Watch Ford Use The Most Ridiculous Arguments To Prove That Its Falcon Is Better Than The Chevy Corvair

Falc Vair Top

Carmakers have been comparing their products to competing products ever since there have been more than one car to buy. It’s just how it works. And, of course, no one expects one company to go out of their way to be sure that both cars get an equal and fair shake, because why the hell would they? All of these comparisons are fixed, there’s a winner in mind from the get-go, because that’s how the world works, friends. This 1959 filmstrip – yes, filmstrip, as in no actual moving pictures, unless you count a frame rate of 1 frame per minute or so – from Ford is a great example of this, because this isn’t ever meant to really be a comparison between the Ford Falcon and the Chevrolet Corvair – it’s Ford shitting on the Corvair for 20 minutes. Because why else would they make it? Parts of it are also enjoyably catty, too.

Before we dig into this a bit, let’s just take a moment to look at the two main characters here: the Falcon and the Corvair. Both were entries in the relatively new compact car segment, but the two cars really couldn’t have been more different. The Falcon was an extremely conventional car design, essentially a scaled-down Ford Galaxie. It used an inline-six making about 95 horsepower driving the rear wheels, a unibody with coil spring suspension up front and old-school leaf springs on a live axle in back. The design and engineering was absolutely by the book for the era.

Both

The Corvair was at the other extreme. Inspired by the increasingly-popular Volkswagen Beetle, GM went for a very radical design for an American car, with an aluminum 80 hp air-cooled flat-six engine at the rear, fully independent suspension, a unibody design with clean styling: this was all a significant departure from the norm.

The Corvair’s engineering was unfamiliar to most Americans, and Ford played this up in this filmstrip, and even did make one very valid point that would become a huge issue for the Corvair later: its requirement to have different tire pressures front and rear to compensate for tail-heavy handling most Americans would not be familiar with at all, which would be the key factor in the whole Ralph Nader, Unsafe at Any Speed business.

Enough talk for the moment, here’s the filmstrip so you can see for yourself:

Right off the bat, you can see how Ford is going to play this, as they talk about how it’s unfair to compare “fine broadcloth” to “burlap sacking,” or “excellent crystalware” to “jelly glasses or milk bottles.” It’s pretty clear which car they think is the broadcloth and which they think is the burlap, but let’s be honest: both of these cars were denim.

Burlap

A lot of Ford’s points are reasonable; sure, the Corvair’s bumpers are thinner than the Falcon’s, but it’s not like either of these things wasn’t a deathtrap in a wreck. Also, Ford’s point that the Corvair’s painted metal front end would be “probably” subject to more damage from flying stones is funny to me, because I’ve seen many old Falcons, and the stamped sheet metal Ford used for the grille always seemed a bit thin and most of them always seemed to be banged up.

Frontends Honestly, most Corvairs I’ve seen don’t have horribly pockmarked faces, either.

This point is incredible, too, especially from our modern perspective:

Smoking

Here, they’re warning that smoking while getting your car filled with gas might, just might, be a bad idea, but only in the Corvair, because the gas filler is in front of you instead of behind you. Not smoking at all while filling up with gas is not mentioned, because what are we, animals? Not smoking anything? Please.

Gastank

The point Ford makes about the Corvair’s supposedly impact-vulnerable gas tank is interesting, because their worry here is very close to the issue Ford would have with the Pinto about a decade or so later. Foreshadowing!

Tirepressure

The tire pressure complaint is totally valid, though. People aren’t great at maintaining tire pressure, let alone different values front and rear, and this could cause significant handling issues. This is the thing Ford should have focused on, the significant oversteering issues that can happen if the Corvair’s tire pressure setup isn’t just right.

Instead, the filmstrip goes on to berate the Corvair’s cardboard-based door panels and calls the Corvair’s luggage well behind the back seat a “dust catcher” and tries to raise a lot of questions about the air-cooled, twin-carb motor. While some of the comparisons and complaints are valid, a lot of this has a really peculiar petty feeling to it.

Ford even got a little cartoonish for some of these, like their liberal use of what are clearly stink lines here:

Stinklines

That’s supposed to show all the heat and fumes from the engine, though with the engine behind everything, I’d think this would all be less of an issue than the Falcon, which has an engine that makes heat and fumes, too, just right in front of everybody.

I especially like this very weirdly specific roast of the Corvair:

Periscope

The huge problem of driving with a Christmas tree in your trunk. How would you see around it? A periscope! Oh, Ford! You got ’em! Does Ford not think that most people tie Christmas trees on car roofs? Who jams a tree in their trunk? Everyone puts them on roofs! It’s an iconic visual of the holiday season!

I just found this whole filmstrip fascinating, and while I may have some Corvair bias, you can’t tell me that Ford isn’t seeming just a little petty here. But, that’s their job! Sell Falcons! I can’t blame them for that.

 

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48 Responses

        1. Oh, the kids effectively smoked, ESPECIALLY when in front of their parents (or behind them, in the back seat) because: second-hand smoke. We were breathing that shit in constantly and we might as well have been puffing on one ourselves. As a kid who grew up in the late 60’s/early 70’s I remember that well.

  1. My first car was a Corvair and I daily drive one currently. They are probably not for everybody but I admire the unconventional engineering, packaging, and styling that went into them. Part of me just wants to reward Ed Cole, Chevy and later GM chief, that put his neck way out for such a radical (for GM) design. Ultimately they sold 1.8 million Corvairs as 2 doors, 4 doors, Turbos, trucks, vans, and even a station wagon. They outsold the VW Beetle for 5 consecutive years so it was actually quite a market success, although not such a business success since they were expensive to build.

    And yes, it is way cooler than a Falcon.

  2. The neighbors across the street bought a new Falcon when I was a kid. Even the 5 or 6 year old me thought that the noise (even when idling in the driveway) that it made wasn’t good. It sounded like the water pump was bad but was really loud. Probably the transmission. On the other hand, family friends had a ’63 Corvair and would shoot it down the freeway at 80 and I never got “unrefined” vibes from it.

  3. My first car, a 3 speed 1960 Valiant, I’d argue it was a better car, but uglier than either of these contemporary compacts. I should never of sold it, but I’d never buy another at today’s prices, the nostalgia is not that strong. (-;

  4. DOH! Oh man, I feel like such a fool, I always extinguished my cigarette during a full service refueling event even though my fuel filler neck was located in the back of the car. Little did I know that it is only unsafe to smoke in a car with a fuel filler neck installed in the front of the car! 😉

  5. There are a lot of these comparison slide shows on YouTube and they are pointed against one make and model for the benefit of a competing make’s salespeople. I always find them interesting to watch. There’s one that compares Cadillacs with a group of Chrysler products. Makes the Caddys look especially awful. They are entertaining, but I always take what’s said with a big grain of salt. A part of automotive history!

    1. I worked for VW for a spell, and attended a ride and drive comparison for the Passat W12. When we got to the interior of the Q45, the only thing VW could come up with was: the Passat had a richer cloth for the headliner. I was telling my wife this story, and she said “what are you doing in your car, that you are concerned about the headliner?” I grinned, and she said “besides that!”

  6. This was training material for Ford dealership sales people. Picture a bunch of chain smoking sales guys sitting in a cramped conference room on Saturday morning with a greasy looking sales manager telling them to pipe down and pay attention before he fires someone.

  7. That was entertaining to say the least. A few good points.. But who is the intended audience and what would the delivery method have been? As a consumer in the early 60’s you had TV, movies, and Records/Radio. Did they dealers sit you down in front of a projector screen and say watch this if you are interested in the competing Chevy?

    lol

  8. As much as I can recall, two of three Corvairs crossed the Darien Gap. (Original Version)
    So there is that.
    Former owner 1965 Corvair Corsa convertible bought off showroom floor. A wonderful beautiful sporty car.

    1. Yes, the third one in the party ran out of gas and they decided it was too risky to try to go back for it. They also lost their two Chevy Suburban supply trucks and their fuel truck, so those two cars were the only ones to make it out of the 6 vehicles that went in

  9. To be fair, I own a Corvair and put about 7,000 miles on it in the past year, road tripping around the Mid Atlantic, but the Falcon did do a better job of giving American economy car buyers what they wanted in 1959/1960. It had about the same trunk space and interior room as the Corvair, got about the same fuel economy, and cost a not-insignificant amount less.

    You could argue the Corvair had better brakes, probably better handling (definately so by ’64), cleverer engineering, and more modern styling, but, for someone who wants a cheap, economical car to get the kids to baseball practice or leave at the train station during the work day, did any of those attributes really matter to the average buyer any more than they do now? I mean, how well does the Mazda 3 and 6 sell in relation to the Corolla and Camry?

    GM made the smart move to rush out the Chevy II to more directly compete with the Falcon and take the Corvair in a different direction by repositioning it as sort of a quasi-sporty car where buyers were more willing to pay for trim packages and accessories to offset the higher manufacturing costs.

    1. Of course the Falcon morphed into the early Mustang….

      I dig Corvairs, but pony cars they’re not, even when turbocharged. Had GM continued to develop them, I doubt they would ever have made the Pony Car classification. But that’s okay; they didn’t need to.

      Leaving engineering aside — an absolute “win” for the little Chevy — I’d have a hard time choosing between a Falcon Sprint with the 260 and four-speed and a Turbo Monza coupe. Both are hella fun to drive, in an early-1960s way.

    2. Mustang offered a V8, 6-cylinders in general were thought of as the engine you got if you were on a budget and absolutely couldn’t afford to step up to the 8, the cylinder count had an inherent poverty connotation in the ’60s. Plus, massive economies of scale with the Falcon commonality meant Ford had a nice fat margin on the Mustang, vs the weirdo dead-end engineering with a bespoke engine that GM was running with. The Camaro ended up borrowing a lot from the Chevy II/Nova, which was par for the course, since GM always seemed to be playing catch up to Ford in the ’50s and ’60s when it came to innovating new product types and just usually followed Ford’s templates

      1. While there is always a bias towards showing that you are upwardly mobile in getting the next higher model than your neighbors (Ford UK did a brilliant job of this with the Cortina for a decade or two) most of this is flat out wrong.

        Thinking that a brand new base model car was in any way linked to any form of poverty is ludicrous. It would be like thinking that if you drive a brand new Camry today that you’re poor. If you bought a new Mustang when it first rolled off the assembly line in late ’64 the average driver would be reaching 50,000-60,000 as the 60s ended. Throughout the 60s the Mustang was a new car and new cars don’t give off any whiff of poverty.

        Also, the Mustang was marketed heavily as a secretary’s car. In the first generation of the car, roughly half of the buyers were women, and most of the buyers were mid-30s or younger. They didn’t care about cylinder count. It was sold with the expectation that it was a nice little car for the little lady of the house, that it was a cruiser, or an economy car. The Mustang also got billed as a “gran turismo” car, hell with some of the options it even got pushed for the luxury market. It was also sold with the idea that it was a rally car, or a sports car, or a full out race car. This was a solid part of Iacocca’s vision for the car. He wanted everyone to have a Mustang, no matter what use you had for it.
        Once the horsepower wars started up in the late 60s that started to change, but even then the Mustang wasn’t a strong part of those as it wasn’t a full size muscle car, it was always a Pony car (and is literally the source of the phrase)

        The competition with the Camaro did more to bump up engine sizes than anything else, but even then the Mustang was still heavily marketed as a little family car/grocery getter.

        They were ubiquitous. In today’s world you don’t sneer at a new car rolling down the road and think “they shoulda got the GT edition” you probably don’t even notice them.

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