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Tue Jan 19, 2021, 01:59 PM

Killer Cars-No they weren't

Listed as the most famous people killers of the 60's (Corvair) and 70's (Pinto) were both basically victims of a smear campaign by overly litigious ambulance chasers. The Corvair suffered a suspension effect called "camber-tuck" which it at the time shared with all VW products and also the highly esteemed Porsche product line. The Pinto was a radical change in car design-Ford aimed to produce a car weighing under 2000 pounds and costing under 2000 dollars. They wound up producing over 3 million of them. 27 people died after other cars rear-ended them at high rates of speed.

Here's what Wikipedia says about the actual designs:

Corvair:
A 1972 safety commission report conducted by Texas A&M University concluded that the 1960–1963 Corvair possessed no greater potential for loss of control than its contemporary competitors in extreme situations.[25] The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) issued a press release in 1972 describing the findings of NHTSA testing from the previous year. NHTSA had conducted a series of comparative tests in 1971 studying the handling of the 1963 Corvair and four contemporary cars—a Ford Falcon, Plymouth Valiant, Volkswagen Beetle, and Renault Dauphine—along with a second-generation Corvair (with its completely redesigned, independent rear suspension). The 143-page report reviewed NHTSA's extreme-condition handling tests, national crash-involvement data for the cars in the test as well as General Motors' internal documentation regarding the Corvair's handling.[29] NHTSA went on to contract an independent advisory panel of engineers to review the tests. This review panel concluded that "the 1960–63 Corvair compares favorably with contemporary vehicles used in the tests [...] the handling and stability performance of the 1960–63 Corvair does not result in an abnormal potential for loss of control or rollover, and it is at least as good as the performance of some contemporary vehicles both foreign and domestic."

Pinto:
A Rutgers Law Review article by former UCLA law professor Gary T. Schwartz (see Section 7.3 NHTSA Investigation above), examined the fatality rates of the Pinto and several other small cars of the time period. He noted that fires, and rear-end fires, in particular, are a very small portion of overall auto fatalities. At the time only 1% of automobile crashes would result in fire and only 4% of fatal accidents involved fire, and only 15% of fatal fire crashes are the result of rear-end collisions.[138] When considering the overall safety of the Pinto, subcompact cars as a class have a generally higher fatality risk. Pintos represented 1.9% of all cars on the road in the 1975–76 period. During that time, the car represented 1.9% of all "fatal accidents accompanied by some fire." This implies the Pinto was average for all cars and slightly above average for its class.[139] When all types of fatalities are considered, the Pinto was approximately even with the AMC Gremlin, Chevrolet Vega, and Datsun 510. It was significantly better than the Datsun 1200/210, Toyota Corolla, and VW Beetle.[138] The safety record of the car in terms of fire was average or slightly below average for compacts, and all cars respectively. This was considered respectable for a subcompact car. Only when considering the narrow subset of rear-impact, fire fatalities for the car were somewhat worse than the average for subcompact cars. While acknowledging this is an important legal point, Schwartz rejected the portrayal of the car as a firetrap.[140]

Both were radical design changes and change brings resistance. I dreamed of a Corvair but my Mom had heard of the "death trap" and begged me not to buy one. My family owned more than one Pinto and loved them. If I could buy either at a good price and condition today I would do it tomorrow.

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Arrow 31 replies Author Time Post
Reply Killer Cars-No they weren't (Original post)
flotsam Jan 2021 OP
malthaussen Jan 2021 #1
sweetloukillbot Jan 2021 #7
malthaussen Jan 2021 #28
lagomorph777 Jan 2021 #15
ProfessorGAC Jan 2021 #16
Phoenix61 Jan 2021 #2
Hoyt Jan 2021 #3
MoonlitKnight Jan 2021 #31
pwb Jan 2021 #4
sop Jan 2021 #5
gibraltar72 Jan 2021 #6
flotsam Jan 2021 #9
MineralMan Jan 2021 #8
flotsam Jan 2021 #11
MineralMan Jan 2021 #12
onethatcares Jan 2021 #14
flotsam Jan 2021 #20
onethatcares Jan 2021 #21
JustABozoOnThisBus Jan 2021 #25
ironflange Jan 2021 #10
Best_man23 Jan 2021 #13
ProfessorGAC Jan 2021 #17
jmowreader Jan 2021 #18
JustABozoOnThisBus Jan 2021 #23
NutmegYankee Jan 2021 #30
msongs Jan 2021 #19
bluecollar2 Jan 2021 #22
JustABozoOnThisBus Jan 2021 #24
bluecollar2 Jan 2021 #26
hunter Jan 2021 #27
NutmegYankee Jan 2021 #29

Response to flotsam (Original post)

Tue Jan 19, 2021, 02:04 PM

1. My favorite car was a '76 Pinto.

Well after the "death trap" years, of course.

-- Mal

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Response to malthaussen (Reply #1)

Tue Jan 19, 2021, 02:13 PM

7. I had a 79 for my first car

A friend had a gutless 79 Mustang that I think had the same engine.

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Response to sweetloukillbot (Reply #7)

Wed Jan 20, 2021, 11:53 AM

28. I would have liked a Mustang.

A real one, though, not one of the travesties Ford issued in the 70's. I kind of liked the idea of a Pinto as a "Pony car," even if it had a four-cylinder engine. I had the hatchback, which was so damned convenient...

-- Mal

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Response to malthaussen (Reply #1)

Tue Jan 19, 2021, 03:47 PM

15. I had a '74.

Blew its transmission out twice, but I may have contributed to that with my speeds.

I never blew up.

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Response to lagomorph777 (Reply #15)

Tue Jan 19, 2021, 03:52 PM

16. That's The One I Had

Mine was the Runabout. Wasn't a hatchback. Just a little trunk. But that meant I had a rear deck. Made it easier & cheaper to put the stereo speakers.
Mine was an automatic.
Drove it 4 years. Sold it to a cousin. Drove another 6 or 7. No major problems for either of us.

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Response to flotsam (Original post)

Tue Jan 19, 2021, 02:06 PM

2. That is a very skewed review of the Pinto.

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Response to flotsam (Original post)

Tue Jan 19, 2021, 02:07 PM

3. Learned to drive in a Corvair. I think that's why I still prefer small cars. I liked it, except for

the burnt oil smell that seeped into the interior. Had to leave the vent window open to breathe.

Looked like this:

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Response to Hoyt (Reply #3)

Wed Jan 20, 2021, 12:17 PM

31. I also learned to drive in one

A 61 Corvair. Bought it for $400 when I was 15. Sold it for $2000 two years later.

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Response to flotsam (Original post)

Tue Jan 19, 2021, 02:09 PM

4. Big oil did not like the fuel efficient cars.

They bought patents on high milage carburators back then to keep them off the market. I liked the Corvair.

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Response to flotsam (Original post)

Tue Jan 19, 2021, 02:10 PM

5. Pity, we could have been spared Ralph Nader's four presidential bids.

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Response to flotsam (Original post)

Tue Jan 19, 2021, 02:11 PM

6. Had three Pintos in my lifetime.

all good cars for what they were, cheap practical cars. Never had a Corvair but friends did. Company I worked for had a Corvair rampside truck. It did become evil handling if pushed beyond its limits. But then again it did what it was supposed to.

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Response to gibraltar72 (Reply #6)

Tue Jan 19, 2021, 02:25 PM

9. I was a dune buggy guy

and my first had a '63 chassis meaning swingarm. You bolted on a camber compensator-basically an anti-sway bar and recognized the bitch would oversteer-and we liked that shit! Through my life I drove dozens of sizes and steering schemes for everything thru go karts thru 18 wheelers with plenty of skid-steer and heavy equipment. All it ever took was sitting and looking at the controls for that exact vehicle-all most people can take is changing from a Ford to a Chevy, I could change from a Bobcat to a Freightliner 10 Wheel roll off.

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Response to flotsam (Original post)

Tue Jan 19, 2021, 02:20 PM

8. In 1969 or early 1970, I bought a 1960 red Corvair two-door.

It had 60,000 miles on it. Thanks to Ralph Nader's muckraking book, I was able to buy it from its original owner for just $100.

I drove it for about six months while attending college. It drove well, looked pretty cool, I thought, and served me well, until I found a 1959 Austin Healey Bugeye Sprite for sale in a barn that I could buy for $200. So, I sold the Corvair to another student for $200 and bought the Sprite, which was roadworthy in about three hours, once I replaced the defunct fuel pump and adjusted the SU carburetors. Everything else worked fine.

The Corvair, though, had proven to be a reliable, trouble-free vehicle for me to commute to campus from my rented house about 10 miles away. It handled just fine when I drove it. It went to San Francisco one weekend on twisty Highway 1 along the coast. I knew it wasn't a sports car, so I did not attempt to set any time records on the drive. Not once did its handling alarm me in any way.

Ralph Nader's book destroyed the marketability of an innovative car from General Motors. His book was wrong. The car was a safe as any of the other Detroit compact cars on the market at that time. I owned a 1960 Ford Falcon at another time. I owned a 1959 Studebaker Lark, another new "compact car." The Lark was an enormous disappointment, and ended up being abandoned on a ski trip to Lake Tahoe. The engine threw a rod. I took a Greyhound bus home. The Falcon was OK, but completely unremarkable. It was, however, one of the easiest cars to work on I ever owned. The Corvair never developed any problems while I owned it.

The Bugeye Sprite? Well that was an extremely fun car to own. Its convertible top an sliding side windows leaked rather a good bit, and the electrical system was erratic, to be kind. But, boy was it fun, and young women always seemed eager to get into it to go for a top-down ride in my cute little red car, so that was a bonus, to be sure.

The Corvair was a nice car, though.

So, Thanks, Ralph, for helping me buy it for so little money. No thanks for helping GW Bush win in 2000. That sucked. Big time! I will never forgive you for that catastrophe.

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Response to MineralMan (Reply #8)

Tue Jan 19, 2021, 02:31 PM

11. Have you heard of the new three position Lucas switch?

Off-Intermittent-Fail?

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Response to flotsam (Reply #11)

Tue Jan 19, 2021, 02:46 PM

12. That was always the case.

New, old, it didn't matter. The Sprite had a habit of the headlights just turning off suddenly. If you tapped on the headlight circle around the ignition switch, that would usually turn them back on.

Hail Lucas, King of Darkness!

However, what I did was replace that switch with three toggle switches and a starter button. That always worked just fine.

I wasn't about restoring a $200 car. I was all about having fun driving it. I ended up selling it for $400 to a guy, who gave it to his teenaged son. The son promptly skidded it off a twisty road a few days later and the car went down a steep embankment. One more Sprite went to the junkyard forever. What a waste! The kid was OK, but the car was toast. Daddy came and asked if I would change the sales date on the car title, since he had not bothered to transfer it.

"Nope! Sorry, I already reported the sale to the DMV. You're on your own, dude. Glad your boy is OK, though."

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Response to flotsam (Reply #11)

Tue Jan 19, 2021, 03:45 PM

14. Lucas, the man

who invented darkness.

His electrics were in Triumph motorcycles and I will vouch for his prowess..

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Response to onethatcares (Reply #14)

Tue Jan 19, 2021, 04:50 PM

20. As in "What the Hell is a Zener diode? N/T

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Response to flotsam (Reply #20)

Tue Jan 19, 2021, 06:48 PM

21. among other tricks like

cramming two sets of points into a circle that would normally fit 1 1/2 set along with a condenser for each cylinder. And a lighting system that never worked properly, no matter what.

Geez, it's been years since I heard the term "Zener Diode". Thanks for bringing back a ton of memories.

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Response to flotsam (Reply #20)

Tue Jan 19, 2021, 07:23 PM

25. You mean the super-hot heat sink near the headlight ...

... on my old Triumph Bonneville?

It was an odd setup, but somehow it worked.

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Response to flotsam (Original post)

Tue Jan 19, 2021, 02:30 PM

10. We drove a '76 Pinto for several years and loved it

It had the V6 in it so it just went like spit.

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Response to flotsam (Original post)

Tue Jan 19, 2021, 03:14 PM

13. The Pinto is a good candidate for a Restomod

For the non-car enthusiasts, a "restomod" is when an old car is restored with a modern engine and drivetrain. For example, a 1957 Chevy can be restored with an engine and transmission from a 2018 Corvette.

Ford Pintos can still be found at a decent price and many times in good condition. The late model (2016-present) turbo four cylinder Mustang engine along with transmission swapped into an old Pinto would give it new life and all around performance (including fuel and emissions) it never had when it was new. One example of such a modification:



To restore a Pinto without breaking the bank, you have to find a really complete, rust free car, as the availability of restoration parts is quite limited.

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Response to Best_man23 (Reply #13)

Tue Jan 19, 2021, 03:57 PM

17. A Guy In My Neighborhood...

...(high school & college years) developed a successful side business doing that with Chevy Vegas.
He put a Jag V12 in one. Had to drop the seat back, extend the steering co!umn, etc.
One he kept was so tricked out with gauges and dials, I looked like the cockpit of a 747!
He put a 442 motor in that one.

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Response to flotsam (Original post)

Tue Jan 19, 2021, 04:05 PM

18. The Corvair's problem was its dealers and buyers

GM designed the Corvair to be a "Volkswagen killer." Of course, they started out with an incorrect assumption.

The reasonable man, if asked why people were buying Volkswagens, would say "people want a small car that looks different, is fun to drive and gets good gas mileage."

The GM executive, if asked the same question, would say "it's very obvious that people want a car with the engine in the back." So, that's what they made.

One thing must be clearly understood about cars with the engine in the back: they are very, very fussy about having more tire in the rear than there is in the front. You can go about this two ways: put bigger tires on the back, like Porsches and Italian supercars have, or put more air in the back tires, like a VW has. (I remember once going to Pep Boys to have tires put on my Bug because Bugs use a very uncommon size and they were the only ones who had any. I told the guy at the counter, "make sure you put 18 pounds of air in the front tires and 28 in the rear." The dude looked at me like I was nuts, so I showed him the tire pressure placard which said to do that exact thing.) Volkswagen dealership people were specially trained to make sure people knew this car was unlike most other cars and the tire pressure is critical, and people did what was required. GM dealership people assumed the Corvair was like any other car and didn't stress the importance of this, and that caused a LOT of accidents.

So it's very simple: IF the tires on a Corvair are correctly inflated, the car is as safe as any other car of the era. If there's the same PSI at both ends of the car, the thing is a disaster waiting to happen.

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Response to jmowreader (Reply #18)

Tue Jan 19, 2021, 07:19 PM

23. Don't forget early VW spare tires. Had to check tire pressure often.

A tube from the spare tire's valve was used to pressurize the windshield washer fluid. It worked, and gave a good indication that the spare was low.

That, plus a reserve tank lever instead of a gas gauge, made for a strange car. And, finding reverse was not for beginners.

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Response to JustABozoOnThisBus (Reply #23)

Wed Jan 20, 2021, 12:11 PM

30. That lever burned so many Americans.

It said "Auf" and "Zu", and we thought Auf meant Off, when it actually means On. So people would suck that tank dry and run out of gas.

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Response to flotsam (Original post)

Tue Jan 19, 2021, 04:07 PM

19. had a black corvair convertable with red interior. all the cool malt shop kids loved it! nt

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Response to flotsam (Original post)

Tue Jan 19, 2021, 07:15 PM

22. I once got a speeding ticket in a Pinto...

True story....

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Response to bluecollar2 (Reply #22)

Tue Jan 19, 2021, 07:20 PM

24. You gotta slow down in the parking lot, bluecollar. nt

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Response to JustABozoOnThisBus (Reply #24)

Tue Jan 19, 2021, 07:25 PM

26. Downhill

280 northbound in San Bruno...

Had it floored...

Girlfriend's "behaviour" to blame...

She appeared "angelic" as the officer wrote the citation.

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Response to flotsam (Original post)

Tue Jan 19, 2021, 08:09 PM

27. It was misery driving my mildly schizophrenic grandmother around in her Pinto.

I refused to buy her cigarettes, but while I was living at home I couldn't refuse driving her to the nearest place that sold cigarettes, which was seven miles away.

That was after my grandfather died. They were both chain smokers and the car reeked. The white interior trim was sort of a dirty tan color.

My grandmother eventually sold her Pinto to a Mexican guy who occasionally worked on my parent's small farm.

It's my personal opinion that car culture must die.

I resent every car I've been forced by this society to own.

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Response to flotsam (Original post)

Wed Jan 20, 2021, 12:07 PM

29. VW was saved by the lack of performance from the engine.

The under powered bug was hard to get into situations where the wheel camber could go wildly positive. When it did roll over, the frame was robust and the car could often be flipped back over and driven away.

My family owned both corvairs and bugs. The corvair was rolled on an offramp from the PA Turnpike and totaled. The bug rusted out.

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