‘Corvair Lady’ reunites Ypsilanti’s Willow Run plant workers
YPSILANTI, Mich. (AP) — It was blue, with a white top. She named it “Piper.”
The 1965 Chevrolet Corvair Monza convertible was Eva McGuire’s first car, bought in 1983 when she was 25.
Growing up with parents who both drove them, McGuire said the Corvair was her dream car. Today, she owns nine.
McGuire, 61, of Ypsilanti, also known as “Corvair Lady,” was once homebound for 20 years while suffering from Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Syndrome, which causes chronic pain that develops after an injury.
“I became allergic to just about everything. I lost all my foods, I went down to two foods. I couldn’t wear clothes. It was awful. It’s the worst illness I’d say on earth,” McGuire told MLive.com.
When she decided to get a car again, McGuire went back to her first love — a Chevy Corvair, which she believes contains fewer chemical allergens than a modern vehicle.
“The Corvair gave me my freedom,” she said. “It gave me my independence in this illness.”
The Corvair began production in 1959 and was discontinued a decade later due to being deemed unsafe. The 1965 book “Unsafe at Any Speed: The Designed-In Dangers of the American Automobile” by consumer advocate Ralph Nader shed light on the safety problems posed by the Corvair, like the lack of an anti-roll bar and unusual tire pressure requirements.
A majority of the Corvairs were made at the Willow Run plant in Ypsilanti. About 1.8 million of them were manufactured over 10 years.
As McGuire began buying her Corvairs and using them as her full-time cars, she would frequently get stopped around town by people with stories of working on the Chevy Corvair at Willow Run, proud of the roles they played in the production of the short-lived car.
After hearing these stories for nearly two years, McGuire said she wanted other people to hear them, too.
“Meet the Makers of the Chevrolet Corvair” is a documentary she’s been working on since 2014 to tell those stories. McGuire has been acquiring the names of former Corvair production workers and interviewing them on-camera about their jobs.
“I want to honor people. I love doing that, I think that’s my job,” she said. “I want to shine light on people and recognize them, their job, their efforts.”
With nearly 200 interviews already done, McGuire said she is still looking to contact 50 to 100 more workers.
McGuire is seeking anyone who worked on the production of the Corvair or has any Corvair artifacts they would be willing to donate to the Corvair Museum, located inside the Chevrolet Hall of Fame in Decatur, Illinois. She can be contacted via email at email@example.com or at P.O. Box 981335, Ypsilanti, MI 48198.
McGuire names all of her vehicles, including “Rebel,” ″Professor Proton” and “Thunderheart.” She also has a blue Corvair van she calls “Blupy,” and is humorously eager to remind people it is not a Volkswagen.
McGuire is an honorary United Auto Workers union member and she’s the historian and publicist for the national Corvair Preservation Foundation. She also does a lot of work with the Corvair Museum.
McGuire’s work preserving the history of the Corvair even prompted her to draft a proclamation that was signed by former Gov. Rick Synder in 2015 to make May 14 “Chevrolet Corvair Appreciation Day” in Michigan.
″(The Corvair) was considered a misfit,” McGuire said. “Together, that car and I make a perfect pair.”
Information from: The Grand Rapids Press:MLive.com, http://www.mlive.com