The last Chevrolet Corvair built by General Motors -- a gold Monza coupe -- comes off the assembly line at the company's Willow Run, Mich., assembly plant on May 14, 1969. The car was GM's answer to the fledgling shift to small sedans and coupes: The rear-engine, rear-wheel-drive car was engineered to rival the Volkswagen Beetle and British sports cars from Triumph, MG, Austin-Healey and Sunbeam.
And instead of tail fins or a flashy chrome grille -- hallmarks of Detroit design for years -- it featured a boxy shape and no-fuss styling similar to that of European small cars.
GM hinted at plans for a new small car when it registered the Corvair name on Aug. 6, 1959. Production started in fall 1959.
For GM engineers -- and many consumers -- it was a creative way to adopt Europe's air-cooled, rear-engine engineering to American scale and style.
But over time, it was not to be.
In his 1965 book, Unsafe at Any Speed: The Designed-in Dangers of the American Automobile, Ralph Nader accused GM of engineering and marketing a dangerous car with the Corvair.
Only one of the bombshell book's eight chapters dealt with the Corvair but it was enough to undermine consumer demand.
The Corvair could become unstable, Nader said, noting that aftermarket companies were selling stabilizer bars for the car's front end to give it better balance. GM began offering an anti-roll bar as an option for the 1962 model year and made it standard on the 1964 model when the suspension was modified.
The second-generation Corvair was introduced in 1965. The 1969 model was basically carryover, but with fewer offerings. The Corvair lineup -- once comprising a van, pickup, sedan, coupe and convertible -- was reduced to three models: a 500 coupe, a Monza coupe and a Monza convertible.
Only 6,000 Corvairs were produced in 1969 and of that total, 521 were convertibles.
Over time, 1,710,00 Corvairs were built -- not a colossal failure -- but it turned out to be one in a string of lackluster small cars developed by GM.
Base price of 1969 Corvair: $2,641.
Did you know: When Chevrolet unveiled the 1962 Corvair Monza Spyder, available as a coupe or convertible, it was the automaker's first production car offered with a turbocharged engine.