Column: Can you believe it? Not everyone wanted to own a Corvair

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, February 1, 2006

Al Batt, Tales from Exit 22

Thunderbird, Cougar, Fury, Imperial, Firebird, Barracuda, Mustang, Comet and Falcon.

They were the days of the great names in automobiles.

Why, even Rambler had the Marlin, Rogue, and Rebel.

Then there was the Chevrolet Corvair.

There is no sports team nicknamed the Corvairs.

The Corvair could just have well as been named the Cow or the Chicken.

My nephew Neal gave me a Corvair for Christmas last year.

It was a 1:18 scale model of the 1969 Corvair Monza.

It’s the third Corvair I have owned in my life.

I’d barely turned into a taxpayer when I came to own my first Corvair.

I bought one for slightly more money that I could afford.

I was enticed into buying the car due to the mistaken belief that Corvair was a Welsh word meaning &8220;chick magnet.&8221;

I bought one to drive and then I bought a second one for parts.

After I had the second one, I couldn’t remember which one I had gotten for the parts, so I drove both of them.

I have never owned a Yugo or a Ford Pinto, but I was a two-time owner of a Corvair.

I called one Thunder and the other Lightning.

My two Corvairs, both of which I kept just for the parts, were the wretched excess of General Motors.

The flotsam and jetsam of Chevrolet.

My Corvairs were beaters, junkers, jalopies, clunkers, buckets of bolts.

When I filled the gas tank, I doubled the value of the car.

Kids would run screaming when offered a ride in one of my Corvairs.

A mechanic, who turned pale when I had my Corvair towed to him, told me that he hadn’t seen such a large pile of dung since he stopped working for the elephant trainer.

I did get great mileage from my Corvairs.

That’s because they spent more time on the hook of a tow truck that they did in self-propulsion.

They appeared to feel right at home behind a tow truck.

I know they were happier there.

My Corvairs made no sudden moves.

The Corvairs I owned were interesting machines that came with a lot of extras.

Tires, seats and a steering wheel.

This automotive artifact was the perfect car for my lifestyle.

I had less style than money and I had no money.

I liked to fill the car with friends.

The more the merrier.

It made pushing my Corvair that much easier.

They had that old car smell.

Most of it was from the Ben Gay that was used to soothe the sore muscles contracted from pushing a Corvair.

I neutralized the odor by hanging pine-scented, tree-shaped deodorizers from everything capable of being hung from.

I once was able to see a car and its identification would jump out at me.

The cars were distinct individuals.

They had character.

I could tell at a glance what make and model they were.

Now most cars look pretty much alike.

They are cookie cutters.

I have to walk right up to one and read the name on it.

I can’t tell if most of them are coming or going.

The Corvair was a rear-engine automobile produced by General Motors from 1960 to 1969.

It had an air-cooled engine.

My car had enough holes rusted in the floor that it had an air-cooled driver.

As the wind whistled, the floor mats flapped in the breeze.

The trunk was in the front.

Not everyone wanted to own a Corvair.

There was a lot of room on that float in the parade.

The Corvair was a way that a driver could show others that he wasn’t making all that much money.

Motor Trend Magazine named the Corvair its &8220;Car of the Year&8221; in 1960.

I think that was in the humor section of their swimsuit issue.

I could start my Corvair and then remove the key.

A young lawyer named Ralph Nader wrote a book called Unsafe at Any Speed in which he presented a dramatic case study about the Corvair and its purported great tendency to roll over.

This book caused people to think being safe meant not running with scissors, not tugging on Superman’s cape, and not driving a Corvair.

Published in 1965 it caused the sales of the Corvair to plummet.

A 1972 National Highway Traffic Safety Administration safety commission exonerated the Corvair and declared it no more unsafe than similar vehicles of the time.

Today, we have cars that talk to us.

My Corvair had an AM radio.

The radio didn’t work.

The Corvair wasn’t a car that talked.

But it was a good listener.

(Hartland resident Al Batt’s column appears on Wednesdays and Sundays.)