Monday, September 19, 2016

Corvair Insurance: 1962 Chevrolet Chevy II

The 1960 model year found each of America's "Big Three" automobile makers introducing "compact" cars (in the American sense at the time) in light of increading sales of smaller imported cars such as the Volkswagen Beetle as well as American Motors' Rambler and Studebaker's Lark.

Chevrolet's entry was the Corvair, which I wrote about here, a radical (for the USA) design featuring a rear-mounted air cooled motor.  Shortly after it was introduced, Chevrolet management realized that Corvair sales would be eclipsed by the conventional Ford Falcon.  So, as this Wikipedia entry reports, a crash program was started to produce a car that could compete with the Falcon.  The entry quotes stylist Clare MacKichan regarding how rapidly the design had to be productionized ... a matter of around 18 months instead of the usual three or four years.

The first-generation Chevy II (1962-1965 model years) was almost exactly the same size as the Corvair and Falcon.  Respective wheelbases were 110, 108 and 109.5 inches (2,794, 2,743 and 2,781 mm) and overall lengths were 183, 180 and 181 inches (4,648, 4,572 and 4,593 mm).

Back around 1960, entry level American cars were seldom very exciting from a design standpoint.  The Chevy II fit that pattern well, being bland and having no distinct character -- though the same could easily be said about the Falcon as well.


1962 Chevy II four-door sedan.  The American tail fin era was in the process of winding down, so the design is that of an unadorned "three box" style.  Greenhouse windows are large and the hood and trunk lid are about at fender level, this giving the car an airy look.  The side strip relates well to both the headlight and tail light ends of the fender.

This side view of a Chevy II hardtop provides a better look at the C-pillar that is wider at the top than on its bottom.  This is a subtle touch then helps to give the greenhouse a lighter appearance.  The thin roof is another important contributor to that effect.  That curved character line that passes around the rear wheel opening and finally touches the upper edge of the back bumper is not strictly necessary.

One nice feature of the relentlessly horizontal front end theme is the lack of quad headlights.  So far as I'm concerned, the American variety of quad headlights circa 1957-1970 almost always degraded a car's design.

Chevy II's rear design is simple, but enough in the way of insets and other metal folding details adds interest to what otherwise might have been a visually sterile zone.  Still, the design does not excite.

1 comment:

emjayay said...

As a kid I thought Falcons were pretty nicely styled and that the copycat conventional Chevy II's were not. The Falcon is nicely done and smooth and rounded and doesn't look as cheap as it was where the Chevy II has a lot of picky pointless angles and detail lines that do make it look cheap. The Falcon interiors were far nicer too, at least if you got the deluxe model and added a padded dash.

Cheapo models of smaller and full size Fords, Chevys and Plymouths were still seriously decontented in those days. Kind of like the current cheapskate Honda Fit which even has even less sound insulation than the rest, although by going up one model you get a whole lot of goodies for not much more.