Chevrolet Corvair: Lovable Collectors At A Reasonable Price

Greg Zyla
Q: Hello Greg and thanks for all the columns you’ve written over the years. I see your column online and in area newspapers and look forward to them.
I’m a fan of the Chevy Corvair, and owned a few of them in my day. I’m retired now and 65 years old, but I’m thinking of maybe buying a collector car because the many car shows in my area are so much fun. I especially like the car shows in the fall, when the crisp air and beautiful vehicles make for a great day.
What do you think about the Corvair as a collector car? I see them in the magazines for very fair prices and on eBay also. Thanks, Jim from Clyde, New York.
A: Jim, I just returned from the Bloomsburg Nationals car show, held annually at the fairgrounds in Bloomsburg, Pa. It was a great show loaded with special events, and we had numerous personalities on hand including the likes of NHRA World Champion Bruce Larson and his nitro funny car Corvette and Larry Lombardo, likewise an NHRA World Champ in Pro Stock. To really spruce up the show, My Classic Car television star Dennis Gage attended the event and sure added some pizzazz to the show.
I spotted several really beautiful Corvairs while touring the grounds, one of them a gorgeous Corsa coupe which I’ve supplied a few photos of. Overall, to answer our question, Corvairs to this day are reasonably priced and an excellent entry vehicle into the spectacular world of car collecting and for attending your area car shows.
You mention “crisp air and beautiful vehicles” when describing the fall car shows, and I agree 100-percent. Now don’t get me wrong, I like car shows at all times of the year, be it indoor or outside, but there’s nothing like those early fall afternoons and evenings to attend car shows, be it the size and scope of a Bloomsburg Nationals or a small car show sponsored by your local fire company. These car shows are known for good food, camaraderie with car and truck lovers, and, the most important ingredient of all—the preservation of these beautiful cars and trucks. These collector vehicles are works of art and worthy of legislation protecting them from the junkyard crusher or uninformed politicians who want to ban them because they don’t “conform.”
Thankfully, there are fewer and fewer politicians who try to impose rules and regulations against collector cars because they know they could lose their positions. (Thank you SEMA and other car organizations for your lobbying help in Washington, DC.)
As for the Corvair, I've always liked them because of their unique rear-engine, rear-drive technology regardless of what Ralph Nader said about the car in his book “Unsafe at any Speed.” (Which was just one little chapter by the way, not the entire book).
Specifically, Corvairs received a bad rap when Nader knocked the car as one of the most dangerous cars ever built. This wasn't really true, for as long as you followed Chevrolet’s recommended tire pressures found in the owner’s manual, specifically 15 pounds in front, 26 pounds in the rear, the car wouldn't "sway" in the rear much at all. To add to the problem, famous television comedian Ernie Kovacs was killed in a Corvair crash during this time period, making for additional bad press.
The only problem as I see it is that not many consumers checked their tire pressure every week, or every month or year for that matter. So I’ll agree the early Corvairs did have an Achilles heel, but Chevy did address the concern and things got better as the years went on.
Additionally, Chevrolet corporate was fully vindicated thanks to a Congressional investigation and report that cleared General Motors and the 1960-63 Corvair of any wrong doing. However, this absolution came three years after the car's 10-year production run ended in 1969.
Today, Corvairs are certainly collector worthy, although they'll never be top value collector cars. Models like the Monza Spyder Convertible or a Corvair coupe or four-door are priced to buy. I see many nice Corvairs for sale today in decent shape for less than $7,500.
My favorites are the Corvair Spyder from ‘62 through ’64, the Corsa in ’65 and ’66, and any Monza. As for power, Corvair’s “flat” six cylinder engines grew from 140 inches in 1960, to 145 in 1961 through 1963 and finally 164 cubic inches from 1964-69.
Notable, too, are the other Corvair models, like wagons and trucks. The Lakewood Station Wagons and the Greenbrier Sports Wagon passenger vans are always popular at the shows. Notable too is the Greenbrier pickup that features a side opening door that doubles as a ramp to easily load cargo.
On the race track, Don Yenko built special performance Corvairs at his dealership in Canonsburg, PA, called the Yenko Corvair Stinger, which was based on the Corsa and Monza lines. These Yenko Stingers won the D/Production central region title in 1966 and were available in four stages of power, specifically 160, 190, 220, and 240 horsepower versions. All were derived from Corvair's base 164 cubic inch flat-six cylinder, and a total of 185 Stingers were built in 1965 through 1967. Many don’t know that it was the Corvair Stinger that Yenko built first, not the COPO 427 muscle cars he is best known for.
Trivia? Television comedian star Tim Allen (Home Improvement, Last Man Standing) owned and raced a Yenko Stinger prior to selling it in 2009.

Hope this info helps Jim and good luck if you purchase a Corvair in the future.
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