1964 Chevrolet Corvair: middle-class compact car

1964 Chevrolet Corvair: middle-class compact car

Engine2,683 cc (2.7 L) Flat-six Horsepower155 HP (114.08 KW) @ 5000 RPMTorque202 Ft-Lbs (274 NM) @ 3600 RPMWeight2400 lbs | 1088.622 kgDrive TypeRWDEngine LocationFront, longitudinalTransmission4 Manual All synchromesh

Produced from 1960 to 1969 the Chevrolet Corvair was positioned as a people’s compact vehicle intended for middle-class folks. One of the distinguishing features of the model was the rear engine. 

Source: Mecum Auctions

The compact car became a mass phenomenon in the United States,  only in the early 1960s. While General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler continued the battling for customers, carrying out annual restyling and increasing the power units, cheap and practical “compacts” like the Rambler American and Studebaker Lark, as well as imported small machines from Volkswagen, Renault or Fiat, appeared on the market. In general, before the 60s, most Americans chose a machine based on “the more the better”, perceiving compact vehicles as second-rate. However, later for many, they became the only available vehicles or the second car in the family. The beginning of the economic recession forced at least part of the US population to think about saving. It got to the point that American Motors Corporation, which built its business strategy on the fight against the “gluttonous dinosaurs” from Detroit, rose to third place in the industry rankings, calling into question the hegemony of the “Big Three”. To meet this challenge, by the 1960 model year, General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler began developing their compact vehicles. On October 2, 1959, GM Corporation was the first of the Big Three to introduce its compact model, the Chevrolet Corvair.

The first generation (1960-1964)

Source: Auto Vercity

The entire project was led by General Motors Vice President Ed Cole. The name Corvair was chosen as a symbiosis of two names models’ – Corvette and Bel Air. The main feature of the machine was the rear-engine layout. It was a revelation for the US, but in Europe, such a scheme was popular and prospective. So, the most popular imported vehicle – the Volkswagen Beetle, was rear-engined.

The new release engine was an innovation for the American auto industry – a boxer, 6-cylinder, air-cooled, it included many parts from aluminum alloys. The gearbox was on the rear axle and was compact. The suspension of all wheels was independent, and the body was load-bearing! The tires were of a new design, low profile. The body was also innovative in design. No fins, no grille! In front, there were twin round headlights. Along the sides were horizontal stiffeners. The windshield was ordinary, but the rear was panoramic. Both structurally and stylistically, it was a revolution for the US market. Not surprisingly, the authoritative Motor Trend magazine awarded the new product the title of “Best Car of 1960”.

1964 Chevrolet Corvair 

Source: Hemmings

Significant engineering changes were made for 1964 while the lineup and styling remained relatively unchanged. Engine displacement had been increased from 145 to 164 cubic inches (2.4 to 2.7 L) by increasing the stroke. The base engine power had increased from 80 to 95 hp (from 60 to 71 kW; from 81 to 96 hp), and the power of the high-performance engine had increased from 102 to 110 hp. (from 76 to 82 kW; from 103 to 112 hp). Engine power remained at 150 hp. (112 kW; 152 hp), despite the increase in engine displacement. In 1964, improvements were made to the machine’s oscillating axle rear suspension with the addition of a transverse leaf spring and softer rear coil springs designed to reduce rear axle stiffness and provide more neutral handling. Compared to previous models, the springs could now be softer at both ends of the vehicle. The heavy-duty suspension was no longer optional, although all models had a front anti-roll bar as standard. The brakes had been improved with finned rear drums.

Despite a much improved 1964 model, Corvair sales fell by nearly 73,000 units that year. This was due to several factors, including the 5-year-old base styling, the lack of a pillarless hardtop (which virtually all competing compact models had), the lack of a V8 engine, and the introduction of the Ford Mustang on April 17, which broke all-new model sales records ( and ate Corvair sales).

Did you know?

A 1964 Chevrolet Corvair appeared in the 1987 science fiction film directed by Susan Seidelman in Making Mr. Right, starring John Malkovich and Ann Magnuson. The car appears a lot in different scenes in the film. One of the most notable appearances is when an emotionally advanced android impersonates the protagonist and hides in a Chevrolet Corvair to escape the lab.

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1964 Chevrolet Corvair: middle-class compact car

Engine2,683 cc (2.7 L) Flat-six Horsepower155 HP (114.08 KW) @ 5000 RPMTorque202 Ft-Lbs (274 NM) @ 3600 RPMWeight2400 lbs | 1088.622 kgDrive TypeRWDEngine LocationFront, longitudinalTransmission4 Manual All synchromesh

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