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How to Assess a 1960-64 Chevrolet Corvair

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Written by Tom Fowler   


Many of the age 50 plus generation recall fondly the Chevrolet Corvair. This writer’s family owned several of them in the 1960s and found them to be dependable and serviceable.  

The Corvair was a very popular car in its day. Ralph Nader’s correct observations concerning design flaws rang its death knell in the late 60s. However, The Corvair was fun to drive and easy to operate and maintain – especially the early generation ones of which there are still a few around. Let us look at this gone but not forgotten automobile from a 21st century former owner’s perspective. If you are planning to restore a Corvair, here are some things you need to know

Things You Will Need:

Appreciation of classic cars

Interest in the unusual

Step 1:  The rear engine

The Corvair, like the Volkswagen beetle, was air-cooled with the engine in the rear. This created a very light front end which would at times “sail” when on a highway heading into the wind. For sure this was not safe -- especially with the gasoline tank in the front. Weighting it down with something as light as a bowling ball in the front end luggage trunk would ease this problem.

Step 2: Air cooled

It was nice during the period this writer owned Corvairs not to have to maintain a cooling system. I never experienced overheating, possibly because none of my Corvairs had air conditioning. (Air conditioning was, and is not even now, a particularly good thing for 80 horsepower engines).

Step 3:  Manual vs. automatic transmission.

Unless your Corvair was a supercharged Spyder, you would tend to bog down with air conditioning and an automatic transmission. Not being able to move quickly when necessary was not safe, either.

Step 4: Comfort

The Corvair was comfortable enough to ride in, but ventilation was not as good as it was in the bigger cars of the day. It was OK for those riding in front, but not so good for those in back, for the windows were small and the under dashboard vents were far away from you.  (Translation – it could be a hot bugger to ride around in on a summer day!). The backseat was cramped, which was OK if you were a teenage boy with your favorite girl with you on a cool summer night.   

Step 5. Serviceability and dependability

The Corvair was easy even for a “shade tree” mechanic such as me to work on. It was not an expensive car to purchase or maintain. We have all heard of the Corvair’s tendency to roll. I had more problems with engine mounting bolts breaking. Having your engine drop out of the compartment while on the road is not a pleasant thing!


As with any car from the 1960s, it is best to not expect any Corvair to be an everyday driver now.

You will require passion, deep pockets, time and the blessing of your wife or significant other to restore a classic Corvair. You will also need to be fortunate enough to find one in decent enough shape to restore.


If you drive a Corvair, avoid at all costs front end collisions. There is virtually no protection from the bigger, heavier car slamming into you. 



Comments (1)add comment

Carl Benjamin said:

Carl Benjamin
I have a friend who is refurbishing one. However, the value doesn't hold so well for a Corvair. Good job.
July 06, 2010
Votes: +0

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