To most individuals in the automotive world, the Chevrolet Corvair was an obvious choice for Motor Trend’s 1960 Car of the Year award. According to the publishers of Motor Trend, “We cited the Corvair for its engineering advancement: its (aluminum) air cooled engine, transaxle and four-wheel-independent suspension. All these combined spell progress and compel us to select the Corvair as the most significant car of 1960."
With a base price of $2,103, the 1960 Chevrolet Corvair was a 2 speed automatic with a rear engine and rear wheel drive. As a 4 door sedan, it could comfortably fit 6 passengers. Numerous upgrade options were available, such as an installed heater for $74, a radio for $54, and power glide transmission for $146. 83.5 percent of all 1960 Chevrolet Corvairs were ordered with power glide. On a side note, the Corvair averaged 20.7 mpg, which was thought to be rather impressive for that time period.
Considered to be an innovative departure from past domestic cars, it introduced a variety of auto innovations to the American public. This included four wheel independent suspension with rear and front components mounted to their own sub frame, rear trans axle, and a rear mounted, air cooled aluminum flat six engine. Even in today’s technologically advanced world, it is rare to see this many technological improvements introduced on one vehicle at the same time.
Unfortunately, all of these advancements backfired for the Chevrolet Company because it was considered too “foreign” for its originally intended audience of middle class Americans and too expensive for most Americans in need of a high quality automobile.
The Chevrolet Corvair was somewhat popular during the first few years it was produced due to its sporty, yet compact design. However, the Corvair became the focus of Ralph Nader’s safety campaign against automotive manufacturers in Detroit, Michigan. Nader labeled the Corvair as “Unsafe at Any Speed” and it became the poster child for his book “Unsafe at Any Speed: The Designed in Dangers of the American Automobile.” His book targeted the auto industry’s many unsafe practices, including designing vehicles that highlighted their power and style at the expense of customer safety. He believed the Chevrolet Corvair was the perfect example of this practice.
As a result of the significant amount of controversy related to the Chevrolet Corvair, an increased government presence in consumer products of all varieties was initiated. In addition, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) was formed in 1970 in an attempt to achieve the highest standards of excellence in motor vehicle and highway safety.
In 1969, Chevrolet ceased production of the Corvair. However, it still holds its title as the 1960 Motor Trend Car of the Year.
Fun fact: The Corvair is the only car to be certified safe by Congress and the NHTSA.
About the author:
Anthony Johnson is the owner and President of Monza Motion, LLC which owns and operates two companies out of Hamilton, Ohio. Monza Auto Parts which is the retail side of the business and Monza Energy is the powerplant research and development division. Anthony is an avid motorsports fan and classic car collector. He has a passion for the Chevrolet Corvair, which is a car that has forever changed America. He has a degree in Computer Forensics and Network Security from SWFC and is considered an Information Security expert. Anthony has worked with the DoD and major financial institutions across the United States.