Concept and prototypes : PSC1

In 1986, we were treated to a pedestrian-friendly Metro – somewhat ahead of its time, we feel…

Snub-nosed Metro

Austin Metro Pedestrian Safety Car
Pedestrian Safety Car: Based on the Metro and unveiled at an environmental safety conference at Oxford in 1985.

THE Pedestrian Safety Car One (PSC1) had a re-designed nose, compliant in order to deform on impact with pedestrians. At speeds upto 25mph the polyurethane front bumper, which measured eight inches high and six inches deep, would have deformed on impact with the pedestrians rather than injuring his or her legs. The steeply raked bonnet was weakened to be ‘kind’ to any pedestrian and reduce serious head injuries, while the headlamps collapsed backwards when struck and the front edges of the wings were designed to break away on impact.

An air dam was integrated into the PSC1’s front bumper, as an accepted safety feature as well as for aerodynamic reasons. Although the bumper was larger than standard, it didn’t protude beyond the car’s bonnet as that had been lengthened by three inches to lessen the impact. To prevent a pedestrian’s head from being pierced by windscreen wiper spindles, these were hidden when not in use.

The car was the brainchild of the Transport and Road Research Laboratory’s senior scientist, Adrian Hobbs. It was purely a one-off and was jointly developed by the TRRL in conjunction with Austin Rover. According to the designer and builder, Douglas Allan Simpson, the managing director of Simpson and Greenhowe Ltd Doman Road Camberley Surrey, PSC1 was designed and built by hand.

The design was based on impact data provided by Hobbs, TRRL designed the innards of the bumper, the rest is Douglas’ work. When the final demonstration car was in final primer coat Hobbs arrived with the chief designer of Austin Rover, who requested the bonnet side line be curved more, Douglas never changed it. The final prototype exceeded Hobbs expectations by 3000 per cent. The airdam came from the MG Metro and was incorporated by Douglas to hide the protusion of the bumper.

It was first exibited at the Tenth International Conference on Experimental Safty Vechicles 1-5 July 1985 Oxford England. It was modified later by Douglas to become known as ESC 1. Douglas Allan Simpson recalled, ‘It’s an amazing story of one man’s determination to fulfill Hobbs life’s work and stuff it up the nose of the International Motor Industries experts who said it could not be done’…

Keith Adams
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  1. The same car in a metallic red colour is SC1 (Safety Car 1)

    Following the achievement of PSC1 i was asked to design and build further prototype (side impact protection) when this work was finished the modifications were incorporated into PSC 1 which was then re-sprayed metallic red in order to distinguish it.

    I would appreciate copy of any photos.

    • Is this the real Doug Simpson of Simpson and greenhowe?
      Danny mills here, I’d like to make contact with you Doug.

  2. I assume this is PSC1, photographed last year at the now-closed Stondon Motor Museum:
    Sadly the info sheet only gave a generic history of the Metro with no reference to this specific car, but it’s definitely no ordinary Metro. It doesn’t seem to be very well documented as being there and I don’t know how it ended up there. As far as I know, it is still stored on the museum site awaiting sale.

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