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The Man Who Helped Create The Industry’s Toughest Crash Test Survives It In The Real World

The aftermath of former IIHS president Adrian Lund's small-overlap crash

The former IIHS president gets into a crash, Faraday Future’s bad year continues, Bentley restores an original. All this and more in today’s issue of The Morning Dump.

Welcome to The Morning Dump, bite-sized stories corralled into a single article for your morning perusal. If you’re morning coffee’s working a little too well, pull up a throne and have a gander at the best of the rest of yesterday.

Theory Versus Practice

Crash testing is one line of work you’d never want to take home, yet former Insurance Institute for Highway Safety president Adrian Lund recently found himself on the business end of a serious crash. Unfortunately, the IIHS writes in its press release, the person in the other vehicle was ejected from the cabin and died, but likely thanks to safety improvements ushered in under Lund’s guidance, he is alive and well to tell the tale.

Lund was traveling down the express lanes of I-95 in Virginia at around 60 to 65 mph last August when his 2020 BMW 540i was struck by a wrong-way driver in a car-to-car small-overlap impact. Considered the 800-lb. Gorilla of crash tests, small-overlap impact testing puts immense stress on footwell and A-pillar structure (see Lund’s slideshow presentation at the bottom of this section to learn more about it). It shouldn’t be a surprise that small-overlap impacts are some of the deadliest collisions on our roads.

After the wrong-way driver’s car glanced off of Lund’s 5-Series, Lund’s car went into a rollover. That rollover eventually ended with the 5-Series on its roof. After the emergency services cut Lund out of his busted Bimmer, Lund felt a certain relief. He’d survived a serious small-overlap crash without any broken bones, something that would’ve been almost impossible ten years ago. IIHS mentions that the vehicle had earned top ratings in six tests, with the two most applicable ones being the small overlap test and roof crush test, both devised under Lund’s leadership. From the IIHS:

Lund, who retired from IIHS-HLDI in 2017, credits his car, a 2020 BMW 540i with saving his life. The model, a 2020 IIHS TOP SAFETY PICK, earned good ratings in all six crashworthiness tests, including the ones most applicable to Lund’s crash, the small overlap front and roof strength.

As for the person in the other car, which had also scored good ratings in IIHS testing, IIHS says the issue wasn’t the car’s crash structure:

The other car in the crash, a 2016 BMW 228i, also had good crashworthiness ratings for the five tests that IIHS was conducting in 2016. Because the driver wasn’t belted, she was ejected from the vehicle, virtually eliminating any chance of survival. Without knowing more about the condition of her car, it’s impossible to say whether she would have survived this particular crash even if she had been belted. After striking Lund’s car, her car immediately collided with the jersey barrier. In addition, because of its smaller size and lighter weight, the midsize 2 series was at a disadvantage in a crash with the 5 series, a large car.

Look, old cars are really cool, but there’s something to be said about owning a daily driver with a decent crash structure. If Jason got into a small-overlap impact in the Changli, I’d likely have to bring a pressure washer to rinse him off of the pavement. David might be slightly luckier if he pilots one of his ZJs, but it still wouldn’t be pretty. I’d likely fare better with my 21st-century German safety structure, but this story gives me a sudden desire to create a saved search for used P2-platform Volvos. Remember, even if you’re a good driver, you still have to worry about every crazy moron who got their license from the inside of a cereal box.

Big Trouble In Silicon Valley

Faraday Future Ff 91
Photo credit: Faraday Future

Hey, remember the investigations going on regarding electric car startup Faraday Future? It looks like consequences are hitting the electric carmaker for allegedly misleading investors. Bloomberg reports that hot off the heels of an internal investigation, Faraday Future has issued some demotions, suspensions, and probationary periods within its C-suite.

Among the disciplinary actions and firings, a few stand out. Jia Yueting, Faraday Future’s founder, will no longer be an executive officer. Jiawei Wang, VP of global capital markets, plans on resigning. Matthias Aydt, senior vice president of business development and product definition (240p at this point) is going on a six-month probationary period. Chairman Brian Kolicki has been demoted to a regular board member. These are some pretty serious cuts, especially considering that the SEC investigation is only getting started. You have to truly, royally screw things up to take such severe preemptive measures as these.

She Cells Sanctuary

A battery pack awaiting inspection at Rivian's Normal, Illinois assembly plant
Photo credit: Rivian

To make a ton of electric vehicles, you’ll need a ton of electric cells. While most automakers are out inking big deals with single suppliers, Rivian is taking a significantly more nimble approach to cut costs, boost output and gain experience.

To start, Rivian is courting multiple cell suppliers. Honestly, this isn’t a bad strategy, and it’s not uncommon. Most cars are built with bits from multiple suppliers, so why not batteries? It’s a solid plan to gain allocations, develop supplier relations and generally build more vehicles. Next, Rivian is planning on chucking lithium iron phosphate (LFP) batteries into their standard-range models. LFP cells may be less power-dense than lithium manganese cobalt oxide (NMC) cells, but they’re also much cheaper to make, don’t require rare earth materials and degrade more slowly than NMC cells. Sounds like a great way to bring the fiscal and social costs of entry-level EVs down to earth, yeah?

The third prong of Rivian’s plan is to eventually produce their own cells, a solid vertical-integration plan that reduces dependency on suppliers. Speaking with Reuters, Rivian CEO R.J. Scaringe said that, “Long-term, we envision a world where we will make some of our own cells, (and) we’ll purchase cells from great partnerships we have.” Honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised if more automakers take this hybrid cell sourcing approach in the future. Putting all your eggs in one supplier’s basket is a recipe for trouble should a shortage or a recall occur. Just ask Chevrolet and Honda how their LG and Takata reliances worked out.

So Solid, Crewe

The first-ever Bentley T1 undergoing restoration
Photo credit: Bentley Motors

It’s time to load the beer bong full of Dom Pérignon, Bentley is finally restoring the first-ever T-Series sedan. Admittedly, the T-Series doesn’t have massive name recognition. Most people know its Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow brother better, the default classic cruiser for every wedding under the sun. Still, the T-Series was a very important car. It was the first monocoque Bentley, featuring rubber-bushed subframes and four-wheel independent self-leveling suspension. More importantly, it signaled a departure from coachbuilding and said hello to the future of Bentley – building beautifully-crafted yachts with license plates.

This particular T-Series genuinely is the first one off the line, serial number 001. Finished in Shell Grey over blue leather, it was quickly put to work in worldwide testing. After Bentley was done with it, this T-Series ended up in California with the suitably appropriate license plate, ‘T 1001’. Nowadays, a test car would never end up in the public hands, but times really were different in the ‘60s. Anyway, Bentley expects this T-Series car to be fully-restored in 2023, after which it’ll be added to Bentley’s heritage fleet. It’s genuinely amazing what bits of automotive history are still out there.

The Flush

Whelp, time to drop the lid on today’s edition of The Morning Dump. That crash story, while sad, really is something when you consider how old cars just fold like a taco on impact. For all the jokes in our corporate backchannels about daily driver crashworthiness, there really is something to be said for a solid crash structure. Are you like me and drive old German tat with safety structures at least as good as that on a Mitsubishi Mirage? Do you like the peace of mind that comes with a late-model daily driver? Are you okay with your knees being the crumple zones? I’d love to know more about your approach to daily driver safety.

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36 Responses

  1. I can attest to modern automotive safety. After more than 3 decades of accident-free driving, I finally got off the schneid back in 2019, when I was T-boned by an F150 in my ’18 Mustang. Looking out my driver window, my view was suddenly completely filled with truck grille. He hit me right where the fender and the door meet (thankfully), yet the window didn’t shatter, the frame was not bent and the car remained driveable afterwards (although the only place I drove it was right back to my garage, completely shaken). A new painted fender and door and mirror assembly and she was good as new.

    However, that doesn’t even begin to hold a candle to my Dad, who was hit by a distracted college-aged girl’s car whilst riding his bicycle in Florida. He was thrown 30 feet but didn’t break one solitary bone. He was in his early 70s at the time.

  2. Crazy how the IIHS president foresaw the need for cars to be safer in that particular set of circumstances. It’s like he was paid to figure it out or something….

    My approach to vehicle safety is buying the safest car that piques my interest. Then maintaining it well, especially the brakes and tires. Power means nothing if the car skids off the road in a corner.

    1. The one mod I will never skip out on my cars is safety mods if they ever needed it(OEM on my car is doing just fine). Had a company Ford before that was basically the most dangerous thing I ever had. You could activate ABS with your mind and the tires would lose grip anything above 1/10 driving. Crazy to think people actually bought that.

  3. A memory I have is of road tripping with my Dad in his ’74 VW Camper Bus. Whenever I was in the front seat he would sometimes yell “oh no! a crash!” and I was supposed to pull my feet up so I had my feet up even with the top of the seat.
    Looking back now I have a fairly morbid view on what the outcome would have been had we been in an accident, but you gotta do something when you’ve got your kid in the car.

    Now I drive what I want (a 30 year old truck or a 55 year old Mustang) and keep my eyes constantly moving looking for that one idiot that is going to try and kill me. I know the danger is out there, but I love each of those vehicles too much to let them go. Maybe one day I’ll think differently.

  4. I always thought the one crash test a Lotus 7 might ace is this small overlap test. The wheels are outside the frame of the chassis. You’d basically rip off the front wheel assembly and keep on truckin. Every other scenario the seat belt is just there to make it easier to find your body.

    1. Although, in this particular case, wrong-way driver could allude to other….”not of sound mind and judgement”…factors at play.

      But still, your point stands as there are people that definitely still do not prioritize a seatbelt (for whatever god awful reason).

    2. I think one of the handy things about modern nanny chimes is you just can’t get away with it. I was giving a dude a ride and that’s pretty much what got him to finally buckle up.

      I know people will crow about personal freedom but emergency services don’t like cleaning up someone off the pavement and then telling their mom what happened.

    3. Both my sister in law and mother in law only wear them due to the potential fines. To fix this perceived problem, they have a binder clip attached to the seatbelt so it never actually goes tight and just hangs loosely over them. My sister in law has totaled at least eight cars including one in a roll over.

      I don’t get it and always make sure they have their belts on when I’m driving them (have caught them several times pretending to wear it).

  5. I’m pretty sure I sit too close to the steering wheel (and thus also knees to the dash) to maintain the sort of ‘safety margin’ that safety designers hope is there for most users when designing airbag deployment and the like. But that’s where I feel comfortable driving a car, and I’m not going to change that for the off chance of a severe accident. Similarly, I’m not upgrading to a newer, safer car for the same reason, as I’m otherwise not interested in most newer vehicles. Damn the man; save the Empire.

    1. For a lot of people, part of being a car enthusiast is the risk that comes with driving an older and less safe car. That’s a risk that you should understand and a decision that you can make. And the level of risk you are willing to accept probably isn’t stagnant. Would you put your loved ones in an unsafe car with you? Any time, or just for lower-speed and nice weather jaunts around town? Would you let your 16yr old drive the car?
      To each their own, but the main reason that we need to keep pushing safety standards forward is that a lot of people give it zero thought. Or are dumb enough to be actively defiant of things as simple as seatbelts.

    2. My mum has such short legs she would put the seat fully forward and have a cushion behind her in order for her feet to reach the pedals. One of her cars was a Fiat 127 where 2nd and 4th gear were behind her.
      She always looked as though she’d been in a front-end collision before she even set out, and an airbag going off in one of her later cars would probably have pancaked her head against the headrest.

  6. Sold my ‘26 Model T a couple years ago because I just didn’t feel safe driving it anymore, especially with the family. We would take it out for ice cream a couple times a year and never leave the 25 mph zone of our village. Even here, we have our share of drunks, speeders, and people that can’t be bothered to yield at a stop sign. Honestly I’m at the point where I want to set up a Mackinaw Island type place where you can only drive Prewar cars. For those not from Michigan, Mackinaw Island only allows horses and bikes for transportation.

  7. I don’t really care about the crash worthiness of my car. I have spent years riding motorcycles on the street with the only protection being my riding suit, gloves, boots and helmet. Any car from almost any era is going to have more crash protection than that.

    I really hate the compromises that have gone into cars in the name of safety. It’s ridiculous how huge and heavy cars are these days. The car I own has to be all huge and heavy largely to protect bad drivers from themselves. My “compact” Ford Focus weighs over 3000lbs! It’s an outrage. And some things done in the name of safety actually have safety related downsides. How about those super thick roof pillars we have now to protect us from rollover? I wonder how many pedestrians and bicyclists have been injured or killed because the driver of the massive SUV couldn’t see around the roof pillars? That’s a trade-off we have made. Is it the right trade-off? I doubt anyone buying or building cars cares about that.

    I think too many people put the whole of their safety on the shoulders of their massive SUV. But real safety comes from defensive driving. I’ve been driving/riding since 1980 and have yet to come into contact with any other vehicle or obstacle, because I received good driver training as part of my high school curriculum, which heavily emphasized defensive driving. And apply what I learned when I’m behind the wheel. I also got a refresher from the Motorcycle Safety Foundation training I took. I highly recommend that to anyone, by the way, even if you don’t intend to get a motorcycle endorsement on your driver license. The defensive driving they teach you there applies very well when driving a car.

    1. I think it’s fair to say that you’ve had a fair dose of luck as well. You aren’t wrong about the importance of defensive driving but there will always be factors outside of your control which might put you on your roof in which case you’ll be happy for some thick a,b, and c pillars. Pedestrians and cyclists would be fine if drivers took the 2 seconds to double check if they might be about to run someone over. ( it wouldn’t hurt for pedestrians and cyclists to acquire at least a small sense of self preservation)

    2. Super late reply, but I’m catching up on my reading.

      My first car was a 2013 Ford Focus 5 Speed (probably similar to the one you’re saying is too heavy). Since I was young and didn’t really have anyone to explain the “smart” way to hoon your car, I ended up in a situation where I had a small front overlap impact at 80 miles per hour. I walked away with only scratches on my arms from the airbag cover popping open, nothing else. The car protected me when I was young and stupid and gave me a second chance. Now, I know some people would rather have a 500 lb lighter car and just drive defensively and let the stupid drivers die off from their own stupidity, but that Focus probably saved my life and now I’m a very different person. I would personally prefer a safe car over a lightweight one, because even if you drive defensively, you sometimes don’t get to decide whether some yahoo smashes into you or not.

      And I won’t insult your intelligence and say that this completely makes up for it, but I couldn’t help notice how incredibly stiff my 2013 Ford Focus’s structure was; it would lift a rear wheel off the ground when turning into some oddly-shaped gas station entrances. My grandfather’s previous-gen 2007 Focus (that weighed 300 lbs less than my 2013) was definitely not as stiff. So the added weight had a positive impact in that it resulted in a significantly stiffer structure which is good for handling.

  8. I feel like a lot of people don’t have the proper respect for how bad the partial-overlap accident can be, or at least they fail to realize how much of their own daily driving puts them at risk for one.

    Where I currently live, a significant part of most residents’ commutes take place on narrow, 2-lane farm roads with no shoulder, steep ditches on either side, and 45 mph speed limits that are frequently exceeded.

    All it takes is one driver glancing at their phone to put you in a situation in which choosing to total your car in the ditch is the best-case scenario.

    I could show you footage from my dash cam of people drifting into my lane 2 or 3 times a week, sometimes close enough that I’ve had to hit my brakes and even honk to get their eyes back on the road.

  9. I was driving to the store the other day and saw the recent aftermath of a collision between two modern cars. The entire intersection was a shambles of metal bits and broken glass. Nothing that resembled a car anywhere. In the center of the intersection were what looked like two battered steel cages festooned with broken balloons. And standing by them, two families, each screaming at the other – but nobody badly hurt. Cars these days are pretty awesome, safety-wise.

  10. How do I handle crash worthiness?

    When I drive my 1932 Chevrolet Confederate, I pray.

    When I drive my 2019 Cadillac CT6, I don’t worry about anything.

    When I drive my 2004 Chevy Silverado, I am very very conscious of traffic.

  11. That’s a bit crazy that the man who oversaw the introduction of the small-overlap test survives that exact type of collision.

    It reminds me of Captain Sully’s background before the Miracle on the Hudson. It was like his entire career was preparing him for that moment.

  12. “In addition, because of its smaller size and lighter weight, the midsize 2 series was at a disadvantage in a crash with the 5 series, a large car.”

    Idk how but I really wish car manufacturers would focus more on weight.

  13. “Remember, even if you’re a good driver, you still have to worry about every crazy moron who got their license from the inside of a cereal box.”

    Truth. The other day I watched the rear end of someone’s car get absolutely *obliterated* by a box truck similar to the one I happened to be driving at the time. The car had stopped at a crosswalk to let a pack of cyclists through, and the box truck just didn’t stop in time. Everyone seemed to be fine, but the whole back of the car from the bumper to the C-pillar looked like it had been scraped flat down to the wheels with a giant spatula. Nothing the driver could’ve done about it; it was either cream a cyclist, or get squashed by a huge truck. Not a good situation.

    It occurred to me that if that had been me in my 1996 Miata, I probably would have got fucked. From the way the rear of the guy’s car collapsed, it was pretty clear that its crumple zones did their jobs. The obvious damage stopped right at the back of the passenger compartment. My Miata is much smaller, much older, much lower to the road, and has much less space between the rear bumper and the back of my exposed head to absorb impacts with. My skull might well have been the crumple zone, even at like 10 mph or whatever the speed of impact was.

    I still drive the thing of course, but it sure made me sit up and take notice. I’ll be a little more careful and a little more alert for a while, I’m sure.

    1. Late reply, but whatever.

      Do you have a roll bar? I had a 2003 NB for 4 years and I put a boss frog double-hoop bar in it (before they went out of business). I never understood people who were more concerned about hitting their head on a roll bar than getting their neck broken in a rollover, but what you just described is another great argument for installing (real) aftermarket rollbars in Miatas. If you got rear-ended by a big truck in your NA Miata, yeah, you’d probably be toast. But, if you had some form of significant rollover protection in that car, I’d imagine the thick tubing would stop the car from crumpling all the way to the back of your head and would almost serve somewhat like a protective cage for rear-end collisions. Might be something to look into if you want to keep the car but still be safer than you are right now.

  14. In 96 I regained consciousness in my 93 integra, my first new car. The shifter had swung forward into the volume knob, cranking Ugly Kid Joe, so I turned off the ignition. The seatbelt eventually released, and I was able to force open my door, get out and start shaking off bits of side window. I must have been out a while, a crowd was staring at me like I was a scene from The Terminator. I had bruises from my seatbelt. The driver of the older Mitsubishi that ran the red had to be cut out. Months in the hospital. None of my older cars would have protected me that way. I’ve purchased progressively safer cars ever since.

  15. I got in a crash that totaled my Mk7 Golf, and I walked away more or less unscathed save for a bloody nose and a mild airbag scar on my hand, but I occasionally wonder how I would have fared had I been driving my 944 or another car of that vintage. It was the kind of crash that was more or less unavoidable; I was deemed 0% at fault. You can be as defensive a driver as you want, but sometimes shit happens and there’s something to be said for driving something on a daily basis that’s been rigorously crash tested lest the improbable happened (as it did to me).

  16. Thumbs-up for the Cult reference.

    As for daily-driver safety, I don’t worry too much about the hardware. But I do follow a piece of advice that I got shortly after buyiing my old Miata from another Miata owner: “Assume everyone else on the road is actively plotting to kill you, and plan your strategy accordingly.” Leave plenty of room, realize that any shoving-match you do get in you’re going to lose, and always leave yourself an “out.” Is it enough? Well, it has been so far. Knock on wood.

    1. I’m with ya on that! I’ve got a 49 International pickup, and if I ever even get rear ended, my head is smashing into a steel cab wall behind me and a steel dashboard in front. When I’m driving that truck, I am in no hurry whatsoever. I’ll cruise at 45 to 50 and not care.

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