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.




VVA, Chapter # 203 And Chief John Ross Chapter, NSDAR To Honor Spouses Of Deceased Vietnam Veterans

Bill Norton, president of Vietnam Veterans of America, Chapter # 203, and Jessica M. Dumitru, Regent of the Chief John Ross Chapter, NSDAR and their organizations have partnered to initiate a new Department of Defense Program designed to recognize the spouses of deceased veterans from the Vietnam Era. The Deceased Vietnam Veteran’s Surviving Spouse certificate and lapel pin ... (click for more)

Chester Martin: A Trip To South Texas - And Mexico - In 1946 (Part One)

The following story was begun in 2009 for my family. It tells a little about our country right after WWII and the United States as your grandparents might have remembered it. East Main Street, Chattanooga, is where it starts - where Abe Zarzour and Ira Trivers famously ruled for a time... * * *   My Uncle Forrest Martin, and wife, Aunt Lydia (say "LIE-da") Richter ... (click for more)

Longest-Serving County Official Knowles Is First In Line To Sign Up For New Term

Bill Knowles is one of the longest-serving officials in Hamilton County history, and he's not through yet. County clerk since 1974, he was the first in line on Friday morning to pick up his petition for re-election. Then he beat everyone back with the completed form. Mr. Knowles said, "I ran in 1974 on a campaign of ending the long tag lines. We put in a tag by mail system ... (click for more)

River Gorge Explorer Will Log Final Cruises In January

After operating on the Tennessee River for more than nine years, Aquarium President and CEO Keith Sanford informed staff and volunteers that cruise operations aboard the River Gorge Explorer will be ending in January. “After developing a new strategic plan and carefully evaluating the Aquarium’s resources, we have decided to stop operating the boat,” said Mr. Sanford. “We are ... (click for more)

Signal Mountain Should Be Problem Solvers Around The City

Re: Roy Exum’s “Stay, Signal Mountain, Stay”  Well this article is something to think about. I think the split could go either way, and Signal Mountain schools would still flourish, as they have done for the past several years. What I'm worried about is why Signal Mountain has not yet had the guts to go be problem solvers at Howard, or Tyner, or Central. Why do ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: How Would I Vote?

I don’t know what to think or who to believe in the debacle surrounding Alabama’s Roy Moore and his quest for a Senate seat. I have no earthly idea what he did or how he acted 40 years ago. Heck, I can’t remember what I did or how I acted 40 years ago but I do recall I kissed some minors back then. To be real honest, they were the only ones that would let me, this because I was ... (click for more)