Unsafe at Any Speed: The Designed-In Dangers of the American Automobile – Ralph Nader (1965)

Unsafe at Any Speed: The Designed-In Dangers of the American Automobile by Ralph Nader, published in 1965, is a book accusing car manufacturers of resistance to the introduction of safety features such as seat belts, and their general reluctance to spend money on improving safety. It was a pioneering work containing substantial references and material from industry insiders. It was a best seller in non-fiction in 1966. Unsafe at Any Speed is primarily known for its statements about the Chevrolet Corvair, although only one of the book’s eight chapters covers the Corvair. It also deals with the use of tires and tire pressure being based on comfort rather than on safety, and the automobile industry disregarding technically based criticism. … ‘The Sporty Corvair’. The subject for which the book is probably most widely known, the rear-engined Chevrolet Corvair, is covered in Chapter 1—’The Sporty Corvair-The One-Car Accident’. This relates to the first (1960–1964) models that had a swing-axle suspension design which was prone to ‘tuck under’ in certain circumstances. To make up for the cost-cutting lack of a front stabilizer bar (anti-roll bar), Corvairs required tire pressures which were outside of the tire manufacturers’ recommended tolerances. … Despite the fact that proper tire pressures were more critical than for contemporaneous designs, this was not clearly stated to Chevrolet salespeople and Corvair owners. According to the standards laid down by the relevant industry body, the Tire and Rim Association, the pressures also rendered the front tires overloaded when there were two or more passengers on board. An unadvertised at-cost option (#696) included upgraded springs and dampers, front anti-roll bars and rear-axle-rebound straps to prevent tuck-under. Aftermarket kits were also available, such as the EMPI Camber Compensator, for the knowledgeable owner. The suspension was modified for 1964 models, with inclusion of a standard front anti-roll bar and a transverse-mounted rear spring. In 1965, the totally redesigned four-link, fully independent rear suspension maintained a constant camber angle at the wheels. Corvairs from 1965 were not prone to the formerly characteristic tuck-under crashes. …”
NY Times: 50 Years Ago, ‘Unsafe at Any Speed’ Shook the Auto World
Unsafe at any speed? Hagerty drives Ralph Nader’s own Corvair (Video)

About 1960s: Days of Rage

Bill Davis - 1960s: Days of Rage
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