We’d love to tell you that no VWs were hurt in the construction of this piece, but as you can see, that sadly isn’t true! These pictures are almost too painful to look at, especially when you consider the rarity and desirability of some of the cars concerned. There’s everything from Barndoor vans to Kübelwagens here… what a horrible waste!
In these days of multiple air bags, crash protection bars and safety cells, drivers have truly never been safer. In fact, some manufacturers have gone as far as saying that nobody should die or suffer serious injuries in the next generation of vehicles – a wild claim, but one we certainly hope to be true. By comparison, the early VWs were quite basic in design, yet were surprisingly robust. With a separate chassis, Beetles were inherently tough, however the close proximity of the head in regard to the windscreen certainly raised concerns as the years went on.
Split screen vans were perhaps more of a concern when involved in a head-on collision as not only is the head close to the screen, the entire body is close to the front of the vehicle. Of course, safety legislation led to changes and updates over the years, and certainly helped to play their part in the demise of certain models, too. Seatbelts made their way into all models by the mid ’60s, while in the USA, the last Beetles were even fitted with low-speed impact resistant bumpers (with hydraulic dampers built into the mounts).
Of course, driving a classic VW on today’s roads can be a scary experience at times. Having driven a Barndoor Bus with crash gears around London’s North Circular road once, I’m certainly not keen to repeat it! Similarly, the cable brakes on an early Split Bug are little short of ‘scary as hell’ on a busy A-road… However, for most of us, driving a classic VW is a treat, which we typically save for fair weather weekends and pleasants jaunts out (ie when the roads are generally safer). Accidents do happen, but hopefully far less frequently for those of us trying to preserve and enjoy our pieces of VW history…