Back in the late 1950s, American cars were mostly land yachts with the small segment effectively abandoned by Detroit. However, growing sales of wee vehicles like the Nash Rambler and VW Beetle did not go unnoticed, illustrating a clear demand for something smaller. Ford and Chrysler dipped their respective toes back into the market with less gigantic sedans, essentially scaling their big lineup down 20%. Chevy, on the other hand, went in a dramatically different direction with their new Corvair.
Introduced in 1960, the Corvair moniker was a mashup of Chevy’s Corvette and Bel-Air nameplates. With an air-cooled, flat-6 hanging off the back, fully independent suspension and a monocoque chassis, it was a relatively wild car at the time. Time magazine put Chief Engineer Ed Cole on their cover and Motor Trend named the Corvair “Car of the Year” for 1960. Spanning two generations, nearly 1.8 million Corvairs were built over a nine-year span and to this day, it remains as the only mass-produced, American built vehicle with a rear-mounted, air-cooled motor.