October 2, 1959 – The Aircooled American

The only mass produced, air cooled rear engined American car was introduced to the public on this day in 1959. The Chevrolet Corvair aimed to be an affordable commuter that would compete with the likes of the Volkswagen Beetle and numerous domestic compacts being introduced at the time, such as the Ford Falcon and Plymouth Valiant. The Corvair was a far cry from anything else coming out of Detroit in that era. Aside from its unusual running gear, a few of the standout differences were the Corvair’s complete lack of tail fins and a front end with no grille.

1961 Corvair 500 station wagon. By Josephew at the English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0

The Corvair was championed by Chevrolet General Manager Ed Cole, whom made the cover of Time Magazine, along with the car, just days after it debuted. After winning Car of the Year for 1960 from Motor Trend, the Corvair would fall into controversy, in part due to safety and handling concerns brought forth in Ralph Nader’s book, Unsafe at any Speed. Corvair coupes, convertibles, wagons, sedans, trucks and vans would be produced through the 1969 model year.

A Corvair air cooled flat six.

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