Belt up and live a bit

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Com­ment - PAUL GOVER CHIEF RE­PORTER paul.gover@cars­guide.com.au

THE hum­ble seat­belt has not changed in an age. Well, my age any­way. It’s still ba­si­cally black, from the strap to the buckle, with a splash of OHS-style orange to guide you to the cor­rect ‘click­clack’ con­nec­tion.

A few com­pa­nies al­low you to choose a dif­fer­ent colour for the strap­ping, like the racer-red re­straints in some Porsches, but oth­er­wise it’s the same style ev­ery­where as the ’60 orig­i­nals that trans­formed road safety in Aus­tralia.

So, are the car com­pa­nies miss­ing some­thing? And are we miss­ing out?

If you’re like Ali, who shares my life and cars, they are and we are too. She be­lieves there is a ma­jor op­por­tu­nity for some cabin cus­tomi­sa­tion that has been over­looked by ev­ery­one from Hyundai to Rolls-Royce.

You see, when it comes to seat­belts, there is al­most noth­ing be­tween a $14,000 i20 and a $1.25 mil­lion Phan­tom. There are still ba­sic black plas­tic cov­ers over the me­chan­i­cal bits, all perched on a ba­sic black steel rod that’s bolted to the floor.

Ali be­lieves up­scale buy­ers should be flat­tered with some­thing spe­cial on the seat­belt front. Per­haps a touch of 24-carat in a Rolls-Royce, some­thing more flam­boy­antly fun in a Porsche, some­thing more sub­stan­tially leather- wrapped in a BMW or Benz. And I have to agree. When every car­maker is do­ing their best to make us feel spe­cial, and to make their cars stand out from the pack, why are de­sign­ers like Jaguar’s star Ian Cal­lum not turn­ing their at­ten­tion to the seat­belts? And what about Mike Sim­coe and Richard Fer­lazzo at Holden?

You can ar­gue that safety comes first, which it does, but even airbag cov­ers have come a long way in the past few years. Few peo­ple would even know where to find them to­day be­cause as they are so art­fully cam­ou­flaged and in­te­grated.

Seat­belts must al­ways be ob­vi­ous, and strong, but that doesn’t mean they can­not have some art and style.

Why should a Lam­borgh­ini belt look and feel the same as one in a Toy­ota? Surely we should ex­pect more, and dif­fer­ent.

A colour choice for the web­bing would be an easy start, and a way to put some per­son­al­ity into the cabin. As for the buck­les, an Audi should look and feel as dif­fer­ent from a BMW or Benz as the rest of the cabin.

Right now I’m re­minded of the mis­quoted words of Henry Ford, who ap­par­ently did not say about his land­mark TModel “You can have any colour, so long as it’s black”.

But in the case of the seat­belt, he would have been right.

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