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Cars > vegavairbob’s Garage > Blog > Flashback 1969: The End of the Chevrolet Corvair


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Flashback 1969: The End of the Chevrolet Corvair

By vegavairbob

According to noted GM historian Dave Newell, Chevrolet had planned on ceasing Corvair production after the 1966 model year. Development and engineering changes were halted on the redesigned second-generation cars, then...

Ralph Nader's book Unsafe At Any Speed was published in November 1965. "The Sporty Corvair" chapter used the 1960-63 Corvair in a dramatic case study demonstating the early models' alleged unpredictible handling characteristics. Nader's allegations hurt the car's image, and 1966 Corvair sales plummeted.
Nader's book turned out to be an inconvenience. Not wanting to appear to be buckling to Nader's pressure, Corvair production was continued for another three years with only required changes made annually to meet federal safety and emissions requirements.
An increasing lack of interest from the company, especially from Chevrolet's General Manager John DeLorean, and a complete absence of Corvair advertising after 1967 reflected the company's priorities, including promotion of three redesigned Chevrolet models for 1968—the Corvette, Chevelle and Chevy II Nova.

The Corvair was referred to as "the phantom" by Car Life magazine in their 1968 Monza road test, and by 1969 Chevrolet's Corvair four-page brochure was "by request only". An indication of the Corvair's imminent demise was when the 1969 models were introduced: GM equipped all of its 1969 models one year ahead of government requirements with a steering column-mounted, anti-theft ignition switch and a new, square-shaped ignition key. All except the Corvair. It got the new key but was the only GM car to retain the dashboard ignition switch. That final year only 6000 cars were produced. Cars from November 1968 through May 1969 were virtually hand-built by a dedicated Corvair team in an off-line area of the assembly plant in order to ramp up Nova production (built at the same plant) to keep up with its increasing demand.

1969 Corvair #6000, a gold Monza Coupe was photographed for the press by a railroad car loaded with Novas and a couple of Corvairs. But it was facing in the other direction and was later driven to the plant roof joining a few other Corvairs retained for warranty research. GM had decided it wouldn't be sold after considering several collectors' requests to buy it. Some claim it went to a GM executive, but the car has never surfaced. An employee of the plant interviewed years later recalled seeing it being loaded into a van and hauled away one night. It is believed #6000, the last Corvair built, was scrapped.

Image: 1969 Corvair Monza Convertible (Vin #5997 - the last convertible built)

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Read comments on this blog post 1 – 2 of 2

RancheroBoy’s Profile Photo
Jun 26, 2010 at 5:33 pm
Hate to think of the last one being scrapped. Just like all those concept cars that met the same fate. Great article.
CorvairJim’s Profile Photo
Jun 26, 2010 at 12:22 am
Fantastic blog! I've been into Corvairs for nearly 30 years and I'd never heard that story about #6000's rumored demise. It doesn't really surprise me, though. After the car's phenominal start, it became a part of GM's history that they decided to just try to sweep under the rug. A pity.

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Cars > vegavairbob’s Garage > Blog > Flashback 1969: The End of the Chevrolet Corvair

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