The Most Affordable North American Collector's Car
By James Grahame
Here's a guest post from Michael Posner:
"This year marks the 100th anniversary of the Chevrolet brand. Many models are being feted as part of the celebration, but one model that is often overlooked in the hoopla is the Chevrolet Corvair, the first and only air cooled, rear engined mass produced car made in America. Produced from 1960 to 1969, the Corvair was the subject, in part, of Ralph Nader's seminal work, Unsafe at Any Speed, which claimed that the original 1960 car was prone to violent unpredictable oversteer. While somewhat true, handling improved after 1960, and by 1965 in the guise of a second generation car, became one if the best handling cars made at the time (with a new corvette-based independent rear suspension).
Initially, the Corvair was sold in a plethora of models including coupe, sedan, wagon, and van, but most were abandoned by 1966 as sales dropped 50% due to the publication of Nader's Book and the introduction of the Mustang. GM carried on with the coupe and convertible until 1969, mostly to spite Nader, despite ever-declining sales.
The Corvair was GM's response to the small car import threat, especially from VW. Fuel economy was over 20 mpg, and due to the engine layout the interior was as roomy as many larger cars with a wide, flat floor and a folding rear seat for added luggage. Despite its economy car roots, the Corvair was soon adopted by.the sporting crowd as a poor man's Porsche. GM responded by up horsepower from 80 to 180 by turbocharging the car.
The engine was a unique design, a horizontally opposed six cylinder boxer engine with aluminum heads displacing 2.3 to 2.7 liters, supported by two or four one barrel carburettors producing 80 to 140 horsepower and a single side barrel carb feeding the dual intake turbo. Three and four speed manual transmission were available, along with a powerglide two speed autobox.
Since the Corvair was an economy car, it lacked power steering or brakes, but options included bucket seats, air conditioning, am-fm stereo and full gauges. Prices started in the low $2,000s up to a fully loaded model that barely topped $3,000. Two specialty versions were also available, the race-bred Yenko Stinger and the sport luxury Fitch Sprint, both of which are highly sought in the collector market.
Over nine years, GM sold 1.75 million Corvairs, but the stigma of being unsafe made the car less desirable than other 60's collectibles. Today the Corvair is part of a vibrant collector car community and has earned the title of the most affordable collectible. As a new owner of a 1966 Corvair coupe, I have found it to be easy to drive, easy to work on, with a ready supply of parts availability and online and local support. For those looking for a cheap fun collector car, the Corvair cannot be beat. -- Michael Posner"