Many motorheads believe seatbelts were invented for automobiles, but that's not the case. The invention of the seatbelt predates the introduction of the horseless carriage. Naturalist, engineer, politician, inventor, and physical scientist Sir George Cayley of Yorkshire, England, invented seatbelts in the 1800s. Known as a polymath or Renaissance Man, Sir George excelled in multiple fields of discipline, both in the arts and sciences. Some 50 years before the Wright Brothers, he designed, constructed and piloted a glider. He served in the British Parliament for the Whig Party. Sir George also developed a prototype of the internal combustion engine fueled by a completely different big-bang theory: gunpowder.
In 1956, Ford Motor Company was the first U.S. manufacturer to put seatbelts in the front seats of its passenger cars. Seatbelts weren't required by law in the United States until 1968.
While the Big Three complied with federal law by equipping vehicles with two-point lap seatbelts, a Swedish engineer, Nils Bohlin, along with Volvo patented the modern three-point belt. Creating the dual-shoulder harness and lap-belt safety device greatly improved the survivability and safety of passengers in a crash, compared with earlier two-point lap belts. In violent collisions, evidence of "seatbelt syndrome," or separation of the lumbar vertebrae and possible paralysis, occurred in some crash victims who wore lap belts.
What we're getting to is simple: If you drive your custom classic truck at all, and there are no seatbelts or just lap belts in the cab, you need three-point safety belts. CCT's associate publisher, John Barkley, has a '74 Chevy Stepside that makes prodigious power, has a comfortable cab and, thanks to some recent improvements, stops and handles well, but is equipped with lame old lap belts. Mr. Barkley's building his Bow Tie to be a several-times-a-week driver. Lap belts wouldn't do. He contacted GEM Street Rods in Covina, California, and, for the most reasonable sum of $66.95, John received three-point belts, as well as all the mounting hardware required to get his Chevy's cab as safe as it is stylish.
As long as your home shop has some semblance of hand tools, GEM Street Rods' safety belts can be installed in about an hour. Since we had the '74 Chevy shortbed in the Primedia Tech Center for another tech story, we decided to show you how easy it is to make your vintage pickup a safer place to be at speed. Watch as Jason Scudellari, Primedia's ace tech center manager, installs the GEM three-point belts. Install some safety in your interior. While you're at it, time yourself to see if you're as swift as Mr. Scudellari.
If we haven't yet convinced...
If we haven't yet convinced you your vintage custom hauler should have safe three-point seatbelts, perhaps some subliminal advertising will work. Are you seeing threes?
By removing the old lap belts...
By removing the old lap belts from the '74, Jason took the first step toward making J.B.'s hot rod hauler a safer place to have some fun on a cruise.
After removing the stock lap...
After removing the stock lap belts' center receptacles (not shown), Jason installed the supplied side brackets with the correspon-ding fasteners.