As the recently retired owner of a ‘65 Corvair 500 4 door hardtop with less than 37,000 original miles, I am in awe of the steps that GM took in their ‘65 redesign to make the car fresh and competitive. Curved glass, hardtop (no center post) on 4 doors, beautiful lines - obviously cues from the ‘65 Impala, and the 180 h.p. From 164 cid pancake six in the Corsa. Corvairs were then, and are today, not in in the mainstream. Once Ed Cole left, they had no corporate champion, and post ‘65, the only updates were what was required to comply with Federal safety and pollution standards. It’s a shame, as most all Corvair owners lament, the “what ifs” - what if
GM had marketed the car better? - What if there had been a 3rd gen car? As a former Chevy II owner, the Corvair was light years better in terms of engineering and handling. So why is it that a not very good car (unibody, with a solid rear axle and mono plate rear springs, very conservative boxy 1st & 2nd gen styling) like the Chevy II brings way more money than similar vintage Corvairs?
GM really did an amazing job in 1960 and 1961 with all of its compacts. The Buick Special , and the Olds F-85 were both very nice, albeit more conventional offerings, and the 1961 “rope shaft” Tempests (I had one of those, too) and the Corvair shared some transmission and transaxle components, and were both very forward leaning from an engineering and styling stand point. The Tempest 4 cyl. (Half of a 389 cid V-8) with vibration dampening and very large spongy motor mounts, was surprisingly smooth. The 1st gen Tempests also suffer from being different, with the engineering and design approach being championed by John DeLorean (I believe) at the Pontiac Division. It was an interesting moment in time for the automobile industry, which In those glory days, was far less risk averse than it is today. Finally, the degree to which these 1st gen GM compacts could be personalized in color combination for both the interiors and exteriors, the individual option selections, and the combinations of engines and transmissions was very noteworthy. Finally, each of these compacts came in 2dr, 4dr, wagon, and convertible body styles, to which Corvair added a full light duty truck and van line. Cars today are boring look-alike, with very little to distinguish one model from another by the same manufacturer, or one brand from another, across market segments; driven largely by the globalization of the industry. I do miss those days in the 1960s when GM really set the standard for innovation, style, and quality.