MAX Update No. 41: New, Safer Seats

| 2/17/2010 10:34:12 AM

MAX just got some important safety devices installed — a pair of Kirkey aluminum racing seats. 

These seats offer more than just comfort and style. In fact, on the safety equipment list, they are second only to seat belts. If you're wondering why this took me so long, well, I'm a slave to fashion I guess, and modern racing seats don't look quite right in classic sports cars. The classic look is bucket seats, which is still the look for production sports cars, but modern racing seats wrap around the occupant and are a distinctive departure from what you see when you hop in a Corvette. Unless, that is, you hop in a Corvette that's been prepared for the race track. 

But the most obvious departure from tradition is the height. These seats are quite tall. From the back of the car, you can barely see the driver's head. 

New MAX seatHead restraints — commonly called “head rests” — have been required in American production cars since 1969, which is surprising since head restraints weren't even universal in Formula 1 cars before the '70s. 

The objective of head restraints in road cars is to prevent whiplash, a malady that can occur when the guy behind you doesn't notice the red light in front of you. When a car gets hit from behind, the car suddenly accelerates forward, as does the driver's torso, and if there's no head restraint, the head lags behind. From a medical standpoint, it's not much different than having the head suddenly slammed backward, and the neck injuries generated thereby can be substantial. 

The problem is the mandatory head restraints didn't actually have to work until 40 years later, in 2009, when practical height and gap standards were established. Most earlier production cars have adjustable head rests, and to quote Colin Chapman (the founder of Lotus, and whose Lotus Seven was the inspiration for MAX's basic design), “Anything that can be adjusted can be adjusted wrong.” 

Joshua Skinner
3/11/2010 12:29:38 PM

Jack, I love MAX and your work, but I'm concerned about your new seats. The head restraint is great, but the rib supports are not. As you mention MAX getting punted in traffic is a real problem and if MAX gets hit in the side your rib cage and internal organs may suffer. Newer, safer racing seats have shoulder supports to better distribute impacts throughout the body. I used to have a Kirkey Super Speedway seat myself until I learned about the drawbacks. Now I have a Momo Start seat with the shoulder supports. Happy eco-motoring! Joshua

Jack McCornack
2/19/2010 11:17:53 AM

Hi Eddie, indeed you can, I e-mailed in a photo a day after I sent the text (yesterday, in fact), it was a different shape photo than usual plus I didn't give the editors/websters as much time as they deserved for assembling the blog, so there may have been a problem pasting it in. If we can't work it out in an hour or so, I'll put it on the web site and put a link in another comment here.

Eddie Colon_1
2/19/2010 10:05:57 AM

Hi Jack. Can we see pics of the new seats ?

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