For an American car, the Corvair was delightfully strange. Any Corvair variant will inherently be strange, too, but I think it's hard to beat a Corvair-based vehicle named after a bird with lots of overdone chrome ornamentation, focused on safety, and built by a company best known for tiny, child-sized cars you start with a rope.

The car is called the Eshelman Golden Eagle. Eshelman was a company best known for selling really, really tiny "adult sports cars" that shared the same basic body with the kid's pedal cars they sold. These tiny runabouts were about the cheapest cars you could buy in the US, and used Briggs and Stratton engines of about 2.25HP.

Those cars are pretty fascinating unto themselves, and I'll cover them in detail soon — right now, let's focus on these weird Corvairs.


The Golden Eagles were pretty much just new fleet-model Corvairs that Eshelman would dress up with delightfully overdone gold badging, including that massive golden eagle on the front. I imagine the grille-less Corvair was the only car that had a large enough unbroken metal panel on the front to house such a bird, which just may be why the Corvair was chosen. I'd like to think he found a huge stash of gold eagles and started wondering "what car can I stick these on?"


The Golden Eagles had a bunch of other gold trim bits, the Eshelman name on the hood, big, custom taillights, and possibly some interior "upgrades." Maybe eagle-down bolsters?

The car's tagline was

"Designed especially for the owner who can pay a little more to be distinguished above the ordinary."


... so I guess the car was for rich people who wanted Corvairs, but really wanted you to know they had way more money than you'd need for a Corvair.

GM wasn't officially involved in any way, and when they found out about what Eshelman was doing, and presumably saw one of those massive eagles being pushed along by a Corvair down the highway, they demanded he knock it off, already.

Eshelman sort of stopped, instead offering all that gold crap as a package current Corvair owners could apply to their cars, after, say, they'd been hit by lightning or something.


In 1967, Eshelman continued the Golden Eagle line with the later Golden Eagle Safety Cars that used Eshelman's own "crash absorber" bumper system that used the spare tire. It's not exactly clear if he used Corvairs for these cars, which would make sense, since that spare was already up front there.

Eshelman's "crash absorber" bumpers were said to be 15 MPH bumpers, and looking at the patent drawings, it's easy to see how they worked — it's basically just mounting the spare horizontally right in front of the car. I'm sure that did absorb some impacts.


C.L. Eshelman himself, the man behind all this, would drive around Miami offering to ram his car into walls so people could see how effective it was. A 1972 article from the St.Petersburg Times says

"He has been known to plead with newsmen to ask him to bang into a parking lot retaining wall, and he will even engineer a collision with your car at 30 m.p.h. if you don't mind a small dent and promise not to sue."


I wish we had guys like that in the business today. I just wouldn't be able to tell Audi or whoever what I was planning on doing with their press car.