Autos: The Car with the Crumpable Nose

For more than a year, Ford Motor Co. engineers have been dropping Thunderbirds and Mercurys nose-first from cranes; they have also run cars into concrete barriers, then watched the crack-ups on stop-action movie screens. As a result of the lessons learned, Ford President Arjay Miller announced in Detroit last week that some 1969 models will have collapsible, impact-absorbing front ends as a safety feature.

Though remaining silent about exact design details, Miller said that the general idea was to construct the front end so that it would, in case of a head-on collision, crumple and be...