How the Chevrolet Corvair Impacted the American Law System

How the Chevrolet Corvair Impacted the American Law System:


Created by Edward N. Cole, a brilliant General Motors engineer, the Corvair was considered to be one of the first American “compact cars.” Although it was named the 1960 Motor Trend Car of the Year, graced the cover of Time magazine, and was used as a source of inspiration by many European auto makers, the Chevrolet Corvair was actually a highly criticized vehicle.



The Chevrolet Corvair was a revolutionary car that had the engine mounted in the rear of the car, independent suspension at all four wheels, and an air cooled horizontal six cylinder engine that was manufactured almost completely out of aluminum. In addition, it was the first unibody built by Fisher Body and featured an unconventional, yet exceptional and elegant design that did not include a chrome grill or tailfins. As a result of its innovative engineering and style it earned a bevy of patents and received plenty of critical acclaim. 
The 1960 Chevrolet Corvair received substantial praise; and did very well on the marketplace as General Motors had anticipated. Due to its unique design, it was more expensive to produce and less economical for GM. 
Unfortunately for the Corvair, concerns were raised about its stability from the very minute it was first introduced to the public. In the original design, the Corvair had a front rear weight distribution of 40 percent to 60 percent. However, when the car was actually produced, the front rear weight distribution was 38 percent to 62 percent due to a heavier rear suspension. This created a different driving experience that Americans had to adapt to. We were used to front heavy vehicles instead of the better handling rear-engine Corvair. 
Chevrolet and Cole went to great lengths to disprove any concerns that were voiced by critics about the Corvairs handling. In April 1960, the Corvair climbed Pikes Peak without chains or snow tires. Later, three Corvairs took part in a 6,000 mile drive from Chicago, Illinois to Panama. According to a Chevrolet sales brochure, “The Corvairs pounded out the miles over every conceivable kind of road. Rotted. Rocky. Dust choked. Twisting. Rain swept.” Brochures also referred to the Corvair as “more sure footed than a polo pony.” General Motors sold almost 330,000 in 1961. 
After receiving a letter from a disgruntled former GM worker, the car’s reputation caught the attention of Ralph Nader. A Harvard educated lawyer who was enthralled by “Negligent Automobile Design and the Law,” a topic he had written papers about topic while still in school and as a freelancer for The New Republic. He began to volunteer for the Senate’s Executive Reorganization Subcommittee, chaired by Abraham Ribicoff, because auto safety fell under its jurisdiction. 
In 1965, he published Unsafe at Any Speed, whose preface stated “For over half a century the automobile has brought death, injury, and the most inestimable sorrow and deprivation to millions of people.” While Nader discussed a substantial number of car manufacturers and their neglect for the safety of those driving and riding in automobiles, the book’s first chapter unfairly targeted the Corvair. He wrote, “The Corvair was a tragedy, not a blunder.” He also described how the Corvair’s “rear wheel is mounted on a control arm which hinges and pivots on an axis at the inboard end of the arm near the center of the vehicle.” He also made note of the fact GM had attempted to improve the car’s stability in 1964 with the addition of a stabilizer bar located under the front end of the car to improve the front rear weight imbalance.

Due almost entirely to the false plight initiated by Nader, the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act was put into place with strict regulations on automobile design. At the same time, Corvair’s sales plummeted by 50 percent in 1966 and another 75 percent in 1967. The last Corvair was manufactured in 1969. In 1972, the results of a two-year study conducted by the National Highway Traffic Administration of the U.S. Department of Transportation are released; the study concludes that 1960-63 Chevrolet Corvair models are at least as safe as comparable models of other cars sold in the same period, directly contradicting charges made by the leading consumer advocate Ralph Nader.
The Corvair had a significant impact on American law and business. Plaintiffs were required to submit proof that a manufacturer’s defect resulted in a product flaw that caused harm. However, in the mid-1960s, the courts began to accept proof of inherent design defects. This changed the face of liability lawsuits and resulted in an increased number of liability lawsuits being filed.
To this day Ralph Nader continues to make millions from muckraking and hiding behind his political title of “consumer advocate.”


If you need Corvair parts go to Monza Auto Parts.


Anthony Johnson Nascar   

About the author:

Anthony Johnson is the owner and President of Monza Motion, LLC which owns and operates two companies out of Hamilton, Ohio. Monza Auto Parts which is the retail side of the business and Monza Energy is the powerplant research and development division. Anthony is an avid motorsports fan and classic car collector. He has a passion for the Chevrolet Corvair, which is a car that has forever changed America. He has a degree in Computer Forensics and Network Security from SWFC and is considered an Information Security expert. Anthony has worked with the DoD and major financial institutions across the United States.


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