The Chevrolet Corvair never fulfilled its potential. The car garnered a largely unwarranted reputation for oversteer. Professional 'whistle-blower' Ralph Nader pounced on the Corvair's supposed handling defects - duly detailing them in his book 'Unsafe At Any Speed'. This was a tract devoted to automotive health and safety. His views were duly taken up by American motorists - and the Corvair's fate was sealed. A '64 revamp - with revised rear suspension - was a last-ditch attempt to rid the Chevy of its 'wild child' image. It did not work.
The Corvair, though, got a tick in the box marked 'technical innovation'. It featured a rear-mounted flat-six engine. Suspension was fully independent. Several versions of the Corvair were released throughout the '60s. There was a sporty coupé, a convertible, and even a turbo-charged model. At its most potent, it produced 180bhp. That gave a top speed of 105mph.
The Corvair was designed to take on cheap European cars flooding the US at the time. It was marketed as 'compact' - though that was more by American than European metrics. Certainly - in terms of styling - the Corvair's restrained lines were cut from a more European cloth than many of its American siblings. It went on to influence the Hillman Imp and NSU Prinz. Size-wise, it was similar to the British-made Ford Zephyr. Chevrolet went so far as to dub the coupé the 'Monza'. More than 1,000,000 Corvairs were built. Sadly, those misgivings about the car's handling never subsided. As a result, '64's Ford Mustang galloped on ahead. The Chevrolet Corvair, though, had blazed a neat and tidy trail for European-style sophistication.