Friday, March 3, 2017

Ralph Nader's first victim

Ralph Nader is best remembered these days for electing George W Bush president in 2000 (along with a sweet assist from Kathleen Harris). However long before he was standing on the political corpse of Al Gore he was already sharpening his knives. Meet his first victim:
This is a 1966 Chevrolet Corvair 500 in Mist Blue Poly. This car was a massive departure from traditional domestic auto design. It is powered by an air cooled engine mounted in the rear much like the VW Beetle. Pretty audacious stuff from the company that brought you such traditional icons as the '57 Bel Air.
Here's the business end of the Corvair. Beneath this hood lies a 2.7 liter flat-6 cylinder engine. Overall this is a great motor but there is one weak spot: a single long belt has to make a right angle from the top of the engine to the rear side and back during its operation which wears out belts pretty quickly.
 The notion of a domestic air cooled car wasn't new. The Syracuse based Franklin automobile company produced only air cooled cars for 30 years with great success. However by the late '50s when the Corvair was being developed it was a technology ignored in the U.S.
This swooping Coke bottle styling was new for '65 and took both the press and the public by storm. This initial excitement was tempered by the release of a book by Ralph Nader called Unsafe at any Speed. This book was instrumental in initiating important safety legislation with regards to seat belts and tire pressures. However the first chapter is titled: "The Sporty Corvair - The One Car Accident". It called out the Corvair for having a flimsy transaxle in the rear and lack of sway bars up front. The problem with these claims is that all the troubles highlighted had been fixed by the time the book was released. It was a very tough yet undeserved knock on sales figures.
Here we can see the tidy dimensions of this sweet ride. In the first generation Chevy attempted to make the Corvair every vehicle possible. There was the Corvan van, Greenbriar and Lakewood station wagons, the Loadside pickup truck with a unique extra side facing tailgate, 2 and 4 door hardtops and coupes, and a convertible. By 1966 there were 2 and 4 door hardtops, and a convertible.
I dig these crazy rims but can't figure out what they are. I searched vintage and '80s rims, wheels with square holes, and checkerboard pattern to no avail. If anyone remembers a ride that these came on originally let me know!
This has either been for sale for a while or this is a guy who reuses the same sign over and over.
Here's the nicely appointed interior of this example. A radio is fitted to the dash next to the unique dash mounted automatic transmission. The large round gauges are a good indicator of what the upcoming Camaro dash would look like.
The 500 was a trim level beneath the mighty Monza. The gas tank is in the front as suggested by the fuel filler door above the front wheel.
Behold the only visible distinction between the 1965 and 1966 Corvair: the Corvair script emblem was up on the hood in '65 but dropped to this position to the left of the drivers side headlight. The Corvair was a bonafied success from its inception and sales were still good in '66. Regardless by the time this era hit the dealerships the Ford Mustang had been released and Chevy was scrambling to get the Camaro off the ground. Combine that with Nadar's book and the end was near.
I've never even sat in a Corvair but I've always loved their styling. This 2 door hardtop has a great look as does the convertible. Being a Chevy there are myriad engine and transmission combinations out there including a turbocharged version. Tons of them were made and aftermarket parts are in good supply so acquiring one as a cool classic wouldn't break the bank.
*Thanks for nothing RALPH. At least your first name is a slang for vomiting since you mainly kill cool cars and shoehorn wack politicians into position.


  1. those wheels were on the 81 monte carlo, ive never seen them personally, just remember the brochure, always looked hard to clean

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  3. Outstanding! I had no luck searching. Great memory you've got there!