Plea To The Universe

My feelings about metaphysics, defined as an abstract theory with no empirical basis in reality, are well known. Nevertheless, in an effort to turn off the bad luck that has befallen me starting with the loss of my lucrative baseball business in 2010 (and, in no way, in an attempt to diminish the significance of current world events) and that continued yesterday with my wonderful wife and me receiving bad news that represents a major obstacle in our efforts to move to the desert ASAP, I offer a plea to the universe. I extend sincere apologies for whatever transgressions I may have committed, to people who believe I have treated them in a mean-spirited and/or insensitive way. Please remove this curse that has hung over me for almost a decade.


The good news is that five votes have been cast in the first-generation MR2 edition of In Or Out? Surprisingly to me, the vote is 5-0 in favor of In. The “bad” news is I will have to continue the feature. Writing this blog almost every day is not easy. I do enjoy it, otherwise I wouldn’t do it–remember I have yet to be paid so much as a penny even though ads have been shown for almost two years–but I take pride in the quality of the writing and quality takes time and effort, even 500-ish words at a time.

I am asking for submissions for the In Or Out? feature. Remember, cars that are candidates to be near-unanimous selections either way, think the Jaguar E-Type and the Yugo, are not really appropriate in this context. In some ways, the less popular and less well-known the better, although I don’t want to exclude the possibility of a car like the fourth-generation Chevrolet Impala (1965-1970) being considered.


On this day in 1969 the last Chevrolet Corvair rolled off the assembly line in Willow Run, Michigan. As most car enthusiasts know, the Corvair was a major departure from the architecture of the day being powered by an air-cooled engine mounted in the rear as opposed to a liquid-cooled engine mounted in the front.

Ralph Nader’s book, Unsafe At Any Speed, along with General Motors’ efforts to smear Nader’s reputation played a role in the demise of the Corvair, but were hardly the only reasons the car ultimately failed. The Corvair’s unique setup, at least unique among cars from an American car company, left it in no position to compete with the Mustang, which was introduced in April, 1964 as a 1965 model year car. For example, from the very beginning Mustangs were available with V-8 engines. That was an impossibility with the Corvair.

From a chart of Corvair production figures:


1960 253,268
1961 337,371
1962 336,005
1963 288,419
1964 214,483
1965 247,092
1966 109,880
1967 27,253
1968 15,399
1969 6,000
Total 1,835,170


It is written in places like Encyclopedia of American Cars by the Auto Editors of Consumer Guide® that General Motors had determined the ultimate fate of the Corvair as early as April of 1965 with an internal memo that read, “Regarding the Corvair: no more development work. Do only enough to meet federal requirements.” Other sources claim that GM wanted to make a third-generation Corvair beginning in model year 1970, but the sales figures dictated otherwise. Note that even before publication of Nader’s book and the introduction of the Mustang, Corvair sales declined by 36 percent from 1962 to 1964. The blip in 1965 was due to the introduction of the second-generation car of which Car and Driver’s David E. Davis wrote, “…[T]he Corvair is in our opinion the most important new car of the entire crop of ’65 models, and the most beautiful car to appear in this country since before World War II.”

I also am quite fond of the looks of the second-generation Corvair and agree with Davis when he wrote, “The ’65 Corvair is an outstanding car. It doesn’t go fast enough [emphasis mine], but we love it.” From the car blog of The New York Times (of all places) a picture of a 1965 Corvair:


See the source image


I think that’s a great-looking car. A report released in 1972 (too late to save the Corvair) by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) stated:


“The 1960-1963 Corvair [my note: the car cited in Nader’s book] understeers in the same manner as conventional passenger cars up to about 0.4g lateral acceleration, makes a transition from understeer, through neutral steer, to oversteer in a range from about 0.4g to 0.5g lateral acceleration. This transition does not result in abnormal potential for loss of control. The limited accident data available indicates that the rollover rate of the 1960-1963 Corvair is comparable to other light domestic cars. The 1960-1963 Corvair compared favorably with the other contemporary vehicles used in the NHTSA Input Response Tests. The handling and stability performance of the 1960-1963 Corvair does not result in an abnormal potential for loss of control or rollover and it is at least as good as the performance of some contemporary vehicles both foreign and domestic.”


One might question the competence of a government agency, but the report is what it is. It is true that in an effort to cut costs GM omitted antiroll bars in the first three model years, which would have improved handling in the Corvair. Like most “problems” there’s plenty of blame to go around. Keep that in mind; excessive distillation of reality from those blinded by ideology or those unable to understand the complexity of the world is almost never useful for understanding a problem.






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12 thoughts on “Plea To The Universe

  1. I had forgotten the beauty of the redesigned Corvair. It is a striking car, especially compared to the original. In my early career as an electronic technician, the service vehicle that was assigned to me was a Corvair van. It suffered from the same malady as all the Corvairs (to my knowledge). The serpentine fan belt slipped off its pulleys on a regular basis.


  2. My parents owned a 1961 Greenbrier van and I had the opportunity to drive it early in my driving career. This Corvair powered beast was very underpowered; however it was not ill-handling. It was just a huge vehicle that did not have the power to get out of its own way. The second generation Corvair was better looking and the redesign of the suspension was much better than the original. No, the Greenbrier would not be a nostalgia buy for me. The Car and Driver magazine comment of it not having enough power is typical of their thoughts on all cars. They always wanted more power. Their magazine of that era was a fun read.


    1. Always good to hear from you, Philip. Without telling us if this car would be In Or Out? for you, do you have any suggestions for the In Or Out? feature?


  3. Even though I like the looks of the second gen Corvair, I’ve never really felt the urge to buy one. Not sure why, just more vehicles ahead of it on my “list” I guess.

    I do know that they can be made fast. Really fast. In the mid 90’s I was playing around with a Triumph Spitfire, running at Road Atlanta. My Spitfire had a top speed of around 115 mph. There was a guy showed up one weekend with a Corvair that would pass me like I was chained to a stump. I went over to his pit to check out the car and found that it still had its flat six engine. He wouldn’t give up all the secrets in that engine, but whoever built it did a heck of a job.


    1. Great story, sir! I don’t know if this was true in the 1960s, but today most engines can easily be tuned to add HP/Torque without much effort. CAFE standards force companies into choices that can be “undone” without much effort.


      1. Tuning these days is light years ahead of what was possible from the 50’s thru the 80’s.The advent of microprocessor controlled systems makes anything possible.For instance; camshaft selection. In the old days if you wanted high rpm power you sacrificed low rpm power and drive ability.These days with variable valve timing you have the best of both worlds. Same with induction and exhaust systems.If you compare some of the intake and fuel systems from the 50’s thru the 60’s there are many different schools of thought. Basically the same trade off’s; low rpm grunt or high rpm horsepower.

        I started playing around with computer adjustable ECM’s in 1990 with a Dodge 2.2 drag race engine. A friend was much more computer literate than I and helped me a lot. I could adjust injector pulse length and timing, spark advance, waste gate pop off with just a few key strokes from a Zenith laptop (yes thats right, Zenith). Now these days the ECM handles stuff like that, and much more. many times a second. AND its emission friendly, something a modified engine from 40-60 years ago has no hope of being for a comparable power output.


      2. Thanks so much for sharing your experience and your knowledge.

        Given the Internal Combustion Engine is in the 7th or 8th inning of its life cycle this will never happen, but I’ve often thought that valve operation could be controlled electronically. One would never have to worry about getting everything to TDC with a timing chain/belt replacement; in fact, no one would ever have to replace a timing gear chain or timing belt ever again. You want more lift and duration, just choose a new setting. The software would prevent the valves and pistons from crashing together in any setting. The software would be integrated with the ignition system to accommodate changes. Electric motors and microprocessors have advanced enormously in the last decade.

        Koenigsegg is trying to develop a hydraulic valve actuation system. I have no idea where they are with that.


  4. I’ve come into your “In or Out?” feature in the middle. Please explain to me a little bit for what you are looking.


    1. OK, I’m just looking for interesting cars, but not cars that would be an easy choice to say if they would be In Or Out? of your list of personal favorites, say your Top 100. I do NOT expect you to actually make a list of your Top 100 cars, though.


  5. I’ll play along. 1967 Sunbeam Tiger, Mark II. In or Out. Basically a British Sunbeam Alpine with a Ford 289 Windsor V8 shoehorned into it. Designed by Carroll Shelby for Sunbeam prior to Sunbeam’s parent group Rootes being bought by Chrysler.


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