Monday, June 23, 2014

Stephen Donnelly: Ireland's Ralph Nader

Nader was vilified and heavily criticised
at first, but his book transformed the car
industry in America.
The first Chevy Corvair launched in 1960 was a roaring success. Jack Kennedy was President, Elvis Presley was on the radio, and America was fighting the Communists in the dark corners of Eastern European cities. It was a sleek designed power grunt of a machine, with swing-axle suspension. That meant that it needed a significant tyre-pressure differential between rear and front tyres, which resulted in a dangerous amount of over-steer. In lay mans terms, that means that when you turn the car left, the wheels turn much more left than you had intended. There was a significant danger of 'tuck-under', where the left front wheel in a left turn could essentially flip under the car, causing an accident.  Many people died as a result, though the car industry was unperturbed - driver error, was the response. If you drive at a safe speed, you're fine.