The Corwin Getaway, an 11-foot-long, low-slung, mid-engine vehicle, foresaw the coming of sporty runabouts like the later Fiat X1/9 and Toyota MR2 back in 1969, and it continues to look sporty today. This could be the product of an established Silicon Valley startup, complete with some LED lighting and an electric drivetrain. Instead, there is just one prototype, making the Getaway one of the fascinating what-might-have-been tales of automotive history.



In August 1965, the Los Angeles neighbourhood of Watts was rife with racial and class tension. The arrest of 21-year-old Marquette Frye served as the ignition, setting a neighbourhood on fire with indignation over law enforcement abuse. Cliff Hall, a Black photographer whose work brought him all over Los Angeles, from the affluent heights of Beverly Hills to the working class hardships in South Central, thought that the market held the key to ending inequity. The Getaway would be that vehicle, and he aspired to be the first Black designer to create one built by and for the Black community.

Hall served in the U.S. Navy from 1943 to 1946, at which time he learned about electronics. When he eventually settled back into society, he received his training at the newly opened Fred Archer college of images in Los Angeles. He was the chief photographer of the Los Angeles Sentinel, one of the oldest and most widely read Black newspapers in the Western United States, by 1965. He had a gift for capturing the moment, and his career as a photographer would last for a very long time.

Hall, however, lacked only a superb eye; he also possessed a restless intellect. According to all accounts, he almost fizzed with possibilities, thoughts shooting off of him like sparks from a roaring fire. He also created his own mobile image development studio in a van, which enabled him to capture a function and then exhibit the images immediately after.

He told the Periods, “I prefer to produce, and that inspires me far more than anything else. “I enjoy acquiring raw content and transforming it into something useful. Design is an emotion, a proper idea in my hands that needs to be produced.

He was born with it. His maternal grand-uncles manufactured cars and even an aeroplane in the 1920s, and his grandfather made watches. Few questioned Corridor’s ability to build a successful motor vehicle since he was an inherently creative genius.

The Getaway was designed as a small, affordable runabout that was perfect for the busy Los Angeles traffic. The Getaway is affordable but engaging, and it is within the reach of younger clients. Toyota would launch the original, wedge-shaped MR2 on largely the same concepts fifteen decades later.

The Corwin title was sent by local Panasonic electronics dealer Louis Corwin. Corwin, who was an early adopter and could clearly see the direction the Japanese industrial industry was headed, evidently saw the viability in Hall’s ideas. He made a $100,000 investment in his future.

The Corwin Getaway has a fibreglass body and a square-tube chassis underneath. The engine is a Subaru flat-4 of unknown origin that Hall supposedly found in a junkyard and has about 78 horsepower. The vehicle is exceedingly small, with the wheels pushed to the corners, and is two toes shorter than a Pontiac Fiero.

Corridor routinely snapped pictures of the renowned individuals of the day in his employment as a photographer. When the Getaway project was displayed at the Los Angeles auto show in 1970, celebrities like Sidney Poitier and Marvin Gaye helped it along with Muhammad Ali.

But there was a huge gap between the dream and reality, as is typically the case in Southern California. Making a successful prototype is challenging enough, but raising the thousands upon thousands required to build a plant was a much bigger obstacle. From the newest Solo electric three-wheeler to the DeLorean DMC-12, hundreds have tried and failed to travel the distance. Hall’s Getaway demonstrated strategy by running and driving, but it was unable to gain momentum and come into being.

At the Petersen Museum, a Family

Corridor was asked to showcase his generation as an example of Los Angeles motor vehicle tradition and innovation when the Petersen Automotive Museum opened in December 2015. Because of the car’s participation at the L.A. auto show, Petersen curator Leslie Kendall believes he learned about it, and that the partnership between the museum and Corridor was established. A few years later, Hall gave the Petersen his cherished Getaway prototype, and work on restoring it to its former splendour began.

The work was completed by restorer Bodie Stroud, who had previously worked on the Petersen family’s 3-wheeled Davis Divan—another oddball vehicle from Los Angeles. Everything was finished the way Hall had envisioned it, but the Getaway still underwent a thorough renovation.

Corridor was happy to see his legacy being upheld, albeit lamenting the fact that he never realised the help wanted to transform the Getaway into a generational car. In 2020, Corridor passed away at the age of 94.

But he leaves behind a remarkable body of work, including the Getaway. The Corwin Getaway is a symbol of unrestrained creativity and hope that emerges from a period and location defined by suffering.

The vehicle’s significance lies not in its status as an artefact, but rather in the way it conveys a concept, according to Kendall. At the museum, it was one of my favourite experiences.

The Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles offers a vault tour that includes a viewing of The Corwin Getaway.