This discovery of a beautiful 1965 (second generation) Corvair Corsa got us to thinking what might have been if things hadn’t gone so terribly wrong . Chevy’s Corvair seemed like the car to beat back when GM, Ford and Chrysler all introduced their respective compact cars in 1960. Ford’s Falcon was a scaled-down big Ford, strictly dullsville and there was nothing innovative about it. MoPar’s Valiant wasn’t even designated a Plymouth, its tag line was “nobody’s kid brother,” perhaps, because the radical Virgil Exner styling was ‘challenging’ to mainstream consumers. Corvair, like the wildly successful Volkswagen, was powered by a rear-mounted air-cooled motor. The Chevy back burner was a 2.3 six vs. VW’s 1.2 liter four. What could possibly go wrong?
As we now know, GM cheaped out on the suspension, neglecting to install an anti roll bar, the result being that, in less than capable hands, first generation Corvairs were prone to oversteer, a condition where the back end seems to be trying to catch up to the front. This game of catch-up could cause the car to loose traction and spin out of control. That boring Falcon and wacky looking Valiant started to seem like better choices and GM, faced with lawsuits, put in a fix a few years later. Ultimately, GM redesigned the suspension as on our lovely Corsa but when Ralph Nader jumped in with his Unsafe At Any Speed bestseller consumer confidence ran into a virtual ditch.
Corvairs today do have their adherents and we’ve found a few examples on the road that are most noteworthy. The top-of-the-line Corsa was turbo-charged and really had more in common with Porsche than VW but Ford’s Mustang, really a Falcon adaptation, had taken the spotlight by this time so only the cognoscenti were hip to its enthusiast bona fides.
Corsa represented the sporting side of Corvair and the Corvair 95 line of vans and trucks were about utility. We found a seldom seen Rampside pick up the other day and just love the “work around” necessitated by the fact the motor housing intrudes into the load bed. Instead of a tailgate in the back, Chevy installed a side ramp so you could roll your lawnmower right up from the sidewalk. Necessity is, truly, a mother.
Early Corvairs, such as this ’62 Monza coupe, captured by Feral Cars fan Peter Andrews, present an attitude of hope and promise. America had met the compact car challenge head on with its own rear engined, air-cooled, compact car head on which, as it happened, was the kind of collision you might face if you had the misfortune to loose control when the rear end decided to do its swing thing. Feel free to insert JFK analogies here.
We do want to offer a shot of the earliest Corvair we could find. It’s a 1960 four door sedan that proudly wears an oversize winged Chevy emblem on its (front) trunk. It’s a car used for everyday transportation in Cuba. Feel free to insert Fidel Castro analogies here.
When the redesigned ’65 Corvair was launched it seemed that GM did harbor some hope of a comeback as evidenced by this commercial heralding it as “the new international beauty.” The comely blonde seen admiring the car on the sand hammered home the point in a shapely way.
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