DSCF2296Experimental “modular” Corvair engine at the Corvair museum, maybe GM was sleepin’ around with Deutz too?

Ever since the 911 first saw the light of day over a half century ago we’ve all noticed a certain “resemblance”. Rumors of secret romance flew, usually along the lines of Porsche fathering the Corvair in place of a hapless GM. True, GM engineers made a few trips to Germany to study… Aluminum engine casting techniques. But the “Auto Ancestry DNA” results are in, and the truth is even stranger…

In the late 50s while the Corvair was gestating Porsche made maybe 5000 cars a year, though Porsche’s engineering consulting business was way bigger than similar volume auto makers. Fact is, Porsche owed it’s existence to engineering work for VW and high volume parts production volumes by VW’s suppliers that could be given an extra bit of tuning for Porsche’s 356s. In stark contrast GM cranked out cars, trucks, busses, bulldozers, locomotives, and a few other wheeled things by the millions, producing a cash flow that allowed GM to develop air ride, aluminum V8s, the Scenicruiser bus, and an all new rear engined car that borrowed little from the GM parts bins.

Truth be told, about all GM bought from Porsche was some 356s that became “mules” to test the Corvair engine, which with not much more bulk and much more power proved to be a better bargain that the 4 cylinder Porsche motor. Years later more than a few too expensive to repair Porsche flat sixes were replaced with cheap Corvair power. Come the 60s and it was Porsche’s turn to buy some Corvairs, they especially liked the Lakewood wagon’s easy access to their 911 test engines.

Come late 1964 and both the Corvair and 911 had lost the notorious swing axles and carried six cylinder engines with flat cooling fans, wrapped in swoopy new bodywork. While the Corvair was an economy sedan with sporting options and the 911 a sports car, a Corvair with the performance options could run with the 911 and didn’t try to spin when you made the natural response of backing off the throttle in a turn taken to fast.

Then the sibs went their seperate ways, with the 911 developed into one of the best sports cars ever while GM, afraid to confront Nader, sent the Corvair off to the automotive orphanage. Thus a huckster lawyer who didn’t even drive denied us generations of innovative cars… That engine in the picture with the individual heads was a modular version of the Corvair’s, GM built and tested a ten cylinder version to power the front wheel drive Toronado…

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