MOTORHEAD musings

Fun/Utility Balance, Corvair, Mustang, GT40

Having always figured that a car or bike should deliver joy every time it's driven (or even looked at), I've always favored fun over utility. I think I've gotten my money's worth many times over in entertainment value, and have rarely been short on utility. And resale value favors performance and uniqueness over utility and ordinariness. The less practical, the higher the resale as time passes. Utility isn't the stuff of passion. Here's my recipe for fun. Take it for what it's worth. Buy cars you really love, but buy 'em a few years old so someone else has taken the depreciation hit. If you need utility, rent a truck for a day now and then with the money you saved by buying the right car at the right price. Maintain 'em lovingly (easy to do if you love 'em). Keep 'em forever. Storage, plates, and insurance are cheap on old cars, and if they're truly impractical (high performance engine & suspension, two doors, convertible, stick shift,etc.), they'll eventually stabilize in value or even start going up. However, NEVER buy any car as an "investment" just because you think it will increase in value. If you wanna gamble, buy stocks. Stocks don't rust, or have to be overhauled or restored, and they don't require garage space. Buy cars that make your heart thump, hang onto 'em, and maintain 'em. Maintenance on a newer or ordinary (depreciating) car is hard to swallow. Maintenance on a car that's holding its value, or even appreciating, is very easy to justify! This kind of expenditure isn't painful, providing it doesn't outrun the car's actual and "fun" value. Stay away from "trailer queens" that are too perfect to drive. Don't buy a car if you aren't gonna drive it. Now, consider it both transportation and entertainment, and you'll be getting a bargain on both of those things! End of sermon. This page is the diary of a motorhead who's been driving legally since 1959, and who still smiles whenever there's a reason to drive of his vehicles, even if it's only a trip to the store. What a way to go!
Corvair & Mustang History Don't know how many people have owned both a Corvair and a Mustang, but there's a little shared history behind these two nameplates. It's fun to have owned both, especially at the same time. In the late 1950s, when General Motors ruled the automotive roost on a worldwide scale, they had immensely deep pockets and some innovative engineering groups. Ed Cole, who'd been the "father" of the Chevy small-block V8 in the mid-50s, was put in charge of a project to build a hi-tech small car, starting with a clean slate. In that era, they were the only auto company on earth with both the financial and technical means to do something of this scope. What evolved was a small but space-efficient car with a flat, six-cylinder, air-cooled engine, the Corvair. It shared nothing with other Chevrolet or GM models. It required an immense investment in tooling and production facilities because it was unique. Originally aimed at the lower end of the market, the Corvair took off in a new direction with the introduction of the Monza Coupe, which put a lot of Americans into a sporty two-door with bucket seats and "four on the floor." This, coupled with their introduction of the first production turbocharger in 1962, pushed the Corvair into a new role as a performance-oriented vehicle. It was a hot seller, and left the rest of the industry flat-footed. But not for long. Chevrolet undertook a major restyling of the vehicle for the 1965 model year, making it bigger, and to many eyes (including mine), more attractive. The truck and van models were dropped. The turbo was increased from 150 to 180 horsepower, and the car was intended to appeal to a bigger mainstream market as well as folks who were more inclined toward the kind of overall performance and handling then associated with European cars. Of course, in those days, the design cycle for a new model typically took two to three years. So work on this new model had begun probably sometime in 1962. As they might say in Rome, "a funny thing happened on the way to the forum." The Corvair had ignited a fire under the ... um ... butts of some other very significant competitors, including some other GM divisions. One major competitor, whose pockets weren't quite as deep as GM's, went to the parts bin and designed a new model from existing pieces. The undercarriage, suspension, engine, transmission, and all the running gear was comprised of parts they already had in the production stream. Their biggest investment was a new and attractive body. It was introduced on April 17, 1964, as the Mustang. It was a clutch home run for Ford Motor Company; their North American operations were tremendously talented at losing money under Henry Ford II. The European operations and the Mustang were among their profit centers for many years. By the time Chevrolet rolled out the redesigned 1965 Corvair in the fall of 1964, too many of its potential buyers were on waiting lists for Mustangs at Ford dealerships. The Mustang's six-month head start in showrooms was insurmountable. The Corvair's success had sown the seeds of its demise. Almost immediately, Chevrolet reassigned the Corvair design team to a new project, a Mustang- killer, which eventually was introduced as the first Camaro several years later. Like the Mustang, it was based on an existing bunch of hardware, wrapped in a new body. Take a close look at any late-model Corvair and early-model Camaro. The similarity in appearance, especially in the beltline and fender contours, is unmistakable. I believe the name of the chief designer on both cars was Henry Haga. But I digress ... When the second-generation Corvair arrived on the scene, it was already a lame duck in GM's scheme of things. The horsepower war was on, and muscle cars were beginning to emerge from every direction. Remember the '64 GTO? Due to their use of mainstream production running gear, cars like these, followed by the Mustang and Camaro, could be easily transformed into fire-breathers by bolting in bigger engines and other bits and pieces already in production. The Corvair was limited in this respect by its unique engine built specifically for that car. To significantly upgrade its power would have meant not only developing a totally new powerplant, but probably making significant changes to the structure, suspension, brakes, and transmissions to cope with the additional power. With the Mustang and Camaro, as well as with the mid-sized muscle cars, these changes could be accomplished without new tooling. The unique Corvair couldn't be put on steroids without an immense investment. Even the low- volume Corvette shared high-production engines and transmissions with the rest of the Chevrolet line. Oh, yeah ... Nader. Hmmmm. Lots of folks think he "did in" the Corvair. Sorry to disappoint. His book didn't appear until after the decision had been made to do no further work on Corvair development and let it fade away. By the way, his book "Unsafe at Any Speed" was NOT only about the Corvair. It was about the entire auto industry, promoting the idea that cars should incorporate more safety features. He was neither the first nor the only voice for that point of view during that era. However, Nader's first chapter featured the Corvair, and the typical reader has a one-chapter attention span. In that chapter he laid out his arguments against the Corvair, and the centerpiece of his logic was tied to the "swing-axle" rear suspension, which was a common design at the time the Corvair was introduced; in fact it was considered "state of the art." Such companies as Porsche and VW used swing axles in those years, and I believe Mercedes used that arrangement on its higher-end performance vehicles. The "tuck-under" effect Nader described is an illusion. A major refinement, "trailing-arm" suspension, was incorporated on the 1963 Corvette, and a virtually identical suspension was a feature of the 1965 Corvair. This kind of rear suspension became commonplace in the sixties, and is still in widespread use today throughout the industry, especially in serious performance vehicles. In 1973, after a lengthy investigation, the NHTSA issued a report that confirmed what auto-savvy people had known all along. There was no inherent design flaw in the Corvair's suspension. That study is entitled "Evaluation of the 1960-1963 Corvair Handling and Stability", U.S. Department of Transportation, National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration, July 1972, Report Number DOT HS- 820198. It covered the years mentioned in the title, those included in Nader's argument. The 1964 model was similar. As mentioned above, the 1965-69 models had fully-independent rear suspension, which doesn't have the "flaw" Nader imagined. Click links to see National Technical Information Service (NTIS) catalog numbers PB-211014 (panel) and PB- 211015 (full report). Why did Nader get taken seriously? First, he was David against Goliath. Second, most people don't know beans about automotive engineering, vehicle dynamics, performance or safety. He was as knowledgeable about automobiles as the average engineer is about the law. For all the lawyer jokes people make, some of 'em still take this guy seriously. You've gotta question his research methods, his logic, and his integrity (after all these years, still hasn't 'fessed up that he made a mistake on the topic that launched his improbable career). But the key element is that the paranoid goofballs who comprised GM management then (and their history of management geniuses hasn't improved much in the last 35 years or so) decided to launch an investigation of Nader to "dig up dirt" to discredit him. When that became known, it looked like they had something to hide, and gave him an aura of being some kind of white knight. They should have clobbered him with facts ... the same ones turned up eventually by the NHTSA! So ... Ralph didn't "kill" the Corvair. In fact, there's a solid argument that the management of General Motors, knowing that Nader's central claims against the engineering of the Corvair were erroneous, kept the Corvair alive until 1969 to avoid the appearance of buckling under to a misinformed lawyer who didn't even drive a car. At least they got that right. Had it not been for Nader, 1967 would likely have been the last year of production for the Corvair. As it was, they wound up making more than ten million vehicles over ten years of production (1960-69),and created a new and huge market segment for a kind of performance and panache that exists to this day. The Corvair's design philosophy has lived on. The Porsche 911 with its fully independent rear suspension, powered by an air-cooled rear-mounted flat six, appeared in 1966. It has represented that design philosophy quite admirably for many years in the Corvair's absence. Among the production classes in SCCA road racing, no design has been more successful in competition over the years. That's the supreme test of handling and stability, and provides ample evidence of a good fundamental design. That's the Corvair story. Born in 1960, incorporated "sportiness" and real performance early in its life, created a dynamic new market segment in the U.S., and caused Ford to react by creating the Mustang, which in turn killed the Corvair and gave birth to its younger sibling, the Camaro. These cars had more typical American mechanicals for their day, and they still carry on that tradition ... V8, front-engine, rear- drive. There are lots of other kinds of performance cars today, many varieties of driveline layouts and suspension designs. But it can be argued that nothing since has been as totally revolutionary, as far removed from conventional automobiles in every respect, as the Corvair was in its day. Corvair & Ford GT40 One last note ... the Mustang & Corvair connection is interesting, but there's also a little-known connection between the Corvair and Ford's hugely successful assault on LeMans. Dan Gurney and AJ Foyt were overall winners in 1967 driving a Ford GT40 MK IV. "They showed their taillights" to the world, beating Ferrari, Porsche, etc. at the most prestigious road race in the world. If you have the patience to load a 300K file, CLICK HERE and take a really close look at those taillights. Yep ... they're from an early Corvair! And the part number on the lenses has been verified by observers.
If you enjoyed this site, please pass the link along to other motorheads who might like it, too!
1920 Anderson Six Convertible Roadster more info
Having always figured that a car or bike should deliver joy every time it's driven (or even looked at), I've always favored fun over utility. I think I've gotten my money's worth many times over in entertainment value, and have rarely been short on utility. And resale value favors performance and uniqueness over utility and ordinariness. The less practical, the higher the resale as time passes. Utility isn't the stuff of passion. Here's my recipe for fun. Take it for what it's worth. Buy cars you really love, but buy 'em a few years old so someone else has taken the depreciation hit. If you need utility, rent a truck for a day now and then with the money you saved by buying the right car at the right price. Maintain 'em lovingly (easy to do if you love 'em). Keep 'em forever. Storage, plates, and insurance are cheap on old cars, and if they're truly impractical (high performance engine & suspension, two doors, convertible, stick shift,etc.), they'll eventually stabilize in value or even start going up. However, NEVER buy any car as an "investment" just because you think it will increase in value. If you wanna gamble, buy stocks. Stocks don't rust, or have to be overhauled or restored, and they don't require garage space. Buy cars that make your heart thump, hang onto 'em, and maintain 'em. Maintenance on a newer or ordinary (depreciating) car is hard to swallow. Maintenance on a car that's holding its value, or even appreciating, is very easy to justify! This kind of expenditure isn't painful, providing it doesn't outrun the car's actual and "fun" value. Stay away from "trailer queens" that are too perfect to drive. Don't buy a car if you aren't gonna drive it. Now, consider it both transportation and entertainment, and you'll be getting a bargain on both of those things! End of sermon. This page is the diary of a motorhead who's been driving legally since 1959, and who still smiles whenever there's a reason to drive of his vehicles, even if it's just a grocery run What a way to go! * Corvair & Mustang History Don't know how many people have owned both a Corvair and a Mustang, but there's a little shared history behind these two nameplates. It's fun to have owned both, especially at the same time. In the late 1950s, when General Motors ruled the automotive roost on a worldwide scale, they had immensely deep pockets and some innovative engineering groups. Ed Cole, who'd been the "father" of the Chevy small-block V8 in the mid- 50s, was put in charge of a project to build a hi- tech small car, starting with a clean slate. In that era, they were the only auto company on earth with both the financial and technical means to do something of this scope. What evolved was a small but space-efficient car with a flat, six- cylinder, air-cooled engine, the Corvair. It shared nothing with other Chevrolet or GM models. It required an immense investment in tooling and production facilities because it was unique. Originally aimed at the lower end of the market, the Corvair took off in a new direction with the introduction of the Monza Coupe, which put a lot of Americans into a sporty two-door with bucket seats and "four on the floor." This, coupled with their introduction of the first production turbocharger in 1962, pushed the Corvair into a new role as a performance-oriented vehicle. It was a hot seller, and left the rest of the industry flat-footed. But not for long. Chevrolet undertook a major restyling of the vehicle for the 1965 model year, making it bigger, and to many eyes (including mine), more attractive. The truck and van models were dropped. The turbo was increased from 150 to 180 horsepower, and the car was intended to appeal to a bigger mainstream market as well as folks who were more inclined toward the kind of overall performance and handling then associated with European cars. Of course, in those days, the design cycle for a new model typically took two to three years. So work on this new model had begun probably sometime in 1962. As they might say in Rome, "a funny thing happened on the way to the forum." The Corvair had ignited a fire under the ... um ... butts of some other very significant competitors, including some other GM divisions. One major competitor, whose pockets weren't quite as deep as GM's, went to the parts bin and designed a new model from existing pieces. The undercarriage, suspension, engine, transmission, and all the running gear was comprised of parts they already had in the production stream. Their biggest investment was a new and attractive body. It was introduced on April 17, 1964, as the Mustang. It was a clutch home run for Ford Motor Company; their North American operations were tremendously talented at losing money under Henry Ford II. The European operations and the Mustang were among their profit centers for many years. By the time Chevrolet rolled out the redesigned 1965 Corvair in the fall of 1964, too many of its potential buyers were on waiting lists for Mustangs at Ford dealerships. The Mustang's six- month head start in showrooms was insurmountable. The Corvair's success had sown the seeds of its demise. Almost immediately, Chevrolet reassigned the Corvair design team to a new project, a Mustang-killer, which eventually was introduced as the first Camaro several years later. Like the Mustang, it was based on an existing bunch of hardware, wrapped in a new body. Take a close look at any late-model Corvair and early- model Camaro. The similarity in appearance, especially in the beltline and fender contours, is unmistakable. I believe the name of the chief designer on both cars was Henry Haga. But I digress ... When the second-generation Corvair arrived on the scene, it was already a lame duck in GM's scheme of things. The horsepower war was on, and muscle cars were beginning to emerge from every direction. Remember the '64 GTO? Due to their use of mainstream production running gear, cars like these, followed by the Mustang and Camaro, could be easily transformed into fire- breathers by bolting in bigger engines and other bits and pieces already in production.
The Corvair was limited in this respect by its unique engine built specifically for that car. To significantly upgrade its power would have meant not only developing a totally new powerplant, but probably making significant changes to the structure, suspension, brakes, and transmissions to cope with the additional power. With the Mustang and Camaro, as well as with the mid-sized muscle cars, these changes could be accomplished without new tooling. The unique Corvair couldn't be put on steroids without an immense investment. Even the low-volume Corvette shared high-production engines and transmissions with the rest of the Chevrolet line. Oh, yeah ... Nader. Hmmmm. Lots of folks think he "did in" the Corvair. Sorry to disappoint. His book didn't appear until after the decision had been made to do no further work on Corvair development and let it fade away. By the way, his book "Unsafe at Any Speed" was NOT just about the Corvair. It was about the entire auto industry, relating to the idea that cars should incorporate more safety features. He was neither the first nor the only voice for that point of view during that era. However, Nader's first chapter featured the Corvair, and the typical reader has a one-chapter attention span. In that chapter he laid out his arguments against the Corvair, and the centerpiece of his logic was tied to the "swing-axle" rear suspension, which was a common design at the time the Corvair was introduced; in fact it was considered "state of the art." Such companies as Porsche and VW used swing axles in those years. The "tuck-under" effect Nader described is an illusion. A major refinement, "trailing-arm" suspension, was incorporated on the 1963 Corvette, and a virtually identical suspension was a feature of the 1965 Corvair. This kind of rear suspension became commonplace in the sixties, and is still in widespread use today throughout the industry, especially in serious performance vehicles. In 1973, after a lengthy investigation, the NHTSA issued a report that confirmed what auto-savvy people had known all along. There was no inherent design flaw in the Corvair's suspension. That study is entitled "Evaluation of the 1960-1963 Corvair Handling and Stability", U.S. Department of Transportation, National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration, July 1972, Report Number DOT HS-820198. It covered the years mentioned in the title, those included in Nader's argument. The 1964 model was similar. As mentioned above, the 1965-69 models had fully-independent rear suspension, which doesn't have the "flaw" Nader imagined. Click links to see National Technical Information Service (NTIS) catalog numbers PB- 211014 (panel) and PB-211015 (full report). Why did Nader get taken seriously? First, he was David against Goliath. Second, most people don't know beans about automotive engineering, vehicle dynamics, performance or safety. He was as knowledgeable about automobiles as the average engineer is about the law. For all the lawyer jokes people make, some of 'em still take this guy seriously. You've gotta question his research methods, his logic, and his integrity (after all these years, still hasn't 'fessed up that he made a mistake on the topic that launched his improbable career). But the key element is that the paranoid goofballs who comprised GM management then (and their history of management geniuses hasn't improved much in the last 35 years or so) decided to launch an investigation of Nader to "dig up dirt" to discredit him. When that became known, it looked like they had something to hide, and gave him an aura of being some kind of white knight. They should have clobbered him with facts ... the same ones turned up eventually by the NHTSA! So ... Ralph didn't "kill" the Corvair. In fact, there's a solid argument that the management of General Motors, knowing that Nader's central claims against the engineering of the Corvair were erroneous, kept the Corvair alive until 1969 to avoid the appearance of buckling under to a misinformed lawyer who didn't even drive a car. At least they got that right. Had it not been for Nader, 1967 would likely have been the last year of production for the Corvair. As it was, they wound up making more than ten million vehicles over ten years of production (1960-69), and created a new and huge market segment for a kind of performance and panache that exists to this day. The Corvair's design philosophy has lived on. The Porsche 911 with its fully independent rear suspension, powered by an air-cooled rear- mounted flat six, appeared in 1966. It has represented that design philosophy quite admirably for many years in the Corvair's absence. Among the production classes in SCCA road racing, no single design has been more successful in competition over the years. That's the supreme test of handling and stability, and provides ample evidence of a good fundamental design. That's the Corvair story. Born in 1960, incorporated "sportiness" and real performance early in its life, created a dynamic new market segment in the U.S., and caused Ford to react by creating the Mustang, which in turn killed the Corvair and gave birth to its younger sibling, the Camaro. These cars had more typical American mechanicals for their day, and they still carry on that tradition ... V8, front-engine, rear-drive. There are lots of other kinds of performance cars today, many varieties of driveline layouts and suspension designs. But it can be argued that nothing since has been as totally revolutionary, as far removed from conventional automobiles in every respect, as the Corvair was in its day. ** Corvair & Ford GT40 One last note ... the Mustang & Corvair connection is interesting, but there's also a little-known connection between the Corvair and Ford's hugely successful assault on LeMans. Dan Gurney and AJ Foyt were overall winners in 1967 driving a Ford GT40 MK IV. "They showed their taillights" to the world, beating Ferrari, Porsche, etc. at the most prestigious road race in the world. If you have the patience to load a 300K file, CLICK HERE and take a really close look at those taillights. Yep ... they're from an early Corvair! And the part number on the lenses has been verified by observers.
Motorhead musings

Fun/Utility Balance * Corvair & Mustang ** Corvair &GT40

1920 Anderson Six Convertible Roadster more info
If you enjoyed this site, please pass the link along to other motorheads who might like it, too!
Copyright 2002-2022 Kenneth J Anderson
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Maserati Bi-Turbo
Half-FAST.net
Copyright 2002-2022 Kenneth J Anderson