Auto crash test dummies inducted into Smithsonian

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Crash test

Vehicle crash test dummies have a new place of honor at the Smithsonian. Image: Wikimedia Commons.

As a part of a larger donation to the Smithsonian museum today, two GM crash test dummies were officially put into the national museum. Costumes for Vince and Larry, the 1980s crash test dummies that starred in ads, were also donated. These donations, among others, are destined for an auto-safety exhibit.

Vince and Larry, the dummies

Part of the new donation to the Smithsonian museum included costumes for “Vince” and “Larry”, the crash test dummies. In the 1980s, the Leo Burnett Agency created these advertisements to encourage seat-belt use. Rather than the blood and guts of most safety advertisements at the time, Larry and Vince used humor to encourage seat belt use. They became pop-culture icons quickly, and the costumes are now going to be preserved.

Other auto-safety donations

The auto safety exhibit at the Smithsonian museum included several other major developments in car safety. The first three-point safety belt from a 1961 Volvo, including the seat, was a part of the donation. The first collapsible steering column from a 1967 Chevrolet was donated by the Chevrolet company. General Motors added donations of its Hybrid III and 50H-1 crash test dummies, which have been used as recently as six months ago. The American Automobile Association also donated several driver training manuals from the 1930s, including “wartime” and “sportsmanlike” driving manuals.

The evolution of vehicle safety

Though there have been developments in auto safety since the first horse-drawn carriage, the issue didn’t come into the public eye until the 1960s. Lap and shoulder belts in cars became mandatory in that decade, and it took quite a bit of public relations work to win acceptance for their use. When seatbelts were first introduced, many drivers voiced concern about being “stuck” in a trapped car or being more injured by the belts than an accident. In the 1970s, many drivers explained that they thought safety features on cars reflected badly on their driving skills.

See a classic crash test PSA

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