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Deadly Duesenberg Accident Tonight

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Shawn,

Your commentary is profound and insightful with respect to the societal impact of the lack of mutual respect and courtesty so often not an individually ingrained value of our daily lives in America, today. I observe constantly the dangerous levels of carlessness and impatience by the driving public today, and it is often freighting. My prayers are with the family as they deal with this absolutely unnecessary devastation of life. May God bless them.

As car people, we should all try constantly to be role models in our driving behavior regardless of the type of vehicle we are piloting. I also ride a Harley Davidson for recreation, and staying alive on a motorcycle and not getting involved in an accident requires incredible concentration and anticipation of potentially damaging situations. Most drivers seem to be seriously incompetent today. I will send a donation to this fine family.

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I read the AP article today and thought it was OK, not a hatchet job really. It made it clear that there are very few accidents with old cars, that their exposure on the roads is minimal.

That accident was ugly, but I must say from looking at the pictures that seatbelts could have helped these poor folks. Look at that Duesey: even the delicate radiator mascot is intact. There is lots of room below the doors in these cars, especially for a small child.

I note too there was not all that much damage visible to the Volvo either. I have a feeling the Volvo clipped the Duesey causing it to swerve sideways and got to rolling itself. Not surprising with a long, tall and narrow heavy car, with huge wheels and tires.

I am going to make sure all my old cars have seatbelts, maybe it's just a placebo, but it's a small price to play for a little better chance of surviving a tragic accident like this one.

Bill.

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Thanks for posting the link to the article. It is not as bad as I'd feared, but it doesn't really contribute anything positive for the hobby either.

For what it's worth, I did challenge the writer about her pre-conceived notion that we might be a reckless and dangerous hobby. Statistics will bear me out that we are actually quite a safe one.

At my suggestion, she contacted Haggerty Insurance, and I noticed that she actually reported their loss statistics, which are quite low. Although she did not quote me, I mentioned that I ddidn't recall any loss of life im my 50 or so years around old cars. She reported a similar reaction from a different source. Give her credit for that.

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I have been thinking about this accident a great deal and it bothers me more than I could have imagined. First of all, I thought of the people killed and the children injured. Secondly, no matter what the circumstances, none of us want to die in a car that we are passionate about. I think this accident was seen as particularly spectacular largely because of the horrendous loss of life and because of the high profile of the car involved. Sad to say, but if the accident had happened in anything other than a Duesenberg it may not have riveted everyone in the way it has.

I agree with a previous message indicating that the car would be restored. It is ironic when think that as I was cleaning another Duesenberg a couple weeks ago, we were speculating about what it would take to total one. We all agreed that nothing short of a building burning with such intensity as to melt the castings could total a Duesenberg. So the car will be fine. The owner of the car will be compensated, and will at least make out okay from a financial standpoint though I am sure he will struggle with the fact that people he employed were killed in his car.

But what of the people? Obviously nothing can be done to bring back those who were killed nor can anything make up for the loss of the girl's parents and brother. What can be done is working to prevent such disasters in the future. Much ado has been made of the lack of seatbelts in the car. We all know that the vast majority of show cars lack seatbelts in the interest of originality. On the other hand, any car that is restored today is expected to be equipped with safety glass despite the fact that it clearly is not original. All of the major clubs disallow a car from exibition if it fails to have a fire extinguisher. Nobody in their right mind is trying to tour with a car on NOS rubber tires. Clearly modern materials used in tires are superior and we do not mark people down for using them. Perhaps now is the time to consider mandatory installation of seatbelts for show cars. No belts, no show. Same rule as a fire extinguisher. If clubs such as AACA and CCCA took the lead here it would be very difficult for other clubs in the hobby to penalize cars that are up to the same standard as the national organizations. CCCA has a very good bit of language in their judging guidelines relating to the installation of electric fuel pumps that reads to the effect of "must be installed in a non-obtrusive and quality workmanship manner."

I think the time has come for this folks. It is simply not good enough to say these are the rules and they cannot be changed for the sake of originality. That is a cop out and it flies in the face of the precident set by using safety glass, updated tire material and for that matter modern paint instead of lacquer. It is also a cop out to say that club leadership demands that we not make these changes. These clubs belong to us, the membership, and we can insist upon sensible rule changes. Again, my heart goes out to the victims of this accident. If nothing else it has opened a lot of eyes. With that I will step off the soap box.

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Ericmac, I share your sentiments completely. Shortly after I learned of this tragedy I pulled the front seat out of my phaeton and started measuring for belts. I intend to park it until the installation is complete.

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Ericmac:

For the most part I agree with what you are saying, and I may be wrong here, and if I am I am sure someone will correct me, but your 2 comments about safety glass and rubber tires. First, IMO we all use safety glass even in the 20's and 30's cars because it's all we can get, moot point. We all used polyester tires because that is all we can get. I have not switched over to radials on my Packard because I have not had the experience of better ride on a car that does not have 'radial tuned' suspension on it. My experience has been the opposite. As to seat belts... Your suggestion may have merit but I feel it is limited. On a car with wooden floors, Model T's, A's, the duesey, etc. How would you suggest mounting them? In an accident would not the floor actually come up and splinter therby possibly impaling the driver and passengers???? I do not want to get into a debate over the use of seat belts in old cars, that is/was being hashed out on another thread. However if the governing bodies were to look the other way on the seat belts as they do for safety glass and radial tires then it is an option, but I would question how they would be mounted on a wooded floor.

P.S. If this part of the discussion goes much beyond this point on this off subject point, we should consider moving it to another thread. This thread should be about the Duesey only.

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Shawn Miller wrote:

<div class="ubbcode-block"><div class="ubbcode-header">Quote:</div><div class="ubbcode-body">... killed by some idiot. My prayers go out to the survivors and their loved ones.

This is the volvo drivers fault not the fault of the people riding without seat belts.

What is really wrong here isnt the seat belts or lack thereof on our older cars, it's the huge number of bad drivers on our roads. I am constantly amazed at the stupidity of many drivers. It used to be big news when someone was killed in a car crash in Indy, it happened maybe once a month at most when i was growing up. now it is pretty much a weekly, sometimes daily event. People [censored] about how many soldiers have died in Iraq, when in fact more civilians are probably killed on our roads in a month nationwide.</div></div>

41Kaddy replied:

<div class="ubbcode-block"><div class="ubbcode-header">Quote:</div><div class="ubbcode-body">Shawn,

Your commentary is profound and insightful...</div></div>

I just can't in good conscience let this pass without a reply.

Shawn,

I don't at all agree with this assessment of your commentary. It sounds like you are appointing yourself an honorary eyewitness to the accident and somehow decided you are thus qualified to be judge, jury and executioner of a driver whose actions you did NOT witness. Heaven help anyone looking for a fair trial from someone with this type of know-it-all attitude. So, you've never made a mistake driving? I think the earlier commentary on how unfortunate mistakes can lead to terrible consequences is much more insightful--and the writer is much more likely to remember that he's fallable out there on the road and thus be safer, rather than considering himself "perfect" and infallible like you seem to consider yourself. If you can't remember a potentially serious mistake you've made driving recently, then how about when you were 25? Any close calls even?

I'm NOT trying to excuse the Volvo driver's behavior, but he's going to be paying plenty for a lapse in judgment for the rest of his life, without any helpful "assistance" from your finger-pointing. I just hope you don't end up in his shoes some day, or if you do that you don't have to face someone as heartlessly judgmental as yourself.

Your comments dismissing deaths in Iraq as just something "people [censored] about" are equally if not more insensitive. Are you talking about the friends and relatives of soldiers killed who mourn their loss? Or are you only referring to those concerned about Iraqis who are killed due to "collateral damage" and whom you don't really feel "count" as human beings anyway? The callousness of your comments amazes me. Did you really mean what you said?

Finally, the article about the accident may have been reasonably thoughtful and unbiased, but the headline, which has been widely circulated, seems to be terribly misleading. It refers only to the Duesneberg "crashing." Granted, the word "Duesenberg" isn't available for a headline every day, but the Duesenberg was, according to all verified accounts, crashed INTO by a Volvo. I think that's the major negative reflection on the old-car hobby that the article leaves with readers: Duesenberg=unsafe old car=crash. It's unfortunate that headline writers so often give the wrong impression about a story, because the headline many times is all that people read.

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For what it is worth, CCCA allows the installation of seat belts with no point deduction in judging, assuming they are installed in a workmanlike and harmonious manner. Ditto for turn signals.

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Very sad about the Duesenberg incident and the impact that it will have on all the families involved. For those who have not found the article in the Detroit Local 4 News, they can review it at: http://www.clickondetroit.com/news/4794575/detail.html?subid…

I have logged thousands of miles in our antique cars, though traffic gets a little more tense each year. As to a seat belt installation, I have given it thought and it will be a challenge to install (for example, not only do I have to secure the belts, but I have to secure the wood framed cushions and the adjustable seat frames), but I will figure out how to do it safely.

While not related to this tragedy, I would like to take this opportunity to discuss brakes after reading the man's comments with the 1927 Buick w/poor braking. I currently have two cars, a 1941 Cadillac 60 Special (that I purchased at age 14 in 1979) and a 1930 Franklin 147 Dietrich bodied 4 Door Convertible Sedan in the Speedster series (that my parent's purchased in 1978). Both cars stop surprisingly well (and fairly close to my new cars on dry pavement - though upon lock-up it is a bit startling to skid and takes quick thought as to steering). The 1941 Cadillac still wears its original brake linings and the 1930 Franklin has had hundreds of hours spent restoring its brake system (yes hundreds of hours). When I had the shoes relined they wanted to put on a high tech lining, as if I was going racing. I said I wanted the closest to the original lining and they found a woven lining that was very soft (they said I would be lucky to get 10,000 miles out of them - and I am happy with this). The drums had to be turned (hard to do given their size and mounting style) and linings then had to be ground to fit the diameter of the drums, not to mention hours of fun adjusting them and then adjusting them again after they were "broken in." I see so many restoration shops/individuals that just do not sit down and fit these parts for hours, plus I cannot tell you the number of cars I have seen restored w/modern type linings and the owners crank and complain they will not stop. Enough said. JMM

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This accident really bothers me, I was riding in a Packard today and the lack of belts bothered like it never has before. Unfortunately I do know of other old car deaths - the wife of the chair emeritus of Pebble Beach was killed a few years ago when their Hispano crashed on a tour in Europe.

One thing that has slowed me down on installing belts is the lack of a good source for the belts, and a good system to safely install them which I know will work properly. Racing belts don't seem to work well nor do used ones. I would like to have shoulder belts in addition to the lap belts also, and this seems possible in sedans at least, but what is the best way to do it? I know that there are wood floors in many classics, but shouldn't it be possible to reinforce the mounting area with steel or at least make sure that wood is new and solid? Let's get some safety experts and engineers to look at some typical classics and come up with good solutions.

I don't think that judging stops people from installing them, usually you can hide them under a seat cushion at a show. I know that everyone on my judging team at Pebble a couple years back saw belts on a car that had been on CCCA Caravans, and no one even mentioned deducting a point. However the perception might be that they aren't appropriate on a 100pt car, so some articles to the contrary might help.

The challenge that I would put forth is for the Club to dig into its resources and help the hobby come up with good seat belts for classics, this could be a project to sell, or to find someone that will design and supply them. We have lots of great engineers in the club, some of them in the auto and safety industries, and some who are manufacturers. The most positive thing that the Club could do now is to organize a real effort to make it easy and acceptable to have good belts in our classics. Since this happened in Detroit, the home of many of the great car companies, perhaps we could ask them for some corporate help - most of the executives are car guys and I bet they feel bad about this like we do. At least one CCCA board member is safety minded and has good contacts at GM, or perhaps Daimler Chysler, which is active in helping those restoring their cars would take this on. If not, the club should. This is an issue that is really important. We have watched some of the biggest and best regions of the CCCA struggle as they are in large cities with a lot of traffic, and people think twice about getting their classics out for safety reasons, and besides I don't want to lose any of my good CCCA friends in an accident like this one.

Think of the good press we might get if next year the same papers had a story of how the CCCA lead the hobby in getting seat belts in classic cars.

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John:

Just FYI my '27 Buick has original style woven linings on its four wheel external contracting mechanical brakes. And I managed to acquire excelent used drums for it when it was being restored -- the original drums were in terrible condition.

Still, the brakes are poor by any modern standard. They cannot lock up the 21" wheels, if they could they would probably tear out the hubs on this wooden spoked car. Any sort of serious avoidance situation would probably tip us over, the car is so narrow and tall. Much more than even a 1930 car.

We have driven it extensively, we drove it on a 4000 mile trip two years ago. We drive it very carefully, never over 45 MPH and always defensively. We have added extra lights and turn signals to make us a bit more visible. We are aware of the risks and feel they are mostly directed at us, the occupants. We believe that the extra care we use keeps the danger to us and the public at very low levels. Though occasionally you will hear some folks exagerating the performance of their old cars (can drive it at 85 all day!), most drivers of old cars are pretty darn careful.

We have other cars from the mid to late 30's, and their brakes and steering are far better than this Buick's. But they still do not compare in any way with the modern cars we have. So we still drive them with just a bit more care and much slower than most modern traffic.

I strongly agree with EricMacs comments on the seatbelts, it would be a good idea for the clubs to promote or even require the installation of seatbelts. I am going to figure out a way to get them in the Buick, we have solved far more difficult problems with this car in the past. No matter how cautious we are, just like the poor Pattons, accidents are going to happen occasionally and prudent precautions are in order.

Drive carefully!

Bill.

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I evidently started a firestorm here and apologize if we are a bit of track. I own a couple cars you have mentioned including a pair of Model T's and fully appreciate the effort it would take to install seatbelts in such a car, particularly a car with a wood framed body. My suggestion is to do the best that can be done. I really appreciated Chuck's comment as I was not aware that CCCA did not make deductions for seatbelts. I applaud this stance. Looking under the front seat in my Model T Touring the best place to anchor the seatbelts would likely be to add a heavy cross member where the body attaches to the frame. It will take a lot of work but I think I will tackle the job. I also did some looking under the seat of a Duesenberg over the weekend and it looks as though there are attachment points for the body in this area where someone could add a heavy cross member and attach seatbelts if they were so inclined.

Getting back to the original topic, the accident involving the Duesenberg last week, I looked carefully at the photos of that car. I really do not think it was a survivable accident in any open car, new or old. I think this is the point where we all get hung up. It seems that the media sees an old car and assumes that the accident is worse because and antique car was involved. Looking at the accident I shudder to think what would happen to me if I substituted my Miata for the Duesenberg and rolled it three times, even if I were belted in. I support mandatory seatbelts for antique cars because I think they make all cars safer in most situations. If we can get a higher margin of safety in our antique cars I think we should do it.

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I was both shocked and upset when I heard about the accident, news is making it's way throug the old car hobby - even up here in Canada. I am 35 years old and have been driving my own Model T Ford since I was 17. I learned at an early age that when driving an antique car you need to pay extra attention to other drivers (I'm not saying that was what happened in this instance)you need to watch side streets, driveways, intersections and parking lots more carefully than if you're driving a "normal" car. People who have never been exposed to a car more than 40 or 50 years old don't know what it is or isn't capable of. Where I'm headed here is the seatbelt issue.

I was driving to a club meet a number of years ago with a friend, we each had our own T. My friend came down a hill behind me and his rear (aftermarket) hub broke. The car rolled twice. If he had been belted to it his chance of survival would have been minimal at best as the car landed upside down.

In a '40's, '50's etc., sedan, seatbelts would be a good idea. In anything older, where the structure of the cabin around is less substantial, I know I sure wouldn't want to be straped to it.

Jeff

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