Woman, 84, Takes Last Ride In Beloved 1962 Corvair

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 Tiverton, R.I., 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 both wiped tears and grinned 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.

A handicapped license plate was removed and handed to her 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.

Nader, at that time an unknown Detroit lawyer, said the Corvair had serious steering and control problems.

But to Mrs. Martin, a talkative and no-nonsense police matron tending to women prisoners at the town jail, the low-slung car with four front headlights was a gem.

"To us it's just normal because she's imbedded it in our minds," Police Chief George Arruda said.

Mrs. Martin was laid to rest next to her husband. Her headstone showed a picture of her and car.

Murray prepared the car for burial last week, removing the rear engine, the steering wheel and seats to make room for a casket.

He used a chainsaw-like cutting tool to remove a 14-inch section from the rear, then welded the two pieces together and painted the scar to look like new.

Mrs. Martin had paid $2,500 for the car when it was new, and it served her well, the mechanic said.

"It was a shame to cut it up," he said.

"But it's her car, and she wanted it the way she wanted it."