Have You Read Unsafe At Any Speed?

Illustration for article titled Have You Read Unsafe At Any Speed?

It's the law: when the Corvair's name comes up, this book's name comes up. Most of you no doubt have very strong feelings about Ralph Nader, but how many of you have actually read his book?


I'm guessing the number is fairly low, based on the assumptions made about UAAS's contents and/or impact by most commenters (e.g., "Nader singlehandedly brought Big Nanny-State Gubmint into the car business" or "Nader killed The Greatest Car Ever Made"). I keep meaning to review the book here, because of the significance it plays in American automotive history, but I'll probably get to the even more important On A Clear Day You Can See General Motors, by John Z. DeLorean, first. For now, here are a couple of things all car freaks should know about Nader's book:
Unsafe At Any Speed was published in 1965. Corvair sales were already in decline by that point, dropping from about 250,000 for the 1960 model year to about 190,000 for 1964.
• The furor caused by the book- which wasn't so much about the Corvair as it was about the carmakers' active disdain for safety features, as well as shady ripoff practices such as fast-reading odometers that invalidated warranties in a hurry- would almost certainly have died down pretty quickly… but GM's management went apeshit, panicked, and launched a Nixonian "dirty tricks" campaign against Nader that made him look like David being stomped on by Goliath. If you don't like the idea of the government mandating safety features in cars, you can blame The General for giving Nader such credibility.

OK, here's the poll. Be honest!



I will admit to having not read Nader's book, and I will admit to having used the death of the Corvair as a convenient reason not to like the man.

I have seen him in interviews, and have followed enough of his subsequent political career to know that I could come up with a litany of reasons not to like Nader, but Unsafe at Any Speed and its purported role in the demise of the Corvair is convenient and easily digested amongst the masses.

Damn you, Ralph Nader. The Corvair could have been great!