By request, we’ve assembled this collection of car wreck photos, showing a variety of old auto crashes that damaged or destroyed what would now be considered rare, antique and classic vehicles.
The pictures start in the early 1910s — the days where automobiles still shared the road with horses and carriages, and move on through the 1950s — the era of new freeways, fast cars and drag races.
That timing means these accidents happened before seatbelts were standard, when airbags and child safety seats were still years away — and even before power steering and anti-lock brakes were widely available.
One last note: These car accident pictures all come from vintage books and magazines, so there’s no gore — in fact, a few may have been staged for auto insurance ads and safety bulletins.
An early automobile wreck (1913)
Vintage car wreck with two wheels missing (1918)
Trolley vs car crash in Washington D.C. (1918)
A classic car collision with a street lamp (1918)
Early vintage car wreck from the late 1910s
A two-car collision in Washington DC (c1919)
An old-fashioned automobile crashed into tree (1920)
Looks like this car also knocked down a street lamp on a very rainy day.
Traffic accident at in Washington, D.C (1920)
An overturned car (1920)
Motor vehicle crash (1922)
Model “T” Ford wrecked on a median (1922)
Prohibition-era car wreck with boxes of moonshine (1922)
ALSO SEE: Prohibition political cartoons (1927)
Booze bootlegger car crash aftermath (1922)
An antique motor vehicle wreck in 1926
Article: Reasons for auto crashes (1928)
From The Clinton Eye (Clinton, Missouri) Dec 28, 1928
Missouri automobile accident statistics for a recent month furnish an interesting study. In the list published by the State Highway Department, there were 1219 accidents.
— Ten of these occurred in cars with NO drivers.
— There were 33 intoxicated drivers, caught in crashes.
— Forty-seven drivers claim they lost control of their cars.
— Defective brakes were responsible for ten calamities.
— Tire blow-outs caused 11 injuries.
— Eleven drivers skidded on wet pavements, and 18 skidded on loose gravel.
— Fifteen accidents were caused when “the other fellow” forced drivers into ditches.
— Nineteen drivers tried to pass other cars — with tragic results.
— Fifteen drivers went to sleep at the wheel — and woke up in the hospitals.
— One driver was struck by an airplane. And one poor victim got a double dose when stung by a bee.
Front part of a car heavily damaged in an accident
Car smashed into a street trolley (1934)
Wreck that destroyed the top of a car (1935)
1930s accident with two cars out in a field
Automobile accident on the U.S. 40 in Maryland (1936)
Overturned car in a rural area (1937)
Doctor injured in crash (1938)
San Francisco — Dr. Anne Brady, noted West Coast child specialist, is shown lying beside her wrecked automobile in this unusual accident photograph taken a few minutes after her machine smashed into a truck in the dim light of the tunnel.
The truck driver, in the center of picture, was absolved of blame in the crash near the entrance to the Golden Gate Bridge.
Los Angeles two-car collision (1947)
Man who backed out of a parking space into a station wagon
Vintage 1950s 3-car collision street scene
Ohio car accident (1953)
Car hits a tree in Boston (1955)
Seat belts to be offered: Chrysler to make safety device available on new cars
The Republic (Columbus, Indiana) April 26, 1955
DETROIT — Chrysler Corp. announced Monday it will offer seat belts as dealer-installed optional equipment on all five models of 1955 cars it turns out in the near future. It will be the first time in automobile history a manufacturer has offered installation of seat belts with its cars.
Nash Motors, in 1950, offered a belt with the reclining front seat it had in its cars, but didn’t offer a complete set. It sold 48,000 cars equipped with the belt before discontinuing the belt, when it was found that only about 1,000 of them ever were used.
Chrysler, in offering the belts, said it still didn’t know how much protection safety belts offered. But it said recent studies have indicated they offer some protection, and it felt it should make them available to motorists who desired to buy them along with a new car. Later, Chrysler said, it might make the seat belts available for older models of its cars.
The price of the kits, which will be installed by dealers when customers order the belts along with their cars, wasn’t announced. But it was expected they would run about the same as the top grade of seat belts now available. A good set of seat belts now costs about $40 for the front seat.
The seat belt will be anchored to a steel, load-supporting beam located under the front seat, eliminating many of the wires and bars in seat belts now available for installation.
Overturned car that went into a construction pit
Three vehicle pileup (1953)
Impossible though it seems, no one was seriously hurt in this deadly-looking pile-up near Waco, Texas. The Mercury coupe on top of the pile collided with a truck, and leapfrogged onto what was once a Chrysler.