The Chevrolet Corvair is a compact car manufactured by Chevrolet for model years 1960–1969 in two generations. It is still the only American-designed, mass-produced passenger car with a rear-mounted, air-cooled engine.
The Corvair was manufactured and marketed in 4-door sedan, 2-door coupe, convertible, 4-door station wagon, passenger van, commercial van, and pickup truck body styles in its first generation (1960–1964) as well as 2-door coupe, convertible and 4-door sedan in its second (1965–1969).
Competitors included the Volkswagen Beetle, Ford Falcon, Plymouth Valiant, Studebaker Lark, and the Rambler American.
The Corvair’s reputation and legacy, as well as those of General Motors, were tarnished by accusations about its handling ability: the car was scrutinized in Ralph Nader’s 1965 book Unsafe at Any Speed. GM’s top management resorted to unethical measures in response to its accuser. Ralph Nader’s accusations were proven false by the 1972 National Highway Traffic Safety Administration safety commission report. Support for the tests, conducted at College Station, Texas was provided by the Texas Transportation Institute (TTl). Texas A&M University Research Foundation. The investigation concluded: “The 1960-1963 Corvair understeers in the same manner as conventional passenger cars up to about 0.4g lateral acceleration, makes a transition from understeer, through neutral steer, to oversteer in a range from about 0.4g to 0.5g lateral acceleration. This transition does not result in abnormal potential for loss of control. The limited accident data available indicates that the rollover rate of the 1960-1963 Corvair is comparable to other light domestic cars. The 1960-1963 Corvair compared favorably with the other contemporary vehicles used in the NHTSA Input Response Tests. The handling and stability performance of the 1960-1963 Corvair does not result in an abnormal potential for loss of control or rollover and it is at least as good as the performance of some contemporary vehicles both foreign and domestic.”
The name “Corvair” is a portmanteau of Corvette and Bel Air, a name first applied in 1954 to a Corvette-based concept with a hardtop fastback-styled roof, part of the Motorama traveling exhibition.