Volvo’s three-point safety belt at the Smithsonian


Volvo Cars has been invited to donate its historic three-point safety belt to the Smithsonian National Museum of American History. The museum will officially accept the gift at a ceremony today, July 14. The safety belt is part of a larger collection from eight different donors in which each article represents a significant aspect of 75 years of safety-enhancement work in the car industry.

Volvo created automotive history when the first car fitted as standard with three-point safety belts was delivered on August 13, 1959. Since then, Nils Bohlin’s invention has been fitted to millions of cars the world over and is now on display at one of the world’s most prestigious and largest museums, The Smithsonian National Museum of American History in Washington, DC, which receives about four million visitors a year.

The three-point belt has played and still plays a vital role in helping to reduce the number of injuries and fatalities in road traffic.

Volvo’s participation is the result of long and hard work on the part of Volvo Cars in the USA, and it all began with a phone call over two years ago.

“The three-point safety belt turned 50 and fortunately there were already plans under way to show a collection of innovations relating to the automobile’s history,” relates Dan Johnston, product communications manager with the Corporate Communications department at Volvo Cars of North America.

Long process before acceptance

Acceptance of new items for the museum’s collection is preceded by a long and complex process whereby each object’s authenticity is thoroughly verified. The belt that was donated is an original fitting from a 1961 Volvo PV 544, and it is on display with the accompanying seat original seat.

The belt’s authenticity was verified all the way to the previous owner and to the factory, which has confirmed that the car was manufactured and delivered with the safety belt fitted. This meticulous process offers an indication of the significance and status that comes with being part of the museum’s collection.

“Today Nils Bohlin’s simple but ingenious life-saver is an integral part of American history,” says Dan Johnston.