Some cars get a bad reputation for no apparent reason, the Corvair is not one of those cars, and the negative publicity it received in the early 1960s was largely justified.
What was unfortunate is the fact that it was singled out at the time and blamed for all the sins of the auto industry, and as much as it was “guilty as accused”. Chevrolet didn’t just chase them, they kept going, improving the car and solving most of the problems.
The Chevy Corvair, in particular, was a car that was ahead of its time in several ways, a car that still looks objectively great and actually handles better than pretty much any of its contemporaries.
10 Must Consider: Innovative Engineering
Putting an air-cooled engine in the back of a car was nothing new. In fact, it was the proven production method for the best-selling compact car at the time.
What was innovative about the Corvair was its monocoque design and independent suspension, virtually unheard of in the US with its obsession with front-engine body-on-frame sedans.
9 Must consider: Ahead of its time
This was one of the first truly global cars Chevrolet ever made. In addition to being produced all over the world, it also had a body type for almost every market segment.
Most people associate the Corvair with the slick 2-door coupes, but they had 4-door sedans, wagons, vans and even a pickup truck based on this platform.
8 Must Consider: Stylish Monza Coupe
To most gearboxes, this is what a Corvair is: the two-door Monza. It was a more expensive version of the normal sedan and accounted for a large part of the sales.
Early models only made about 80 horsepower, which was respectable at the time, but these sports cars didn’t make. The introduction of the 95 horsepower option upped it slightly, but this was always more about being different than being fast.
7 Must consider: Beautiful car
At the time, this would have been seen more like a passenger car, today, with the way automotive taste has evolved, this is arguably the most desirable model.
It’s also relatively rare, but there’s no denying that the extra outlay can be worth it for something this good looking.
6 Must Consider: Turbocharged Spyder
It may not have been the first of its kind to give that honor to a particular turbocharged Oldsmobile, but it was yet another innovative touch to their model range.
It made 150 horsepower, which was a lot in the early ’60s, arguably too much for a car that still came with drum brakes.
5 Must Consider: Eternal Underdog
When it came out, he was already against it, with other compact cars costing less and everything else except the Beetle makes more power.
However, it sold in huge numbers and defied the odds stacked against it. Those who bought the cars loved them, they were practical, fun to drive and relatively economical compared to the competition.
4 Must Consider: Affordable Classic
Let’s face it, most classic cars are completely out of reach for the vast majority of us. Well, not the humble Corvair. Sure, you’ll find fully restored ones at auctions that go for a lot of money, but those cars are the exception to the rule.
The vast majority are currently slowly rotting away in people’s backyards, all you have to do is look around a bit and you’ll probably find a project car right outside the door. They made almost 2 million of these cars, just like the Beetle, there are still parts everywhere.
3 Must Consider: Crossing the Darien Gorge
In a crazy example of over-enthusiasm, GM somehow authorized an expedition through the Darien Gap, an infamous patch of jungle that few heavily modified off-roaders have been able to pass. 2 of the 3 cars they took actually made it, and one of them has been abandoned in the jungle, confusing dozens of explorers.
In any case, it proved that if you have the finances and the willpower any vehicle can get anywhere, we’re not sure if it has proven any kind of superiority. We’re not too sure how useful either their promotional video appeared to consider that sales at the time were still reasonably healthy.
2 Best to avoid: unsafe at almost any speed
In 1965 Ralph Nader published his book Unsafe at any speed that pretty much singled out the Corvair as a very dangerous vehicle. Unfortunately, he eventually mocked the Corvair, and most people missed the point, or at least its intended point, which was to put pressure on the auto industry in general to improve safety standards.
Although the Corvair was no more dangerous than any other vehicle sold at the time, it was used as a case study of sorts and the biggest takeaway for readers was “don’t buy this car”. The main issue he had with the suspension was also fixed before his book was published, leaving most of his points unresolved for the second-generation Corvair.
1 Best Avoided: Limited Potential
In the end, even the 150 horsepower Spyder has way too much power for its own good. These cars are not made to go fast.
These are classic cruisers at best, with everything outdated, and they will never really be worth much, so forget about any investment potential.