Low-slung, mid-engined, and simply 11 toes lengthy, the Corwin Getaway method again in 1969 forecasted the arrival of sporty runabouts just like the later Fiat X1/9 and Toyota MR2, and it nonetheless seems recent at present. Some LED lighting and an EV powertrain and this may very well be the product of a present Silicon Valley startup. As an alternative, solely a single prototype exists, making the Getaway one of many nice what-might-have-been tales of automotive historical past.
Flashback to August 1965: The Watts neighborhood in Los Angeles was boiling with racial and sophistication rigidity. The spark was the arrest of 21-year-old Marquette Frye, the tinder a group simmering with resentment at police mistreatment. Cliff Corridor, a Black photographer whose work took him throughout L.A., from the moneyed heights of Beverly Hills to the working class struggles in South Central, believed the answer to inequality may very well be present in trade. He hoped to be the primary Black designer to create a automotive constructed by and for the Black group, and the Getaway could be that automotive.
A former U.S. Navy man, Corridor served from 1943 to 1946, the place he’d discovered electronics. Returning to civilian life, he educated on the just-founded Fred Archer college of pictures in Los Angeles. By 1965, he was the chief photographer of the Los Angeles Sentinel, one of many oldest and largest-circulation Black newspapers within the Western U.S. His profession as a photographer would span a long time, and he had a present for capturing the second.
However Corridor did not simply have an distinctive eye, he had a stressed intelligence. By all accounts he virtually fizzed with potentialities, concepts popping off him like sparks out of a crackling hearth. Amongst different innovations, he constructed his personal cell photograph improvement studio in a van, which allowed him to shoot an occasion after which current the photographs instantly afterward.
“What motivates me greater than the rest is that I wish to create,” he advised the Occasions. “I wish to take uncooked materials and switch it into one thing of worth. Design is a sense—one thing proper in my fingertips that needs to be launched.”
It was in his blood. His grandfather was a watchmaker, and his two maternal grand-uncles had constructed automobiles and even an airplane within the Twenties. Corridor was a pure inventive genius, and when he turned his abilities towards constructing a automotive, few doubted that he would succeed.
The idea for the Getaway was a small, environment friendly runabout, ideally suited for busy Los Angeles site visitors. The Getaway could be cheap however enjoyable, inside attain of youthful consumers. Fifteen years later, Toyota would launch the unique, wedge-shaped MR2 on basically the very same ideas.
The Corwin title got here from Louis Corwin, an area importer of Panasonic electronics. As an early adopter who may see the place the Japanese manufacturing trade was going, Corwin clearly noticed the potential in Corridor’s concepts. He invested $100,000 towards improvement.
Beneath, the Corwin Getaway is a square-tube chassis with a fiberglass physique. The engine is a Subaru flat-four of unknown origin—Corridor reportedly pulled it from a junkyard—good for about 78 horsepower. The automotive is extremely compact, two toes shorter than a Pontiac Fiero, and with the wheels pushed to the corners.
As a photographer, Corridor frequently coated the celebrities of the day. Stars together with Sidney Poitier and Marvin Gaye supported the Getaway challenge when it was proven on the Los Angeles auto present in 1970, as did Muhammad Ali.
However as is usually the case in Southern California, there was an enormous hole between the dream and the truth. Constructing a profitable prototype is difficult sufficient, however elevating the thousands and thousands wanted to construct a manufacturing unit was a a lot greater hurdle. Lots of have tried and did not go the gap, from the DeLorean DMC-12 to the latest Solo electrical three-wheeler. Corridor’s Getaway ran and drove as a proof of idea, however it could not get traction to make it into manufacturing.
A Dwelling on the Petersen Museum
When the Petersen Automotive Museum opened in December 2015, Corridor was invited to show his creation as a logo of Los Angeles automotive tradition and innovation. Petersen curator Leslie Kendall says he was conscious of the automotive due to its L.A. auto present look and that it started a relationship between the museum and Corridor. A number of years later, Corridor entrusted his beloved Getaway prototype to the Petersen, and work started on bringing it again to its former glory.
The work was carried out by restorer Bodie Stroud, who had beforehand restored the Petersen’s three-wheeled Davis Divan—one other L.A.-based automotive oddity. All the pieces was full, as Corridor had cherished his prototype, however the Getaway nonetheless bought a stable overhaul.
Whereas Corridor himself expressed frustration that he by no means discovered the assist wanted to show the Getaway right into a manufacturing automotive, he was delighted to see his legacy preserved. Corridor died in 2020, on the age of 94,
However he leaves behind an unbelievable physique of labor, together with the Getaway. From a time and a spot marked by battle, the Corwin Getaway is a logo of unbridled creativity and hope.
“The significance of the automotive is just not as an artifact, however the way in which it represents an thought,” Kendall says, “We needed to make it new once more, deliver it again. It was one in all my most rewarding days on the museum.”
The Corwin Getaway could be seen on the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles as a part of the vault tour.
Brendan McAleer is a contract author and photographer based mostly in North Vancouver, B.C., Canada. He grew up splitting his knuckles on British vehicles, got here of age within the golden period of Japanese sport-compact efficiency, and started writing about automobiles and other people in 2008. His specific curiosity is the intersection between humanity and equipment, whether or not it’s the racing profession of Walter Cronkite or Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki’s half-century obsession with the Citroën 2CV. He has taught each of his younger daughters find out how to shift a handbook transmission and is grateful for the excuse they supply to be perpetually shopping for Sizzling Wheels.