See 35 vintage car wrecks from the days before seat belts & airbags

Vintage car wrecks from the days before seatbelts and airbags

Note: This article may feature affiliate links, and purchases made may earn us a commission at no extra cost to you. Find out more here.


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 crash 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)

Antique automobile accident crash from 1913

Vintage car wreck with two wheels missing (1918)

Auto accident 1918

Trolley vs car crash in Washington D.C. (1918)

Car accident with trolley - Washington DC c1918

DON’T MISS THIS: See 55 of the earliest automobiles ever manufactured

A classic car collision with a street lamp (1918)

Car collision in 1918

Early vintage car crash from the late 1910s

Early car accident photo

A two-car collision in Washington DC (c1919)

Crashed cars - 1918 to 1920

An old-fashioned automobile crashed into tree (1920)

Looks like this car also knocked down a street lamp on a very rainy day.

1920s car accident - Auto into a tree

Traffic accident at in Washington, D.C (1920)

Traffic accident at 14th and Q Streets, N.W., Washington, D.C. 1920

MORE: Here’s what you needed to know to drive a car back in the 1920s

An overturned car that flipped after a crash (1920)

An overturned car in 1920

Motor vehicle crash (1922)

Motor vehicle crash 1922

Model “T” Ford wrecked on a median (1922)

FIND OUT MORE: See Ford assembly lines from 100 years ago, mass-producing Model T cars

Model T Ford car accident 1922

Prohibition-era car wreck with boxes of moonshine (1922)

Car wreck with moonshine - 1922

ALSO SEE: Prohibition political cartoons (1927)

Booze bootlegger car crash aftermath (1922)

Bootlegger car crash in 1922

An antique motor vehicle wreck in 1926

Motor vehicle collision 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.

MORE: Classic Cars Adult Coloring Book #2: 1920-1929

Front part of a car heavily damaged in an accident

Car accident 1937


Car smashed into a street trolley (1934)

Car crashed into street trolley - 1934

Wreck that destroyed the top of a car (1935)

Car crash from 1935

1930s accident with two cars out in a field

1930s car crash in a field - Vintage automobile accidents

Automobile accident on the U.S. 40 in Maryland (1936)

Automobile accident on the U.S. 40 in Maryland 1936

Overturned car in a rural area (1937)

Overturned car 1937

MORE: The real Bonnie & Clyde: Texas officers trap and kill notorious duo in shootout (1934)

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.

San Francisco car accident from 1938

Los Angeles two-car collision (1947)

Los Angeles car crash in 1947

MORE: See what California rush hour traffic was like in the ’50s

Man who backed out of a parking space into a station wagon

Vintage 1950s car accident scenes (2)

MORE: See the Plymouth Suburban station wagons from back in the ’50s

Vintage 1950s 3-car collision street scene

Vintage 1950s car accident scenes (1)

Ohio car accident (1953)

Ohio car accident in 1953

ALSO SEE: How the top western movie star Tom Mix gained fame on a horse, and lost his life in a car

Car hits a tree in Boston (1955)

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

Overturned car from 1958

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.

Leapfrog car crash 1953

People gathering around a vintage car accident (1958)

1950s car accident scenes from 1958 (1)

ALSO SEE: Young actor James Dean was killed in a car crash in 1955, but his fame kept growing

Dust storm pile-up in Box Elder County, Utah (1956)

Dust storm pile-up from 1956

Vintage highway car crash scene from 1958

Vintage highway car crash scene from 1958

Helping a woman out of a car after an accident (1959)

Fifties car crash from 1959 (1)

Girl being lifted from a classic car turned on its side (1959)

Fifties car crash from 1959 (2)

Texas two-car crash (1955)

Texas two-car crash 1955

A multi-car pileup in New York City (1955)

NYC multi-car pileup from 1955

MORE: 47 dangerous old playgrounds that our great-grandparents somehow survived

PS: If you liked this article, please share it! You can also get our free newsletter, follow us on Facebook & Pinterest. Thanks for visiting and for supporting a small business! 🤩 


You might also like...

The fun never ends:

Comments on this story

One Response

  1. “Prohibition-era car wreck with boxes of moonshine (1922)”

    The car is a 1921/1922 Packard.

Leave a comment here!

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.