The evolution of car bumpers over the years


Posted by: Juliet Onyeachonam

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Over the years until today, car bumpers had continued to evolve both in material and designs. We have put together this article detailing the various evolution of car bumpers over the years.

The bumper is a piece that we find in the back and front of both cars and trucks. The main function for which it was created is to cushion the effects of a collision; absorbing the kinetic energy of the shock and making it bounce.

The first bumpers emerged in 1905, some years after the invention of the automobile. These first pieces were made with rubber and their objective was to minimize the damage during a crash; however, they were not very effective in most cases.

A few decades passed until the definitive evolution of car bumpers in 1985: plastic, light and safe. Designed to withstand blows, its purpose was to avoid as much as possible the deformities of the car to reduce repair costs when an accident occurred.

However, as the years passed and the cars began to point to the physical appearance of their units, this piece has assumed a new function: beautifying the vehicle.

1. Types of bumpers

The two main types that exist are those of isolated assembly and those of plastic materials.

  • Isolated mounting

This is a system composed of a cylinder that contains nitrogen gas inside it at a very high pressure on the outside and oil on the inside. This type of bumper tends to be safer than plastic, although they are a bit more expensive.

  • Of plastic

It is made of high density foam such as polystyrene or polyurethane. These bumpers are most preferred by most drivers, as they perform well and are economical.


The plastic bumpers were designed to be light and to withstand blows, then reduce deformity and repair cost

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2. Bumpers in the beginning

From the first gasoline combustion vehicles manufactured in Germany to today, this element (the bumper) has undergone a great evolution, both in form, material and purpose. The first manufactured car was the “motorwagen ", which was a tricycle with gasoline combustion engine placed in the back.

At that time no one thought of the existence of a front or rear protection element since they were only concerned with advancing the mechanics and technique of this revolutionary invention: the automobile. With the passage of time and the acceptance of this invention, new and more modern designs were emerging with new elements, such as a fourth wheel, the steering wheel, headlights but still without an element of protection for the axles and wheels of the car.

With the chain manufacturing revolution, production costs decreased considerably, so they had a lower price and greater acceptance among the population that was acquiring vehicles. Thus, increasing the number of motor vehicles in the cities, the awareness for safety began, because although they were not very fast, they were heavy and dangerous so they could cause damage.

A-car-with-a bumper-made-of-steel

In the 20s and 30s, the protective bumpers on most vehicles were made of steel

It was from the late 20s and 30s that we began to see cars with a protective bar on both its front and rear that made protection against collisions with other cars or urban elements without damaging the vehicles themselves.

These elements were made with one or two steel bars perpendicular to the front or rear of the vehicle. The bumpers were attached in some cases to the stringers, that is, to the ends of the frame of the vehicle and, in other cases, to the body of the vehicle.

3. Evolution of car bumpers from 1930 to 1960

As the years passed, the bumper began to be more important in the vehicles and as the cars evolved aesthetically, the bumpers began to be more than protection, they began to be part of the aesthetic line with the car becoming wider, more robust and shaped more complex

In the 50s, the bumpers began to be integrated into the bodywork to make the car a "whole", that did not see elements bolted or outside the structure. In addition, by this time, the American bumpers were larger, to protect a larger area, and more aesthetic, in addition to incorporating a plug in the front to minimize the damage that could be done to it due to collision at a low speed.


An example of 1950s car design in America

With the arrival of the European regulation and the requirement of quality in the construction of the bumpers, the evolution of car bumpers took a new dimension as specifications began to change notably.

However, in America, unlike those that occurred in Europe, they continued without a standard rule to regulate these elements until 1971.

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4. Evolution of car bumpers from 1961 to 1979

In the vehicles of the 60s, the bumper is "embedded" in the body making both the front and rear are flush with it. They are still made of metal, but now they are thinner but more resistant, thanks to the different folds present in their construction.

In the 70s the vehicles follow the same aesthetic standards that were imposed in the previous decade, although during this time, the bumper standard " Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 215 " (FMVSS) came into force in the USA . According to this regulation, vehicles should withstand rear impacts at low speed against a perpendicular barrier without damaging components related to safety, in addition to headlights and fuel systems.


The car bumper design of 1968

In American models, the steel bumpers still reign, although they protrude from the front of the vehicle to provide greater protection, and have certain plastic elements above to protect the bumper from scratches

5. Evolution of car bumpers from 1980 till date

From the 80s and following, the bumper was already consolidating plastic, becoming larger and larger and covering a large space in the front as in the rear. These plastic bumpers were reinforced on the inside with foam that absorbs impacts so that the body was not damaged. The bumpers of this time were screwed to the body due to its weight.

Today the bumpers have almost lost their name because they are more an aesthetic piece than shock absorbers. They serve to give a specific image to the vehicle: sports, family, off-road feature, in addition to housing in it the fog lamps, ventilation grilles, parking sensors.


Bumpers today are more an aesthetic piece than shock absorbers

They serve to cover the authentic absorption elements. The bumper is surrounded by a plastic skin, the apron. This is integrated into the design of the vehicle. Due to the closed shape, the apron can improve the aerodynamics of a vehicle.

In recent times, the evolution of car bumpers is on another level as bumpers are now designed to minimize injuries to pedestrians or cyclists. These new safety systems include the design of the vehicle both at the front and at the rear.

The bumpers used now are made of energy-absorbing foams. These semi-rigid foams dampen the impact of an impacting body in a small layer thickness and allow the development of bumper systems meeting stringent safety requirements. Also, in the case of accidents at higher speeds, the foam shells under the apron absorb the energy and spread it over a large area.

>>> Check for more car facts and car maintenance tips on!

Juliet Onyeachonam
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Juliet Onyeachonam

Juliet Onyeachonam

Car maintenance

Juliet Onyeachonam is an enthusiastic car nut which is why she has turned that passion into a fantastic job by becoming a car blogger on Juliet's blogs are a wealthy resource for information on car maintenance, driving tips and also how things pertaining to cars work.

Additionally, because of her passion for the entertainment industry, Juliet does not write only hardcore but also entertaining articles about cars.


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