chevrolet corvair unsafe any speed

Is it true what is said about the Chevrolet Corvair?

Until the end of the 50s the American industry he was going to his. Focused solely on selling within their own market, the engineers designed huge cars, with large displacement and abundant consumption that also stood out for their comfort and luxury compared to the European competition. The years of the Oil Crisis were not even in the most pessimistic heads, so cheap gasoline continued to flow in abundance. Nothing spoiled the landscape on American roads ... Nothing?

The 60s saw the final landing of European cars more practical than the sports cars that arrived in the previous decade. Under the spread of mass consumption after WWII, efficient cars like the VW Beetle they entered the American market with some force. Small, cheap, tough, and energy-efficient… they appealed to a small audience that American industry was not willing to lose. In addition, she sensed that her philosophy downsize it was the future, Although he was never convinced of it, and a good proof of this is the decline it has experienced during the last 40 years in favor of Japanese competition.

But let's go back to the early 60s. At that time General Motors created a European-style car called Chevrolet Corvair. And of the Corvair… many things have been written. Exponent of an era with a non-existent concern about security, it opened a new era in which security became paramount. It is a milestone to which, as they say colloquially, They hit him everywhere. However, was it really that troublesome? Was it losing so much traction? Is it so easy to dump it? According to this video of Hagerty that tells his story, no, although the wheels twist that is scary ...


Such was the bewilderment of the American engineers at the success of the small European cars that, in 1951, Chevrolet bought about 25 Beetles to study them in depth. After dissection, the chief engineer Ed Cole he embarked on the adventure of leading the American response to competition from across the Atlantic.

Chevrolet then launched a car as revolutionary as it was atypical, at least for the United States. Of European proportions, rear-engined and air-cooled, the Corvair was introduced in 1959 as one of the most efficient and affordable domestic cars. It was certainly a radical departure from the rest of the brand's catalog. Something so surprising that it put Ed Cole together with his new creature on the cover of the magazine 'Team'.

chevrolet covair roll over
One of the first American compacts… and with a rear engine.

The rear mechanics, a six-cylinder boxer ranged from 2.296 cc to 2.683 cc depending on the version. According to the reports of the time, its 84 CV gave an elastic power, with a funny handling at times. While it was by no means a sports car, the Corvair was intended to offer an agile and pleasant ride.

However, the distribution of weights and the strange operation of the suspensions were responsible for sowing panic. This increased as more and more reports of fatal rollovers by Corvair units came in.


The Corvair was for sale for 10 years. It is obvious that a whole black legend was generated around him; legend that, like all, has its part of truth and its part of lies. The truth is more than 60% of the weight sits on the rear axle. To this, which is bad, we must add some suspensions that twist the wheels in tight curves until they deform them and the result is a car with an unusual ease to overturn.

chevrolet covair roll over
The pressures to which the rear wheels are subjected during the turns lead them to take some positions of infarction. That was the great failure of the Covair.

The part perhaps not a lie but an interested argument is the one that uses the Corvair as a scapegoat. In 1965 the book was released 'Unsafe at any speed', written by the lawyer Ralph Nader. Known for his defense of the environment and consumer rights, Nader revealed in his book the most questionable face of the automobile industry, one in which profitability was preferred to consumer safety.

Nader was right But back then no one cared about car safety. To illustrate these bad practices he used several models, especially the Corvair; in fact, he dedicated a whole chapter to it that had a tremendous impact on public opinion and that raised safety, both active and passive, to the top priorities of the automotive industry.

The controversy over Nader's book managed to improve security at the cost of destroying the image of the Corvair. Also, although Larry Webster tests the stability of the model in an almost suicidal way ... it seems that it is not so easy to make it dump. And it turns, a virtue that cars are not very used to yankees.

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Miguel Sánchez

Written by Miguel Sánchez

Through the news from La Escudería, we will travel the winding roads of Maranello listening to the roar of the Italian V12; We will travel Route66 in search of the power of the great American engines; we will get lost in the narrow English lanes tracking the elegance of their sports cars; We will speed up the braking in the curves of the Monte Carlo Rally and we will even get dusty in a garage while rescuing lost jewels.


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