Home » Look At This Ad For An Amazing British 1970s “Safety Car” Designed To Let Your Face Smack Into Cushions Instead Of Using Seat Belts

Look At This Ad For An Amazing British 1970s “Safety Car” Designed To Let Your Face Smack Into Cushions Instead Of Using Seat Belts

Cushion Top
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The other day, an Autopian reader named Luke sent us a tip about a pretty fascinating car for sale, a 1974 Ford Cortina 2000E, but a wonderfully strange one. The auction has since ended, and I’m not sure if the car had sold. The seller was asking £19,950.00, about $25,500 in US Freedom Money, which is at least twice as much as these British Ford Cortinas usually go for. There’s a reason for that, though: this one is a one-of-a-kind experimental safety car built by Ford in conjunction with the Transport and Road Research Laboratory (TRRL). There were a lot of experimental safety cars being built in the 1970s, though as far as I’m aware, this is the only one whose goal seems to be to see making seat belts unnecessary. With cushions.

Really, that’s seems to be what this car was all about! Along with the car is included a small placard that explains this peculiar machine’s whole raison d’être:

Vidframe Min Top
Vidframe Min Bottom

Cortina Safetycar

In case you can’t see that image, here’s the text:

TRRL

THIS CAR WAS PRODUCED BY FORD IN CONJUNCTION WITH TRRL IN 1974 AS AN ATTEMPT TO PROVIDE THE SAME LEVEL OF PROTECTION AS IS OBTAINED FROM SEAT BELTS.

PROTECTION IN THE REAR SEATS IS EQUIVALENT TO THAT PROVIDED BY SEAT BELTS BUT PROTECTION FOR THE DRIVER AND FRONT SEAT PASSENGER IS PROBABLY LESS.

 

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So, the goal here seems to have been to make a car that, in the event of a collision, provided the same level of protection as wearing safety belts, but without having to deal with the crass indignity and unforgivable loss of personal freedom that comes from (checks notes) wearing seat belts. People used to really hate the idea of wearing seat belts, you see. You’ve seen those old news clips from the 1980s when seat belt laws began to go into effect, and how everyone reacted like the government was going to start scheduling their bathroom breaks?

Given the public zeitgeist of the time, I can see why Ford and TRRL would at least want to try and see if they could make a safe car that didn’t rely on stubborn people to buckle up. And, it seems, the advanced tech Ford and TRRL employed was, um, pillow tech.

Well, maybe cushion technology, or padding, or whatever you want to call it. The point is the inside of this handsome old Cortina is like what being trapped between couch cushions must be like for a Chihuahua. I mean, just look at it:

Front

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That’s the dashboard and front seat area. Look at that thick, pliant steering wheel padding! And let’s get a better look at the passenger’s side, too:

Passengerside

Holy crap, that’s like a solid foot and a half of vinyl-covered cushion right there! Imagine the supreme joy and comfort of smacking your face into that at 50 mph, smiling as your glasses pirouette off into the aether and you comfortably pancake your face on that yielding mass. Good luck adjusting that air vent, too, which is set in there like a whale’s navel.

The back offers similar soft security:

Backseat

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That huge auxiliary cushion system encompasses the back of both front seats and the area in between them, and should work great for softening the blow as your flung body whips forward when the car smacks hard into a wall or tree or yak or whatever. Imagine if you were eating a delicious hoagie at the time, and how it would disintegrate into its primal components, which you might see, the flying lettuce and tomatoes and cold cuts filling the air in the car as your head rebounds off the massive cushion, and in your highly dazed state I bet you might think they were fireworks.

Also fascinating about this car is the digital speedometer, which uses actual seven-segment vacuum-fluorescent (I think) displays, which was pretty cutting-edge tech in 1974 (I was told by Peter that it’s likely a Panaplex II display and I think he’s right!):

Dash

Even the door cards appear to have a healthy amount of added padding to them as well:

Doorcards

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You could flop all over this whole car and be okay! Well, at least until you hit a window, or something. That padding isn’t going to keep you from careening through that windshield, but it should make anything you contact on the way out a lot more pleasant.

Here’s a whole video tour of the inside from when the car was at auction:

This is a really fascinating vehicle, and this era of Cortina has plenty of ’70s, vinyl-topped charm as it is. Car Ext1

It’s a handsome car, and I bet would be a pretty reliable daily driver, with its Pinto 2-liter engine (remember, the Pinto may have been crap, but those engines were pretty great) and, sure, that automatic transmission may take some of the fun out of driving this, but you’ll always have the party trick of making sure nobody is cheating by wearing a seatbelt, and then slamming on those brakes at 60 mph, so everyone can really get the full face-into-a-cubic-foot-of-vinyl-covered-foam rubber experience.

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Taillight

Fantastic taillights, too. Very tidy and compact and appealing.

Sure, this was a dead end, safety-tech-wise, and the builders even seemed to acknowledge that, at least for the front seats, seat belts were still better than massive dashboard padding. For the back, though, it seemed viable? At least that’s what the placard claims.

Some upholstery shop should buy this thing and get that interior looking immaculate. What a showcase of the upholsteric arts this thing could be! Hopefully it’ll go on sale again, because this is too good to not be fully restored.

Also, I kinda want to bite some of those cushions. Don’t judge me.

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(Photos from eBay listing or Trade Classics auction listing)

 

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Freelivin2713
Freelivin2713
10 months ago

More cushion for the pushin…

Trust Doesn't Rust
Trust Doesn't Rust
10 months ago

I don’t understand how people prefer to drive without a seatbelt. I want to stay firmly in my seat. Plus, sometimes it feels like a weighted blanket. Very comforting.

Rust Buckets
Rust Buckets
10 months ago

I mean you don’t actually come out of the seat without a belt

Black Peter
Black Peter
10 months ago

My mother’s 74 (??) LTD wagon had an ignition interlock that prevented the car from starting unless the seatbelts were fastened. So of course we lifted our asses out of the seats so the switch thought no one was there and started the car. Why my father never shorted out the switches I’ll never know..

Edit: wow it was 74, and it was a “fiasco”…
https://www.thedetroitbureau.com/2009/11/the-great-safety-belt-interlock-fiasco/

Last edited 10 months ago by Black Peter
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