Archive for April 24, 2012

For the 1960 model year, Chevrolet introduced a completely new car to the American market: The Corvair.

1965 Chevrolet Corvair Monza Spyder. This was the first year of the 2nd Generation Corvair. Photo: GM/Chevrolet Division

It was the only American-made car to feature a flat 6-cylinder, air-cooled, rear-mounted engine, similar in layout to the air-cooled 4-cylinder Volkswagen Beetle.  There was a sedan, coupe and convertible. There was also the Greenbrier van and the Lakewood station wagon.

The Corvair was a small, compact car for its time. The floating roof and large expanse of glass gave it a light, airy feel.  The rear-mounted engine with rear-wheel drive gave the Corvair a lower center of gravity (harder to turn over) and exceptional traction for the time.

Unfortunately for Chevrolet and Corvair, it was killed by Ralph Nader and his book, “Unsafe at Any Speed.”   Mr. Nader didn’t go after the VW Beetle, with essentially the same configuration and handling characteristics. Ultimately, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that the Corvair didn’t handle any  less safely than other contemporary cars, but it was too late and the Corvair died after ten model years and two generations: 1960-1969.

Our friends at GM Authority dug up this old Chevrolet short promotional film.  Who knew the Corvair was the SUV of its day?