Driver plunges 80ft off cliff…and lives!

April 14, 2014

If you managed to miss the news today due to all the free papers on your daily commute route had all gone. Perhaps there was a paper but yours being the last one might have had the bad end of a flying bird/egg sandwich attached, so  all these things considered, we understand that you might not know about the Ford Focus miracle that took place below a Brighton cliff in the small hours last night.

sourced from bbc website labelled for reuse

Driver plunges 80ft off cliff…and lives!

The man known only as “The Driver” walked away from the scene with nothing but a cheeky swagger and a joke that a certain energy drink had given him wings. We might interpret this as some kind of angelic protection. The theory is that the canned fizz either gave him the ability to fly  or had somehow created some kind of caffeine fueled magic emanating from his inner being, and thus creating a cloud of protection around the vehicle. However your car leasing experts believe that the man’s vehicle chassis hit the rock protection barrier, slowing down the vehicles momentum. This allowed for the man to receive the full benefit of the vehicles crumple zones.


Vehicle crumple zones

Your car salesman might tap the bonnet of your vehicle and say “this car is solid”. This is wrong however as the modern car is designed to crumple. This phrase comes from the fact that cars were designed to be solid. In fact the more “solid” a cars body was, the more protective it was thought to be. Which is why we have a Chevrolet advert from 1954 with a solid framework and chrome bumpers talking about driver safety.

Chevrolet car safety, car leasing

“Greater Safety!”

The Chevrolet Sedan was designed to be solid whereas modern cars have crumple zones. The way this works is simple [or sounds it], by making the body work out of lighter hollow alloys the car is allowed to crumple. Solid cars were designed to deflect the force of impact rather than absorb it through crumple zone technology. Unfortunately this meant the force would become displaced so when a car crashed the force was inflicted on the driver and passengers. Car crumple zone technology is in fact more complex than that. It involves calculating everything from alloy density to impact force, something we don’t mind leaving to clever people.

crash test dummies crumple zones

crash test dummies crumple zones

Another example of solid frame classic car is this DeSoto circa 1950, attractive though it might be, it was designed with heavy chrome bumpers and a solid frame. The  idea is that this would deflect the force of impact. The reality is that solid body cars were death traps when driven at speed. Although i’m sure the owners of the DeSoto pictured are very considerate drivers.


DeSoto 1950, car leasing made simple

This DeSoto from 1950 was built with a solid frame

Crumple Zone technology was the brainchild of Austro-Hungarian inventor Bela Barenyi. It was included in the Mercedes Ponton W120, which as far as classic cars go is somewhat rare and expensive [the 220s is currently listed in an online auction for  £24,995].  Bela Barenyi is known as a champion of car driver safety, he was a legendary inventor receiving a total of 2500 patents and a true father of car safety design.  The Mercedes W111 also known as “The Fintail Mercedes” featured Barenyi’s safety steering shaft and safety steering column


A Volvo collapsible steering column

His steering column and driver shaft were designed to collapse on impact. Old car steering wheels were attached to a long metal rod and were built solid. Whereas modern steering columns based on Barenyi’s patent are designed to collapse on impact. If crash test dummies could talk they would say that if this metal does not crumple correctly it can become a spear of death aimed directly at them. Luckily crash test dummies can’t complain too much but do provide some useful insights.  Modern steering columns [like the Volvo design left] are made of many parts that are designed to separate or collapse on impact.

Barenyi’s designs along with many other features we take for granted in the modern car were designed for both driver and passenger safety. Needless to say energy drinks don’t give the driver or vehicle wings, but in the event it might influence your speed on a tight bend you can rely on Barenyi’s vehicle designs to cushion the blow. We wouldn’t recommend testing this on a cliff though.

Stay safe out there.