Who can name the Chevrolet from the 1960s that was, and is, the only American-designed, mass-produced passenger car to feature a rear-mounted air-cooled engine?
You might guess from the photo above that the answer is the Corvair.
I’m thinking about the Corvair because earlier this week I pulled into the parking lot of a Chinese restaurant with a special lady friend who noticed the car and said, “Wow, what car is that?”
It was dark out, and my first response was, “It looks like a mix between a Mustang and a Plymouth.”
It wasn’t until a close inspection of the car that we both said, in unison, “Ohhhh, a Corvair…”
As you can see, the car in question is a convertible, which sold in pretty huge numbers in the 1960s. In doing some research, I found that the Corvair was a darling for GM and spawned multiple versions including a pickup, a van, a coupe and a sedan. All was well in Corvair-land until one Ralph Nader came along and called it “Unsafe at Any Speed.”
Not cool, Ralph. Not cool.
While Nader’s book spawned a lifetime career for him, it virtually ended production of the Corvair. I’ll avoid that whole story here, but the Corvair has quickly been forgotten, which is a shame. It’s a great-looking little car, and I love that it has that unique rear-engine/rear-wheel-drive setup. With more than 200,000 cars sold per year in its few years of production, I wonder why we don’t see more Corvairs on the road today.
Used Corvairs are relatively inexpensive, as I’ve found some nice examples between $3,000 and $7,000. It seems like a great little classic that would be fun to own, easy to maintain, a kick to drive and would turn some heads… even in the parking lot of a Chinese restaurant.
When was the last time you saw a Chevy Corvair on the road?