If you own a car with a generator, odds are somebody has walked up to you at some point while you’ve got the hood open and asked, “You ever think about doing an alternator swap?”
Well, of course you have—every time a car-show or gas-station expert has offered his or her unsolicited wisdom on the state of your car’s electrical system. If you’re like me, the reason you’ve never decided to swap to an alternator boils down to three reasons: 1) the generator works fine with the existing and planned electrical loads of your car; 2) an alternator is really going to harsh the period look of the engine bay; and 3) why change something that doesn’t really need changing?
My 1962 Corvair was designed and built with a generator, and it still has one (although, as I learned, not the one it was born with). Corvairs from 1965 to 1969 came with alternators (“Delcotrons” in period GM speak). Thus, it’s not that hard to put an alternator on an Early Model Corvair, and when one of the ears on the front end frame of the generator broke off this spring, I contemplated it.
The swap would have involved not only a Corvair-style alternator (which rotates in the opposite direction from most and requires at least a special cooling fan and pulley), but the 1965 to 1969 adapter plate to mount it to the 1962 block, a regulator change, and some wiring modifications. But why? I suppose there’s some weight savings (but I’m neither a racer nor that fuel-economy minded), there’s better charging at idle speeds (but I don’t live in the city or do anything where I’m idling a lot), and there’s the potential for increased amperage delivery (like up to 100 amps, but I don’t have any non-stock electrical additions to the car, and the wiring is probably only designed to handle maybe 65 amps anyway).
No, I decided that because my generator had always generated just fine (and, in fact, even once it was flopping around due to the broken ear, though it continued to do its job, just more noisily), I would simply repair the broken ear and reinstall it. Of course, that wasn’t as simple as it sounds.
Initially, I contemplated epoxying the ear back onto the end frame. Candidly, that might have been the best option, but then a friend who is an expert welder said he could stick the metal back together properly for me. That sounded less rinky-dink than epoxy, so I said okay and tore the generator down so I could send just the end plate for repair. Unfortunately, my friend changed jobs and lost a lot of his free time.