Dynamic Divergence: Driving A Corvair At The End of the World

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photo credit Philip Ruth

It’s been just 6 months since I made the most ridiculous vehicle decision in my life.

Is it really, tho?

I capped a decade of mad-cap vehicle choices with one of the most controversial things to roll on four wheels. Granted, I chose the 2nd generation Corvair, the lesser of the problematic versions of the oddball Chevrolet. I was told, warned, and threatened even, to stay away from the first generation cars and their handling abnormalities. You’d think Ralph Nader was a ghost already the way his diatribes from Unsafe At Any Speed haunted my vehicle search.

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(Found In) Outer Richmond (San Francisco, California): 1965 Chevrolet Corvair Corsa Convertible

IMG_0622It’s weird to be David when your dad is Goliath. Compounding the dilemma is there’s always a series of giant killers out to strike down that object that towers over them. Here’s where we find the Chevrolet Corvair for its 6th Season, first comprehensive re-design standing in full embrace of its most appropriate mission statement.

Gone were the pretenses of being an economy machine. Gone with the wind was any pretense to really run with the pack of other jocks. The Corvair was General Motors first home grown international game player. Too bad dad was withholding of any true affection.

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(Found In) Chinatown (Fresno, California): 1965 Oldsmobile Delta 88 Holiday Hardtop Coupe

IMG_9568Where The Action Is declared ads for the newest Oldsmobile Eighty Eights in more than half a Decade. While there was more magic once you hitched yourself to these new rocket coupes, sedans and convertibles, they held a lot more common with relatives under the General Motors empire as well.

In the shift away from large and in charge chariots being the heart of the market place, where would the premium performance preference lead the super sonic Super 88 replacement series, the Delta 88 throughout its life as Oldsmobiles struggled with being the preferred pride of middle American patriarchy?

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(Found In) Golden Gate (Oakland, California): 1965 Ford Custom 4 Door Sedan

img_4128In the rigorous world of competitive automotive sales, the full-sized Ford Automobile was oft the 2nd most beloved (and in a few cases in the post-war, the most loved) conveyance for Middle America. Ford, however, took to the diversification of size and style classes of Automobiles with zeal at the beginning of the 1960’s more than any other brand from the Big Three.

The Falcon took the lead in compact sales. The re-sized Fairlane usurped the market lock Rambler had on intermediates. The Thunderbird shattered the luxury field wide open with its personalized persona. And then there was of course, The Mustang, scrambling the compass of what Americans thought they wanted in a car in a profound way.Where did that leave the basic big Ford so beloved and nearly solitary in mission a decade before in 1965?

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(Found In) Cragmont (Berkeley, California): 1965 Pontiac GTO

image (31)In the middle Sixties fires shot among brands, the Pontiac GTO probably ranks a close second to one of the most potent bullets of the decade. Like the Ford Mustang, it satisfied a thirst for wild abandon behind smaller, sportier, more powerful machines from Detroit’s big three. The GTO maximized profits even further than the Mustang since it shared its humble body with other mid-sized Pontiacs, which, in reality, meant it shared quite a bit with offerings from Chevrolet, Oldsmobile and Buick as well.

Pontiac, holding court as the third most popular brand in America in the mid 60’s, saw that its latest crowned performance prince became the winner above all others when it came to the image of being the best jock on the road. For its sophomore season, it secured its ranks on the Varsity team of performance cars in the United States.

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(Found In) Richmond District (San Francisco, California): 1965 Buick Skylark Convertible

image (19)As we head into Convertible season, we look back 50+ years to the peak of the Convertible Market. All American brands minus soon to exit the sales field Studebaker offered convertibles. From petite to ponderous, the choices abounded for budgets stuck in the basement all the way to Bergdorfs.

Buick didn’t stay out of the game at all, offering convertibles in all series except the super exclusive Riviera for ’65. Prize of the smaller lines however was the delightful, spritely and spirited bird named Skylark. For those looking for a pinch of personal luxury in a more petite (if not by as much in the recent past) the Skylark proved the perfect pie to consume on the interstates.

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(Found In) Cragmont (Berkeley, California): 1965 Plymouth Barracuda 2 Door Coupe

image (14).jpgAlthough it took the Aries initiative to market first, the Plymouth Barracuda didn’t exact run away with the fame or fortune of its most direct rival, the Ford Mustang. Innovative in its own ways, the Barracuda struck a bit of cult following above and beyond rampant Mustang mania.

It’s brave Valiant roots were far closer to the surface compared to the farce that the Mustang wasn’t a Falcon in drag, for one. Given the great bones that the most minature of Mopars available in the US contributed to its Ponycar offering meant that substance went hand in hand with new style for this most aquatic of horses.

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(Found In) Northgate (Oakland, California): 1965 Oldsmobile F-85 Cutlass Holiday Coupe

12387914_10153197929942201_1211070581_n At the center of the 1960’s, Oldsmobile was starting to find out Where The Action Is.  Swinging at the automotive discotheque with a full line of models of in sizes medium and large, Oldsmobile was poised to gain ground on the lessons they had learned during the first part of the 1960’s.

With two versions of their next generation Rocket V8’s soon capable of quite savage outputs, Oldsmobile, and their F-85/Cutlass line in particular, was ready to build a legacy that would storm the gates of the domestic family market. They were amply equipped to dominate it for the next 20 years. With a reputation for excellent quality, engineering and more than a minor bent towards total performance, the budding Cutlass line soon came to be synonymous with Middle Class Success.

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(Found In) Outer Sunset (San Francisco, California): 1965 Ford Fairlane 500 Sport Coupe

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Success for various Detroit-bred cars wasn’t unlike the track record of another factory in the Detroit Metro area in the 1960’s. Yesterday’s star, in a quick flash of 3 years could become the season bench warmer. Like The Contours of Motown, by the end of 1965, the mid-sized Ford Fairlane was singing “Do You Love Me?” to American Audiences for all the wrong reasons.

In 1962, The Fairlane was the smash hit nobody expected, just like The Contours. Priced cheaper than General Motors’s not as roomy and sometimes trouble prone “B-O-P Luxury Compacts,” the most upsized of Falcons in Junior Galaxie 500 finery walked away with sales victories.  Nearly 300,000 went out the door for the introductory year. With a new, revvy and willing small block V8, it seemed like nothing but hits would follow for the Fairlane.

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(Found In) Visitacion Valley (San Francisco): 1965 Buick Riviera

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The Buick Riviera was already sort of a legend as it rolled off assembly lines for the 3rd season of production. The crisp, clean lines that married Bill Mitchell’s vision of Ferrari meets Rolls Royce had seduced a diverse cross section of discriminating buyers. Where direct rival, the Ford Thunderbird, promoted a more inviting, welcoming and decadent private world; the Riviera promoted hushed exclusivity that doubled up on the Buick brand cachet.

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