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YouTube serves up another cool video. Corvairs are hella cool, and they were tarred and feathered out of existence by zealots. They were no worse than other cars on the road at the time, but they were picked up as all that was wrong with motoring safety by Ralph Nader. Cars in in the late '50s when the Corvair was developed were all less safe than what we have now. 50 years of scientific study and applied engineering will do that for you. This video offers up some great scenes of a Corvair being herded around Lime Rock's track, as well as some off-road adventures. This is marketing propaganda, so of course the little chuffer comes off as unburstable. It also shows the infancy of the rigorous vetting processes cars must go through now. The handling test is especially hilarious, as the edit is made just as the tail of the rear-engined Corvair starts to come around. Showing a spin is not the best way to demonstrate platform stability. We get to see Corvairs rolled over, driven off slopes that are larger than would be wise, and fording streams. Hyperbolic advertising aside, it's pretty cool to see an early 'Vair abused in such a gratifying manner. Unsafe? pfft! Then as now, it's mainly the loose nut behind the wheel that causes problems.

Video after the jump


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 15 Comments
      • 5 Years Ago
      Years ago I had an unintended acceleration in a 1965 (I think) Corvair. It was very very scary and I am lucky the car and I came out of it without major damage. I drove over a bump or pothole and I didn't know it at that moment, but the jolt popped two or three of the motor mount bolts. The rear engine sagged down and stretched out the accelerator linkage and the automatic transmission linkage. The car shot forward at full throttle as I approached a turn with another car coming toward me. I tried but failed to put my corvair in neutral, but couldn't because of the stretched transmission linkage. I ended up passing the approaching car on the turn ON THE LEFT, then found the ignition key and switched off the engine. Fortunately this was in the days before steering wheel locks. I had no idea what had happened until I got the car towed and a mechanic showed me the saggy engine.
      • 8 Years Ago
      Ahh, before the age of "Professional Driver on Closed Course" disclaimers.
      • 8 Years Ago
      #3 -- I agree with the raspberry, but you bought into a falsehood on the Audi thing. It WAS the drivers --I had an 5000 at the time, the pedals were farther left than in other cars.

      The problem with GM and the Corvair was that the Engineering people came up with an interesting and rather esoteric vehicle, but the Marketing people sold it as a normal family sedan. The Ford Falcon, which was a success, unlike the Corvair, was a crude, smaller, regular American car. GM bore responsibility for selling a car with driving quirks that could be unsafe for some drivers, but pretending it was not that way.
      In any case, Corvair sales, and Corvair deaths, were pretty minor.
      It is true that the second model was pretty darn good. I drove in my friend's '65 from Berkeley to Vegas and back, learning to drive stick on the way.

      Nader was a crass, self-centered megalomaniac. He pushed the consumer movement, to his credit, but got the power to do that by making a very moderate problem into a crusade.
      If you dont believe me, look at the 2000 presidential campaign, where he could have noticed that the Democrats were running a stupid campaign, and pulled out, to ensure that Bush did not get elected. His head is bigger than a Corvair.
      • 8 Years Ago
      The problem was the early model's swing axles--which would cause camber to vary wildly, rather than control it with a dual A-arm or even MacPherson strut setup. That combined with the very different handling dynamics of a rear-engined car, partially explaining John B's experience above. I believe the first few models also had a very different tire pressure spec front/rear to compensate, which people tended not to know about.

      Hate on Nader all you want. I'm glad my steering column won't impale me in a crash.
      • 8 Years Ago
      The off road testing was like watching a TRUCKS! episode
      Nader can kiss my Corvair ass!!!
      • 8 Years Ago
      " Unsafe " Corvairs were just slightly more dangerous in their day than the unintended acceleration that Audi owners suffered from. The main differences being the way GM and Audi each reacted to their "problem". Supposedly, Mr. Nader was followed by "those bad men in thrall to GM" while Audi tried to insist that there was no problem and then....the problem was the fault of the drivers of Audi's cars.

      While we can thank Mr. Nader for starting the consumerist movement, as readers of AutoBlog, we should give him a very large raspberry for helping GM kill the Corvair.
      • 8 Years Ago
      I keep getting stuck on the "Compact" part...... ;)
      • 8 Years Ago
      yeah,

      it's too small to ever make it as a REAL car. :p
      • 7 Years Ago
      I owned two Corvairs and did lots of mountain driving, at high-speeds 60+ coming down mountain passes the steering got a loose and it sure felt unsafe. In the winter for added traction we always tossed a bag or two of concrete mix or sand in the trunk so it would corner properly. My second one was totalled by a rolling boulder in the spring thaw and we nearly got totalled too. In all it was great car for a high-school kid.
      • 8 Years Ago
      The Audi "unintended acceleration" disaster was a systematic and very successfull assassination attempt on the brand, and I'm somewhat shocked that there are still people out there who believe that BS. The NHTSA investigated hundreds of complaints back then, every single case was attributed to driver error. TTBOMK Audi hasn't lost a single case in court about "unintended acceleration". I think after it became obvious that there was nothing wrong technically, later some tried to sue them about the pedal placement. While it was absolutely standard for a European car, Audi had gained quite a few customers who were used to the wider US arrangement.
      • 8 Years Ago
      Dan Roth has the stuff to put down Ralph Nader because Dan has stood up for what he believes in. He's risked ruin for the sake of bettering his country. He knows how important it is because he's studied his history and knows what it was like back then. He's devoting himself to making our country and our world a better place. He wouldn't just take a bunch of nasty baseless pokes at Nader for the sake of a 'cool' car. He wouldn't just write off all of the details of the studies and lawsuits and forty or fifty years of Nader's career to make a bunch of specious claims. If he had to, he could write his own book refuting all of Nader's claims. And it's important to speak out about the Nader types. Those kind of people who study hard in school, get degrees and start up phony organizations making believe they're in the public's interest. We would probably have a whole lot more cool stuff if there were more Dan Roths around and less Ralph Naders.
      • 8 Years Ago
      I owned a '66 Corvair Monza. It had the quad carbs. 144HP and 140 ft-lbs torque. I lived in Montana at the time. Since it was air-cooled, I didn't have any coolant problems when the temps were -30F. Two problems though. 1: it ate fan belts 2: The valve stem seals failed early and it would smoke like crazy going down hill when it had 60K miles on it. I installed fast turn steering arms on it to quicken the steering response. It was a great car. Pfft to Nadar!!!
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