First Airbag Car for Greenwich Auction

1973 Chevy Impala goes on the block to fund work of Safety Advocate

If you thought air-bags originated in Scandinavia in the 1990s, you need to look two decades back and to the heart of America’s Motor City for the first production car that was equipped with this protection. What is believed to be the sole remaining example of the 1000 airbag test vehicles GM produced back in 1973 will go on auction at Bonhams’ annual Sale of Collectors’ Motorcars & Automobilia at the Greenwich Concours d’Elegance, on Sunday, June 7, 2009. Proceeds of the historic Airbag Chevy Impala car sale will go towards helping to fund the work of auto safety advocate, Byron Bloch.

The 1973 Chevrolet Impala Sedan was part of a limited run of 1000 test vehicles that GM produced – nearly two decades before the safety feature became standard equipment. Most of these pioneering air bag cars went to government and law enforcement agencies to monitor the results of the new safety equipment.

It wasn’t long before data began to appear as a handful of accidents produced unscathed but often slightly bemused drivers and passengers. Those first few accidents where the airbag prevented death and certain injury were documented in a movie that General Motors produced about their remarkable “space age” (ACRS) Air Cushion Restraint System, and that historic film is included with the lot, along with a set of original GM Air Bag System components that are identical to parts that are hidden from view in the car.

Sophisticated in its multi-pressure design, and highly successful at saving lives, the 1973 Impala Airbag car served as a tool to rally for the adoption of airbags in all cars, a feat which took many years to accomplish, due to economic factors, the gas crisis of the 1970’s, and a certain amount of bureaucracy. What is more astonishing is that even when airbags became more commonplace, they were not as well-designed as those in the Airbag Chevy of 1973. GM had already solved the danger of overly-powerful airbags causing injury and even death to small children, with its multi-level “softer” and “firmer” inflation pressures for the passenger side airbag.

Offered by Byron Bloch, an automobile safety expert for more than 40 years, this consignment is intended to help fund the family’s mission to continue to improve safety in motor vehicles. It will enable him to intensify his work in areas that he feels need improvement, including stronger roofs for better protection in rollovers, and side underride guards for large trucks to prevent passenger cars from crashing beneath. For more information on Mr. Bloch’s work, and to join in his fight to save lives through improved safety, please visit:

“The proceeds of the ‘Airbag’ Chevy Impala sale will help pioneer safety advances in future generations,” Mr. Bloch explained. “The successful bidder can be proud to know that the 1973 Airbag Chevy Impala appeared on national television and at government hearings, and served as a catalyst for encouraging the mass adoption of airbags that have saved countless lives.”

“The ‘Airbag’ Chevy is truly a significant invention in American history, and certainly would be a fascinating talking point in any collection, or could easily form a prominent part of any institutional or educational display on the history of the automobile,” Rupert Banner, Bonhams’ Motorcar specialist said “Imagine owning this rare General Motors car that was the true pioneer of airbags as a safety technology in all of our cars. And it all began with the 1973 Airbag Chevy Impala.”

Additional information on this lot, and the fully illustrated catalog for the Bonhams’ Greenwich Auction on June 7th, will be available online in the coming weeks at: