OSV 40: The unbreakable Opel

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In 1974, Opel showed its idea of ​​a safe compact car at the II International Technical Conference on Enhanced Vehicle Safety, held in London. The engineers had a Kadett C, introduced the previous year, and were able to let their imagination run wild when it came to safety.

The technicians were free to choose their name and chose OSV (Opel Safety Vehicle) and the number 40 matched the speed in miles per hour at which the vehicle was designed to withstand a frontal impact. Despite all the security measures it had, the car weighed no more than 1.000 kilos.

The first thing that stands out is the OSV 40's voluminous wheel arches compared to a modern car, and is that the fenders were filled with polyurethane foam that provided great impact energy absorption capacity. On the front, pieces filled with this foam were used that above 8 km / h allowed a controlled breakage. The polyurethane foam absorbs so much energy that impacts below that speed only resulted in small deformations and thus the “self-healing” fender was created.

Engineers also filled the door frame cavities with polyurethane foam to create increased safety after a side impact. Shielding was made in key parts of the roof, and the seat backs were fixed to the roof by means of a belt system that still allowed the common adjustment of the seats. These measures considerably increased the stability and robustness of the cabin. The laminated glass windshield was also glued and sealed to the bodywork, also in order to increase the rigidity and integrity of the car.


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Inside the car, all surfaces that could collide with the occupants in the event of an accident were covered by two centimeters of polyurethane foam. The steering column was built with an additional angle for added protection.

Safety was also present in the cabin of the OSV 40. The center console featured an alert system developed by Hella that controlled 11 functions and displayed various possible errors associated with the vehicle's lighting system. Four lights located at the rear of the car indicated emergency braking, and they also doubled as hazard lights. Given their high height, they were easy to see by drivers behind. The split rear-view mirror allowed for excellent vision, allowing the blind spot area to be reduced to a minimum.

The front seats were enlarged in such a way as to build a border with respect to the rear compartment. The side supports of the seats, specially placed at shoulder height, prevented the occupants from colliding with each other in the event of an impact. The minimalist-style front headrests ensured that the driver had a good rear view, as did the restraint belt system at the rear of the car. The four seats of the OSV 40 had 3-point seatbelts, even the front ones already had an automatic restraint system.


The OSV 40 achieved all the objectives during the crash tests: All four doors still opened without the need for special tools after an impact at 65 km / h (40 mph) against a solid surface. The front end absorbed energy so well that after impact it was reduced by 50 centimeters. The OSV 40 was equally impressive during a frontal collision with a pole at 50 km / h, a rear impact, a side impact and during the rollover test at 48 km / h.


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Automundo is the blog about news from the automotive industry, motorsport and the culture of the region. Director: Diego Durruty.

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