Ralph Nader burst onto the national sceneand into conference rooms and Congressional committee hearings on Capitol Hillin 1965, with the publication of Unsafe at Any Speed, his indictment of GM's Corvair and its predilection for rolling when taken into tight turns at high speeds. That flaw was aggravated by the lack of safety features designed into the Corvair and Detroit's other "psychosexual dreamboats": cars with no seatbelts or airbags or padding, made of rigid steel that made even minor collisions potentially fatal. The book, which spun out of a 1959 article in The Nation, presaged Nader's modus operandi in the years to follow: meticulously researched, strident advocacy that aimed not only to inform the public but to effect change through government regulation.
Nader's rise to fame was abetted, ironically, by GM's efforts to suppress his findings: The auto manufacturer hired private investigators to pry into Nader's personal life and sent women to try to seduce him into compromising situations, in an attempt to gather fuel for a smear campaign. The investigators found nothing. Nader tipped the Washington Post to the somewhat obvious tactic, and GM's president was soon sitting before a Congressional committee, issuing a public apologyand elevating Nader to the status of populist hero.