Choo-Choo Corvair Show Recalls Memories of the 1960's

Wednesday, August 21, 2013 - by Harmon Jolley

When I was in junior high school, the students either waited outside or in the gymnasium until the first bell rang.  Lookout Jr. High was on West 40th Street, a busy connector between St. Elmo, Alton Park, and Rossville.  So, many morning commuters passed by as we waited to start our school day.

I was usually engaged on conversation about music, sports, or an algebra homework assignment, and didn’t usually notice the cars passing by the school.  However, there was a 1969 Chevrolet Corvair that always caught my eye.  It was Frost Green – General Motors color 59, according to a 1969 Corvair paint chart on the Web. 

The Corvair was manufactured between the 1960 and 1969 model years.  The car that I observed each day was a second generation version, with styling resembling the new Camaro and tail lights like the Corvette or previous models of the Impala/BelAir/Biscayne.  I knew that it was a 1969 model because it had side marker lamps, which were mandated by federal safety laws.  Automobile head rests were also mandated, in order to reduce whiplash injuries.

It would be four years before I would begin driving.  Still, I had the Corvair on my list of potential wheels.  However, by the 1970 model year, other names were catching my eye including the Chevrolet Malibu, Ford Maverick, Ford Pinto, and Plymouth Barracuda.

It was just as well that other cars replaced the Corvair on my list.  Production of the Chevy Corvair ended after 1969.  A few years later, in a college economics course, I learned of the impact that Unsafe at Any Speed had on sales of the Corvair.  Though author Ralph Nader also reviewed the safety issues of other car models, the Corvair seemed to take the brunt of public scorn.

Last weekend, however, both the first and second generations of the Corvair were on display in the gardens of the Chattanooga Choo-Choo convention center.  As I was walking up to the displays, the driver of one Corvair was carefully parking his car. 

Members of the Choo-Choo Corvair Club (visit them at Choo Choo Corvair on Facebook) sponsored the event.   The various offerings of the Corvair – coupe, sedan, station wagon, truck, and van – were all represented.  The Corvair featured a rear-mounted, air-cooled engine like Volkswagens – the main competition targeted by General Motors.  To help with managing cargo, the Corvair truck had a gate on the side of the vehicle.

It was good to see that the Corvair is still around, and prized by its collectors.  If you have memories of the Chevolet Corvair, please send me an e-mail at jolleyh@bellsouth.net.

Reader Feedback

The first one I ever remember seeing was the blue four door our neighbors bought in 1960.  Curious looking at the engine in the rear though we had seen Volkswagens with rear engines for several years.

Enjoyed your piece about the Corvair.....it was quite a car...as stated....a rear engine....it also had twin carburetors.

You mentioned the Corvair van and truck....I was news director  at a radio station....and we had one as a remote vehicle...it was called the "Greenbriar"....such a neat vehicle...and with good styling for its day.



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