Early Corvair emblem Heaven

People who drive Corvairs often fall in love with them. Why this happens is a bit of a mystery, but it does.

Witness the story of Rose Martin, who, at 84, proved you're never too old to love a Corvair. So attached was she to her '62 Monza, she decided to "take it with her."


Thursday, May 7, 1998

Woman Takes Her Corvair for an Eternal Cruise

From Associated Press

PROVIDENCE, R.I.--Three decades after Ralph Nader portrayed the Corvair as a casket on wheels in his book "Unsafe at Any Speed," 84-year-old Rose Martin was laid to rest in her beloved 1962 model.

"She prearranged with us, and this was her wish. It was very well known throughout Tiverton that she wanted this," said Robert Ferreira, a director of the Oliveira Funeral Home in Fall River, Mass.

The widow and mother of three, who died Saturday, drove the flat-looking rear-engine white car around the town of Tiverton, population 14,000, for 36 years.

"She just loved the car. She didn't care what it cost to fix the car. If the car was broken, she wasn't one to ask you how much.

'Just fix it,' " recalled Tiverton Auto Body owner George Murray.

Mourners at her burial at Pocasset Hill Cemetery grinned through their tears as six police officers acting as pallbearers slid the inlaid wood coffin into an opening in the rear of the Corvair, which had been altered to accommodate the casket. The car was then lowered into the ground with a crane. It took up four burial plots. An old handicapped license plate, held with a rubber band on the visor, was removed and handed to Martin's relatives.

The Corvair was a popular car in the 1960s before it was buried by the rise of the muscle car and the 1965 expose written by Nader, who said it had serious steering and control problems. But to Martin, a talkative and no-nonsense woman who served as a police matron tending to female prisoners at the town jail, the low-slung car with four front headlights was a gem. She was laid to rest next to her husband, with a headstone showing a picture of her and the car.

Copyright Los Angeles Times

Corvair Monza emblem Rose Martin's 1962 Corvair


Driving into the next world


Journal-Bulletin Staff Writer

TIVERTON -- Rose Martin bought a white Corvair for $2,500 in 1962, mainly to have around the house for her son, Robert, home from the service.

"He wasn't interested," said Marion Linhares, a long-time friend and neighbor of Mrs. Martin. He preferred the hot rods that were becoming popular in the early '60s.

At her son's urging, Mrs. Martin had learned to drive only a couple of years earlier. Driving the car that her son had scorned and consumer advocate Ralph Nader had called "one of the nastiest-handling cars ever built," Mrs. Martin discovered new freedom.

"She loved it," Robert recalled Tuesday. "It was her baby."

Though she never drove it very fast or very far -- it had 87,000 miles on it when she passed away Saturday at age 84 -- Mrs. Martin delighted in tooling around Tiverton and occasionally crossing the state line to Westport, Mass., to visit her daughters. "As far as she would drive is to Westport," Linhares said, reminiscing after a game of bingo at the Tiverton Senior Center.

"She wouldn't drive it in the rain," Gilda Boyer, 75, added.

Years ago, Mrs. Martin made it clear she never wanted to be separated from the car.

"That was decided 16 years ago," said police Lt. Thomas Kaminski, "and as far as I know, it never once changed."

Yesterday, in the four adjoining burial plots she bought at the Pocasset Hill Cemetery, Mrs. Martin took her last trip in the white Corvair. Hung from a chain over a long, deep hole, the car and its owner came to their final rest a few feet below the ground.

THE FIRST CHAPTER of Ralph Nader's 1965 report "Unsafe at Any Speed," which focused on the Corvair's handling problems, apparently never bothered Rose Martin. She drove her white Corvair with red plush interior up until a few weeks before her death. It had been her wish for decades to be buried in her car.

"My sisters and I couldn't talk her out of it," said Robert Martin.

A lifelong resident of Tiverton, Mrs. Martin worked at the former Goulet's Bakery and at Vintex Fabrics, of Fall River. She continued working from home in her later years, sewing curtains and pillowcases and running a small fabric store from her basement.

"Everyone in town has pillowcases from Rose Martin," said Linhares, 77.

"When I made lieutenant, I got a nice pair of satin ones," Kaminski said.

Mrs. Martin chose Kaminski, Chief George Arruda and four other members of Tiverton's finest as pallbearers. She had called them ``her boys.''

Mrs. Martin was Tiverton's first police matron. She was called in at all hours of the night to search and tend to female prisoners.

"She'd get called at 1, 2, 3 o'clock in the morning," said Marion Linhares. "Sometimes she'd be there until morning."

Mrs. Martin was also known for her extravagant Christmas parties. She hosted more than 200 people each year at a local hall, and started preparations for the next one the day after the party ended.

A moment of silence was observed at last night's annual Financial Town Meeting, which Mrs. Martinfrequently attended to oppose new taxes.

"It's so appropriate that she was buried on the day of the Financial Town Meeting," said Town Councilwoman Claudia Linhares, who asked for the tribute.

THE WHITE CORVAIR at Tiverton Auto Body looked like it had seen some wear and tear, but not 30 years' worth. Martin said his mother would apply household paint as soon as she saw a trace of rust.

DEM regulations require the gas tank and all fluids to be removed from the car prior to burial. George Murray, owner of the body shop across the street from the cemetery, spent about 12 hours preparing the car on Monday and Tuesday.

Murray removed the seats and the still plush red carpet to lay boards to support the casket. The red steering wheel was next to go. Mrs. Martin will rest her head for eternity against the car's AM radio.

"I've built race cars, I've built everything," he said, standing in the space where the engine used to be. "Never done this, though."

Because the Corvair, produced only from 1960 to 1969, has its engine in the rear, the whole thing was removed to accommodate the casket.

The burial plan hit a snag when measurements of the vault determined that the compact car was 8 inches too long. Working with a blowtorch, Murray cut off the back end, shaved off the extra inches, and reattached the rear section with bumper. As the smoke cleared and the smell of burning rubber filled the open garage, Murray explained that there would only be 4 inches of extra space to maneuver the car into the vault.

As the car dangled above the deep hole, a vault company crew steadied the swaying car while a bright orange crane jerked it up and down, trying to find the right position. After several attempts, the car and driver glided down for one last ride, barely scraping the concrete walls.

Michael Rego, a long-time friend of Mrs. Martin's, said she was probably watching the spectacle that stopped cars up and down Main Road.

"She's laughing her head off right now," he said.

Copyright 1998 The Providence Journal Company

Thanks to our source, Ann Barbour of the Roanoke Valley Corvair Club.

Click road sign for more about the early model.


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