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Rusnak_322 HalfDork
7/3/13 9:34 a.m.

I have been having fun taking my 3 year old son to local car shows / Cruise-ins. He love cars, a lot of the time when I get home from work, he will bug me to take him for a 20 to 30 min drive in my MINI.

I was thinking that it would be fun to get a older car and take him, the wife and my 6 year old daughter for ice cream, dinner or just running to the store.

I would want a convertible. I would want a stick. I don’t think that I would want to spend over $5k on a car, and I want one that is safe, running now and not a mess to look at. Needs to seat 4 (two in booster / car seats). I am sure that I can add in something to make the booster seats work in older cars. My only classic car has been a 1955 Chevy, but I just completely redid a vintage motorcycle.

Looking around, the only cars that jump out at me are 1965+ Corvairs, Karma Ghia or a Jeep. I am not a fan of 1980s or 1990s Mustangs or Camaros.

The wife likes the idea of getting a motorcycle with a side car (she would ride on her own bike). I think that we would get more use from a car. Only problem is storage (a side hack will also take up a lot of room).

I have never driven a Crovair. They look fun, but not a lot close by. I saw one that looks good on Craigslist, but I need to find some time to go check it out. Does a Corvair sound like what I am looking for? Any other car that I am missing that I should be looking at? It would be a summer fun car, so not too worried about the lack of heat. I am sure I can fix just about anything on a car like that myself, but I want to avoid a project car.

Thanks -

Kramer HalfDork
7/3/13 9:52 a.m.

If you've never driven a Corvair, do yourself a favor and find a way to drive one. They handle wonderfully, but they're still 1960's cars, so don't expect them to be exactly like a Miata. Corvairs can be somewhat inexpensive to restore and maintain, as long as you find a rust-free example. Look out for rust on the k-member. Powerglide cars are still fun, even with the 110 engine. Don't spend $10,000 on fixing up a Corvair--you'll only end up with a $6,000 car, but it should hold that value. Find a nice, rust-free example and enjoy it!

I grew up with this Corvair in the 1980's. We loved this car, but it was a poor restoration. We have a 1965 convertible and a 1964 Monza Spyder in dry storage that both need restored.

 photo Corvair1967.jpg

Gearheadotaku GRM+ Memberand UltraDork
7/3/13 9:59 a.m.

Corvairs aren't bad cars, but yes, buy the nicest one you can budget for.

1965 was the 1st year for the restyled body.

spitfirebill UberDork
7/3/13 10:10 a.m.

I've been interested in Corvairs since I drove one in the late 1960s. I test drove a neighbor's who was looking at selling his early 60s model. I really liked the car, but one of the synchros was grouchy, so I passed. I was surprised how light the steering was for a non-power steering car.

I've been looking half-heartedly for a while. The good post-64 convertibles seem to be listed for 6-10k. That's asking price and they seem to be listed for a long time. If a good one came my way I would try to grab it. I was actually thinking of trading one of my Spitfires for a Corvair.

kreb SuperDork
7/3/13 10:32 a.m.

X1 on everything said above. I would go for a later body style. Although the 1st gens are cute, Full IRS is the only way to go IMO if you intend to do anything performance-minded.

A stock manual Corsa will give you enough performance to be fun, but not enough to get into trouble unless you push it without understanding rear-engine handling tendencies.

Very easy to work on. There's an inexpensive fuel-injection/electronic injection system available if you don't like carbs ($1500 or so).

I'd like to play with the heads/intake system. The intake manifold and exhaust ports are pretty atrocious, but there are proven ways to open them up. If one did the full monte in that area, threw in better seats, quick steering and the usual suspension tightening, I bet you could surprise a lot of cars.

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
7/3/13 10:59 a.m.

We just did a Corvair convertible project over at Classic Motorsports. That series will probably answer most of your questions. Short answer, I think it might work well for you guys.

You can check it out here: http://classicmotorsports.net/project-cars/1963-chevrolet-corvair-monza-spyder/

yamaha UberDork
7/3/13 11:16 a.m.

I like both the Corvair and Karman Ghia ideas.....but I can't remember if the ghia was offered as an open top.

spitfirebill UberDork
7/3/13 11:59 a.m.
yamaha wrote: I like both the Corvair and Karman Ghia ideas.....but I can't remember if the ghia was offered as an open top.

It was.

yamaha UberDork
7/3/13 12:06 p.m.

In reply to spitfirebill:

Ahhh, tough choice then......the vair is probably less expensive.

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
7/3/13 12:06 p.m.

At least down here, I am seeing some killer deals on Corvairs, even open cars.

Vigo UltraDork
7/3/13 12:10 p.m.
spitfirebill wrote:
yamaha wrote: I like both the Corvair and Karman Ghia ideas.....but I can't remember if the ghia was offered as an open top.
It was.

Those are definitely on the small side, though. I like the Corvair idea a lot more.

My interest in Corvairs has also been steadily growing.

Driven5 Reader
7/3/13 12:28 p.m.

We've also been eyeing our first classic, with the requirements being 4 seats, convertible, reasonably priced, and I actually kind of prefer a non-V8. On the short list of more commonly available cars right now are the 1963 Falcon and 1965+ Corvair. Currently we're leaning towards the more 'european' flavored Corvair. Just the other day we drove a 67 Corvair 4 speed convertible (110 with the 140 heads), and really enjoyed it! Handling was surprisingly good even if the steering was a bit slow, and the sound even out of the pea shooter exhaust wasn't bad at all. I can only imagine that engine would sound quite a bit better with the exhaust opened up a bit. The 4 wheel drums were borderline terrible though, and a disc brake conversion is one of the first things I would plan on doing to the car after addressing the lack of adequate seatbelts...Neither of which was an entirely unexpected issue on this vintage of car though.

A Karmann Ghia could be kind of cool, but the lack of rear seat room might be a deal breaker.

Rusnak_322 HalfDork
7/3/13 12:31 p.m.

I got interested in the Corvair after reading a BAT listing a few weeks back. I have read up on them and like the later cars. Hate the idea of a auto.

this one is calling me. I am going to see if I can look at it and test drive it this weekend. - I called dibs, so no one better buy it out from under me.

any idea on a real selling price for these?


Corvair Corsa convertible 1966, 5 new tires, [whitewalls to the inside] good original interior (except 1 seam in seat needs sewn) No door panels, I have the pattern. Engine was rebuilt and the fuel pump leaked gas into the engine. 140 HP, 4 speed, all floors and rockers very solid. New windshield. Good car to make money on. I have no time for this car. Also have a 65 Corvair Monza convertible for sale. Have lots of Corvair parts to sell!

AngryCorvair GRM+ Memberand PowerDork
7/3/13 12:40 p.m.

jim pettengill (i apologize if i misspelled) wrote a good Corvair buyers guide article for Classic a few years ago. i have owned several, mostly '65 - '69, coupes and convertibles, sticks and automatics, 110 hp (1 carb per head), 140 hp (2 carbs per head), turbo (OE single side-draft draw-through), and mid-engine V8. i've loved them all.

  • weight distribution is 36% front / 64% rear, so yes the steering is low-effort.
  • the brakes are Chevelle parts, switched front for rear. so yes the brakes are good.
  • IIRC '66 and later will have factory attachment points for rear seat belts.
  • in a ragtop you will not have shoulder belts unless you swap seats (chrysler sebring has been done).
  • bolt pattern is GM intermediate so lots of wheel options up to 16x8, and can go with 4th gen F-body or C4/C5 with spacers.
  • for a maintenance-free summer ride, i would not hesitate to pick up a corvair with a 110 engine and a powerglide.
AngryCorvair GRM+ Memberand PowerDork
7/3/13 12:55 p.m.

In reply to Rusnak_322:

"fuel pump leaked gas into the engine" could mean "all bearings are wiped and the cam is just a shaft of coaxial circles". if so, that's not really a "good car to make money on." it's also missing the wheel arch trim and the convertible top window.

having said that, a '66 corsa ragtop is a pretty desirable car. check the body where the lower door hinges bolt on. they rust there due to the cowl vents allowing leaves and rain into that space, and it is structural to the unibody.

general notes:

if the drums are properly adjusted, not contaminated, and not leaking, they are actually quite good even with modern sticky tires.

sloppy shifter = worn pins in the linkage, or worn bushings in teh shift tube. both are easy fixes if the car is not a rustbucket. the pins can get so worn that the trans won't go into reverse.

loose steering can often be fixed with a nylon bushing where the pitman arm joins the drag link. cheap and effective.

slow steering can be fixed with aftermarket "quick steering" arms. few corvairs were built with the optional quick-ratio steering box, but a corsa is a good candidate for having one. quick = 3.75 turns lock to lock versus 5.5 for a standard box. the aftermarket arms mess up the ackerman a bit, but it's not a disaster for a street car. honestly, it's probably not a disaster for a race car either.

to answer the OP's original question: YES, you do want a corvair.

beans Reader
7/3/13 1:01 p.m.


Jim Pettengill
Jim Pettengill HalfDork
7/3/13 2:01 p.m.

Jim here, Angry, you got the spelling right. Everyone: don't be afraid of not having heat, replace the exhaust manifold packings with modern, good stuff and the heater can roast you out of the car. Disc brake conversions are available. To check out the parts situation (which is outstanding), google Clark's Corvair Parts, and the Corvair Underground. Pretty much everything and anything is available. GM used really slow steering to keep the effort similar to the typical "no-feel" power steering of the day, so the quick-ratio arms are a good idea. GM also was deathly afraid of the "oversteer" word by this time, so the standard alignment settings are really biased toward understeer. A good late-model 'Vair with good shocks, a little negative camber all around, and a healthy dose of positive caster is a very good-handling car. Unfortunately, good 13 inch tires are few and far between, but as Angry said, you can pick up mid-80s Z28 16 inchers and find some good modern rubber.

Keep a spare fanbelt on hand with a big screwdriver for leverage and a 9/16" wrench and you can change a belt in less than 5 minutes. Use good belts from the 'Vair specialists and keep them adjusted and you shouldn't even have the problem. Get the best one you can afford, watch for the tinworm, and enjoy!

Kenny_McCormic SuperDork
7/3/13 2:25 p.m.

Don't lift!

If you poke around the CL, you might come across a 60s something or other convertible for cheap, I've seen things like dart convertibles with the slant 6 and 4 speed in decent shape for challenge money.

yamaha UberDork
7/3/13 2:57 p.m.

For fodders sake...........the corvairs look fantastic with just a change of wheels.....

AngryCorvair GRM+ Memberand PowerDork
7/3/13 3:29 p.m.

AngryCorvair GRM+ Memberand PowerDork
7/3/13 3:30 p.m.

In reply to beans:

when did they move from Eeeprod?

AngryCorvair GRM+ Memberand PowerDork
7/3/13 3:32 p.m.

shadetree30 Reader
7/3/13 3:40 p.m.

Always liked the little dears. Started losing my respect for GM when they discontinued them...

For those of you in or convenient to the Pennsylvania area:

Corvair Ranch

1079 Bon-Ox Road

Gettysburg PA 17325


(not related or interested in any way, etc, etc, etc)

AngryCorvair GRM+ Memberand PowerDork
7/3/13 3:49 p.m.

no E36 M3, this one was mine! this pic was taken by a detroit free press auto editor guy at the Ypsilanti Orphan Car Show in, iirc, june 2000. this photo appeared as "car of the day" and was voted "car of the week" that week by readers.

it's a '68 monza (clear front side markers, vs the ambers used in '69), 140 hp and 4-speed manual, had some optional trim items and an AM/FM radio with rear seat speaker! I added the large-diameter angle-cut exhaust extractors from clark's and it sounded wicked sexy.

item C5040, middle of the page

to what jim said, let me add that you have to make sure there are no oil leaks inside the shrouds as well, or the heat will be stinky (but probably non-lethal). viton pushrod tube seals and valve cover gaskets take care of the most common heat-stinkifying leaks.

AngryCorvair GRM+ Memberand PowerDork
7/3/13 3:51 p.m.
shadetree30 wrote: Always liked the little dears. Started losing my respect for GM when they discontinued them... For those of you in or convenient to the Pennsylvania area: Corvair Ranch 1079 Bon-Ox Road Gettysburg PA 17325 717-624-2805 (not related or interested in any way, etc, etc, etc)

the Ranch is awesome! if you stop by, tell Jeff that Pat from Detroit says Hi!

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