Reader Question: Plastic Bumpers

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Here’s the latest reader question, along with my reply!

DVB asks: I thought a lot of the plastic was placed b/c of what we learned from NASCAR about energy dissipation in crashes, etc.,  instead of just the metal doing the accordion thing until it got the driver. It was why when there is a crash, parts are scattered all over creation.

My reply: Plastic bumper covers serve no structural purpose; they are purely cosmetic. The structural parts of the car are behind the covers (fascias, if you want to get technical about it). The reason these fascias are in general use – rather than external bumpers, as was once typical – is because of the cost of chrome-plating external bumpers, which has gone through the roof due to EPA regs. The plastic/rubber fascias also give a streamlined look and are easier to mold into various shapes.

NASCAR vehicle construction is very different from that of most production cars. They (the “stock” cars) are tube frame with a very superficial and largely one-piece exterior skin over the top. Most production cars are unibody (integral frame and major panels, such as roof and rear quarters) with front fenders and hood, etc. bolted on.

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  1. Those fascias cover a lot of the bs called pedestrian protection. A lack of real bumpers is the reason you have to spend another $1,000 on a pick-up so there’s front end protection and a push bar, what real bumpers used to be.

    Helping a buddy work on a Stang one day I could only laugh when I saw what was behind the front fascia, a friggin piece of raw Styrofoam.

    It wasn’t even coated, just stuck up there with crud stuck on,in it. I said I had a couple old lowbow coolers at the house we could use for replacement.


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