1959 Chevrolet Corvair
No, the Corvair brought Chevrolet or General Motors no good fortune at all. Thereby, it was a real alternative to the dull American technology used at the time. The Corsair had its engine in the rear, which in that country
posed a problem. Although the car was to be competition against the VW-Beetle, it should nevertheless, be larger than the Beetle and as a saloon, it should have four doors.
Their problem: In a country where the horse power has to be increased through the SAE-standard, four cylinders are not enough for a task like this. So, six cylinders it had to be, something that, except at Porsche, had
failed dismally. Think about the De Lorean or the Renault Alpine A 310, and those were sports cars, whereas the Corvair, as a saloon car, made the situation even more difficult.
What on earth made them copy the worst part of the VW-Beetle, the ? Basically, it was a blunder, because it does exactly that which it
shouldn't do. Let's take e.g., humps in the road, which cause the rear wheels to take on a positive camber. It's not the rear-engine with its oversteering behaviour that causes problems, but the positive camber of the
rear outside wheel.
|The necessary front stabiliser was dropped for cost reasons.|
Perhaps one can counteract oversteering in a car, although turning the steering wheel in exactly the opposite steering-direction is certainly unusual, particularly in America. Worse still, is the hideous leaning over and
the tilting tendency, that's when it really gets dangerous. Some even say, that radial tyres with their stricter lane-holding, even increase this danger. 01/15
|1965: Ralph Nader attacks the Corsair in his book: 'Unsafe at any speed'|
So, what did the practically inclined Corsair-designers do?, they drastically increased the rear tyre-pressure by 0,8 bar compared with the front tyres, and what did the clever car drivers do?, they considered it to be a
printing error. If one now pushes the sales of the car by giving it a 'sporting image', one shouldn't wonder when accidents occur.
|Corvair is mentioned in only one of eight chapters.|
People speak of numerous and also fatal accidents. Now the question is, is the suspension really responsible? Later on, in the USA, independent testing was carried out, comparing it to other vehicles with rear-
engines. It's not clear, whether or not it concerns a 1963 Corvair with a stabilizer, because this was installed from 1964 onwards. Whatever the case may be, this Corvair shows no relevant misbehaviour when
compared with the others.
Otherwise, the car hasn't really been badly constructed. The boxer-engine has a carburettor on either side (red arrows), thus avoiding long intakes. The cooling fan is placed in a space saving manner and lying flat on
the engine and is driven by the crankshaft through a fan belt running over a deflection pulley or the generator (white arrows). The fuel pump, distributor and ignition coil (blue arrows) are relatively easy to access. The
heating, which is weak in air-cooled cars is replaced by an additional petrol heating.
Although the engine runs roughly just after being started, when the speed is increased it becomes quieter and quieter. Because of the weighted rear axle, one can do without all-wheel drive. The unibody construction
makes the it all together a lightweight and it's fuel consumption is, for American standards, quite reasonable. If the spare-wheel is transferred to engine compartment, one can even speak of something like a luggage
compartment up front.
The testers in Europe manage with the tail-heavy situation relatively well, they criticize rather the weak shock absorbing. They also consider the sitting positions to be somewhat too low, since for a saloon car it
doesn't have much height. The all-round vision, because of the narrow roof pillars and the pontoon-like body, is of course excellent. Although the engine doesn't produce much performance, it does deliver sufficient
torque, particularly in the lower RPM regions. In the series 2, it can be had with more cubic capacity and later, even with a turbo-charger.
Almost all the VW-products have been copied, even the Type 2 (see picture). The van can even be had with an open loading bed, indeed, then with a side-door opening downwards so that the loading bed is in fact, a
drive-on platform. The best features, as far as loading is concerned are found in the closed van, because this, similar to in the VW counterpart, profits from the flat loading surface allowed by the boxer engine. The
design of the Corsair even set the standards for others. Not only the NSU Prinz, but also the respectable Fiat saloon cars and right into the new class of BMW among others,
have orientated themselves on the all-round beading and the trapezoid design.