Chevrolet Corvair – 1960 to 1969
The Corvair was developed to compete against imports such as the VW Beetle and did so, very successfully for an eight year period. There is a host of other compacts as well including Porche and Fiat that had been taking a growing portion of N. American small car market away from the big three producers.The mass produced Corvair is the only rear mounted air cooled engine vehicle made by an American company. This budget priced compact is powered by a nearly all aluminum flat six engine developing 80 horsepower. Equipped with the three speed standard transmission, both the 569 and 769 series Corvair could be purchased for under $2,000.00. You could choose to order a gas heater for an additional $74.00 or the Powerglide automatic transmission for an extra $146.00. The car is a big success in 1960, but the introduction of a four speed had to be postponed until 1961 due to production problems.The Corvair was manufactured with a full range of body styles including a two door coupe, hardtop, convertible, four door sedan, and a station wagon. This popular model was also available as a passenger van, commercial van, and pick-up truck with variations during its production run..
From 1962 until 1964 the Corvair enters into the sports car market more competitively with the Monza Spyder which is equipped with either a Paxton or a Judson supercharger for the flat six engine . This is unusual for a 1960’s era American car, although common in large trucks of the day.The supercharged Spider will produce 150 hp at 4,400 rpm and develop 210 lb-ft of torque between 3,200 and 3,400 rpm while the supercharger only adds 30 lbs (14 kg) in weight. Chevrolet claims that the Spyder’s usable power is up over 90% from the base engine-this is only partly true at around 3,000 rpm; after which the torque drops considerably. The Spyder is available with the four speed manual transmission only.
The second generation Corvair are in showrooms for 1965, looking better than ever. These models can be recognized by the absence of a “B” piller; not only giving a streamlined look but offers enhanced visibility as well The Corvair Corsa comes with a full compliment of gauges including: head temperature, manifold vacuum pressure, fuel and analog clock. The new 140 mph (230 km/h) speedometer includes a trip odometer with a reset feature and the dash also holds an AM/FM radio. The Delcotron Alternator is a step up from the previous generator and all Corsa Corvairs now have larger brakes adopted from the Chevelle. The car is now riding on a fully on a independent suspension similar to the Corvette rather than than the predecessors swing axle design. The standard engine delivers 95 hp but the optional 110 hp version is still available as is the 140 hp unit with the four single throat carburetors. Both the 500 and the Monza could also be powered by the 140 hp engine with a choice of the four speed or the automatic transmission. The Corsa turbo-charged engine option for 1965/66 achieves an apex for the brand and produces 180 hp (60kW). Your engine choice could be bolted to the three speed, a four speed or the Powerglide automatic transmission. The car can be equipped with the notable “Z17” handling package for the performance oriented. The optional package includes a high performance suspension and a closer ratio steering.
The beginning of the end for the Corvair came in 1965 when Ralph Nader, a lawyer and consumer advocate published a book called “Unsafe at Any Speed”. There are a half dozen or so cars that Nader viewed as dangerous and he said the Corvair had a serious potential to lose control particularly at high speed. The accusation was later proved to be inaccurate by a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration test, but the Corvair sales dropped off in ’66 and engineering modifications ceased about the same time. The sales were up to 350,000 units a year during the peak while the least number sold in any one year was 200,00. After Nader s book was published the sales dropped drastically with only 6,000 units sold in ’69 model year.