The 1965 Chevrolet Corvair: A Family History

Mom & Dad on their wedding dayMom and dad on their wedding day (1965)*

While sorting through some of the early photographs of my parents I noticed a mysterious white car that kept showing up in various photos. When I was born my parents (as far back as I can remember) owned a red Volkswagen Beetle that I nicknamed “Ladybug” but I couldn’t remember the white car. Curiosity set in and I tried to figure out what type of car they were driving but I didn’t have any luck until a kind stranger on Flickr pointed out that it was a 1965 Chevy Corvair. I immediately started to research the car and I was surprised by what I discovered so I thought I share the info here.

From CNBC – 10 Cars That Failed

“The Chevrolet Corvair was a compact, rear-engine car made during the 1960s. Initially, it was popular with consumers and it sold well. However, in 1965, consumer advocate Ralph Nader released the book Unsafe at Any Speed: The Designed-In Dangers of the American Automobile, which focused on the car’s less attractive attributes, such as suspension problems and the anti-sway bar that management had decided to remove to reduce production costs. 

Nader testified before Congress, calling the Corvair “the leading candidate for the un-safest-car title.” The attention damaged the car’s image beyond repair, and its sales fell by half within one year of the book’s release.”

MCM Honeymoon (1965)Dad and his Corvair with my mom on their honeymoon (1965)

Apparently the research Ralph Nadar used to write Unsafe at Any Speed: The Designed-In Dangers of the American Automobile was based on pre-1965 Corvairs. And in 1965 Chevy corrected some of the major design flaws that were illustrated in Nadar’s book. Chevy was so proud of their updated design and they saturated the market with magazine and television advertisements like the ones posted below in an effort to update their tarnished image and sell more cars.

This “Body by Fisher” ad features a ’65 Corvair in the background

Unfortunately the flashy modern ads and new car design weren’t enough to save the Corvair and Chevy stopped producing the car in 1969. But their campaign must have worked on my dad because he bought the car right before marrying my mother. I suspect it was the cat commercial that got to him. My dad loved Siamese cats and owned two at one time.

Or maybe it was the 1965 “Corvair Song” that persuaded my dad to buy one of the most controversial cars ever produced? Chevy released an album of catchy songs to accompany their 1965 automobiles and the “Corvair Song” has to be one of the best jingles I’ve ever heard. Don’t believe me? Take a listen!

“This baby’s got style
This baby’s got glamor
This baby’s got great cool slick modern lines
If you’re ever gonna ever swing, mister swing
The car is the thing
It’s gotta prove you’re in the groove, and not out in outer space
This baby’s got class
We’re sure to make Joysville
While all the rest are hopelessly square
So take a tip from the all-time hipster
The car with the flair
It’s the all new ’65 Corvair
I mean the brand new ’65 Corvair
I mean the ’65 Corvair!”

*Someone on Facebook mentioned that the car my parents are seen in on their wedding day might not be a Corvair. Haven’t got any proof one way or the other yet. Since I’ve gotten two different opinions on what type of car they’re in, I’ll assume the first car belonged to someone else. I have a few other pics of the car that I’ll try to scan later.

4 Comments Add yours

  1. Thanks for sharing that link, Kate!

  2. thatmidcenturyfella says:

    Great blog! The car they are riding in is not a Corvair. The slight point at the top of the fender and the window lines makes me think Impala.

  3. Thanks! Glad you like the blog and I appreciate your help with identifying the car they were in on their wedding.

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