In the 47 years since the last one rolled off the line, the Chevrolet Corvair still has a reputation. Even the most casual gearhead knows about it: the air-cool, rear-engined, weird Chevy. The big failure, the black-eye for America’s favorite brand, the deathtrap! Unsafe at Any Speed! The car that was so dangerous, so horrible, it single-handedly launched Ralph Nader’s crusade against the entire industry, and brought the wratA of the federal government crashing down upon the American automobile. “Sure,” you might be thinking, “I know all about the Corvair.”
But chances are, you don’t. Because the Corvair myth is largely that: a myth. In reality, it was the right car at the wrong time: a groundbreaking model that could’ve set Detroit on a completely different path had it caught on, which it almost did. Besides, at the end of the day, it wasn’t Nader that did it in, it was something much closer to home. Half a century on, the Corvair is still the biggest gamble General Motors ever took on a single car, and for that alone, it deserves its due.