The first production car to feature ‘Air bag’ technology, possibly the last example remaining,1973 Chevrolet Impala V8 4-door Sedan  Chassis no. IL69K3D800823

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Lot 234
The first production car to feature ‘Air bag’ technology, possibly the last example remaining, 1973 Chevrolet Impala V8 4-door Sedan
Chassis no. IL69K3D800823

US$ 70,000 - 90,000
£ 51,000 - 66,000
The first production car to feature ‘Air bag’ technology, possibly the last example remaining
1973 Chevrolet Impala V8 4-door Sedan
Chassis no. IL69K3D800823
Byron Bloch is a ‘David’ to the ‘Giant’ of the motor industries. A personable, knowledgeable car guy with more than 40 years experience of automobile safety issues, today he and his family work tirelessly to lobby for safer road vehicles and to protect the futures of those harmed in road accidents. It comes as little surprise therefore that his home is home to what may well be the last remaining example of GM’s first production air-bag equipped car, a Chevrolet Impala which dates back to 1973.

If you thought air-bags originated in Scandinavia in the 1990s, you need to look two decades further and to the heart of America’s Motor City for the first production car that was equipped with this protection. As early as the late 1960s following the Nader inquiry investigations were being made into how drivers could be better protected in car accidents.

General Motors pioneered the technology, using the Chevrolet Impala as the basis for a limited run of 1,000 air bag cars, they took the dash fascia of the contemporary Oldsmobile as it best suited the spaces required to store the airbags in, and better still since the car was so solidly built they gave it the Corvette lump, so that it didn’t lose out in the performance stakes either.

They rolled them out across the lease sales fleet in a variety of locations, so that they could test their capabilities in different climates, altitudes and varying road conditions.

It wasn’t long before data began to appear as handful of accidents produced unscathed but often slightly bemused drivers and passengers, a … doctor was one of them, his Impala being crushed by the trolley bus in his local town having fallen asleep at the wheel. Others commented that just at the point of impact a large white cloud had appeared and they thought they were in heaven, in fact it was the airbag!

Initially, with very few failures the project looked like it had been a success and the possibility of airbags arrived as an optional extra on the top of the line Cadillac, Buick and Oldsmobiles. Ironically, some of their owners who simply just specified every option may well have had no idea that their cars were so equipped, and sometimes it wasn’t until a number of years later and having passed through a few owners that one would reap the benefit.

But it wasn’t long before the gas crisis of the mid 1970s and a certain amount of bureaucracy curtailed industry standards or widespread implementation of the original ‘life-saver’. It would be another decade or so before they appeared on production cars.

What is more astonishing is that even when airbags became more commonplace, they were still not as well designed as the Air Bag Chevys of 1973. The much publicized cases of child deaths from over-powerful airbags having already been solved on the 1973 Impala with a secondary internal cushion that compensates for all passengers.

No one is better versed in these matters, than Byron Bloch.

So why is he selling? Well, having just turned 60, the veteran of many battles against the motor vehicles industry isn’t one for retiring and there are still countless areas that he feels could be improved upon, not least side protection rails on trucks, which though law in Europe are still not compulsory in America and as one who’s seen the devastating effects that this can have (more than 250 avoidable deaths a year annually and many more injuries), he hopes to use the proceeds of the sale of an example of one era of auto safety to pioneer the future of others.

Today, the Airbag Chevy has recently been treated to a cosmetic freshening of its paintwork, but otherwise has the appearance of a relatively well maintained, though never restored example. Accordingly its interior is the original and shows a little age - while importantly its airbag system remains unused to this day.

Accompanied by a spare airbag system which could conceivably be mounted and displayed, the entire package from car to copies of original sales materials for these cars, video material from the 1970s of press reaction to the concept and the car itself would make an excellent and fascinating exhibit in any museum or private collection.

Bonhams invites you to read about and view the intriguing story behind the Air Bag Chevy and to bid generously for the good causes to which the resources its sale creates will be channeled.
The first production car to feature ‘Air bag’ technology, possibly the last example remaining,1973 Chevrolet Impala V8 4-door Sedan  Chassis no. IL69K3D800823
The first production car to feature ‘Air bag’ technology, possibly the last example remaining,1973 Chevrolet Impala V8 4-door Sedan  Chassis no. IL69K3D800823
The first production car to feature ‘Air bag’ technology, possibly the last example remaining,1973 Chevrolet Impala V8 4-door Sedan  Chassis no. IL69K3D800823
The first production car to feature ‘Air bag’ technology, possibly the last example remaining,1973 Chevrolet Impala V8 4-door Sedan  Chassis no. IL69K3D800823
The first production car to feature ‘Air bag’ technology, possibly the last example remaining,1973 Chevrolet Impala V8 4-door Sedan  Chassis no. IL69K3D800823
The first production car to feature ‘Air bag’ technology, possibly the last example remaining,1973 Chevrolet Impala V8 4-door Sedan  Chassis no. IL69K3D800823
The first production car to feature ‘Air bag’ technology, possibly the last example remaining,1973 Chevrolet Impala V8 4-door Sedan  Chassis no. IL69K3D800823
The first production car to feature ‘Air bag’ technology, possibly the last example remaining,1973 Chevrolet Impala V8 4-door Sedan  Chassis no. IL69K3D800823
The first production car to feature ‘Air bag’ technology, possibly the last example remaining,1973 Chevrolet Impala V8 4-door Sedan  Chassis no. IL69K3D800823
The first production car to feature ‘Air bag’ technology, possibly the last example remaining,1973 Chevrolet Impala V8 4-door Sedan  Chassis no. IL69K3D800823
The first production car to feature ‘Air bag’ technology, possibly the last example remaining,1973 Chevrolet Impala V8 4-door Sedan  Chassis no. IL69K3D800823
The first production car to feature ‘Air bag’ technology, possibly the last example remaining,1973 Chevrolet Impala V8 4-door Sedan  Chassis no. IL69K3D800823
The first production car to feature ‘Air bag’ technology, possibly the last example remaining,1973 Chevrolet Impala V8 4-door Sedan  Chassis no. IL69K3D800823
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