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 chevy-wiki.com a chart of Corvair production figures:
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:
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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