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GM, Volvo Safety Advances Donated to Smithsonian National Museum of American History

GM’s crash dummy and Volvo's three-point safety belt added to the collection along with other significant auto safety artifacts.

by on Jul.14, 2010

A peaceful retirement in the Smithsonian after a violent life that saved untold lives.

Both General Motors and Volvo were honored today at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History, as it accepts these two important safety items as part of a larger collection of artifacts from eight different donors.

In a special donation ceremony this morning, the museum received items related to more than 75 years of auto safety and materials pertaining to safety initiatives administered by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The event also marks the 25th anniversary of the “Vince and Larry” ads sponsored by NHTSA and the Ad Council.

Three point safety belt and seat from a 1961 Volvo PV 544.

The Smithsonian now has more than three million items in its collection and has about four million visitors a year.

GM donated 50H-1, an Anthropomorphic Test Device, or ATD – scientific jargon for what the world knows as a crash test dummy.

“GM’s leading role in the development of crash test devices over the decades makes it fitting that one of our crash veterans become part of the Smithsonian’s collections,” said Mike Robinson, GM vice president of Safety Policy.

“With all that we have learned from him over the years, it almost seems unfair to call 50H-1 a dummy,” said Robinson, as he refuted my description.

Though not as vocal as the famous Vince and Larry “dummies” of NHTSA advertising fame, the taciturn 50H-1 is significant because “he” represents the dummy, err ATD, most used in U.S. automotive crash testing. His title refers to the Hybrid III ATD, representing a typical male adult in the 50th percentile for height and weight.


The Volvo three-point belt that was donated is an original fitting from a 1961 Volvo PV 544, and it is on display with the accompanying original seat.

The belt’s authenticity was verified all the way to the previous owner and to the factory, which has confirmed that the car was manufactured and delivered with the safety belt fitted. “Today Nils Bohlin’s simple but ingenious life-saver is an integral part of American history,” says Dan Johnston, a Volvo spokesperson.

Volvo created automotive history when the first car fitted as standard with three-point safety belts was delivered on 13 August 1959. Since then, Nils Bohlin’s invention has been fitted to millions of cars the world over.

The three-point belt has played and still plays a vital role in helping to reduce the number of injuries and fatalities in road traffic, and is the single most effective automotive safety device  ever invented.

Also donated were safety literature from the American Automobile Association, three ignition-interlock breath analyzers from Guardian Interlock, an energy-absorbing steering column from a 1967 Chevrolet, a Hybrid II crash-test dummy from Denton ATD, and a padded dashboard invented by plastic surgeon Claire L. Straith, M.D.

(See also Volvo Celebrates The Three-Point Safety Belt)

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