1961 Chevrolet Corvair 95 Rampside
June 1, 2009 1:30 PM
Throughout most of the 1950s, American cars had one primary feature in common: they were huge! When more compact, economical imports starting flowing into the States from Europe (i.e. Fiat, Renault and Volkswagen) most American manufacturers got busy creating a homegrown alternative. Thus, on October 2, 1959, Chevrolet introduced the 1960 Corvair, a radical departure from the norm. Powered by an aluminum rear-mounted, air-cooled flat six engine, the Corvair represented a breakthrough in unibody construction, and sleek, elegant design, lacking typical American tailfins and chrome. The car also offered technological advances in the form of turbo-charging and true four-wheel independent suspension. In fairly short order, Time magazine put the Corvair on its cover, and Motor Trend named it 1960's Car of the Year.
Originally offered as a 2-door coupe and a 4-door sedan, Chevrolet exploded the Corvair product line for 1961 with the addition of the Monza sedan, station wagon, family van, commercial panel van and two pick-up trucks, the Loadside and the Rampside. The Corvair 95 trucks' name came from their 95-inch wheelbase and featured a two-door cab. Because the load floor of the truck had to be raised to accommodate the rear-mounted engine, Chevrolet offered an alternative to the traditionally tail-gated Loadside with the Rampside, which offered a hinged ramp that opened off the passenger side of the truck bed. Rubber trim kept the paint from scratching, and the Rampside was favored by anyone who hauled rolling cargo.
Despite critical admiration, the Corvair failed to capture critical market share. Both trucks sold well in their first year, but plummeting sales caused Chevrolet to discontinue the Loadside after 1962, and the Rampside was only produced through 1965. Although many blame the Corvair's demise on negative public opinion created by the 1965 publication of Ralph Nader's muckraking "Unsafe at Any Speed," the real truth is a bit more complicated. Only one chapter of the book focused on the Corvair, and Nader's complaints about suspension flaws had already been corrected. GM would later be cleared of all charges by the NHTSA. Ironically, 1966 might have been the Corvair's last model year, but GM kept the line going in limited production to save face.
Jay spied his derelict Rampside by Big Dog Garage, abandoned and in terrible condition. Recognizing a unique and now fairly rare diamond in the rusty rough, Jay acquired the vehicle for $600 and set upon a ground up restoration that began with totally dismantling the pick-up down to the screws. Although Jay and his team made a few adjustments, the restoration is primarily stock, thanks to a few extant companies which manufacture all parts for the still popular Corvair.