Sammy Davis Jr and the 1956 steering wheel

Started by Art Gardner CLC 23021, January 23, 2018, 09:42:55 AM

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Art Gardner CLC 23021

Apparently, Sammy Davis' bad car accident in late 1954, in which he was driving a Cadillac and had his eye popped out of his head by the protruding, bullet-shaped center of the steering wheel, caused Cadillac to design a new wheel for 1956.  Here is a photo of him holding up a sample of the new 1956 wheel...
Art Gardner


1955 S60 Fleetwood sedan (now under resto)
1955 S62 Coupe (future show car? 2/3 done)
1949 S60 Fleetwood sedan (restored 30+ yrs ago)
1958 Eldo Seville (2/3 done)

Jeff Rose CLC #28373

Yes, I read about that and actually I thought about that this weekend when I had the 55 out for its first official run.
Jeff
Jeff Rose
CLC #28373
1970 Coupe DeVille (Big Red)
1955 Series 62 (Baby Blue)
Dad's new 1979 Coupe DeVille

Art Gardner CLC 23021

For those who are not familiar with the 54/55 steering wheel, here is the lovely, but apparently dangerous, steering wheel...
Art Gardner


1955 S60 Fleetwood sedan (now under resto)
1955 S62 Coupe (future show car? 2/3 done)
1949 S60 Fleetwood sedan (restored 30+ yrs ago)
1958 Eldo Seville (2/3 done)

e.mason

I remember back in 1956 Ford was promoting safety in their cars.

Ford's five-part Lifeguard System included two standard features:

1. A deep-dish steering wheel that slowly gave way under the impact of a crash. It absorbed energy and distributed it over the driver's chest.

2. Safety door latches that kept doors from springing open at impact, lessening the risk of occupants being ejected.

Three options also were offered:

1. Front seat belts anchored inside the car with a steel plate.

2. A padded instrument panel and padded sun visors.

3. Safety rear-view mirrors with backing that reduced glass fallout when shattered.

The padding and belts cost an additional $25; the seat belts alone were $16.

Ford also redesigned the front and back seat supports to reduce the possibility of their coming loose in a crash.
Eric Mason

Bobby B

Quote from: Art Gardner  CLC 23021 on January 23, 2018, 10:44:51 AM
For those who are not familiar with the 54/55 steering wheel, here is the lovely, but apparently dangerous, steering wheel...

I don't SEE what's so dangerous about that wheel  ???
                                                  Bobby
1947 Cadillac Series 62 Convertible Coupe
1968 Mustang Convertible
1973 Mustang Convertible
1969 Jaguar E-Type Roadster
1971 Datsun 240Z
1979 H-D FLH

Mike Josephic CLC #3877

#5
Supposedly, he was driving a black 1953 Eldorado when
an elderly lady backed out of her driveway right in front
of him (he was on Route 66 driving to LA) and as they say,
the rest is history.  The impact was so great the the
engine landed up against the front seat.

Mike
1955 Cadillac Eldorado
1973 Cadillac Eldorado
1995 Cadillac Seville
2004 Escalade
1997 GMC Suburban 4X4, 454 engine, 3/4 ton
custom built by Santa Fe in Evansville, IN
2011 Buick Lucerne CX
-------------------------------------
CLCMRC Museum Benefactor #38
Past: VP International Affiliates, Museum Board Director, President / Director Pittsburgh Region

The Tassie Devil(le)

Quote from: Mike Josephic  CLC #3877 on January 23, 2018, 07:08:57 PM
The impact was so great the the engine landed up against the front seat.   Mike   
I find that very hard to believe.

Or was it the engine out of the ladys' car.

Bruce. >:D
'72 Eldorado Convertible (LHD)
'70 Ranchero Squire (RHD)
'74 Chris Craft Gull Wing (SH)
'02 VX Series II Holden Commodore SS Sedan
(Past President Modified Chapter)

Past Cars of significance - to me
1935 Ford 3 Window Coupe
1936 Ford 5 Window Coupe
1937 Chevrolet Sports Coupe
1955 Chevrolet Convertible
1959 Ford Fairlane Ranch Wagon
1960 Cadillac CDV
1972 Cadillac Eldorado Coupe

Mike Josephic CLC #3877

#7
Hi Bruce:

That's what one account said -- who really knows. 
Sammy, in addition to losing his left eye almost lost
his right as well.  He also had a broken left knee cap
(from the handbrake handle) and a broken nose.  His
passenger had all of his teeth knocked out and a
concussion.

The engine going through the firewall actually was not
that rare in bad crashes in the 50's.  I remember stories
about such when I was a kid. 

Normally in those kinds of accidents, there were no
survivors.  He was very lucky.


Mike
1955 Cadillac Eldorado
1973 Cadillac Eldorado
1995 Cadillac Seville
2004 Escalade
1997 GMC Suburban 4X4, 454 engine, 3/4 ton
custom built by Santa Fe in Evansville, IN
2011 Buick Lucerne CX
-------------------------------------
CLCMRC Museum Benefactor #38
Past: VP International Affiliates, Museum Board Director, President / Director Pittsburgh Region

Bobby B

Quote from: Mike Josephic  CLC #3877 on January 23, 2018, 08:06:38 PM
Hi Bruce:

That's what one account said -- who really knows.  Sammy,
in addition to losing his left eye almost lost his right as well.
He also had a broken left knee cap (from the handbrake handle)
and a broken nose.  His passenger had all of his teeth knocked out
and a concussion.
Quote from: Art Gardner  CLC 23021 on January 23, 2018, 09:42:55 AM

Apparently, Sammy Davis' bad car accident in late 1954, in which he was driving a Cadillac and had his eye popped out of his head by the protruding, bullet-shaped center of the steering wheel....

And this was BEFORE he joined The Church of Satan in '68  >:D.....
                                                                           Bobby
1947 Cadillac Series 62 Convertible Coupe
1968 Mustang Convertible
1973 Mustang Convertible
1969 Jaguar E-Type Roadster
1971 Datsun 240Z
1979 H-D FLH

e.mason

Re Wikipedia:

Accident and conversion[edit]
Davis nearly died in an automobile accident on November 19, 1954, in San Bernardino, California, as he was making a return trip from Las Vegas to Los Angeles.[28] During the previous year, he had started a friendship with comedian and host Eddie Cantor, who had given him a mezuzah. Instead of putting it by his door as a traditional blessing, Davis wore it around his neck for good luck. The only time he forgot it was the night of the accident.[29] The accident occurred at a fork in U.S. Route 66 at Cajon Boulevard and Kendall Drive (34.2072°N 117.3855°W).[30] Davis lost his left eye to the bullet-shaped horn button (a standard feature in 1954 and 1955 Cadillacs) as a result. His friend, actor Jeff Chandler, said he would give one of his own eyes if it would keep Davis from total blindness.[31] Davis wore an eye patch for at least six months following the accident.[32][33] He was featured with the patch on the cover of his debut album and appeared on What's My Line? wearing the patch (March 13, 1955).[34] Later, he was fitted for a glass eye, which he wore for the rest of his life.

Eddie Cantor talked to Davis in the hospital about the similarities between the Jewish and black cultures. Davis, who was born to a Catholic mother and Protestant father, began studying the history of Jews. He converted to Judaism several years later in 1961.[4][35] One passage from his readings (from the book A History of The Jews by Abram L. Sachar), describing the endurance of the Jewish people, interested him in particular: "The Jews would not die. Three millennia of prophetic teaching had given them an unwavering spirit of resignation and had created in them a will to live which no disaster could crush."[36] The accident marked a turning point in Davis's career, taking him from a well-known entertainer to a national celebrity.[37]
Eric Mason

stzomah

My 56 wheel is being recast as we speak...  I'll report back on the quality when it arrives in about 3-4 weeks (i hope).  Great story...
1956 Series 62 Coupe
owned since 1975

Art Gardner CLC 23021

In modern cars, the engine and drivetrain are normally driven slightly down (by design) in a frontal crash, sparing the passenger compartment.  Back in the day, it wasn't that way and the engine coming to visit in a bad crash was a real concern.

Regarding the steering wheel, note that up until 55, the center bullet was the same height (or even a little greater) than the rim of the wheel.  So as the driver flew forward in a crash, he/she was bound to hit the bullet.  Combined with solid steering shafts, this was a very dangerous part of the car.  The 56 wheel was a huge safety improvement in that the wheel could fold up a good bit from impact by the driver before the driver would come into contact with the center button (and the solid shaft behind it).
Art Gardner


1955 S60 Fleetwood sedan (now under resto)
1955 S62 Coupe (future show car? 2/3 done)
1949 S60 Fleetwood sedan (restored 30+ yrs ago)
1958 Eldo Seville (2/3 done)

Mike Josephic CLC #3877

Art, you are exactly right.  I don't remember when they started to do this
(mid 60's IIRC) -- but the design was to change the engine mounts and
the part of the frame that held the engine (engine cradle).  It directed
the engine to move down and below the passenger compartment in the
event of a hard frontal crash -- part of the frame behind the engine had
a slight slope to it.

Mike
1955 Cadillac Eldorado
1973 Cadillac Eldorado
1995 Cadillac Seville
2004 Escalade
1997 GMC Suburban 4X4, 454 engine, 3/4 ton
custom built by Santa Fe in Evansville, IN
2011 Buick Lucerne CX
-------------------------------------
CLCMRC Museum Benefactor #38
Past: VP International Affiliates, Museum Board Director, President / Director Pittsburgh Region

cadillac ken

Good to see this post.  I had heard about how Sammy lost his eye but I was skeptical.  Sounded too much like an Urban Legend.