The Corvair, right? The Chevrolet that...


October 14, 1991

YOU REMEMBER the Corvair, right? The Chevrolet that General Motors would love to forget, the car that made Ralph Nader famous, the rear-engine, American-built car that surely would keep Americans buying American and stop those danged Volkswagen Beetles.

Marion Dove remembers. In fact, the 83-year-old Columbia resident bought one brand new in 1961, right off the truck from Detroit. She still owns the darned car, too, although their time together is getting short. How that came to be is a nice little tale with a gentle twist.

Mrs. Dove had been thinking about giving up driving, anyway. In recent years, an occasional passer-by would ask about buying the car. But, no, she still needed it for a few errands, and besides, the car wasn't giving her any problems. Never had, in fact.

Enter, car thieves.

You'd probably figure no one would rip off a car that old. But in Howard County, which some call the stolen-car capital of Maryland (where they're stolen from, not the other way round), even oldies like a '61, faded-silver car that only a collector could love aren't safe in '91.

One night in early August, someone hot-wired Mrs. Dove's Corvair on her apartment complex's parking lot and took off. Police found the car abandoned a few days later, out of gas, down off Interstate 95 in Stafford, Va. Who stole it remains a mystery.

A little publicity about the off-beat theft followed in The Howard County Sun, a section we publish twice weekly for readers in Howard County.

In that article, Mrs. Dove mused about how good the car had been to her over the years, regardless of Mr. Nader's views about the Corvair doing unfriendly things like spewing dangerous levels of carbon monoxide, flipping on turns and generally being, well, unsafe at any speed.

"I just needed it for grocery shopping, mostly. I could never understand what Mr. Nader had against it," she said. She also mused about how the time to sell might have finally come along. Her Corvair just had some damage to the --board and ignition system from the theft (a shop's still trying to find the parts, she says). The odometer showed 62,510 original miles.

Would-be buyers called. After three decades with one car, Mrs. Dove is getting her price, and the car still will be in the family. Turns out a grandson in Texas was one of the callers, said he wanted the car and would meet her price.

And how much would that be?

About two-grand, she said. A nice deal, all things considered, since that's about how much she paid 30 years ago (the Chevy dealer she worked for as a phone operator gave her a good deal, she recalled).

So, the Corvair soon will be heading south on a trailer, because, Mrs. Dove says, she doesn't want her grandson to drive it all that way.

Why not? someone asked.

"Oh, I think the car'd be OK," she replied. "I'd just worry about him."

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