Research programs conducted at Calspan to improve structural crashworthiness of subcompact cars are described. In two separate but related investigations, front structural designs intended to improve crash energy management were developed and adapted to a Datsun 510 and Chevrolet Vega.
The prototype structure developed for the Datsun 510 was nominally consistent with present production manufacturing techniques and did not interfere with normal packaging requirements. This prototype design was evaluated through a series of 50 MPH (80 km/hr) flat barrier tests. Excellent passenger compartment integrity and crash energy management was demonstrated for this prototype automobile.
The structural system developed for the Chevrolet Vega was similar in concept to that of the Datsun; but manufacturing requirements were relaxed in this effort. The design was tested in a series of 60 MPH (96 km/hr) frontal pole barrier impacts and 80 MPH (129 km/hr) closing speed vehicular collisions with a production standard size automobile. The results indicated substantial improvement over performance obtained from identical tests with conventional automobiles.
Finally, the problem of providing crash energy management in small cars is contrasted with that of standard size cars. The trade-off in this range of car size becomes one of smaller dimensional changes resulting in substantial changes in vehicular weight and kinetic energy. Results demonstrate that crash energy is more easily managed in the subcompact class automobile.