IF YOU GO
• What: Choo Choo Corvair Classic show
• When: 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 17 (more events Aug. 16-18)
• Where: Chattanooga Choo Choo, 1400 Market St.
• Admission: Free to browsers; $30 to exhibitors
• Phone: 423-242-8155, 706-866-1158
If you're of a mind to stroll through the gardens at the Chattanooga Choo Choo this weekend, you'll be among a group of 40- and 50-year-olds with a reputation.
The reputation belongs to the Chevrolet Corvair, and some 40 of them will be on display in the gardens when the Choo Choo Corvair Club hosts the Choo Choo Corvair Classic.
"They're unique," says club member Jim Guider, 72. "There's never been another car like them."
The reputation -- that the compact cars manufactured for the model years 1960-1963 could easily lose control -- still rankles Corvair owners.
Its supposed handling led consumer advocate Ralph Nader to include the cars in his mid-1960s book "Unsafe at Any Speed," but Guider points out that a study commissioned by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found the cars had no greater for potential of loss of control than their contemporaries in extreme situations.
"After 48 years [of ownership]," he says, "I'm still waiting to see if they hold up."
The Corvair show, free to browsers from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, will include a swap meet (all day Friday-Saturday) and tech session (2 p.m. Saturday). Exhibitors can partake of a weekend hospitality room, Friday tour of Coker Tire and the Honest Charley Speedshop, Saturday banquet and Sunday breakfast.
Guider says models of all kinds -- Monzas, Spyders, Corsas, coupes, sedans, station wagons, pickups, vans and at least one motor home -- will be on display.
Corvairs, which had an air-cooled rear engine, were manufactured for the model years 1960-1969,
People are coming from, at least, Florida, Virginia, North and South Carolina, Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee, Guider says. Among those, he says, are two directors of the Corvair Society of America.
The local Corvair Club, active for about 10 years in the late 1970s and 1980s, last held a show in 1989.
"Everybody got too old or died," Guider says of the group, which had around 40 members. "There are only three alive" from its previous existence, he says.
It's been active again for the past five years and has about 20 members, he says.
Guider, who says he's owned scores of Corvairs over the years, has three today, including the Ultra Van motor home and one he drives every day.
He says General Motors marketed them wrong originally -- to older people. Then, when they began to get sporty trims, Nader's devastating book was published. They never recovered.
"If you were to put a 16-year-old in one today," Guider says, "they're in heaven."
Contact staff writer Clint Cooper at email@example.com or 423-757-6497. Subscribe to his posts at Facebook.com/ClintCooperCTFP.
Clint Cooper is the faith editor and a staff writer for the Times Free Press Life section. He also has been an assistant sports editor and Metro staff writer for the newspaper. Prior to the merger between the Chattanooga Free Press and Chattanooga Times in 1999, he was sports news editor for the Chattanooga Free Press, where he was in charge of the day-to-day content of the section and the section’s design. Before becoming sports ...