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Redusernab Asks- What was the ’70s’ Most Egregious 5-MPH bumper?

Robert Emslie October 27, 2014 Redusernab Asks 115 Comments

Montego

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration was established to create regulations intended to increase the safety of road-going motor vehicles, and the streets and highways which they ply. The regs are frequently changing: old requirements like the demand for sealed beam headlights falling by the wayside, while new ones such as the requirement of backup cameras come almost every year. One regulation that ironically wasn’t a safety concern, but one that was driven by the auto insurance industry, was that of the 5-mph bumper standard.

Enacted on April 9, 1971, the first federal bumper standard took effect with 1973 models when 5 mph front-into-flat-barrier and 2.5 mph rear-into-barrier requirements were introduced. In 1974 the rear impact speed was also increased to 5 mph. The regulation was , reducing the standard to 2.5 mph front and rear. This was done based upon research that indicated a minimal increase in body repairs outweighed by a significant decrease in the cost of bumper repairs.

Today we still have the 2.5-mph standard for all cars sold in the U.S., and all cars sold here are pretty much designed from the outset to meet that standard. That however, wasn’t the case when the 5-mph standards were enacted, and most cars had to adapt to the new requirements rather than be wholly redesigned around them. That resulted in the bumpers that we all know and loathe, ones that acquired nice names like ‘diving board’ and ‘battering ram.’ Most of those early attempts to meet the law were truly terrible, and today what I want is your opinion as to which one was the worst.

Image:

  • I'll get a couple of obvious answers out of the way…

    <img src="; width="365">

    <img src=";

    <img src="; width="365">

    • Stole my answer with the Countach.

      • Sjalabais

        The moustached Countach is an affront to humanity.

    • IronBallsMcG

      I don't know if the MG looks right to me because this version is the first one I remember.(My cousin had one.) I just don't have the revulsion that many people have for the rubber bumper version. To me it looks less fussy than the chrome grill versions.
      I also think the Panamera is striking in person.

    • Rover_1

      They did try another slightly more subtle, (and at the same time suitably outrageous), solution. But getting the height right wasn't enough for the feds. (As seen on Farrah Fawcett's Cannonball Countach in the movie.)
      <img src="; width="700">

      (Dis)Honourable mention must go to the Ameritech McLaren F1. All cars converted are back to 'Euro' spec now.
      <img src="; width="500">
      <img src=";

  • pj134

    <img src="; width=500>
    Svelte.

    • Irishzombieman☆

      Every time I think of this car, the following song pops into my head and usually sticks for a while.

      I try very hard not to think of this car.

      [youtube AjPau5QYtYs youtube]

    • Prince Halibrand

      Wows it bad? I always think this was a cool way to do it. It looks definitely designed as part of the car not tacked on. the gap has a sorta ramjet intake to it.

      • pj134

        <img src="; width="500/">

        Not the best inspiration for a "sports" car in my book I guess.

      • If you mean a jet intake "hound's penis," perhaps it does, but it wasn't what you'd call a graceful look on fighter jets, either.

        <img src="; width="496">

        BTW, here's off topic but awesome photo I found while doing a "MIG 21" image search. Wow.

        <img src="; width="500">

        • pj134

          That is quite an apt comparison that I hadn't really thought of.

  • Vavon

    The Comuta Car…

    <img src="; width=640>

    • Irishzombieman☆

      Wow. Put a little rail around it and it'd be a kick-ass cargo platform.

      • Prince Halibrand

        winner winner chicken dinner

        • Irishzombieman☆

          Just noticed it's behind the axle. Would have to be careful not to overload it.

    • Sjalabais

      Holy smokes! Battery range reduced by 10% because of the bumpers?

      • Vavon

        With those bumpers the range actually increased by 1 mile! 😉

        • Sjalabais

          Free fall range?

          ….bumper includes batteries?

          • Vavon

            No, the length of the car…

          • Yes on the batteries, actually.

            <img src="; width="400">

            • Vavon

              I didn't know that… Sounds perfectly safe… Batteries in the crash zone!

              • I'm familiar with it only because Comuta-Car owners and HMV owners tend to travel in similar circles.

                <img src="; width="450">

                • OA5599

                  "Similar circles" meaning "Within a 10-mile radius from the starting point if a round trip is desired"?

                  • My personal best so far is 150 miles one way with a successful return for a 300-mile round-trip. Curiously, 300 miles is also my best one-way distance but the return was… less successful.

                    <img src="; width="400">

                • Rover_1

                  That Orange HMV looks like the demolition derby version.

                  • I'm not sure what's going on with the "Sun Saver" and "Atlantic SOLAR" markings on it, given that the Tecumseh engine is still clearly visible at the rear. HMV made a few electric examples but this isn't one of them, nor does it appear to have been converted.

                    • Rover_1

                      Maybe it's a tropical 'beach' no-glass version?

                    • The acrylic side windows were designed to be removed and reinstalled easily for ventilation. The missing polycarbonate windshield is a bit more of an issue.

                    • Rover_1

                      So a car that is classless and glassless.

    • wunno sev

      i took a picture of one of these in 2010 and have been wondering what it is since then.

      very pleased to have an answer! i even updated the old post.

      • Vavon

        You're welcome!

  • PotbellyJoe ©

    <img src="; width=500>

    W116 MBs…

    <img src=";

    • MrDPR

      Yeah, MB's had the worst adaptation to U.S. safety regs.

      • Maxichamp

        Ha, I learned to drive in one of those. There's a picture of me and my step-dad sitting/relaxing on the front bumper.

        • Sjalabais

          Any digital copies?

          These MB's would have been my answer, too. So pretty cars…so molested.

          • Maxichamp

            I'll try to find it.So many memories. When I “graduated” from 6th grade, my mom celebrated with me by taking me to Las Vegas in the 450SEL. I remember that trip because that was when the odometer stopped working.

            • Sjalabais

              I wish my mom would have had such means and taste…grew up in Renault Twingos and, later, a Kia Shuma.

              • Maxichamp

                My folks bought it used. They played the luxury car depreciation game as well!

    • Maymar

      <img src="; width=500 /img>
      Very much agreed, although I skew towards the W114, if just because I swear it's the exact same sized bumper on such a relatively tiny car.

      As a point of minor guilt though, I find R107's look weird with Euro bumpers.

      • wunno sev

        i like the R107 with the euro bumpers better, but i think the diving boards don't look as bad as they do on the W116.

        i too used to sit on the bumper of my dad's 380SLs. very comfortable. ample real asstate for a quick rest.

  • I always found the 5 mph bumpers on British roadsters to be some of the worst offenders of design. It doesn't help that our British friends made nearly all of them out of black rubber that would fade.

    <img width=600 src=";

    • PotbellyJoe ©

      My brother is shopping MGs right now for a "funabout" little car. You get that weird transition to ugly rubber bumpers and raised front ride height in the late-70s that really make some of them strange little ducks.

      You can buy kits that are relatively inexpensive to fix both, and being a buyer for an MG it's in his DIY wheelhouse. Th upside is they are considerably cheaper than the proper looking MGs and you don't have to specify that you are looking for an overdrive model as the late-70s mostly had them.

    • P161911

      I have seen onw MGB where the owner painted the bynpers body color. Tremendously improved the looks of the car. If the factory had done this they would have been able to sell them for 5 more years.

      • Fuhrman16

        That's what MG originally had planned to do. But they had trouble finding a paint that would work well with both the metal body shell and plastic bumpers, so they nixed it.

  • quattrovalvole

    Maserati Khamsin

    <img src="; width=500 />

    • Manic_King

      What was the reason they moved lights away from that glass window for NA market….there's rule that lights can't be surrounded by glass?

      • Maxichamp

        No idea. But I came to post the Khamsin as well.

        Apropos of nothing, more old Maseratis.

      • PotbellyJoe ©

        I think the heart of the petition by Maserati was that with the glass in the hatch the rear portion was not the rear window, and the NHTSA required an unobstructed rear window but saw that as the primary window. Of course, had they added metal and mounted the lights to it, that would have been fine, despite making rearward visibility worse.

        Bureaucracy at it's finest. And the NHTSA was brutal at that time with things like glass, bumpers and lights.

        • Maxichamp

          Don't forget the 85 mph speedometer!

          • PotbellyJoe ©

            Because if people don't know how fast they are going, there will be no reason for them to go that fast!

    • danielm26

      Khamsin is also penalized with the rear lights not allowed to fit in the glass panel as the euro model does

  • rennsport964

    I'm going to go with the 1974 914. This poor guy went from being svelte to… well… something less so.

    <img width="600" src=";

    Front

    <img width="600" src=";

    Rear

    <img width="600" src=";

    Side

    [Edit: width]

  • smalleyxb122

    Triumph:

    <img src=";

  • Manic_King

    <img src="; width="642">

    • pj134

      Aww yeah…

      <img src="; width=500>

    • Irishzombieman☆

      I gotta say on this one that as good as it looks without that bumper, I don't mind it so much with it.

      Especially when I'm sitting on the hood drinking a beer. Perfect foot height. Also, wide enough that I can use the car as a step ladder.

  • OA5599

    Lady and gentlemen, I present to you the most notorious front bumper of the 70's.

    <img src="; width=500>

    • pj134

      You could have just gone for the very attractive 77.

      <img src="; width=500>

  • pj134

    How about this one?

    <img src="; width=500>

    • Irishzombieman☆

      There was a really pretty girl in my high school who had those orthodontic headgear braces. This makes me think of her.

      • Sjalabais

        She probably left a similar mark bumping into others, too?

  • mr smee

    Great choice of that Montego. The '72 was quite an attractive car, the '73-4 not so much.

  • dukeisduke

    The Audi Fox:

    Front:
    <img src="; width="600">

    Rear:
    <img src=" Audi Fox 80 B1 2 Door Saloon Sedan 3.jpg width=" 600'="">

    And at the same dealer, you could find the Porsche 911 SC:

    <img src="; width="600'">

  • Vavon

    The US Peugeot 604 is a great contender too…

    <img src="; width=640>

    • Sjalabais

      Almost looks like some manufacturers outsourced bumper production to the same company…ridicul-o-bumpers.

      • Prince Halibrand

        Nothing that can't be disguised with a couple of driving lights!

        <img src=";

  • Prince Halibrand

    Grandad's LTD 2. I remember watching my sister play field hockey sat on the bumper in front of the headlights. it was a roomy chair for a fourth grader.

    <img src=";

  • Devin

    Without question, the Renault 17.

    <img src="; width="500">

    • Vairship

      Yo dawg, I know you like bumpers so…

  • <img src="; width="500">

    Today's answer is not the Sonett Super Sport.

    • peugeotdude505

      The Car in the background looks so much like a 2 door Cayenne?

      • That's the Catherina.

  • Sjalabais

    Not a production model, but the Volvo VESC took the bumpers to a new extreme – like other safety cars of the same time.

    <img src="; width="600">

    • Scandinavian Flick ★

      That thing is glorious. Gotta love the way they wrapped it all the way around too. Rubber clad all the panels!

      • Sjalabais

        Showing up with these in a shopping mall parking lot, driving a tad unsteady, would give everyone else the creeps.

        • Scandinavian Flick ★

          Indeed! It looks like a bumper car… Shopping carts? Bring it…

          <img src="; width="350">

    • JB_Finesse

      Very Especially Safe Car?

      • Sjalabais

        Very, Oh Lord, Very Obvious.

    • dukeisduke

      There were also ESVs from GM, and AMF (yes, the AMF of Harley-Davidson, and Brunswick bowling ball fame). I first saw them in in elementary school in the Weekly Reader, and in Popular Science.

      • dukeisduke

        The GM ESV:

        <img src="; width="600>

        The AMF ESV:

        <img src=";

        • dukeisduke

          The AMF ESV:

          <img src=";

          • Sjalabais

            The GM example has surprisingly decent bumpers considering its peers. The AMF is all new to me, and here I thought I knew about these ESVs…thanks!

          • Vairship

            Looks like a 5-door Pacer!

          • 1977chevytruck

            <img src="; width="500">
            1971 Fiat ESV. Check and Mate

  • Joe Dunlap

    No love for the 74-80 Pinto and its Chrome Railroad Ties?

    • dukeisduke

      The Vega used aluminum railroad ties:

      <img src=";

  • Scandinavian Flick ★

    Obviously Volvo has always been all about safety, and they have the reputation to back it up. However, a lot of people seem to feel they went a bit overboard with the so-called "Commando Bumper" on the 240.

    <img src="; width="550">

    They do have a tendency to emerge from battle victorious though…

    <img src="; width="550">

    • Sjalabais

      Oh…when did that happen? Modern, low cars with crumblezones get "attacked" pretty well by square and high 240 bumpers.

      • Scandinavian Flick ★

        That particular example wasn't mine, but my 242 looks similar ever since a Honda Accord was pushed underneath it by an Explorer.

        The above one was mine… but it sadly met a much more gruesome fate…

  • JTuhka

    The worst ones always remind me of fire trucks with front mounted pumps.

    <img src="; width="600">

  • mike

    The Fairchild Experimental Safety Vehicle.

    <img src="; width="600">

    • Sjalabais

      Certainly not a fair child! I think Hemmings had a pretty comprehensive and well illustrated series about the ESVs. Absolutely worth a read!

  • It's not a Porsche, but it does have a couple of porches! Wacka wacka!

    <img src="; width="600" />

    • 7FIAT's Later

      Those can easily be sucked in a couple of inches by relieving the pressure on the bumper shocks and it helps a bunch. I also stripped the bumpers off of a 81 and just ran with bumper blocks sourced from a early twin rail bumper X. The early euro-verson bumpers where definitely the best looking.

  • smalleyxb122

    The post – '73 Checker Marathon

    I personally love the "bridge guard" aesthetic on what was primarily a fleet vehicle. There is just something about how it illustrates the utilitarian nature of the entire car.

    <img src="; width=500>

    • Sjalabais

      In a transformers movie, these would totally be visible before and after the transformation. "Let me hit you in the head with this piece of infrastructure!"

  • GianniBu

    <img src="; width="600">

  • Scroggzilla

    Poor little Z car. Thanks a lot, Nixon!

    <img src=";

  • bluehillsmike

    Any mid-70's Ford product. Take your pick.

  • mac350

    From this:
    <img src="; width="600">
    to this:
    <img src="; width="600">
    And from this:
    <img src="; width="600">
    to this:
    <img src="; width="600">

    • MVEilenstein

      At least they made an attempt to hide it under a new nose.

      • I agree. I find that one of the LESS offensive safety bumper retrofits.

  • JTC

    <img src="; width=600>

  • JTC

    sorry. Not sure why it never works! Trying again:

    <img src=";

    • Manic_King

      <img src="; width="621">

      Courtesy embed. You need to get the pure picture tag (ending in this case-) with jpg. I use usually right click: inspect element function

  • Rover_1

    The original Mini got partway through the alteration before they gave up. They got the height right and sold them like this in Canada
    <img src="; width="600">

    It could get worse…….
    <img src="; width="600">

    And the rear bumper was fixed to the trunk lid which could strain the lid hinges.
    <img src=";

  • MVEilenstein

    Can't believe no one thought of this.

    <img src=";

    Egregious.

    • GianniBu

      I didn't think the early Kamm tail spider bumpers were that bad. The 75 – 82 rubber baby buggy bumper Spiders like the 79 I posted above on the other hand…

  • Rover_1

    78 S10 Nissan Sylvia USDM
    <img src=";

    S10 Nissan Sylvia JDM
    <img src=";

    • Well played, my good fellow. Well played.

  • C³-Cool Cadillac Cat

    Now, now…to get true over-the-top bumper action, you've gotta do Douwn Undah with the 'roos, mate.

    <img src="; width="400">

    Though, not ghastly. Rather awesome, in fact.

    • Rover_1

      And the later, and current ones are air-bag compliant. Import one over for your GTO or G8 …

      <img src="; width="400">

      • C³-Cool Cadillac Cat

        I like it. I like it A LOT!

  • faberferrum

    What a depressing thread!

  • Stop Iphaggotry

    That would be the Mustang II. That vehicle is the epitomy of shitstainery. Represents everything wrong about the 70’s- a cartoon caricature of a real Mustang except with those goddamn gigantic bumper car bumpers and opera windows, too. Damn- at least the Monza 2+2 had some grace, dignity and self preservation.

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