You know how things always come in threes... Well, I've had a run on old-time car chases lately, and what I've noticed is that 30's and 40's cars seemed to provide little protection against someone shooting at you. (Warning... minor spoilers follow...)
In Invisible Stripes, Bogart gets his leg wounded by police bullets fired from behind that go right through the trunk and backseat. In Whistle Stop, George Raft gets nailed the same way -- and he's all the way up in the front seat. And in Scarface, as he moves up the gangland chain of command, one of the first things Tony Camonte does is get himself a car with bulletproof glass and a steel body which, sure enough, comes in handy during an assassination attempt on his life later. Clearly, cars provided little protection from all those flying bullets and he knew darn well to take some precautions up front.
Naturally, I dig this threat immensely. It increases the tension to know characters are hardly safe just because they made it to their car and are speeding away. In fact, Invisible Stripes and Whistle Stop caught me a bit off-guard, particularly the latter. I was not expecting anybody to get shot like that because I've been conditioned by current films to think that can't happen that way. And in both films, other characters actually have to ask the suddenly grimacing, wounded men, "you hit?" because it's not obvious what's happened; there's been no sound of shattering glass, no holes appearing in their rear view mirror panorama. And there's something a bit scary and cool about that.
So, what is up with modern cars? Are their chassis materials that much stronger? I swear the only time people get wounded in modern car chases is when they get shot through the windows. People are always ducking low beneath the windshield in movies, yelling, "Get down!" Like that's the only danger: bullets through the glass. There's probably some exceptions, but right now, I can't think of any. It seems like if you get in your modern vehicle and stay low, you're safe! (unless the shooters hit your gas tank and your car goes boom.) But those lovely old cars...? You'd better drive like a bat outta hell because you're still a hittable target.