Since a complete overhaul of my 1972 charger is in order once I get set up in my new shop, I have been relentlessly researching chassis design. I have always wanted a car with a roll-cage, and this is a perfect opportunity. Do I need a roll-cage in a street driven car? not really, but I don’t really need much of anything- its all about want.
(If your already into cars, bear with me here). When you think about it, cars are attempting to attach four wheels to a hollow sheet-metal box, with maximum interior space to impress its occupants. Obviously the road surface isn’t flat, so the suspension system attempts to allow each wheel to follow its own path while keeping the rest of the car stable. However, there are limitations to how stiff car manufacturers can make the “cabin” portion without compromising the interior space that consumers deem so very important. The resulting compromise is that most cars have an inherent amount of flex that occurs throughout them. This flex robs the car of precision control.
To get rid of that flex, almost all racing vehicles have a roll cage built into them. This cage does take up some interior space, but effectively turns the car chassis into a box structure, making it resistant to flexing. By unitizing the chassis, the suspension is much more effective.
Roll cages serve another purpose as well, to better protect the occupants inside. Lets face it, if you are strapped securely inside an indestructible steel cage, not a lot can hurt you right? I tend to agree. It begs the question: what is safer? A brand new car with front and side airbags, very minimal seat belt retention, crumple zones, sub-frames that precisely collapse on impact, etc. OR: I bombproof steel cage with you strapped very securely inside.
My opinion is the cage is safer. why? because all the technology in modern cars (in regards to passenger safety), revolves around average peoples unwillingness to strap themselves in. People hate seat belts- this is obvious. I dont know if it is a disdain for the law, a feeling of claustrophobia, or the misguided belief that being able to “escape” your car in an accident will save you, but people just don’t want to wear them.
With this in mind, car manufacturers have gone to the moon trying to come up with other ways to insulate occupants from reality, essentially turning the inside of the vehicle into a rubber room, and allowing the outside of the car to disintegrate on impact to absorb energy.
But what if you weren’t opposed to strapping yourself in? I’m not- I kinda like it! What about a better seat belt design, like a “4 point”, or “5 point” style that racers use? Now combine that with a cage that is not designed to fail. Lets look at some videos to demonstrate my point….
Typical car designed for people who hate seat belts:
Now a car with a roll cage and effective seat belts (skip to 40 seconds in):
The funny part is, the second crash occurred at far higher speeds, and ran directly into a guardrail, yet the driver is clearly fine.
One last video to demonstrate why roll-cages and good seat belts are better than crumple cars and shitty seat belts. Do you think these guys would have lived if this were a driving a new Toyota Camry?
(and yes they both walked away)
Lets review, roll-cages offer better vehicle control and increased safety, while sacrificing some interior space and taking an extra 3 seconds to strap into. I think I have my mind made up! stay tuned…