If you’re old enough, you may remember that this was the title of a 1965 book written by one Ralph Nader, who mounted a consumer campaign attacking the safety record of various cars, and the Chevrolet Corvair in particular.
The new-for-1960 rear-engined, swing-axle Corvair, Nader alleged, was unsafe. And despite flaws in some of his arguments, he had a point. He also attacked the VW Beetle in his book, but it was the Corvair that took the brunt of his career-making ire. And I have just bought one.
This is, without question, the most reckless automotive purchase I have ever made. And there have been a few. The car is, for instance, in Montana, North America, which is so far west that the Pacific Ocean is considerably closer to it than the Atlantic. I bought it on ebay, have never seen it, and indeed, have never even driven a Corvair, which has a 2.7 litre air-cooled flat-six hung out the back – yes, just like a 911 – but was designed as a home-grown alternative to the rampaging success of the Beetle in the States.
The Corvair didn’t do a whole lot to hold back the swarm that was the Beetle in ‘60s America, but it did gain a following among people after a cheap and interesting sporty car, which was pretty surprising given its evil on-the limit handling and performance on the finger-drumming side of slow. But it would eventually evolve, after taking career-shattering blows from Nader, into an unexpectedly stylish, more than decent drive, that has got me intrigued over the past couple of years.
Which is how I come to be standing outside the premises of the Chariot Service garage in Great Falls Montana, one wintry day in June – a two inch snowy dumping has carpeted the town on the coldest night since records began – with a mate, a U-Haul truck and trailer, Autocar snapper Stuart Price and the slightly sick feeling that comes when you realise that you might have bought something that you wish, very fervently, you hadn’t.
Our mission: to get this car the 2400-odd miles from Montana to Newark, New Jersey, where it will be put on a boat and shipped to Southampton. The picture of it you see here is as it appeared on ebay, by the way. Our aim is to part-drive, part-tow the car home, and over the next few days you can read about the trip, why I bought this strange car, why I began to wish I hadn’t and whether we make it.
And I certainly don’t know the answer to that as I write this, because we are holed up in a broken-showered, £26-a-night motel that would serve well as a location in one of the more sinister Coen brothers films – they made ‘Fargo’, if you remember that - and we have an awfully long way to go. More soon – right now, the big sky roads of beautiful Montana, beckon.