Some nameless federal bureaucrat in the Department of Transportation decided that if one air bag was a good idea, adding four to six (depending on available surfaces) was even better, and, hey! why not mandate two more curtain airbags, regardless as to the possibility of fitting them in certain existing models, like the Dodge Viper.
Eric Peters mourns the Viper.
Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard # 226 â€” yes, there are at least 225 othersaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaferty standards to be complied with.
FMVSS #226 decrees side curtain air bags for every new car. This in addition to the plethora of air bags already stuffed into almost every conceivable surface/corner of every new car â€” which has at least four of them and usually six. Now, two more â€” big ones â€” mounted in the headliner on either side of the roof, to drop down like a curtain in the event of a wreck â€” ostensibly to prevent the ejection of the passengers through the (broken) side glass and to protect them from impact intrusion through where the door glass was, prior to impact.
That, in brief is the mandate of FMVSS #226.
The problem â€” for the Viper â€” is that thereâ€™s no room to spare for the installation of curtain air bags. Putting them in the already low-slung roof would make the car undriveable except by dwarves, due to the loss of headroom for the sake of air bag room.
And that is why the Viper is no longer with us â€” 2017 was its final year â€” political incorrectness notwithstanding.
It would have been necessary to redesign the car to accommodate the curtain air bags â€” which gets into money and Fiat (which owns Dodge as well as Chrysler and Jeep and Ram trucks) apparently couldnâ€™t justify the expense it would have taken to make it so â€” just for the sake of complying with FMVSS #226.
Keep in mind, buyers didnâ€™t demand curtain air bags. If they had demanded them, it would have made sense for Dodge to make them available as buyers would have been willing to pay for them.
But the obvious fact is that buyers do not want to pay for them â€” else it wouldnâ€™t have been necessary to mandate them. This obviousness is lost on the mandate-issuers, who insist that buyers pine for all these saaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaafety â€œfeaturesâ€ which for some inexplicable reason most buyers would never buy, if they had the choice not to.
Itâ€™s not just the money, either.
Stuffing curtain air bags into the Viperâ€™s roof probably would have mucked up the carâ€™s lines â€” and thatâ€™s no small thing when dealing with supercars, which sell on their looks as much as how fast they go. People forget that it was also federal saaaaaaaaaafety standards which helped ruin the looks of the American muscle car back in the early â€™70s â€” when Uncle decreed the first bumper-impact standards.
The gorgeous lines of cars like the 1970 Camaro Rally Sport â€” with its delicate and almost entirely for looks-only bumperettes off to the left and right of an open grill â€” were marred by 1974 by ugly (and heavy) â€œ5 MPHâ€ bumpers plastered across the face it and every new car.
Sales plummeted. So badly that GM almost canceled the Camaro (and its sister, the Pontiac Firebird).
People â€” the mandate-issuers â€” will say the bumper-festooned cars were saaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaafer and of course, thatâ€™s absolutely true.
The people buying the cars didnâ€™t demand the ugly/heavy â€œfederalâ€ bumpers and so there was no natural reason to install them. Mandates countermand natural choice. Your freedom to pick what you prefer is suborned and supplanted by the preferences of people youâ€™ve never heard of and who are certainly not your guardians at litum.
I never actually coveted the Dodge Viper. But when Big Brother decides I can’t have one, Dodge Vipers start looking awfully good to me.
Just think, there was a time, long ago, when both Britain and America were free countries and a fellow could drop by, for instance, Morris Garages (MG) in Oxford, England, and order himself a new car, choosing himself its engine, body style, color, and features. In those days, a car would start at way under $1000.
Today, a normal car costs $40-50,000 and has some costly new federally-mandated something on it or in it, added by those-who-know-what’s-best-for-us.
Personally, when I found my last BMW had no spare, but instead lousy, expensive, noisy, bad traction, run-flat tires, I swore I’d bought my last new car.
My new philosophy is old, pre-at least-some-mandates, cheap, and fix-the-thing-up.