Would a Restored corvair be a nice ride?

I always liked the looks of the Chevrolet Corvair. Of course, being a rear-engine design, it was subject to oversteer and some handling problems. This was all fixed in time, and now it is actually quite easy to obtain parts.
Would a restored one be a safe drive? Does the OEM engine have enough power for modern road conditions?
Finally, the safety aspect: can you retrofit an old car like this with airbags? if not, would seatbelts and disc brakes be enough to make the car safe enough as a daily driver?

I own a 62 Monza coupe 4-spd, and am active in a local Vair club.

Certainly Corvairs have all the issues of a 40-50 year old car, but I and many others find them to be tremendous fun to drive. Some people will talk about them as terribly unsafe - I and others believe the concerns were overstated, and are easily overcome.

I’ve seen hundreds of Vairs and have never seen or heard of anyone installing airbags. You can install disc brakes, but IMO well-maintained drums are certainly adequate.

All of the engines are fine for any driving you might have. Even the smallest - 95 hp I believe, has plenty of pep and no problem cruising at 65 or more. But you won’t be leaving anyone in your dust from a redlight. Mine’s a somewhat modified 102hp, and it is fine for the street or expressway. Unless you are a major gearhead I would suggest you avoid the 4-carb Spyders/Corsas.

Being rear-engined/drive, they are said to perform well in snow, but I put mine up over the winter to keep it out of the salt.

One decision you will need to make is early - 60-64, or late 65-69, as the body styles are quite different and they havequite different feel. The suspension was significantly upgraded in 64 (tho again, it is no big problem before that). Many folk feel the last couple of years had build quality issues.

Another choice will be standard or automatic. Many folk feel the powerglide automatic is one of the best transmissions ever made. And if you do a lot of stop-and-go, you may wish to avoid a stick.

Vairs are unibody cars, and most people agree that the BIGGEST thing to look for and avoid in buying is rust. Mechanicals and appearances are far easier and cheaper to repair than structural problems.

They are extremely easy to work on, there is a very large and active community of owners, and parts are readily available. My research led me to believe that they were BY FAR the most economical way to get into “classic” cars.

Here’s a site that compiles all of the listings for Vairs he can find. And this is IMO the best Corvair forum out there. And I believe there is another poster who owns a 65 convertible powerglide - Bayard - tho I don’t know whether he is still active.

Let me know if you have any specific questions. I’ll bore you to TEARS talking about my car! ggg

And if you are ever passing through Chicago and want to take mine out for a drive …

Just don’t eff up inflating the tires.

If you want something really unique, find yourself a Corvair rampside pickup.

I was a weekend away from buying one to restore once. Someone beat me to it. :frowning:

I has a Spyder which ran equivalent to a 327 Chevy of the time. It was fast enough.

We had a 1962 Corvair, bought new. It was a total piece of crap. Perhaps the restored ones are better.

Yeah, 10 psi less on the front than the rear. Really tough to remember. Or was that 13.5 psi more on the right side than on the left?

While we’re at it, on my gas guage E stands for Enough, and F means Finished, right? This is sooo hard! :wink:

May or may not be of significance, but see how many other cars of the 60s have as active support these days in terms of clubs, vendors, activities. I’m sure all those folk enjoy their Vairs today because they are such crappy cars! :smiley:

Ralph - where are you at? I wanna bore everyone with more about my car! :stuck_out_tongue:

I have heard (from Corvair buffs) that the car is actually very safe ( in frontal collsions, anyway). the proported reason is that the front trunk acts as a very good crumple zone.
What about the other stuff-did the Corvair have a collapsible steering column? Or was that before the advent of that technology?
It really is a concern-I mean, if you are going to use a 1960’s car, as a daily driver, you ought to be aware of how dangerous the car is likely to be (in the event of a crash).
I would love a 1967 Camaro-but daily driver? NO way!:frowning:

Most definitely not. I believe that one of the chapters in Nader’s book was on steering columns - criticizing the industry as a whole - not just Chevy re: Vairs. It is funny how many folk believe “Unsafe” was “about Vairs” - when in fact, only one chapter (the first - perhaps all many folk read?) was about Vairs. Instead, it was more of a much-needed indictment of the entire American auto industry.

Folk also seem to forget that in 72 the National Highway Traffic Safety Admin (NHTSA) published a report following extensive testing saying such things as:

“The 1960-63 Corvair compares favorably with contemporary vehicles used in the tests,” and, “The handling and stability performance of the 1960-63 Corvair does not result in an abnormal potential for loss of control or rollover, and it is at least as good as the performance of some contemporary vehicles both foreign and domestic.”

The complete report, PB 211-015, is available from the National Technical Information Service (NTIS).

NHTSA contracted with an advisory panel of independent engineers to review the scope and competency of their tests. This review panel then issued their own report (PB 211-014, also available from the NTIS):

“It is the opinion of the panel that the Corvair quantitatively meets or exceeds the standards set by contemporary cars in stability tests, cornering tests, and rollover tests,” and, “for this reason the panel concluded that the 1960-63 Corvair does not have a safety defect, and is not more unstable or more likely to roll over than contemporary cars.”

But we still have the meme of Corvairs as killers. :rolleyes:


So you really have to decide for yourself whether whatever enjoyment you derive from driving an older car outweighs the clear risks should you get in an accident. A lot might depend on the type of driving you do - a lot of expressways during rush hour as opposed to in-town and country roads. I’ve been a driver for 30+ years, and have never been in anything more than a monor fender bender. That doesn’t mean I won’t get T-boned by a speeding drunk the next time I pull out of my driveway. But I tend to think that if I drive safely and defensively with an eye to weather conditions, the increased risks associated with driving an older car are well worth it.

My Corvair is primarily for running errands around town on familiar roads, to and from golf, and maybe occasionally for a 100-150 mile trip to visit a kid at school. I’m sanguine that the risk of my being involved in a serious accident in such driving is not unacceptable Further, should such an accident occur, there’s a chance I’d be fucked whatever car I was driving.

You also have to consider reliability. When you say “daily driver”, do you mean your sole/primary vehicle? Because you can pretty much expect that any 50 year old car is going to give you the occasional problem that you might well avoid by drviing a new car under a 3-year lease. Old things tend to wear out, and chances are at least once or twice it will happen at an inconvenient time. So you have to be willing to put up with that. (Of course, you can always buy a new car and get a lemon.)

Most owners of older cars carry a few tools tools and supplies with them at all times. The engines are really so simple that there are a lot of things even a neophyte mechanic can repair if they have a couple of tools. Like replacing a fan belt (a correctible problem with Vairs.) But heck, you could pretty much tear an entire Vair apart and reassemble it with little more than a set of sockets, a couple of box wrenches and a screwdriver or 2. No exaggeration! But it is a good idea to carry your cellphone, and check out roadside assistance possibilities with AAA and your insurance.

One other benefit of Corvairs is that they are cheap. I bought mine for $2500 and put $1500 into making the brakes and steering like new. (You can get very reliable daily drivers that do not have as nice interior and exterior as mine for far less.) And now it drives like a top, requiring VERY little maintenance, most of which I can do myself very inexpensively (despite having no significant mechanical skills/experience).

So what I’m saying is, if you wanted to give older cars a try, you can do so very cheaply with a Corvair. And even if you decided it wasn’t right for you, you could get out of it without taking a financial bath.

At the same time, don’t for a second dream that you are going to make money off of a Corvair as an investment. It is rare to get as much out of a Vair upon resale as was put in. But you have to put your personal pricetag on the enjoyment you get from it.

You also have to decide how you will respond to the countless comments you will receive pretty much everywhere you go. It almost seems everyone has some story they want to share, have no idea what kind of car it is, or simply give you a smile and a thumbs-up. Well over 95% of such comments are positive. And I personally find it easy to ignore the other 5%.

I drove a friend’s 1965(?) Corvair across country around 1970, then for a few months after. I thought it handled well, but I was used to oversteering cars like the VW bug already. I never had to stress the steering enough to test Nader’s claim of sudden “air-out” during extreme cornering.

I did crash it into a telephone pole at low speed when another driver didn’t see me and forced me off the road, but there were no injuries and it was a full frontal collision.

Maybe I was just lucky.

To put it into perspective, just last night a couple of guys were commenting on how in pony cars the floor of the trunk is the top of the gas tank - a wonderful design attribute they shared with Pintos. (I have no idea if this is true - just what these 2 GM fans were saying.)

If you are really concerned about safety, I’d suggest you look at 64 and later when the suspension was vastly improved. But even the 60 Corvair was a pretty radical development at the time. Air-cooled rear engine over the driving wheels, 4 wheel independent suspension… If you are interested, definitely check out both earlies and lates. Lates drive much more similar to a modern car. But even earlies steered much better than the sluggish handling common in American cars of the late 50s.

Yeah, radical. Nothing but a million VWs used that, and only for ~15 years.

That is correct for the Mustangs. The trunk and gas tank are one and the same. Then again, not a lot of trunk space to begin with.

There also is not a separator between the trunk / gas and the rear seat other than a sheet of cardboard. There are aftermarket parts you can buy to help protect yourself, but they are not DOT tested so you just run with it.

I should have made clear that I was talking aout radical for an American car.

Corvairs, to clarify what I said, had very different tire pressure for front and rear. Say, 25 PSI for rear, and 15 for front. Something with a differential that huge at least. It was that way to cure the oversteer.

A really, really big problem was gas station service people filling the front tires to the rear pressure.

That was lethal.

Like I said - 10 psi different. Really tough to remember! :rolleyes:

And I do’t know about you, but I really haven’t had too much trouble with the way gas station service people have filled my tires lately! :wink:

Would you please be so kind as to show me authority (not anecdotes) that deaths in Vairs were proportionately greater than it’s contemporaries? You figure the NHTSA was simply full of beans?

That must make filling up easy, but on the other hand I wouldn’t want to put groceries in there.


I don’t know where you live but Corvairs were great in snow.

Dinsdale, I, uh, seriously doubt that morons filling the tires wrong was statistically significant. But it could have been fixed for six bucks.

I admit, the issue wasn’t completely unique to Corvairs, it happened to a few early American FWD cars, if I remember right. But that was one of the ‘more unique’ issues with it. Doesn’t make it unsafe, but it does insult the hell out of Murphy’s Law.

Another thing to consider.

Virtually all older classic cars do not ride in many ways nearly as nicely as all but the very crappiest of modern cars.

I drive a mid/late 90’s Saturn. Its probably quiter, smoother, and more comfortable than virtually every car made 2 or 3 decades previously.