Jay Leno gets radical with a … Corvair pickup?

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Pickup designs are largely the same these days. Engine up front, a cab, and a cargo bed. Simple and hardworking. However, in the 1960s Chevrolet got radical and decided to try a different layout. The rear-engine Corvair was Chevrolet’s economy car, but Chevy designers thought it provided a great framework for a pickup. Thus a very interesting pickup was born.

To create the Corvair 95 Rampside truck, engineers shortened the standard Corvair’s wheelbase from 108 to 95 inches and moved the passenger compartment as far forward as possible. Leno jokes that the truck is great for first responders—if you are involved in an accident, you’ll be first on the scene. Having driven many miles in a Corvair 95, I can say that the arrangement definitely takes some adjustment.

In keeping with Corvair tradition, Rampside pickups like Leno’s have an air-cooled flat-six mounted in the vehicle’s rear. The six-cylinder’s 80-hp output isn’t anything to yell from the rooftops, but the humble 145-cu-in six is designed to put in the work. However, Chevrolet did make a few changes to the flat-sixes bolted into the cars’ forward-control, Rampside brethren. Leno correctly notes the different dipstick location and calls out the change in exhaust valve material. Though the truck engines featured slightly lower compression figures, the Rampside six-cylinders were equipped with slightly richer jetting and a larger, more efficient oil cooler than were the cars. Unlike the regular Corvair, the trucks also received exhaust valve rotators.

The Corvair 95 Rampside’s best party trick is its side-access bed. In addition to the traditional rear tailgate, a large side entrance folds down and acts as a loading ramp. Unfortunately, the rear-engine layout necessitates an uneven bed floor but, with no driveshaft or transmission tunnel, the center of the load floor, accessed by the ramp, is very low. Because of this unusual configuration, Rampside models proved popular with utility companies, breweries, and vineyards; workers could easily roll spools, kegs, or barrels right into the truck’s bed.

A forward-control design like this would never pass the stringent safety tests required for modern vehicle production, but we can appreciate the Rampside as just one example of the plethora of eccentric, ingenious designs among automotive history. Is the Rampside too radical for you, or just right? Tell us in the Hagerty Community.

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