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With his book Unsafe At Any Speed In the 60s, young lawyer Ralph Nader highlighted the carelessness of American car safety manufacturers. The book caused a lot of controversy and it did not do the sales example, the Chevrolet Corvair, any good. But was that six-cylinder really that unsafe? Much later, the story turned out to be something like Marcel van Dam's exploding Exota bottles: the writer, the ambitious young lawyer, had a fantastic publicity vehicle.
Anyway: the vast majority of American cars from the 60 years had the driving behavior of a drunk skater by European standards. They were made for quiet journeys over endless, straight highways. It was therefore not surprising that the first Chevrolet Corvairs started to transmit in full trot. Beetles and Porsches also did that with the engine at the back. And the author who took care of all that fuss didn't even have a driver's license himself ...
In the beginning
In the late 50s, Chevrolet investigated the feasibility of an entry-level model. A small car by American standards. An entry-level 'there' was then a top version with us in De Oude wereld. Where sparsely equipped two and four cylinder cars with cylinder capacities up to 1500 cc max were the norm. Here a 2CV or a 1200 cc Beetle was already a lot as an 'entry-level model' for the novice motorist. The Chevrolet Corvair engine had six cylinders and the body was just 4,4 meters long. The car had sharp and modern lines, an air-cooled boxer engine (which was therefore at the very back), and independent rear suspension.
Sales were not booming. Nevertheless, Chevrolet continued to believe in the revolutionary concept for the USA and built a whole series of derivatives of the Chevrolet Corvair (coupé, convertible, van, sedan). The GM daughter even made a Monza version, with an engine that produced not 80 but 95 hp. After adding a turbo, the power even increased to 150 hp, and in 1965 even to 180 hp. The displacement grew: from 2,3 to 2,7 liters.
But from 1967 onwards, Chevrolet decided to cut the range due to the disappointing production figures. The Chevrolet Corvair was removed from the catalogs in 1969.
And what now?
A production of nearly 1,3 million copies and 9 years seems impressive, but by American standards it was only a moderate success. Looking for a Chevrolet Corvair in Europe is not impossible, because the Belgian market was fond of American cars at the time. After all, the Belgians still had money from the Congo colony. But in the meantime quite a few 'Americans' have come to Europe. And are there fans for it. Count on € 15.000 to about € 20.000 for a nice and good copy. And be suspicious when it comes to American restorations.
The photos are from the archive of AMK reader Jan Eggink, a former Chevrolet Corvair owner. If you have such photos, then they are welcome.
Also interesting to read:
- Chevrolet Impala, a special experience
- 1956 Chevrolet Bel Air. What a great find. Part 1
- You buy Chevrolet Corvette C3 - convertibles in the fall
- Unique restoration project: the Chevrolet Corvair Lakewood
- Chevrolet Vega
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