The Chevrolet Corvair was a compact automobile produced by the Chevrolet division of General Motors for the 1960–1969 model years. It was the only American-made, mass-produced passenger car to feature a rear-mounted air-cooled engine.
The Corvair range included two-door coupe and convertible, four-door sedan, and four-door station wagon configurations, included the more powerful Monza model – and included passenger van, commercial van, and pickup derivatives. The range competed with imported cars such as the original Volkswagen Beetle, as well as the Ford Falcon and the Plymouth Valiant, new entries in a market segment that was established in the U.S. by the Nash and Rambler American.
The Corvair's legacy was affected by controversy surrounding its handling, which led to its inclusion in Ralph Nader's Unsafe at Any Speed. Nonetheless a subsequent National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) study concluded that the car's handling was as safe as that of its contemporaries.
The Corvair's sales exceeded 200,000 for each of its first six model years. The rear engine design offered packaging and economy advantages, providing the car with a lower silhouette, flat passenger compartment floor, removing the need for power assists, and offering improvements in ride quality, traction, and braking balance. The different design also attracted customers from other makes, primarily imports. The Corvair stood out with engineering significantly different from other American offerings. It was part of GM's Y-body ("Z"-Body from 1965 on) line of cars, with design and engineering that advanced the rear-engine, rear-wheel drive layout pioneered by cars including the Tatra 77, Tucker Torpedo, Porsche 356, Volkswagen Beetle, Renault Dauphine, and NSU Prinz—and employed by the concurrent and short-lived Hino Contessa.
The Corvair's powerplant is an aluminum air-cooled 140 cu in (2.3 L) flat-six (Later enlarged, first to 145 and then to 164 cubic inches). The first Corvair engine produced 80 hp . Power peaked with the 1965–66 turbocharged 180 hp Corsa engine option. The first generation model's swing axle rear suspension, invented and patented by engineer Edmund Rumpler, offered a comfortable ride but raised safety concerns associated with the car's handling stability, and was replaced in 1965 with a fully independent rear suspension similar to the Corvette Sting Ray.
The Corvair represented several breakthroughs in design for mass-produced Detroit vehicles with 1,786,243 cars produced between 1960 and 1969.
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