1962 Chevrolet Corvair

Image for article titled 1962 Chevrolet Corvair

Welcome to Found Off The Street, our look at cars found on the cape that rust liked so much it decided to summer there; Cape Cod, MA. Today we have a 1962 Chevrolet Corvair


Last week's FOTS 1972 Datsun 240Z was a fairly rust free little sports car waiting to return to the road when the dreary days of winter are over. This week's 1962 Chevrolet Corvair may be small but that is where the similarities between it and the 240Z end. This Corvair has its fair share of rust and its days of road use may be done forever.

What better way to celebrate Ralph Nader's birthday today than with a look at the car he condemned and ultimately doomed with the release of his book "Unsafe at Any Speed" in November 1965. Although the book in its entirety was a general condemnation of the American auto industry, one chapter focused on the "unsafe suspension design" of the rear engine Corvair. In 1966 Chevrolet only sold half the amount of Corvairs they had the year before, largely because of Nader's book.

Even though Corvair production continued for another four years, the car never entirely recovered from the PR nightmare "Unsafe at Any Speed" created. The huge reaction to "Unsafe at Any Speed" has left the author and the car inextricably linked in the minds of the American public. Over 45 years later when a Corvair is mentioned it's usually a good bet Nader's name will follow shortly.

The Corvair began its nine year model run with a bright future. Chevrolet's entry into the new compact car category was named Motor Trend's "Car of the Year" when it was introduced in 1960. Chevrolet completely redesigned the Corvair in 1965. The second generation Corvair had more of a focus on style and design than the previous generation and featured a variety of improvements.

With an air cooled rear engine the compact Corvair was closer in design to the cars Volkswagen and Porsche were producing than conventional Chevrolets. Interestingly enough Volkswagens and Porsches of the same era shared the suspension design elements that Ralph Nader deemed unsafe in the Corvair.

Image for article titled 1962 Chevrolet Corvair

Our FOTS Corvair is equipped with a flat six engine that was good for 110 horsepower when it was new. This was an optional "performance engine" which bumped the horsepower up from an unimpressive 80. Although it might run if you tried, it doesn't look like this Corvair has moved under its own power in a while.

The car has been sitting where it was photographed for as long as I can remember. Running and driving Corvairs are still fairly cheap and somewhat plentiful, due to their dubious reputation, love it or hate it styling and high initial sales numbers. Because of this, we can't imagine anyone undertaking the task of bringing this one back to life anytime soon. For now, it is unknown whether a return to the road or a lot more sitting is in this Corvair's future although the sea of idle automobiles that surround it would suggest the latter.



IIRC the decision to kill the Corvair was published in 1965. After the Corvair had been redesigned. Nader's book had no bearing on the killing of the Corvair. The Mustang did. Chevrolet had hoped the turbo Corvairs would be enough performance to lure people away from the Ford crew. GM could only do so much with an Air Cooled engine in a (for then) compact car.

As for the suspension, 1964 still had an outdated suspension. Nader who wrote his book had gotten information from Ford (supposedly) who told him of the old suspension. Which suffered from a "pendulum" effect. Not a big deal if you know how to reign it in. But I'm sure for the average mother driving one of these it could be a potential hazard. Nader didn't acknowledge that porsches were subject to it as well. But in 1965 with the redesign they also revised the rear suspension to a design that was similar to what was in the Corvettes of the time.

Edit: Just found my copy of the book. It covers the fact the rear suspension lacked an anti roll bar causing the wheels to tuck under. Possibly rolling the vehicles. But it looks like it wasn't much of a problem in 1964 because they added it. And in 1960-1963 it was an option that not many people knew of.

Also most people took only a page or two from Unsafe at Any Speed and assumed the rest of the book was Corvair. Fact is that it's about the auto industry's safety programs as a whole. And most people just read the first page or two. If the Mustang was on that first page (instead of say chapter 4 I think it was), then maybe we'd still be driving Corvairs.

I have a 1966 Corvair Corsa 140 and it is a blast to drive. Although right now it's collecting rust because I just don't have the time for it. Wish my Grandfather would at least try to drive/work on it since it is his car originally and he does nothing with his retirement lol.