VINTAGE VIDEO: The Selling Of The Corvair Rampside

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A famous fictional ad man once said, “If you don’t like what’s being said, change the conversation.” That’s what Chevy aimed to do with this Corvair Rampside promo video.

Of course, we all know the Corvair. It debuted in 1960 and soon became a target for Ralph Nader and his book, “Unsafe At Any Speed.” Its rear engine and attendant unique handling characteristics did much to crystallize the consumer-advocacy-and-protections movement of the 1960s and beyond.


A year after the Corvair hit the market, Chevy rolled out the Corvair 95 series of vans and trucks , which were named for their 95-inch wheelbases.  Volkswagen was a clear inspiration for the van…


…as well as the innovative Rampside pickup, which featured a loading door on the side that pivoted down to a 22-degree-angled loading door.

Only thing was, the Corvair’s rear engine created a bump in the rear floor. So the Rampside was a pickup without a level load floor throughout the bed. Chevy offered something of a solution with its level extenders, but it didn’t really solve the problem.


Ford‘s answer to the Corvair, the Econoline, was much more conventional, with the engine between the seats and a flat bed in back.


So what to do when your product has what was likely perceived as an obvious impediment? You do like Don Draper of “Mad Men”, and you change the conversation.

The promo video at the end of this post shows Chevy not once mentioning the Corvair Rampside’s bed. Instead, it focuses on something that pickup buyers know all too well – that when a pickup’s bed is unloaded, then the rear wheels can lose traction.

The video begins with a Rampside handily navigating a muddy jobsite.


This series of varying grades, not surprisingly, is too much for the Econoline, although the Ford’s driver doesn’t work to maintain momentum at the start.


Then it’s time for some non-real-world demonstrations. First we see a lone guy being able to hold an Econoline back as it attempts to accelerate on ice…


…while the Rampside drags a gaggle of guys around.


Turns out that one guy can also push the Econoline’s rear around the ice in a circle.


But what’s this? Why is the tailgate such a short one, and why is the Econoline missing a bumper where the Rampside has one?


Maybe that’s partly why the rear end is so easy to lift up…


…and why it’s so eager to dump its nose in a brake test.


Meanwhile, the Rampside comes to a controlled stop – perhaps too controlled. Note in the video how the Rampside’s nose dips several times, as the driver modulates his brake pedal pressure to keep the Rampside stable. There’s none of that with the Ford; the Econoline’s driver appears to have simply mashed the stop pedal.


This attempt to sully the Econoline is interesting on a couple levels. First, it’s fun that the Corvair-based truck was flaunting its perceived safety advantages, when the car on which it was based would soon come under epic fire for that same trait.

Secondly, this advertising sleight-of-hand is something that the consumer movement that grew out of the Corvair’s Nader target attempted to counter.

No matter: the Econoline whipped the Rampside in sales. The Ford continued into 1965 and after, while 1964 was the Chevy’s last year.

Here’s the video.

Tell us in the comments – what do you think of Rampside vs. Econoline?







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