Video of the Day: Corvair tested for deadly handling flaw

Hagerty’s Larry Webster explains the controversy and flings Ralph Nader’s own car around a wide-open airport runway

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The '62 Corvair lifts a wheel during a harsh maneuver, but it stays upright and under control

Corvair owners hate Ralph Nader, for obvious reasons.  In his 1965 book Unsafe at Any Speed, Nader blasted the auto industry in general for its cavalier attitude toward passenger safety and took special aim at Chevrolet’s rear-engine compact, which he called “the one-car accident” because of perceived hazards of unpredictable handling.

In this video, titled Will the Corvair kill you?, Hagerty’s Larry Webster takes a borrowed Corvair – which actually was once owned by Nader – onto a wide-open runway, where he subjects it to abrupt maneuvers to unsettle its handling, just to see how dangerous it really is. 

Webster lived to tell the tale, and here’s his video report, in which he concludes that Corvair was Nader’s “sacrificial lamb” in pushing for needed safety enhancements by the auto industry.  

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Bob Golfen is a longtime automotive writer and editor, focusing on new vehicles, collector cars, car culture and the automotive lifestyle. He is the former automotive writer and editor for The Arizona Republic and SPEED.com, the website for the SPEED motorsports channel. He has written free-lance articles for a number of publications, including Autoweek, The New York Times and Barrett-Jackson auction catalogs. A collector car enthusiast with a wide range of knowledge about the old cars that we all love and desire, Bob enjoys tinkering with archaic machinery. His current obsession is a 1962 Porsche 356 Super coupe.

1 COMMENT

  1. EDITED COMMENT: People respond the best they can with where they are at the time; keeping acceleration in the forward direction is important (an unexpected loss of acceleration or cut in horsepower is detrimental as it can be in other vehicles) and the Corvair was used in a manner that did not “readily” [use of Nader’s Corvair is indicative] show hazardous flaws in the design and belief of right in other vehicles (in many videos it looks like the shock absorber broke or it is a scenario that other vehicles would not have faired better), even those produced at later dates, which perpetuates corporate propaganda, military industrialism, and sociological problems that led to and continued our involvement in the Vietnam War (one may wonder if ECM data and dependent programming is being monitored to show that there may be common “detuning” that is inconsistent and not fixed at dealers causing loss of acceleration in the wanted direction). Corvairs continue to be vehicles that are unique, enjoyable, and liked; adding aircraft cable to the arms and connecting it to the frame and/or adding a sway bar is a good idea (we have added both).

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