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#30790 of 32000 Re: Question about Corvair influence [xrunner2]
Jan 17, 2013 (9:57 am)
That's simply not true.
The "Fairlane Group" was a team of ten executives assembled by Lee Iacocca to explore how Ford could tap the youth market, which was projected to grow dramatically in the 1960s.
When the radical-for-Detroit Corvair sedan appeared in the fall of 1959, it was whipped in sales by the utterly conventional Ford Falcon. GM was seriously disappointed in the Corvair's initial sales performance.
The Corvair Monza show car appeared in the spring of 1960, and was approved for production for the remainder of the 1960 model year. The first Monza was a specially trimmed Corvair coupe with bucket seats. It was a big hit, and for the 1961 model year, the Monza was the most popular Corvair model.
This was a huge surprise to Detroit in general, and GM in particular. The top-of-the-line Corvair, with bucket seats, nice interior trim and upgraded exterior trim, was the most popular model. GM had planned the Corvair as a small, economy model, as its mantra was that "small cars were cheap cars." People who bought small cars were not thought to be interested in style or looks, and given the success of late 1950s Ramblers, one could hardly blame GM for making that conclusion.
The Monza had (temporarily, as it turned out), saved the Corvair. As Hal Sperlich (who was then at Ford) later said, GM turned a failure into a success with the Monza.
Ford scrambled to keep up with the 1961 Falcon Futura, a specially trimmed, bucket-seat version of the Falcon two-door sedan. The 1963 1/2 Falcon Sprint convertible and hardtop were additional responses to the Monza.
The original Monza showed the Fairlane Group that there was a large market for a small, sporty, but not very expensive, car. Lackluster sales of the specially trimmed Falcons, however, showed that Ford needed to offer more than a Falcon with bucket seats and a different roofline. As Sperlich later said, putting a different roofline and bucket seats on the prosaic Falcon was like "putting falsies on grandma."
In the early 1960s, the popularly priced European imports that still sold reasonably well (import sales had essentially collapsed when the Big Three compacts debuted in 1960) were the VW and various British two-seat sports cars. The VW as an economy car, while Ford knew that the market for something on the order of a MG was too limited by its standards.
Reaction to its Mustang I showcar, which was a radical, two-seat sports car, confirmed this. Iacocca noted that the real buffs loved it, but they were not a large part of the market at that time (or today, for that matter). The Monza showed Ford which direction to take. The failure of the special-edition Falcons showed that Ford needed something more than a tarted-up Falcon.
There's a very good chance that, without the success of the first Monza, the Fairlane Group would not have been able to push through the original Mustang.
Read Mustang Genesis by Robert Fria and The Reckoning by David Halberstam to obtain a complete account of the Monza's influence on Ford's actions during this time period. The first Monza was a hugely influential car in early 1960s Detroit.
#30792 of 32000 Re: Question about Corvair influence [fintail]
Jan 17, 2013 (10:07 am)
I don't know if I can really buy a direct Corvair -> Mustang link either. I see the Corvair as much more similar to European cars - more modern and bleeding edge. The Mustang was of course just a rebodied Falcon, which wasn't exactly high technology. The Monza coupe might have shown there was a market for small sporty American cars, but I don't know if the same people bought both it and the Mustang.
Agreed. The Corvair was more like GM's VW Beetle or Karmann Ghia. The Mustang doesn't really have much resemblance other than being "sporty".
#30793 of 32000 Re: Question about Corvair influence [tlong]
Jan 17, 2013 (10:24 am)
Ford wasn't copying the Corvair's drivetrain layout - it was copying the concept of a stylish compact coupe with bucket seats, console, and up-level exterior and interior trim. That was a radical concept for Detroit at that time.
The general consensus in Detroit, prior to the debut of the Monza, was that small cars were primarily purchased by people too poor/cheap/dumb to buy a "real" (meaning, full-size) car.
If you wanted style, you were supposed to buy an Impala or Galaxie hardtop coupe with all of the trimmings.
#30794 of 32000 Re: Question about Corvair influence [keystonecarfan]
Jan 17, 2013 (10:35 am)
if you're going to be that general then the Corvair was actually GM copying the VW Type 1 "Beetle."
#30795 of 32000 Re: Question about Corvair influence [bpizzuti]
Jan 17, 2013 (10:45 am)
The Corvair part of the equation is the Monza, not just the Corvair.
Really, articles have been written about the Monza concept (deluxe trim, bucket seats in a compact car) influencing the rest of Detroit, for decades. I mean, such articles have been around for decades.
#30796 of 32000 Re: Question about Corvair influence [uplanderguy]
Jan 17, 2013 (10:45 am)
Yeah, but who wrote those articles, the GM PR department?
All cars influence each other to various extents, even abject failures like the Aztek. But at a certain point one just stretches the relationship too fat.
#30799 of 32000 Re: Question about Corvair influence [bpizzuti]
Jan 17, 2013 (11:38 am)
The first Corvair was GM's response to the VW Beetle, and was influenced by its layout.
Ed Cole had long been enamored with a rear-engine layout.
Cadillac had built several rear-engine prototypes in the immediate postwar period, when Ed Cole worked on the development of Cadillac's milestone ohv V-8 for 1949.
Booming sales of the VW Beetle after 1955, along with the severe recession in late 1957, enabled him to get a greenlight for what became the Corvair. It's safe to say that, if the VW Beetle hadn't scored its big sales increase in the late 1950s, there never would have been a Corvair. At best, in response to rising Rambler sales, GM probably would have went with a "safer" (and cheaper to build) design on the order of the 1962 Chevy II.
This is all part of the historical record. There is no denying that the success of the first Corvair Monza had a tremendous influence in Detroit, and played a key role in Ford's decision to greenlight the Mustang. Even former, high-ranking Ford executives such as Hal Sperlich readily admit this on the record.
As I've said in a previous post, read Mustang Genesis by Robert Fria and The Reckoning by David Halberstam to learn how the huge success of the Corvair Monza spurred the development of the first Mustang. And, no, Mr. Fria and Mr. Halberstam did not work for the GM PR department.