Improving crash safety without a cage

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anguso
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Improving crash safety without a cage

Postby anguso » 15 Feb 2017 11:31

Hi Realm,
I have a '71 two door 510 that I'm bringing back to life. It has low miles, is rust free, and in pretty good shape, having lived in SoCal all its life.

I'd like to be able to take the wife and kids out from time to time (I'm planning on autocrossing it mainly), and I'm already sensing unease from my wife about the safety of this 45 y.o. car.

I've searched a bunch, here and elsewhere, for any threads on improving the crash resistance of the car.
I've seen a lot of posts on roll bars/cages, and also things that can be done to stiffen the chassis for handling reasons, but I haven't seen much discussion of what I'm specifically interested in.
Clearly, if it were only ever going to be me in the car, a cage would do the trick.

I'm contemplating things like rigid foam in the rockers, intrusion bars inside the doors, etc.

I'm pretty sure the reason for the lack of info out there is because there's really not much you can do to these cars without caging them, but I'd love to know for sure.

What have other folks done to improve the safety factor?

Thanks in advance,

Angus

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RMS
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Re: Improving crash safety without a cage

Postby RMS » 15 Feb 2017 14:43

new seat belt webbing would be the first thing to explore. old rotted webbing can shear easily sending you into the column windshield or out a side window.

up grading your mirrors will go along way towards avoiding an accident. the stock mirrors can get foggy as they delaminate and oxide. new polarized side mirrors go a long way and nothing beats a wink mirror for the rear view
in many ways the 510 is a well designed machine. the placement of the gas tank between and above the rear axle means that even in a major collision the fuel system would not be compromised. the top of the windshield is also in a good location (even for me @ 6ft 1in ) as in the case of ejection I would easily pass through the windshield without hitting the roof.
the view from the cockpit of a datsun 510 is awesome with its strong thin A and B pillars (unlike new cars with their foot thick obstructions and massive blind spots )

bright colours add to safety. datsuns are often painted in bright colours unlike the drab grey world we live in today ( however Jordan's car does looks great )

only one recall ever on a 510 unlike the junk that's being offered today. I feel safer in my dimes than the majority of the new "built to cost" junk they pump out today.
two_68_510s wrote:I guess our donkeys are quicker then your sled dogs!

datzenmike
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Re: Improving crash safety without a cage

Postby datzenmike » 15 Feb 2017 20:50

It may come down to simple proactive avoidance of an accident.

Learn to turn your headlights on... and off when you are done. ALL new cars have daytime lighting and pretty much all the older ones too. Idiot drivers today rely on a quick glance... headlights (means a car) don't see anything?... (probably ok to go) The guy who pulls out in front of you would be correct when he says "I didn't even see you." Be seen!

Tires have come a long way in over 40 years and brake shoes and pads also. You may have to brake or drive around a problem.

Situational awareness. Know, watch for and expect things. Keep options open, know that you can bail suddenly to the left or right lane, leave enough space for braking. Driving the speed limit adds to your margin of safety. Takes two seconds to read the last sentence. If you are expecting something you might react in about 3/4 second but safe to say a couple to maybe process and react and get on the brakes. At 50MPH you will have and extra 29 feet or almost 9 meters to get stopped than if you are going 60.
"Nissan 'shit the bed' when they made these, plain and simple." McShagger510 on flattop SUs

Chickenman
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Re: Improving crash safety without a cage

Postby Chickenman » 15 Feb 2017 23:50

Cages in race cars are designed to be used in conjunction with full driver restraints, a proper racing seat and HELMETS. As one who has driven fully caged cars on the street for many years, my biggest fear was always being involved in a crash with out a helmet. You unprotected head hits the cage and you are toast. Roll bar padding provides some benefit... at least it eases the thought process, but I would never want to put family members in a caged car on the street.

Back in the 70's we never worried about such things. But that's a technology and generational difference. You weren't afraid because you didn't know better.

Basically when you drive a Vintage car you have to accept that you are more vulnerable than a modern car. Defensive driving is the best option. Bottom line is , a Vintage car is not as safe modern vehicle, you can't turn a 1970 Datsun into a 2016 Infinity or an SUV. Some people can accept that and some people are more hesitant. I can understand your wifes concerns, It's a tough call.

Just remember. Happy Wife... Happy Life.

Chickenman
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Re: Improving crash safety without a cage

Postby Chickenman » 15 Feb 2017 23:50

Double Post
Last edited by Chickenman on 16 Feb 2017 21:22, edited 2 times in total.

Chickenman
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Re: Improving crash safety without a cage

Postby Chickenman » 15 Feb 2017 23:59

Here's a thought. Why not have wifey and kids drive out in a Daily Driver and you take the 510? Problem solved. They are comfortable and safe and you will a support vehicle with Pit Crew is always handy. That's what most couples I know do and it makes sense.

You have to sell the idea though. " Family outing "" is a good Term. " Pit Crew " is not.... and needless to say, don't let wifey see this post!! Only partially kidding. GL. :mrgreen:

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bertvorgon
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Re: Improving crash safety without a cage

Postby bertvorgon » 16 Feb 2017 05:15

I'm with the above posters too.

Becoming even more a DEFENSIVE driver is so important..YOU have to be paying attention and assess situations. I have driven my Solo car on the street now for over 35 years and try to plan my routes and situations as much as humanly possible.

One thing I did do a few years ago was upgrade my horns. Our cars are very small now compared to today's monster trucks out there, when coupled with lousy drivers, can be dangerous situations. LOUD horns let everybody know you are there.

As I thought more about this on the drive into work, what I have experienced as an almost constant, is that people lane changing are the worst, as I do not think they see our small cars. I do have a wide angle WINK mirror, which I just love. I really try to watch in others mirrors to see their face and that they have seen me in some circumstances, where they might do an abrupt lane change or chop, BEFORE I pass them.

DON"T be talking or texting.....
"Racing makes heroin addiction look like a vague wish for something salty" - Peter Egan

1973 2Door Slalom/hill climb/road race / canyon carver /Giant Killer 510
1968 Vintage 3HP Mini Bike
1971 Vintage 13' BOLER trailer

Chickenman
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Re: Improving crash safety without a cage

Postby Chickenman » 16 Feb 2017 07:50

Funny, you mentioned the horns Keith. I just bought a couple of Fiamm " Freeway Blasters " for the 280Z. Stock horns are pathetic. Got them right after my episode on the I-5 last year. Near death experience...

Mirrors are positioned terrible on the Z. Too far back from the A pillar and they leave huge blind spots. Z has terrible sight lines behind the driver. I always do a double shoulder check before changing lanes and do the " Head Bob " in the mirrors to try and cover blind spots. Going to have to change the side mirrors and re position them , even though it may require a repaint of doors and possibly the whole car.

Stoopid PO put a dark tint on side 1/4 windows and on rear hatch glass, so that makes things even worse. Especially on cloudy or rainy days. Side tint is coming off, but rear tint is harder to remove. Heated grid on hatch glass. That's another point, if you see dark tinted side windows on another car driving near you, be extra cautious because thye can't see SFA most of the time.... and they're probably texting!!

Defensive driving is so, so important. Headlights on during the day can save your life. It's been a proven safety factor for decades.

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duke
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Re: Improving crash safety without a cage

Postby duke » 16 Feb 2017 19:06

Interesting subject. If you have a 2 door you could look into finding a set of '73 doors. They have in integrated side protection beam that would help in case of a collision. As was previously mentioned, new seat belts are a must. Also, 3 point belts in the back seat (there should be anchors for the shoulder belts in the C-pillars from the factory).

Above all though, like everybody else said, just be aware and drive smart. I don't have a radio in my 510 and I find that it really helps with paying attention. You become much more aware to not just what is going on around you visually, but also sound wise. A loud stereo can make it so easy to check out and stop paying attention.
Duke Schimmer

'72 2-Door 510
"Simplify and add lightness."

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JordanTr
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Re: Improving crash safety without a cage

Postby JordanTr » 16 Feb 2017 19:49

Haha thanks for the shoutout Robin.

I was expecting the obligatory "R compounds for safety" comment from Keith which is very valid.

I put proper 3 point inertia reel seatbelts in the car and that helps me (and passengers) feel safer.I think this is largely because they feel normal (they're also safer than sketchy old sloppy belts). I'm also a huge fan of wink mirrors; it really helps gain a wide angle of visibility.
Jordan | '72 2 door KA project | '94 240sx RB26DETT | '97 Silvia RB25DET | '90 Audi 90 Quattro 20V (DD)

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okayfine
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Re: Improving crash safety without a cage

Postby okayfine » 16 Feb 2017 20:20

Following the recommendation to run lights, make sure your electrical system is tip-top so the lights are as bright as possible. Upgrade the rear lights to LED, maybe add a discrete CHMSL.

You could add in side-impact bars if you're a good fabricator, and might as well add 'em into the rear area behind the doors as well. But will you really be able to get them up high enough to do any good without interfering with the window and door mechs? On a typical 510, the '73 door bars are below modern bumper heights.

But, how much work are you going to do versus how much mental benefit will you and your significant others really get out of it? If your wife is looking at a 510 as a sketch safety car, will she ever really come around to riding along happily in it no matter what you do (or say you've done, since a lot of stuff won't be obvious)?

Alternative to that, look up Brad's '69 Project. He put 60K miles hauling his family around:
viewtopic.php?p=233432#p233432
Because when you spend a silly amount of money on a silly, trivial thing that will help you not one jot, you are demonstrating that you have a soul and a heart and that you are the sort of person who has no time for Which? magazine. – Jeremy Clarkson

anguso
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Re: Improving crash safety without a cage

Postby anguso » 17 Feb 2017 07:45

Thank you for your thoughtful replies...

I'm a cyclist here in NYC, so I'm very familiar with needing to be on the defensive all the time. I have an air horn on my commuter bike, which only gets used occasionally, but when it's used, it's awesome. I'll be upgrading the horn for sure.

All of your suggestions are common sense, and should be the bare minimum for any street driven old car. Most of the stuff you've mentioned was on my list, but got me thinking again. I'm toying with adding another relay to the headlight switch so that the switch can be left in the ON position all the time, with the lights only being lit when the ignition is on. It won't be hard to do, and will make the headlight decision a no-brainer.

I've found a bunch of places that make retrofit seat belts - does anyone have any recommendations for who to buy from?

As for the wife acceptance factor, I think I'll ease into it; I'm pretty sure it's the fear of the unknown at work here... Once she rides in the car a few times without me scaring her, she'll chill out. Heck, she happily rode in my first 510 back in Australia 25 years ago!
I love the idea of getting her to drive a second car with the kids, but I don't think that'll fly. As it is, we're going from being a no car family (who uses Zipcar all the time) to a one car family where the car won't be your typical daily driver.
I'm just thankful that she is happy for me to play with my little (bright yellow) car; it's going to be a juggle and a pain to manage it in this ridiculous city, but I can't wait to get it over here.

Speaking of which - at some point I know I'll need the services of a shop. Any recommendations for a Datsun friendly place in the tri-state NY/NJ/CT area?

Cheers,
Angus

Chickenman
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Re: Improving crash safety without a cage

Postby Chickenman » 17 Feb 2017 09:48

I wouldn't bother with the extra switch and relay for turning on headlites with the ignition switch. Juts remember to turn the headlights on with the regular HL switch. Once you start vou do it regularly it becomes a habit.

One of the big problems with Automatic Daytime headlights is that they DO come on automatically with the ignition. But the tail lights and marker lights don't. The result, you get these DA's running around at night with their HL's on... but no tail lights or side lights. It makes for a very dangerous situation at night.

BTW, Daytime headlites or running lites have been mandated in Canada since 1992. And we STILL have morons who drive at night with no tail lights.

Chickenman
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Re: Improving crash safety without a cage

Postby Chickenman » 17 Feb 2017 09:54

Here's a tip for your lighting system. Replace all the side marker lights and Tail lights with LED bullbs. Not only are they brighter, but they draw substantially less power than regular bulbs. Reduces the load on your alternator and they also last longer. I bought all of my LEDS from an online store called SuperBrightLeds.com. https://www.superbrightleds.com/

At the very minimum I would replace the brake lights with LEDS. Much brighter than regular bulbs and can help reduce rear end collisions.

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SteveEdmonton
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Re: Improving crash safety without a cage

Postby SteveEdmonton » 18 Feb 2017 09:51

Angus, I got great service on a set of new seatbelts from Steve Pekrul at seatbeltplanet.com. He's helped a few of us 510 guys figure out how to install modern belts "right," and was really accommodating.

The key thing is that you need to install a "loop" at the top of the front three-point belts so that the pivot point isn't way up at the ceiling. I didn't do this at first, with the result that my neck was constantly getting rubbed by the shoulder belt. Steve confirmed that a loop extension was the solution, made them up for me, and told me how to install them (disabling the inertia reels to do so). It wasn't super tricky, but my point is that his service was great.

I'm sure other good sources are out there too, but I've had no regrets working with these guys.
'71 4-door
'74 MGB-GT
'04 Miata


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