I've owned seven cars over the last 35 years, some new, some used. Vintages were 1966, 1972, 1984, 1985, 1992, 1992 and 1993. The 60s and 70s cars did develop panel rust ONLY on the lower edge of the fenders and rear quarters. Never structural. The 1992 and 1993 cars have rusted horribly through the rear crossmembers and the rocker panels, with small holes in the floorboards, and also hood edges and the bottoms of doors, where the wraparound panel separated, inner and outer. Maybe in 2013 the rustproofing will prove to be better, but in the 1990s, it was in fatal areas. Also, I've had brake and fuel lines rust out early. A clerk at NAPA told me he has had customers replacing brake lines on 4-5 year old cars for rust.Dave said:Yes, the cars survived crashes better. The people, on the other hand, did not. Especially before shoulder belts were made mandatory.
Crashes were at lower speeds most of the time... and the peak highway deaths in a year? 1972.
As for rust, no, no, no. A modern car is far far more rustproofed. You look at a 20 year old car now and it can look brand new. It was rare to have a ten year old car, at least in the humid East, that didn't have holes all over it, back in the 1970s/1980s.
If all it took was masses of steel, the 1957s should have been ideal.