video postThe impact of 1970s safety regulations on design

This video, titled Change by Design and told from Ford’s perspective, gives a great look into some of the 1970s design challenges imposed on auto makers as a result of government regulations.1973 Ford: Change by Design

Examples of attempts to meet initial requirements include a nine-inch wide side mirror and periscope. Honest.

During what appears to be 1973, reporter David Diles and Ford design executives walk us through several stages of increasingly stringent safety requirements—to the point of hinting at sarcasm as reason for building a certain full size model.

They spend considerable time touring through rooms of Ford’s Design Center and all sorts of pre-production proposals are on display in nooks and crannies. Before the video, I put together a sampling of highlights. (Video at the bottom.)

At around 3:00, an early safety car is discussed. It sounds almost as though they built it to demonstrate how unreasonable some modifications would be in order to meet sight-line mandates. It’s roof had to be raised six inches and the driver’s outside mirror needed to be nine inches across—itself a new protrusion hazard.

03-21 full size safety car

03-31 full size safety car 9in mirror

As regulations intensified, the ideas became proportionately extreme, including the periscope. This is one of what was described as many periscope designs explored to meet a five-lane-wide rear view. (The requirement apparently didn’t mandate how it was done as long as it was achieved, but did suggest a periscope as an option.)

03-54 full size safety car periscope

03-57 full size safety car periscope

Later, at just under 10 minutes, the discussion turns to airbags, a crude device at the time. It’s amazing that they’ve essentially overcome the hurdles that daunted them when the film was made. I think their apprehension and desire to move slowly with the new technology was well warranted, given their state of electronics development. In any event, it is a very interesting portion of the film.

09-45 air bag

By the 15 minute mark, the topic is turned to Ford’s ESV (Experimental Safety Vehicle), including its design and safety features.

16-00 ESV modeling

15-44 ESV modeling

One of the last topics covered is the Torino. Specifically, how the 1972’s front bumper was part of an integrated design, to impart a foreign flare.

22-18 1972 Torino front bumper

There were several options explored for a more fortified face but many were rejected as impractical or under performing.

23-59 1973 Torino front bumpers

24-16 1973 Torino front bumpers

For the 1973 model year, the new guard-rail bumper was fitted. Yet, the designers had a surprisingly positive attitude when describing the whole thing.

25-09 1973 Torino front bumper

There’s a lot more to this film and I encourage you to watch it. Feel free to comment as there’s plenty that I didn’t mention.

Click below to start the video.