1978 Buick Estate Wagon Limited from North America - Comments

8th Nov 2009, 14:52

Actually, while they were stronger, they weren't quite as safe. They were so rigid that they ended up transferring a lot of the impact into the human body, causing a lot of internal damage. In severe cases, most people hit the metal dashboards so hard the head trauma killed them before paramedics could arrive. If they rear ended a tractor trailer, the "nose-dive" effect of the brakes usually made the vehicle dive under the trailer, and would decapitate the passengers! The only reason older vehicle seemed safer was because there was less crash related deaths back then due to less cars being on the road.

8th Nov 2009, 17:08

I agree with the last comment, the older cars are probably safer in an accident overall (although it really depends on the car itself & the circumstances of the wreck). You can put computers, curtain airbags, crumple zones, I don't care what else and that is still no substitute for being surrounded by a couple tons of solid steel.

I got t-boned in my '79 Ford LTD by a '99 Grand Am doing 40 MPH and while her newer car was towed off with the front end DEMOLISHED, I drove my 'ol Ford home and CONTINUED driving it that way (climbing over thru the passenger-side door to drive it) till I got a new car a year later. It is TRUE what some people say- "they don't make 'em like they used to".

9th Nov 2009, 11:42

"If they rear ended a tractor trailer, the "nose-dive" affect of the brakes usually made the vehicle dive under the trailer, and would decapitate the passengers!"

Not totally true, this was usually due to older trailers not having the low, sturdy ICC bumpers that new trailers and straight trucks are required to have. A nose dive of 3 or 4 inches is pretty negligible. Also many new trailers come with side skirts to prevent the same thing from happening on the side. And don't forget the fact the hoods on all new cars other than pickups or SUVs sit much lower than the hood of this Buick.

It looks like the car in the review sustained a very hard front impact, and at least a moderate side followed by another moderate front impact when it hit the barricade. For being a 29 year old dinosaur land yacht, it did a remarkable job!

27th Nov 2009, 09:20

I agree that modern cars are usually safer if you sustain a single impact.

But some people assume that anything built in the 1970's is rigid steel that won't crumple, and this isn't true. Most full size cars of this era had huge Chrome bumpers with shocks attached. And this is the era when plastic and fiberglass secondary body panels (front clips, bumper fillers) came into use. Also this Buick doesn't have any thick steel in the dashboard, only foam-filled vinyl, plastic and thin aluminum just like today. So during a hard impact, even if a person does hit the instrument panel, they won't be hitting a steel wall. Safety improved quite a bit in 1970's, compared to say a 1940 Ford Deluxe Or a 1955 Chevy Bel Air that truly does not crumple at high speeds.

So sometimes during a less severe impact, yes only the bumper would bend with very little front end damage. But a severe impact will indeed crumple the metal somewhat safely on 1970's and 1980's cars, especially the late 1970's, just not quite as good as today.

So the bumper would sometimes stay rigid and not bend, but end up being pushed back on the shocks, transferring most of the energy to the frame. If the impact was hard enough it would indeed crumple the front fenders, and hood. Now granted, a 1978 Buick does have thicker steel than a new one, but far less thicker than the cars of the 1940's through the 1960's as some people are inclined to believe.

The car in this review sustained three hard impacts, and it looks like it did pretty darn good. I wonder if anyone today has considered multiple impact crash testing. I always wonder, what if you hit something hard, and your airbags are already deployed, and you hit something again. Your crumple zones are already crumpled. Then what?

Sometimes I think the full-size cars from the 1980's were sort of the best of both worlds, they didn't get obliterated in a 20MPH crash, but had pretty good cushioning to protect people if the crash was more severe.

27th Nov 2009, 13:14

Correct, and structurally, a 1978 Buick was no different from an eighties full size Buick, or Chevrolet Caprice, or Olds Delta 88, nor even that different from a Mercury Grand Marquis/Lincoln Town Car.

Unless you're talking about the full-sized unibody front drivers, which became common in the late 1980s - definitely far less safe than their full-frame forbears.

28th Feb 2010, 17:56

The last comment here was the most accurate and knowledgeable, I think.

The truth is that while there are many, many variables in a motor vehicle wreck, there remains NO SUBSTITUTE for two tons of steel with a full frame.

I don't know how fast my daughter was going when she hit a 6" x 6" square metal tube holding up a mailbox; but she did punch in, just to the inboard of the left headlights on a '83 Mercury Grand Marquis, a total of 17"!! There is not the least doubt in my mind that this car saved her left leg, and maybe even her life. But the money I spent on that barge was worth every dime and then some. I already walk with a limp from a childhood illness --- I don't want my daughter (now married) to ever have to limp, or have to rely on crutches, walker, or worse.

Yup; I buy my cars "by the pound": 1980s RWD barges for me and mine. With automatic overdrive, the mileage is OK.

You can give "air bags" to the fat lady. I want to be able to see where my car is headed after the first hit... which my barges are more likely to survive (than today's plastic-mobiles).. and thus me, as well.

Sure, there's no guarantee. If I get hit by a concrete mixer, it's just a louder bang. But barges sure improve the odds. As a finite, limited human being, that's the best I can do, besides pray.

28th Jul 2012, 15:07

There is a DOT bumper on the back of truck trailers to prevent cars from driving under them. These late 70's GM's have a high enough ride height as well. The only thing safer about new cars is airbags. But airbags don't prevent people from getting crushed. Metal dashboards were banned from US passenger cars in the 60's per the USDOT.

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