenue”, I have public TV for advertisements.

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