An artfully executed appreciation of Chevrolet’s immortal Corvair

I don’t know. It just seems that among business leaders today, too many of them are willing to go for a momentary quick buck rather than engage in true, visionary leadership. That certainly wasn’t the case when the great Ed Cole was a top engineer at General Motors before becoming general manager at Chevrolet and later, president of GM. Cole was largely responsible for the OHV Cadillac V-8 of 1949 and the fabled Chevrolet small-block V-8 of 1955, yet is was his leadership with an entire design of car that merits special recognition. Cole green-lighted development of what became the Chevrolet Corvair during the mid-1950s. It still stands today as one of the most innovative mass-produced automobiles in American history. In the 1950s, when domestic cars were highly orthodox in design, Cole approved a car that incorporated a rear-mounted engine, a transaxle, horizontally opposed cylinders, a semi-independent rear suspension that utilized swing axles, and air cooling, all in one swoop. When’s the last time an automaker tried something that radically new? Those who understand the Corvair praise its litany of advances and sheer innovation. The car deserved a serious work of history. With this book, it gets more than that.

Corvair Style is a respectful, affectionate look at these fascinating, sometimes underappreciated cars. The author is Richard Lentinello, executive editor of Hemmings Motor News and editor of Hemmings Classic Car, whose previous volumes have examined the glory of Cadillac and the righteousness of unrestored, original cars of the past. He clearly loves Corvairs. This book, totaling 196 softbound pages, is a gathering of individual looks at Corvairs from each model year – and more importantly, the stories of owners who preserve, drive and venerate them. Okay, I worked for the guy, but it’s essential for me to point out that Richard is an exceptionally gifted photographer of historic cars, and overall, the imagery in this book is outstanding. I got to know John Fitch, the American road racing legend and designer of Lime Rock Park in Connecticut, through my own work at Hemmings. So it was gratifying to see the Fitch Sprint, which me modified from a production Corvair, in these pages along with a Monza coupe personalized by longtime GM styling chief Bill Mitchell. If you’re fascinated by automotive history, you will like this book, which is available for $35 plus shipping from the author’s website.

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