Mercedes "slash-8" models, Ford Granada, Opel Rekord C2: 1960s and 1970s neo-classics are popular car choices for young families. But what about child restraint systems? Can classic cars and modern requirements for children's in-car safety go together? TÜV SÜD's experts answer this question with a definite yes. Generally, seat belts can be fitted in the back of classic cars without affecting their H registration. The in-car safety of children is another topic addressed at TÜV SÜD's stand 1J56 at the Retro Classics from 7 to 10 March in Stuttgart.
Seat belts are needed to fasten a rear-facing baby seat or child-car seat, especially in the back of a car, where the transport of children is safest. However, in Germany seat belts in the back of cars only became mandatory for new car models in mid-1979. Given this, neo-classic lovers wishing to ensure the safety of their children will have to carry out some work even on models that were highly popular in their childhood. Matthias Gerst, classic car expert at TÜV SÜD, encourages, "Child restraint systems are no reason to bury the dream of driving a classic car." Fitting rear seat belts is surprisingly simple, particularly in cars from the 1960s and 1970s. "In many of these models mounting points can be found behind the trim of the door pillars and on the underbody", says Gerst. The Volvo 240 offers the perfect combination of retro-transport and family bliss. The famously safe Swedish automobile was originally supplied with four automatic seat belts as standard equipment right from the start. The very few models that cannot be fitted with seat belts fall under the same rule as all other vehicles without seat belts: children under three cannot travel at all in a car without seat belts, and children aged three years and over can only travel in the back.
Modification differs from model to model
In most cases, seat belts can be fitted even in the back of classic cars which do not have mounting points provided by the manufacturer. However, this very often requires modifications to the car body, i.e. drilling holes or welding on reinforcement plates. "Provided these modifications are done expertly, classic car owners will not face any problems in having the modifications approved as these safety modifications are covered by the regulation for H registration", explains the classic car expert. The same applies to seat belts installed in the Lancia Flavia Coupé. Here the modification requires a different approach: as the three-point belts that are needed for fastening modern child restraint systems cannot be mounted on the top of the C pillar, their top mounting point is located in the centre of the parcel shelf. The belt guidance system leads from the inside to the outside, i.e. in the reverse direction to normal. However, this means the belt retractors must be suitable for reverse guidance to ensure they safely click into place. In some cases, a simple lap belt will be enough. These belts are permitted in the rear of cars manufactured up to 1991. In the case of all classic cars – from the 1970s Italian design classic to the 1960s muscle cars and the post-war Lloyd 300 – classic car owners are best advised to plan all modifications in advance, working with a TÜV SÜD expert.
Clear regulations for the in-car safety of children
The experts are also familiar with the cases in which classic car enthusiasm and family bliss simply do not mix. Pre-war convertibles are one example. Car bodies with a wooden frame are particularly tricky and may pose insurmountable obstacles to even the smartest and most experienced retrofitters. The challenges involved in safe and secure mounting include a lack of support, but also too little space: Belt retractors, deflectors and other components of modern seat belt systems simply do not fit into a Fiat 500. Kids in a Mini Cooper, however, are no problem! In contrast to the Italian neo-classic, fitting seat belts in the British compact car is possible. The carrying of children in cars without seat belts is governed by strict regulations: very young children under the age of three may not be carried in cars without seat belts at all. Children aged three and older may travel in the back seats only. No children may be transported in cars without back seats. Boys and girls must be at least 150 cm in height to sit in the front seats, and the same applies in classic cars. If the car only has seat belts in the front, children must always sit in the passenger seat!
The in-car safety of children is only one of the topics addressed by TÜV SÜD at the Retro Classics. In Hall 1, Stand J 56 (East Entrance) TÜV SÜD's experts also advise visitors on all other issues related to classic and neo-classic cars. TÜV SÜD's experts give advice on the purchase and help in specific cases to check the credibility of the seller's information. The experts support classic car lovers by providing technical know-how on how to best restore a historic vehicle. A small exhibition of classic car delights from the period of Germany's economic miracle, known as 'Wirtschaftswunderjahre' and also the motto of this year's Retro Classic, includes Vespa scooters, a VW Bully T1 and an DKW 1000S to admire at the stand.
Further information is available at www.tuev-sued.de.
Information about the Retro Classics is also available online at www.retroclassics.de