This year marks the 50th anniversary of Ralph Nader’s book “Unsafe at Any Speed," in which the young Harvard-trained lawyer/activist did a serious hatchet job on what was a very interesting and unconventional American car. But the Chevy Corvair is clearly having the last laugh. Ironically, as the book turns 50, Corvair prices have reached an all-time high.
I owned a 1963 Corvair Spyder (the high-performance model) in College.
After I graduated, and after I came home from the Army, I bought a 1965 Corvair Corsa. Also the high performance model.
Both were the convertible models.
Both were hot, sexy, and when they ran right they ran with the power of the Elk and the grace of the Gazelle!
Unfortunately, they didn't run that well, that often.
Both had the endemic problem of the rear-mounted engine: when you pushed them too hard, it threw the fan belt and you had to stop RIGHT THEN and re-install the fan belt.
If you didn't fix that RIGHT THEN .. in the words of RoboCop ... "...There Will Be Trouble!"
I carried a 1/2" open wrench and a 5/16" socket wrench, which were the tools necessary to to loosen the idler wheel so I could put the fan belt back on track.
I also carried a spare fan belt, just in case; but it was never needed. The fan belt was not damaged by the experience; it just fell off into the rear-deck engine well.
The front end was the trunk. In the winter (in the 1960-1970 period) in Oregon, we got some fearsome winters with snows six inches or more. The snow lasted for weeks, to months. The front of the Corvair was so light, I couldn't steer the car. I had to put a hundred pounds or more of sandbags in the front-trunk of the Corvair so I could make it around a corner.
But I loved those cars!
The 1963 didn't last too long; I eventually sold it and bought a 1970 Ford Maverick .. perhaps the lamest of all the Ford Economy Cars ... when I was drafted and just married at the same time.
After I got out of the army, I traded the Maverick (which had the odd habit of having the hood of the car become unhinged while I was driving down the road, for no discernible reason whatever) but at least it kept running even though I had to learn to drive with my head out the window of the car until I could safely pull over to the side of the road ... for the 1965 Corsa plus $700 "boot money".
Then I moved to California, and eventually tried to trade the Corsa in on a 1973 Dodge Challenger.
The dealer rep had his minion go check out the Corsa. At first they were willing to give me $50 on credit for the Corsa. After the minion checked out the Corsa, the decided that they would take the Corsa off my hands if I gave THEM $50!
I kept the Corsa, paid straight cash for the Challenger (which I LOVED until it developed ignition problems .. but that's another story) and later sold the Corsa for parts.
So .. it's obvious that anyone who actually kept a Corvair did so out of love, and I'm pleased to learn that they are being rewarded after all these (almost 50) years for their determination.
I just hope that when these Corvair Lovers sell their Spyders and their Corsas to the collecters, they are kind enough to include a 1/2" open wrench and a 5/16" socket wrench,