Posts Tagged ‘Corvair’


It’s nearing the end of high season in Palm Springs. Our many Canadian and other cold weather refugee friends are preparing to go back to their thawing northern homes. The temperatures are in the upper 80s and it’s between The Dinah and the White Party.  About 40 miles east, young hipsters and A through D-List Celebrities are dancing, partying and passing out from the heat during the second weekend of the world-famous Coachella Music Festival. So what better time than to showcase antique (read: Classic) automobiles from the glory days of the American auto industry – primarily 1950 – 1972. First Annual Palm Springs Region Antique Automobile Club of America

The setting was Sunrise Park in the heart of Palm Springs on the northeast corner of Ramon Road and Sunrise Way on the lovely lawns between the Palm Springs Library and the Boys and Girls Club.

I’m not sure this event was organized well as there were only a few dozen cars on display. I’d seen many of them before at the annual Casual Concours from the gay car club Great Autos of Yesteryear. This simple Ford Coupe wasn’t in the show – it was parked in library lot.  It certainly qualified as an “antique” (in my mind) more than some of the “classic” cars on display. I loved the license plate from the World’s Fair in California in 1939.

1939 Ford Coupe. Check out the original gold and blue California plate commemorating the 1939 World's Fair!

1939 Ford Coupe. Check out the original gold and blue California plate commemorating the 1939 World’s Fair!

The turquoise and black color scheme of the Studebaker Hawk is wild.

The turquoise and black color scheme of the Studebaker Hawk is wild.

The quilted pattern upholstery inside this Studebaker Hawk was flawless. I don't know if this was an original feature, but it sure looked great.

The quilted pattern upholstery inside this Studebaker Hawk was flawless. I don’t know if this was an original feature, but it sure looked great.

I'd never seen this car before. It's a 1952 Cunningham C-3 Coupe. These cars were hand-made in Florida.

I’d never seen this car before. It’s a 1952 Cunningham C-3 Coupe. These cars were hand-made in Florida.

The fastback style of this 1952 Cunningham Coupe reminds me of the brand new Rolls-Royce Wraith.

The fastback style of this 1952 Cunningham Coupe reminds me of the brand new Rolls-Royce Wraith.

Great badge, huh?

Great badge, huh?

This 1960 Chevrolet Impala Hardtop Coupe was terrific in this fire engine red color.

This 1960 Chevrolet Impala Hardtop Coupe was terrific in this fire engine red color.

You just don't see interiors like this anymore. Everything matches the exterior color. Check out cast steel gauge cluster. You don't want to hit your head on this! Hard to find hounds-tooth fabric in a car anymore.

You just don’t see interiors like this anymore. Everything matches the exterior color. Check out cast steel gauge cluster. You don’t want to hit your head on this! Hard to find hounds-tooth fabric in a car anymore.

No expense was spared for the interior of these Cadillacs.

No expense was spared for the interior of these Cadillacs.

Ah, for the good old Atomic/Jet Age days. I love the Impala logo integrated into a stylized jet.

Ah, for the good old Atomic/Jet Age days. I love the Impala logo integrated into a stylized jet.

A 1957 Cadillac Eldorado Seville was the top-of-the-line for Cadillac. These beasts cost a fortune.

A 1957 Cadillac Eldorado Seville was the top-of-the-line for Cadillac. These beasts cost a fortune.

No expense was spared for the interior of these Cadillacs.

No expense was spared for the interior of these Cadillacs.

This was one of the most beautiful Cadillacs ever produced (IMHO). This is a 1967 Eldorado.

This was one of the most beautiful Cadillacs ever produced (IMHO). This is a 1967 Eldorado.

There are no bad angles for this gigantic front drive car - a rarity in 1967.

There are no bad angles for this gigantic front drive car – a rarity in 1967.

A 1951 Studebaker Commander.

A 1951 Studebaker Commander.

I believe this is a 1958 Chrysler New Yorker. Love the fins.

I believe this is a 1960 Chrysler New Yorker. Love the fins.

The Gen II Corvair was my favorite body style. This 1966 Convertible looks sharp in aqua.

The Gen II Corvair was my favorite body style. This 1966 Convertible looks sharp in aqua.

The Corvair interior was simple but well sorted. The thin steering wheel, horn ring and shifter gave the interior a light, airy feeling.

The Corvair interior was simple but well sorted. The thin steering wheel, horn ring and shifter gave the interior a light, airy feeling.

This Corvair has the turbo flat 6 engine making a powerful 180 hp.

This Corvair has the turbo flat 6 engine making a powerful 180 hp.

Chevy made some amazing muscle cars in the 1960s, This 1967 Chevelle Super Sport had the 396 engine option.

Chevy made some amazing muscle cars in the 1960s, This 1967 Chevelle Super Sport had the 396 engine option.

The interior of the 1967 Chevelle Super Sport.

The interior of the 1967 Chevelle Super Sport.

The hood stretches out for miles on this 1970 Ford Thunderbird. Underneath, it was a Ford LTD.

The hood stretches out for miles on this 1970 Ford Thunderbird. Underneath, it was a Ford LTD.

2014 marks the 50th Anniversary of the Ford Mustang. This lovely 1969 Mustang GT still looks amazing in its blue suit.

2014 marks the 50th Anniversary of the Ford Mustang. This lovely 1969 Mustang GT still looks amazing in its blue suit.

Under the hood is a 351 Cleveland.

Under the hood is a 351 Cleveland.

The aftermarket wood steering wheel looks period-appropriate in the 1969 Mustang GT. Some will lament that it has a 3-speed automatic transmission, but it makes for a great cruiser.

The aftermarket wood steering wheel looks period-appropriate in the 1969 Mustang GT. Some will lament that it has a 3-speed automatic transmission, but it makes for a great cruiser.

 


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?