Lifeguard (automobile safety)

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1956 Ford Fairlane Crown Victoria. The Lifeguard package was available for this model of car

Lifeguard was the name of a 1956 safety package marketed by the Ford Motor Company.

Spurred by Robert McNamara, the Cornell University crash research program and the first year of Ford's own crash testing (1955) the Lifeguard package included:

  • Three standard features:
    • A safety "deep-center" steering wheel[1] with spokes that would flex.[2][3]
    • Safety "double-grip" door latches to prevent occupant ejection in case of a crash.
    • Safety rearview mirror to reduce broken glass if shattered.[4]
  • Two optional features:
    • Front and rear [5] lap only seat belts (first offered by Ford in 1955[6]).
    • Padded dashboard and sun visors (the padding was advertised as being more absorbent than foam rubber.)[7] The instruments were recessed to minimize injury potential.

The buying public was unresponsive to the Lifeguard package[citation needed] according to some, prompting Henry Ford II to say: McNamara is selling safety, but Chevrolet is selling cars.[citation needed] Ralph Nader and Joan Claybrook claim that the package was extremely popular.[8]

1957 update[edit]

In 1957, Ford updated the Lifeguard safety package with a new frame that bowed out to completely enclose the passengers,[9] rear child-proof door locks,[10] a front hinged hood to protect against the hood flying up in the wind, and recessed knobs.[11]