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The first Corvair
Posted by: JerryM ()
Date: May 14, 2019 08:26PM

Most of us know about May 14 1969, when did the first '60 roll off the assembly line?

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Re: The first Corvair
Posted by: detroitdude ()
Date: May 14, 2019 11:17PM

I thought it was in July of 59
debuting date of Oct.2, 59

Dan Dood
69 Monza Convertible
66 500 Coupe

Detroit, Michigan

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Re: The first Corvair
Posted by: Caveman_1960 ()
Date: May 15, 2019 07:06AM

July 7th is the date the line started up at the Willow Run, Michigan Assembly plant. The first several hundred Corvairs produced had the distinctive "horn slots" in the front panel below the bumper on the driver's side. They had similar indentations on the passenger's side - but no slots. These were originally designed for a horn location behind the front panel. Horns were repositioned behind the headlight buckets but not after GM had pressed out hundreds of panels with the slots cut in them. Rather than scrap these pieces they were installed on the first cars off the line. Many of the promotional shots and videos show 1960 Corvair sedans with the horn slots. Only 5 or 6 of these very early cars survive today. Mine is #375 and was built that first week, perhaps on Wednesday the 8th or Thursday the 9th.

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Re: The first Corvair
Posted by: Phil Dally ()
Date: May 15, 2019 07:38AM

Great picture of that moment in time!!!

Attachments:
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Re: The first Corvair
Posted by: Timothy Shortle ()
Date: May 15, 2019 07:51AM

Were the first Corvairs all 500s or were the 700s mixed in? Were all the horn slot cars 500s?
Were they all MT cars or were PGs mixed in? Does anyone really know?

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Re: The first Corvair
Posted by: ral1963 ()
Date: May 15, 2019 08:41AM

I compiled an article on the Horn Slot cars that also covers some early production info, if you are interested in reading...

Tuesday July 7th, 1959, 1st day of production line start up at Willow Run assembly plant and history is being made. This day will start the run of 1,835,170 Corvairs being produced from July 7th 1959, until production stops on May 14th 1969. The Corvair production would start slow, only averaging close to a dozen cars per hour in the first week, it would build up to 41,471 units produced by the end of October, averaging over 10,000 per month preparing for the Corvair’s debut and initial sales. Prior to July 7th, many Corvair bodies have been built specifically for testing fit, finish appearances, and production process controls. It has been months of planning and testing since the first production Corvair prototype 2was built on January 23rd 1959.

Months of building and stock piling Corvairs started in early July 1959. Even before Corvair pilot production models began to roll out of the assembly areas, the fences surrounding the factory were covered with canvas and all gates were manned by plant security 24 hours per day to keep out prying eyes. Chevrolet wanted no pre-introduction photos or publicity that they did not control. As cars began to be shipped to dealerships, each car was covered down to its wheels and the covers were securely fastened so no one got a sneak preview before national announcement day at dealerships. Dealers were required to keep the cars covered and hid by order of Chevrolet as the Division still owned the cars. Finally, the 1960 new car announcement day arrived on October 2, 1959 and the public got to see and drive this unique automobile.

Back in July, this first week of production saw some unique Corvair sedans pass down the assembly line. These special 500 & 700 series sedans would be identified by many unique pre-production features; however the most significant would be the horn slot cutouts in the driver’s side lower valance panel. These three vertical slots were designed into the driver’s side lower front panel stamping to allow for the horn, which was to be mounted right behind it, in order to be heard better. The passenger side was not “cut” out, however there were 3 matching indentations that mirrored the other side. However, many months before production started, testing determined that the horn was subject to way too much road debris and the final location for the horn was moved up to a safer location behind the headlights. This sheet metal design change occurred all the way back in April of 59, but panels and stampings had already been stockpiled and needed to be used up instead of being scrapped.

It is unknown how long it took Fisher Body to use up the supply for horn slot stamped panels but it appears that anywhere from less than a week to a few weeks would be the most likely time frame. At the present time, there are 6 documented horn slot cars, with only 5 known survivors. The oldest example being the 272nd car assembled and the last being the 872nd Corvair assembled. It is unknown how many were built, but the number is somewhere less than 1499 as a Willow Run built Corvair lower than that build sequence was documented without horn slots. At this point in time we can only be sure there were at least 872, but presumed more.

It is easy to understand the scarcity of the horn slot Corvairs as it is likely that many of these cars were used for various crash testing and other punishment testing by GM. In almost all the historical GM crash and testing footage for the 1960 Corvair sedans, many can be observed as being horn slot cars. Whether or not these were non VIN stamped pilots or production horn slot cars pulled for testing after July 9th, we will never know.
Due to the nature of the first Corvair 500 & 700 series sedans being built as economy cars and lacking a lot of features, many were not kept or preserved like the later Monza and coupes. Part of this is what makes finding low build number Corvairs is such a challenge.

Additionally, some 8,000 Corvairs were stockpiled at the GM's Milford, Mich., Proving Grounds in preparation for the October 1959 launch. It would be safe to assume that many of these were some of the first horn slot cars staged for release date. There was a very freak 100 year storm that dumped so much rain water that a huge area of this parking area was flooded and over 250 cars suffered flood damage from water rising over the rockers and flooding the interiors. Could we have lost horn slot cars before they even got a chance to leave Willow Run?

Rick Loving
Corvair historian & chronicler of useless facts
CORSA
Performance Corvair Group
Chicagoland Corvair Enthusiasts

RAL1963@COMCAST.NET
Just south of Chicago IL

Current Ride
63 Sprint Vert 140/4sp

Past Rides
60 700 Sedan 80hp PG
63 Monza Vert 102hp 4 spd
63 Monza Coupe 140hp 4 spd
63 700 Sedan 80hp 3 spd
64 Monza Vert 110hp 4 spd
64 Monza Coupe 95hp 3 spd
64 Monza Sedan 110hp PG
65 500 Coupe 95hp 4 spd
65 Monza Coupe 110hp PG
65 Corsa Coupe 140hp 4 spd
66 Turbo Coupe 180/4sp
68 Monza Vert 140hp 3 spd

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Re: The first Corvair
Posted by: Phil Dally ()
Date: May 15, 2019 09:10AM

Interesting info about the rainstorm...I learned something.

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Re: The first Corvair
Posted by: ral1963 ()
Date: May 15, 2019 10:38AM

I will add that both 500 and 700 Sedans started rolling off the assembly line together, initial comparison to body sequence to VIN number shows 700's were being build around 3 to 1 over 500 models.

Initial sedans were offered with both 3 speed or powerglide transmissions. The 4 speed trans was not offered until later.

Rick Loving
Corvair historian & chronicler of useless facts
CORSA
Performance Corvair Group
Chicagoland Corvair Enthusiasts

RAL1963@COMCAST.NET
Just south of Chicago IL

Current Ride
63 Sprint Vert 140/4sp

Past Rides
60 700 Sedan 80hp PG
63 Monza Vert 102hp 4 spd
63 Monza Coupe 140hp 4 spd
63 700 Sedan 80hp 3 spd
64 Monza Vert 110hp 4 spd
64 Monza Coupe 95hp 3 spd
64 Monza Sedan 110hp PG
65 500 Coupe 95hp 4 spd
65 Monza Coupe 110hp PG
65 Corsa Coupe 140hp 4 spd
66 Turbo Coupe 180/4sp
68 Monza Vert 140hp 3 spd



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 05/15/2019 10:39AM by ral1963.

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Re: The first Corvair
Posted by: Caveman_1960 ()
Date: May 15, 2019 05:57PM

Two additional points: Most if not all of the flooded '60 Corvairs that were stockpiled at the Milford Proving Ground were "repaired" and shipped to retail dealers. I heard from one former employee who's job it was to clean up and dry out the affected vehicles. No car company could get away with that today!

Also, the optional 4-speed transmission was a paper option in 1960. A few test cars were fitted with a 4-speed box and then loaned out to automotive journalists to increase the hype for the option. I don't think any 1960 Corvairs were built for retail sale with a 4-speed. The original design for the 4-speed included a cast aluminum case - just like the 1960-only aluminum case on the three speed manual transmission. In 1961 the 4-speed was a free flow option but by then the case was cast iron just like all other manual transmission cases for all years Corvairs except for the 1960.

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Re: The first Corvair
Posted by: joelsplace ()
Date: May 16, 2019 11:45AM

Good info Pete. I always thought the 4-speed was available late in the '60 run. Too bad they didn't stick with the aluminum case.

Joel
Northlake, TX
5 Ultravans, Lost count at 100 Corvairs...

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Re: The first Corvair
Posted by: Caveman_1960 ()
Date: May 16, 2019 01:45PM

The reason for the switch to cast iron for transmission cases from aluminum was the availability of the raw material. Full size Chevies had aluminum case powerglides (original design was a cast iron 2-piece case) and Reynolds Aluminum couldn't keep up with demand. Making Corvair cases out of cast iron meant more full-sized full-profit powerglides could be built and sold.

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Re: The first Corvair
Posted by: American Mel ()
Date: May 16, 2019 03:45PM

Caveman_1960 Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Two additional points: Most if not all of the flooded '60 Corvairs that were stockpiled at the Milford Proving Ground were "repaired" and shipped to retail dealers. I heard from one former employee who's job it was to clean up and dry out the affected vehicles. No car company could get away with that today!
>
> Also, the optional 4-speed transmission was a paper option in 1960. A few test cars were fitted with a 4-speed box and then loaned out to automotive journalists to increase the hype for the option. I don't think any 1960 Corvairs were built for retail sale with a 4-speed. The original design for the 4-speed included a cast aluminum case - just like the 1960-only aluminum case on the three speed manual transmission. In 1961 the 4-speed was a free flow option but by then the case was cast iron just like all other manual transmission cases for all years Corvairs except for the 1960.


Which may be why the are so few and far between now.
Maybe they have all rusted away from flood induced corrosion. sad smiley

.
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WA. state, 1 mile south of the Canadian border,
I am not at the end of the world, but you can see it from here.
'66 Monza Coupe - 4spd, 140 Daily driver beater
'67 Monza Vert. - PG, 140 Daily driver beater
'67 A/C Moredoor Monza - 140 4-spd. driver
.
non-vair
'04 Dodge Cummins Quad Dualy, approaching 400K
17'Terry

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Re: The first Corvair
Posted by: caroseiii ()
Date: May 17, 2019 07:48AM

Also the aluminum three speed caused differential failures if the counter gear shaft was not pinned. Mid year cases have a roll pin installed to prevent the shaft from walking out of the case and letting the gear oil leak out. There was probably some concern about the four speed design along these lines but then they redesigned the differential pinion shaft for 1961 which like also set back the four speed release as the trans main shaft had to be redesigned.

Crawford Rose

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Re: The first Corvair
Posted by: Gregs210 ()
Date: May 19, 2019 09:50PM

Full size Powerglide was cast iron until '63. Chevy II used aluminum Powerglide starting in '62.

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Re: The first Corvair
Posted by: junkman ()
Date: May 20, 2019 05:54AM

Not all Powerglide's were cast iron until 1963, because starting in 1962, when the 327 c.i. engine was introduced, GM started shipping them with aluminum powerglide's, along with alternators in place of the standard generator.

I also remember a note in a early Corvair parts book, that there was a change in the edge of the fender where it meets with the top of the door, and that this change effected less than the first 200 cars. That particular parts book had updates that were issued by Chevrolet, and the updates were glued onto the page, covering up the information below.

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Woodstock CT... Located on the Connecticut / Massachusetts border, approximately 6 miles from the center of Southbridge MA. About 45 minutes from Hartford CT. 1 1/2 hours West of Boston MA. Woodstock CT to Los Angeles CA 2,937.1 miles. 1 Mile as the crow flies to Big Bird's nest.

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Re: The first Corvair
Posted by: rainmaker70 ()
Date: May 21, 2019 05:45PM

I scrapped a 61 lakewood with aluminum 3 speed, thought it was strange, it was an early car though.

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