Smart fortwo ‘wins’ in collision with Chevy Monte Carlo…but what does it prove?

Smart fortwo

A Smart fortwo of the type that protected its driver in a collision with a circa 1970 Chevrolet Monte Carlo.

A tragic but bizarre automobile collision resulted in a sub-subcompact Smart fortwo flipping a circa 1970 full-size Chevrolet Monte Carlo onto its roof and setting it ablaze while leaving the driver of the Smart relatively unscathed.

The Contra Costa Times reports that an allegedly drunk 18-year old driving the tiny Smart ran into the rear of the disabled classic Monte Carlo while the big Chevy while was stopped on the side a Los Angeles area freeway. The force of the impact and its consequences resulted in the death of one man and injured others to various degrees.

The driver of the Smart received only seatbelt burns.

The Smart fortwo has been the poster boy of the downsizing that will result from the radical automotive  fuel mileage standards imposed by President Obama. The fortwo weighs only 1,800 lbs and has a wheelbase of only 73.5 inches, shorter than many full-size SUVs are wide. According to critics, this places passengers in the Smart to be in disproportionate danger.

Smart has countered that the fortwo has undergone rigorous crash testing and has rigid “Tridon Safety Cell” construction. And while the Smart fortwo earned a three out of five stars in government front and side impact testing, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety displayed the fortwo being demolished in a frontal collision with another automobile on the cover of its April 14, 2009, issue of the IIHS Status Report.

1970 Chevrolet Monte Carlo

A 1970 Chevrolet Monte Carlo similar to the type that was flipped and burned in a collision with a Smart fortwo microcar.

The IIHS conducted a 40 mph frontal offset crash test between a Fortwo and a Mercedes C-class, in which “the Smart went air- borne and turned around 450 degrees.” The test collision resulted in “extensive intrusion into the space around the dummy from head to feet”. Stating that “Multiple injuries, including to the head, would be likely for a real-world driver of a Smart in a similar collision” the IIHS rated the Smart Fortwo “Poor,” despite the fortwo having received the organization’s highest “good” rating in a barrier crash.

The seeming anomaly of the Smart versus full-size Chevy, the latter depending on model weighing about 3,500 lbs, may be accounted for by the latter having a structure incompatible with the Smart and lacking 40 years of crash safety development.

Still, while current tests show that size matters, structure–as well as a bit of luck, at least on the part of the not-so-smart Smart driver– does as well, as proved by a strange collision between a Smart fortwo and a Chevrolet Monte Carlo from about 1970.

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