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A rear-engined Holden.

Ed Cole, the Head of Chevrolet, wanted to keep his new rear engine car as secret as possible.

And here's the photo of it. So what is this car? It's a Holden all right because the badges say so and the hub caps have the red lion logo, but really the Australian insignias were really used to disguise this car's true identity and destiny-the Chevrolet Corvair. 

In 1957, Ed Cole, the Head of Chevrolet, wanted to keep his new rear engine car as secret as possible from the media and the competition.

To throw everyone off the scent, even within General Motors (GM), he decided to disguise the project as a development program for Holden in Australia.

Cole went to great lengths to establish the "Holden" deception. He even went to the trouble of using Holden stationery, letterheads and forms with Holden logos on them for all of the paperwork.

Components developed for the project carried Holden parts numbers. Even the styling of the Corvair was done in the international styling studio at GM headquarters, not in the Chevrolet studio.

The first running prototype was tested in at GM's Arizona track in the northern spring of 1958 .Still badged as a Holden it used the FE and FC chrome work and side `sweep spears'. A Holden steering wheel and hub caps completed the disguise. 

The Vauxhall name also was used to camouflage the Corvair, with a lengthened Vauxhall Victor, with the Corvair engine stuffed in the boot, being used as a second test mule. Chevrolet unveiled the new car mid 1959, and it immediately polarised opinion. 

We all know the story of the Corvair and its rear suspension, the inadequacies of which led Ralph Nader to write his only memorable book, "Unsafe at Any Speed". But what is less known is that despite all of the media attention Chevrolet still managed to sell 1.8 million Corvairs during its nine year production. Not a bad effort for a car that is supposed to be a failure. 

The Corvair styling also influenced others across the world. Designed by Ned Nickles and Carl Renner it was the high and definitive beltline which was the inspiration for many cars in the 1960s, including the Fiat 1300/1500, NSU, Mazda 800, BMW 1600/2002, the French built Panhard and the Hillman Imp. 

Today, Corvairs are gaining more attention as classic car collectors search for something beyond a Mustang or a 1955-57 Chevrolet. The hot items are the 1962 two door Monza Spyer coupes and convertibles with the turbochargers. They churn out a spritely 110kw from only 2.4 litre six cylinder engines. Prices in the USA now top $20,000.

In Australia, the Corvairs have a small but dedicated following. It is estimated there are less than 20 in the country.

retroautos.com.au