Rare Corvair once deemed unsafe now collectors’ car

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Rare Corvair once deemed unsafe now collectors’ car

James Raia

The Chevrolet Corvair has a unique status in automotive history. It was named car of the year. It was once defined as unsafe at any speed. And it was the first American-designed, mass-produced passenger car to feature a rear-mounted, air-cooled engine.

Produced in model years 1960 to 1969 and featuring an air-cooled rear-mounted flat-six engine, the Corvair was available in several trims including a two-door coupe, convertible, four-door sedan and four-door station wagon.

The Corvair was also available as a passenger van, commercial van and a pickup truck.

Tom Davenport of Sacramento, California, owns a 1964 Corvair convertible couple. He purchased the car from a relative three years ago and is the third owner of the now 50-year-old machine.

In the video below, the WeeklyDriver.com interviews Davenport at his home in the McKinley Park neighborhood of East Sacramento. He discusses the car’s legacy, its dubious reputation and construction, and his appreciation for the increasingly rare Corvair.

In 1965, Ralph Nader, the political activist and author, wrote the book Unsafe At Any Speed. It detailed that the Corvair’s handling was dangerous. Seven years later, however, Texas A&M University conducted a safety commission report on the Corvair for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. It found the 1960–1963 Corvairs possessed no greater potential for loss of control than its contemporaries in extreme situations.

The Corvair was powered by an air-cooled horizontal six-cylinder engine made almost entirely out of aluminum. The engine was mounted in the rear of the car, driving the rear wheels through a compact automatic transaxle.

The car was so unique, Motor Trend named it the 1960. “Car of the Year.”

Davenport drives the car periodically. As expected, it attracts its share of attention. Davenport enjoys driving the Corvair and shifting though its four-speed manual transmission and keeps his speed under 65 mph.

Davenport also reiterates one thing about the Corvair: It’s not for sale.

Videographer: Bruce Aldrich (www.tahoetruckeeoutdoor.com).

Narrator: James Raia (www.theweeklydriver.com).

Article Last Updated: July 13, 2014.

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