Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Flint Artifacts: Corvair Mania at the Sloan Museum

10 comments:

  1. We loved our Corvairs while we had 'em. Dad bought two, the last one was a Monza. and they never did split in half with all the doors open. I thought they were better than the skanky old opel that filled the driveway.

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  2. I loved mine. It was my first car and at least 10 of my friends had them too. The one thing they all had in common was a hazy fog in them when you drove them and an exhaust smell, but it was sooooo good on gas.

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  3. My husband was driving a Corvair when we met. Cute car, I wish it was still around. I think there's a Corvair dealer up on Clio Road, we passed it a couple years ago on the way to pick blueberries at Azure Acres on Lake Road.
    The loss of the Corvair brand was the first reason I had to "dislike" Ralph Nader.

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  4. Love the poster. I have two Corvairs now in California, a '61 Monza sedan and a '65 Monza coupe.

    Both four speed sticks. They're way fun in west side traffic.

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  5. I recall the sports car magazines' comments when the Corvair project was in its formative days. The Chevrolet engineers thought they were developing an Americanized Porsche clone. That was the conceptual origin of the air-cooled rear engine and the swing-axle rear suspension... both "inspired" by the Porsche 356. The early sketches even had gullwing doors, another sports car touch.

    Then the bean counters weighed in, and the project became an Americanized VW Bug.

    If the eventual car had had the original engineers' expected tight spring rates and damping, the swing axle suspension probably would have been fine. Instead, the bean counters wanted it to ride like an American sedan, which meant soft, which meant instability in high speed cornering. That was Ralph Nader's cue.

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  6. I recently watched a news program and they had as a guest Danny L. McDaniel. He was a former Sloan Fellow and economic guru. He said the Covair was a safe car, and in fact, it was GM's acknowledgement that there was a market for compact cars as far back as 1960 when virtually all cars were coming off the assembly line with tail fins.

    This guy really put the Big Three in prespective for me and was fascinating. I wouldn't consider McDaniel a Nader fan, just the opposite. But he went on to detail how Nader and his followers used the court system to destroy the auto industry and everything that they thought helped the manufacturing segment of the US economy and democratic capitalism.

    GM should hire this guy to run the company.

    Kurt Thompson
    formerly Flint, Michigan
    Oldsmar Florida

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  7. With all due respect, the early Corvair wasn't even close to being a safe car for ordinary American drivers, even by the standards of the time.

    (Which didn't include seat belts, collapsible steering columns, gas tank crash performance standards, interior flammability standards, braking performance standards, dynamic lateral-acceleration performance standards, tire failure ratings, etc., etc.)

    The Corvair and VW Bug, and several other low-cost European cars of the period, had swing-axle rear suspensions and narrow, square-shoulder bias ply tires. All of the European cars had non-linear spring rates and a rather firm and jouncy ride. This was an important safety feature; it prevented the swing axle rear end from cornering displacements that would cause the rear tires to momentarily tip onto their outer edges, thereby instantaneously losing 95% of rear traction until the suspension unwound, when traction would instantaneously return...except that if the cornering forces had not changed, the process would cyclically repeat at about 2 cycles/second.

    The GM engineers understood this problem very well. They were overruled by GM's accountants and top management, which wanted the Corvair to be marketable as having a GM-type cushy ride. Therefore it needed soft springs. Soft springs and swing axle suspension are a lethal combination for American drivers that don't get any education at all in high speed dynamic maneuvers.

    Mr. Nader has made a number of mistakes over the years, in my opinion, but he was personally responsible for the creation of public pressure and governmental mandates that have saved thousands of lives.

    It's unfortunate that the auto industry wasn't led at the time by visionaries who could see that his arguments made sense, and that marketing safety leadership was a viable way forward.

    It was GM that engineered the first mass applications of many now-commonplace safety features, including the collapsible steering column. It's grossly unfortunate that GM's management had to be forced into allowing their engineers to do that excellent work, instead of leading the way.

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  8. My family had 4 Corvairs; 1960, 1961, 1963 and my car, a 1965 Corsa with four speeds, 4 carburators and posi-traction. still a beautiful car. My beef with Mr. Nader is that, when GM answered Corvair safety criticisms with the 1965 model, he doggedly continued his criticism. He has never learned when to stop.

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  9. My family had 4 Corvairs; 1960, 1961, 1963 and my car, a 1965 Corsa with four speeds, 4 carburators and posi-traction. still a beautiful car. My beef with Mr. Nader is that, when GM answered Corvair safety criticisms with the 1965 model, he doggedly continued his criticism. He has never learned when to stop.

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  10. I just bought a '65 Monza Convertible 110 PG as a "fun" old weekend car.. Funny thing is, I love driving it more than My Mustang Bullitt GT.. Drive the Mustang to work, But otherwise its my Vair... Get thumbs up, honks, and compliments everywhere I go.. High school guys just stare at it.. lolol.. Wish GM would remake a retro version... I'd be all on that.. Vert of course !

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