Back in its day, the Chevy Corvair had a certain reputation, and a book published by Ralph Nader in 1965, Unsafe at Any Speed, did nothing to help it out. The book didn’t beat around the bush about the Corvair; Nader pointed his finger at the car and called it “the one-car accident” — Nader was far from subtle about the car. This inspired the guys from Hagerty to decide to find out the truth about the safety of the Corvair, and see for themselves if this car is really bloodthirsty, or not.
So what exactly were Nader’s complaints that prompted him to make such a serious accusation about the Chevy Corvair? In the book, he talks about a flaw in the design of the rear suspension (keep in mind, the car is rear-engined) that would likely cause the car to flip over if you made any sudden turns. Nader’s book went on to be a bestseller, and since then, people have looked at the Corvair and quoted Nader’s words verbatim about its safety.
An alternative viewpoint from several other sources and Corvair owners is the car is actually safer than most. They pointed out several aspects of the Corvair, like the fact that the dash didn’t come with a chrome accented steering wheel or dash, elements which pose risk in a collision. It’s also worth noting that the Corvair is light, and lighter cars have a stopping advantage from the factory.
The guys from Hagerty bravely set out to see if the car should have been pulled off the roads back in the 1960s, using Nader’s own car at that. Part of the speed and maneuvering testing was done at Detroit’s Coleman Young Airport so they had plenty of space to play in case the Corvair turned violent.
While you’ll have to watch the video to see the play-by-play, it turns out, the Corvair is totally tame at moderate speeds. It did have a slight tendency to kick out when it was traveling fast enough to lose traction, but the comparison of how more likely it was to spin out was made against the time’s Impala, so that’s not saying much.
The conclusion: The Corvair didn’t deserve the tainted reputation and black eye it got from the bestselling book, so a lot of drivers likely missed out on a really interesting car.