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40 years of Opel Safety Vehicle:
The safe route from Kadett C to Astra J

Sep 23, 2014

  • 40 years ago: Opel Safety Vehicle masters impact speed of 40 mph
  • Kadett C called OSV 40: Impact protection, on-board warning system, safety seats
  • Astra today: ultra-modern assistance systems with camera, radar and sensors

Opel News - The OSV 40 and the Opel Astra: The current Opel compact car is reaping the rewards of 40 years of development

Rüsselsheim.  „Don’t start without a seatbelt“, was the slogan of a campaign launched in Germany in 1974 to persuade drivers to wear seatbelts. Two years later, wearing seatbelts became compulsory and in 1984 fines for not wearing them were introduced. Opel has been equipping all models with seatbelts as standard since 1973 and the following year, gave a visionary outlook into the safety technology of the future. The Opel Safety Vehicle, a close-to-production research vehicle based on the Kadett C, mastered a frontal impact of 40 mph (roughly 65 km/h) and paved the way for the development of further safety features. The impact speed in miles also gave the Kadett its name: OSV 40. The current Opel Astra demonstrates the evolution since those early days. The compact car is reaping the rewards of 40 years of development and has exemplary passenger safety and ultra-modern assistance systems.


OSV 40 – Opel Safety Vehicle masters impact speed of 40 mph

Opel News - The name says it all: OSV stand for Opel Safety Vehicle, the number 40 for the frontal impact speed in miles per hour that the OSV 40 was designed to resist

Exactly 40 years ago, the Rüsselsheim-based company showed its idea of a safe compact car at the second International Technical Conference on the Enhanced Safety of Vehicles held in London. The engineers were handed a Kadett C, presented the previous year, and could let their imagination run wild when it came to safety. The technicians were allowed to choose the name themselves and decided on OSV or Opel Safety Vehicle. The number 40 stands for the frontal impact speed in miles per hour that the OSV 40 was designed to resist. Despite the extended safety features the cars was not to weigh more than 1,000 kilograms.

Impact energy absorbed by polyurethane foam

Opel News - OSV stand for Opel Safety Vehicle

The first thing an onlooker notices is how voluminous fenders are compared to modern fenders. The OSV 40 fenders were filled with polyurethane foam which gave them their absorbing capacity. Foam-filled side members that break in a controlled way at impact speeds above eight kilometers per hour were used at the front. The foam structure absorbed enough energy that frontal impacts below this speed only resulted in a small deformation – thus the predecessor of the “self-healing” fender was created. The engineers also filled the cavities of the sills and doors with polyurethane foam in order to create increased safety reserves for a side impact. Reinforced roof rails and backrests of the front seats that were fixed to the roof via a belt construction, the seats could still be adjusted, increased the stability of the passenger compartment considerably. Furthermore, the windshield made from laminated glass was glued directly to the bodywork – also with the goal of increasing body stiffness in mind.


Interior also reflects safety approach

Opel News - All-round protection: Reinforced roof rails and backrests of the front seats that were fixed to the roof via a belt construction increased the stability of the passenger compartment considerably

Inside the car, all surfaces with which the passengers could come into contact in case of an accident were cushioned with a two-centimeter layer of polyurethane foam. The steering was fitted with an additional angled element in the lower steering column sector.


Safety also came first in the cockpit of the OSV-40. The central warning system made by Hella controlled eleven functions and showed possible errors by the associated warning lamps lighting up. Four additional lights behind the rear window signaled emergency braking and also doubled as hazard lights. Due to their high positioning, they were easy to see for following road users. A split rear view mirror enabled a perfect view with the lower part reducing the blind spot to a minimum.


The front seats were widened to create a continuous boundary to the rear compartment. The side supports, especially in the shoulder area, prevented the driver and passenger colliding in case of a side impact. The minimalistic head rests of the front seats ensured that the driver had a good view to the rear. The belt construction restraint system for the heads of passengers in the rear also ensured safety and overview. The four seats of OSV 40 all had three point belts – the ones in the front even already had an automatic seat belt tension system.


All crash tests passed with flying colors

Opel News - The OSV 40 and the Opel Astra: The current Opel compact car is reaping the rewards of 40 years of development

The OSV 40 met all of the objectives during the crash tests: All four doors could still be opened without the help of tools after a frontal impact at 40 mph with a solid obstacle. The front section of the car absorbed the energy so well that it was shortened by 50 cm due to the cold-drawing phase. The OSV 40 was equally impressive during a frontal collision with a pylon at 50 km/h, a rear impact, a side impact with a post and during the rollover test at 48 km/h.

Opel Astra: State-of-the-art safety systems

The new representative of the Opel compact class shows just how dynamic the development started in 1974 continued. In addition to the structural strength that has come to be expected, the Opel Astra offers extensive passive safety features and a string of ultra-modern driver assistance systems that increase the safety and comfort for the drivers and passengers decisively.


The second generation of the Opel Eye Front Camera is the foundation for the driver assistance systems. The engineers optimized the Lane Departure Warning and the Traffic Sign Recognition functions. The camera processes numerous levels of brightness and can even recognize dynamic LED signs. A further aid available in combination with the Opel Eye Front Camera is a distance indicator. It shows the driver the distance to a vehicle in front (in seconds).

Adaptive Cruise Control keeps distance to vehicle in front

Even safer and more comfortable: The radar-based Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) helps the driver to maintain the selected speed while keeping a pre-set safety distance to the vehicle ahead. In addition to speed, the desired gap to the vehicle ahead can also be selected by the driver – with three options available: far, medium, close. When ACC is activated, the radar constantly checks the distance up to a range of 150 meters ahead; the selected gap to the closest vehicle in the same lane is shown in the center screen of the display.


In case the driver does not react to the audible and visual warnings by braking in a critical situation and the system calculates a potential impact, it may decelerate the car automatically in an extreme case. The Opel Astra is decelerated with help of a brake system that can look to the advantages of a latest generation Anti-lock Braking System and an extended Electronic Stability Program (ESP Plus).

Adaptive Forward Lighting: Perfect lighting for all conditions

The latest generation of safety lighting system Adaptive Forward Lighting (AFL+) with bi-xenon headlamps includes a large package of intelligent lighting functions such as: High Beam Light Assistant, Dynamic Curve Light, Static Cornering Light and adaptive lighting, which reacts automatically to the prevailing driving situation such as route profile (freeway, highway, city) and visibility (sun, fog, rain) and adjusts the headlamps accordingly. The arrow-like design of the LED daytime running lamps, which come as standard, give the Astra a distinctive appearance.

Extensive package for passive safety

Even if all of the systems for the active safety reach their limits, Astra drivers can trust in an extensive passive safety package. A total of six airbags come as standard. If a situation occurs in which an airbag or a belt tensioner is activated, the hazard warning lights come on and the doors are unlocked automatically. Obviously, the Astra is also fitted with the Opel-patented Pedal Release System (PRS) which decouples the pedals in the event of a frontal collision, reducing the risk of injury to feet and lower legs considerably.

Opel OSV 40: Technical data

Max. torque
in Nm / at rpm
95 / 3,400
Length in mm
Width in mm
Height in mm
Front track in mm
Rear track in mm
Weight in kg
Displacement in cm3
Max. output
in kW (hp) / at rpm
44 (65) / 5,600