1962 Chevrolet Chevy II. Click image to enlarge
Article and photo by Bill Vance
To meet the rising competition from imported cars in the late 1950s, the American Big Three (General Motors, Ford and Chrysler) introduced what they called their 1960 compact cars, the Chevrolet Corvair, Ford Falcon and Chrysler (soon to be Plymouth) Valiant.
But Chevrolet was chagrined to find that while the Corvair’s rear-mounted, air-cooled, flat-six engine appealed to sports minded buyers and captured much media attention, the traditional, simple, front-engine, plain-Jane Falcon outsold the more daringly engineered Corvair by almost two to one.
Chevrolet therefore set about to counter the Falcon with a more conventional design which it called the Chevy II, launched as a 1962 model. The decision to develop the Chevy II was finalized in early 1960 and it was introduced in September 1961.
This was just 18 months from concept to production, and it demonstrates the contrast with the development time of today’s much more complex cars, which can take three to four years. But with the Chevy II, the engineers didn’t have to worry much about things like emissions, crashworthiness or fuel economy.
The Chevy II, therefore, had to be a basic car. Whereas the Corvair had an air-cooled, horizontally-opposed (flat), largely aluminum, six-cylinder engine, the Chevy II got a traditional front-mounted, inline, cast iron four, or optional six.
The Chevy II was pretty conventional underneath too, eschewing the Corvair’s fully independent suspension in favour of front A-arms with the coil springs mounted above the upper control arms. The rear suspension was the most basic type: two longitudinal, single-leaf, semi elliptic springs with a solid rear axle bolted to them, the first use of a single-leaf spring.
The unit construction body was comprised of two parts bolted together at the cowl, a system that had also been used by Cord and Citroen. With a wheelbase of 2,794 mm (110 in.), and an overall length of 4,648 mm (183 in.), the Chevy II had just 13 mm (1/2 in.) more wheelbase, and 28 mm (1.1 in.) more length than the Falcon. At 1,197 to 1,293 kg (2,640 to 2,850 lb), depending on equipment, the Chevy II was some 136 kg (300 lb) heavier than the Falcon.