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.



James County Historical Society Meeting is August 3

The James County Historical Society will meet Sunday, August 3, at 2:30pm in the Ooltewah Methodist Church in the Sunday School addition.   The program will be presented by Larry Williams; its topic will be the “The Re-birth of a Model T Ford”.  The program will relate to old cars and to roads of the Old Jim County era. If you use email, please send your email address ... (click for more)

Signal Mountain Genealogical Society Meeting is August 5

The Signal Mountain Genealogical Society will meet at the Walden Town Hall, 1836 Taft Highway, on Tuesday, August 5, 2014 at 1:00 pm. Refreshments will be served, followed by a short business meeting and program.   The speaker for the meeting will be  Jim Dodson who will deliver a presentation entitled,  "Letters from Mississippi  1860 - 1868. ”   ... (click for more)

City Council Presents Potential Ordinance To Address Noise Level Downtown

Members of the Chattanooga City Council presented a potential ordinance to address concerns about the noise level downtown. If passed, the ordinance will put limits on both dB(A) and dB(C) levels of sound. It was noted, "When we compare our dB level, it is clear that Chattanooga is lower than Nashville and Knoxville." However, this comparison only takes dB(A) levels into consideration. ... (click for more)

Harr Outlines $40 Million Plan For Chattanooga Light Rail System

Outgoing Chamber of Commerce President Ron Harr on Monday outlined a $40 million plan for a Chattanooga light rail system that would serve not only downtown, but also the Airport and the Enterprise South Industrial Park. In a speech to the Chattanooga Engineers Club, Mr. Harr said most cities looking at such an ambitious plan "would be facing costs of over a billion dollars." ... (click for more)

Senator Bob Corker: An Open Letter To Tennesseans

We are incredibly fortunate to live in a state in which companies worldwide are clamoring to establish a presence. Many attribute it to our pro-business culture, well-prepared workforce, low tax environment, right-to-work policies, and engaged citizenry.  That is why the announcement by Volkswagen to build its midsize sports utility vehicle and establish the South’s ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Wamp Refuses To Stoop

With less than two weeks before the Aug. 7 th election and the last week of early voting now underway in Hamilton County, Congressional challenger Weston Wamp sounded upbeat and relaxed early yesterday afternoon. “I’m pleased to say that I believe we are right where we need to be … maybe even more than we had hoped.” Wamp, who is challenging two-term incumbent Chuck Fleishmann ... (click for more)