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Cars > vegavairbob’s Garage > Blog > 1964 Chevrolet Corvair (64vair)

 

Assassination Of The Corvair and Birth Of A Classic

By vegavairbob

Filed under: 1964 Chevrolet Corvair (64vair)

The Chevrolet Corvair was the only mass-produced rear-engined automobile ever produced in this country. Motor Trend's 1960 Car of the Year was popular and successful in the pre muscle-car era, selling 1.8 million in two generations over its nine year life span. The Corvair Monza was the first compact American "sporty car" with bucket seats that inspired Ford to produce the Mustang in 1964.
A full line of Corvair rear-engined vehicles were offered by 1962. Convertibles and 4-door station wagons were added, joining the 2-door coupes, 4-door sedans, passenger vans, and commercial vans and pickups
For 1965, Corvair cars went upscale for its second generation, offering its rear-engine design with world-class handling and timeless styling. By 1968 the line-up was trimmed to the 2-door coupes and a convertible.

Ralph Nader, attorney and self styled "consumer advocate" targeted the Corvair in his book Unsafe At Any Speed published in November 1965. The chapter "The Sporty Corvair" pertained to the 1960-1963 models alledged unpredictible handling characteristics. Nader's allegations hurt the cars image and 1966 Corvair sales were down more than half from the previous year.
Development and engineering changes were halted in 1966 on the year-old, redesigned second-generation cars with mainly federally mandated emissions and safety changes made thereafter.
The forthcoming Camaro would step in as Chevy's sporty offering to do battle with Ford's sucessful Mustang. The Nova introduced in 1962, was Chevy's popular choice for economy buyers. The Corvair was left without a market by 1967. The decision to phase out the Corvair was made six months prior to Nader's book and the resulting bad publicity. Nader's attack proved to be an inconvenience and Chevrolet chose to produce the car three more years to appear not backing down to Nader's allegations. So you could say Ralph Nader is the reason there were 1967-69 Corvairs!
Orders were welcome but dealers preferred not to stock the car due to the bad publicity, and salesmen preferred selling the readily available Nova and Camaro.

The Corvair air-cooled engine could not meet future emissions standards without a complete redesign. Chevrolet had third generation Corvair designs and a redesigned engine in the works, but the American sporty car buyer wanted V8 horsepower and speed, not sophisticated engineering, sports-car handling, and uniqueness. The designs were still-born. Corvair's untimely death came on May 12, 1969 after a planned 6000 were produced in its final model year.

The 1960-1963 Corvair was cleared of Nader's "unsafe" charges in 1972 by the government agency he helped create. The Corvair was exonerated!
It's doughtful there will ever be another car like the air-cooled, rear engined Corvair. When introduced it was unique among conventional compacts. In its twilight it was unique in a sea of muscle cars, and its unique and attractive today compared to the look-alike Asian offerings of today.
The Corvair will forever have its loyal legion of fans including many GM executives and Chevy engineers, and surely will gain new ones.

Image: My 1964 Corvair Monza 900 Convertible (previously owned)
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Cars > vegavairbob’s Garage > Blog > 1964 Chevrolet Corvair (64vair)

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