Posted in Chevrolet, Corvair

Building a Memory, Not an Investment: Finishing the Seven-Year Saga of a Long-Lost Corvair – Don Homuth @Hemmings

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After 6 long years of restoration, it is now as nearly perfect as it can be. It was in its first car show on 9/25/21.

It’s done. After seven years, plenty of money, and the able assistance of some local and national experts in Corvair restoration, my 1966 Chevy is done. Murphy’s Law applied many times, and many times the car resisted being rebuilt, but we did it.

Before 2014, I had been preparing to age out of the car hobby. But then I found the Corvair quite unexpectedly. It was my car—the very one I’d bought the day before going to Vietnam the second time, back in 1968. All the experiences I’d had and memories I’d made in it mattered more to me than the vehicle itself. My wife agreed that I should buy it and rebuild it. (Love that woman!)

As of the last report, five things needed attention to complete the restoration.

1/ The speedometer cable that runs off the left front wheel needed to be reattached. That was easy.

2/ After we got the engine running, we discovered the cylinder-head-temperature gauge didn’t work. The original thermistors have long since been out of production, and finding a working replacement was a formidable task.

3/ The stalk that controls the driver’s-side mirror needed to be replaced. Originally, that stalk had a Chevrolet bow tie on it. Corvair guru Duane Wentland found one; it was rechromed, and it’s on.

4/ The mirror-adjustment cables have plastic stops, which had deteriorated over the past 50 years. No replacements were available. But Duane had one, which he loaned to drivetrain builder Rex Johnson. Rex’s daughter had recently purchased a 3-D printer. We carefully measured the part and had the printer fabricate a new one. Installed, it works just fine.

5/ The engine ran ragged at highway speed. The four carburetors needed to be adjusted to run properly. Rex bought an air-fuel meter, which he inserted into the exhaust, and he drove the car a few miles. Turns out, it was running lean, not rich as I had suspected. After calibrating the carbs to the correct air-fuel mixture, all four work properly and the car drives beautifully.

A lot of people had never seen a Corvair at a major show. Mine got a lot of compliments and a couple of invitations to future shows in the Pacific Northwest.

Nothing is finished until the last detail is in place. Now it is exactly as it was.

I invite readers to check out the entire saga, which is documented on this site in considerable length with text and photos. It details how I bought the car in the first place, sold it to buy a Corvette, got it back after marrying the woman who bought it, sold it again when the divorce was imminent and storage was an issue, then lost track of it. How I remained mildly curious about what had happened to it between 1978 and 2014, wondering whether it had been junked, maintained, restored, or left to rust away in a field somewhere. How a Craigslist ad posted on a North Dakota site got a response from a fellow in Detroit Lakes, Minnesota, who believed he had it. And how a scrap of paper in an old briefcase had the VIN, which confirmed it was the same car.

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Posted in 1965, Chevrolet, Corvair, Racing

A Road Racing-Inspired Mid-Engine Corvair? Yes, Please – Mike Austin @Hemmings

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The annual SEMA Show encapsulates so many things we love about the car hobby. Heritage, innovation, and craftsmanship are all on display. Take Lonnie Gilbertson’s RareVair, which is headed to this year’s festivities in Las Vegas. It’s a 1965 Chevrolet Corvair Corsa, with a mid-mounted small-block LS, painted to match a unique piece of Chevy road-racing history.

A mid-engine Corvair is not a new idea, of course. Kelmark and Crown made kits, and there are no doubt countless DIY efforts. Gilbertson’s personal introduction to the Corvair happened when his brother bought a Corsa in the 1970s. “That’s when I kind of first became aware of what Corvairs were and I’ve always liked that body style,” he says. “So progress up to now, I was looking around for another project to build, and I thought I’m going to go for a Corvair.”

The inspiration for the car began with the Yenko Stinger. “With the style of that body, it just fit for the sports racer feel about it,” Gilbertson says. Combine that with a 1972 De Tomaso Pantera his shop restored a few years ago and, Gilbertson says, “I’ve always had a thing in the back of my mind about how a mid-engine V-8 car is just a lot of fun to drive. So that combined with the Yenko Stinger and my need for speed, I just thought, I gotta do this.

“After finding a suitable donor car, Gilbertson sourced an LS3 V-8 from a 2009 Corvette. For the gearbox, he went to the 930-generation Porsche 911 Turbo, given its reputation for strength and the fact that the earlier four-speeds have one of the shortest bellhousings. With the gears mounted behind the engine, that means more legroom. “I’m not a small guy,” says Gilbertson, “so I wanted passenger comfort

.”He went to Kennedy Engineered Products to mate the transaxle to the small-block. As for the engine, it had about 30,000 miles on it and looked new inside, so Gilbertson didn’t feel the need to change too much. A Comp Cams camshaft (and associated valvetrain parts) and a Holley Sniper intake are the only changes from stock. Still, he estimates it makes about 500 horsepower at the wheels. Not bad for a car that weighs only about 2800 pounds

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Posted in 1960's, Chevrolet, Corvair, Gene Winfield

Rare Gene Winfield–Built Corvair-Powered AMT Piranha Goes Up for Sale – Daniel Strohl @Hemmings

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If it weren’t for automotive fabricator Gene Winfield, the Marbon-Centaur CRV might have remained a footnote in automotive history, warranting a random article every five years or so before everybody forgets it again. But Winfield—known for designing vehicles in Blade Runner and Robocop—renamed it the Piranha for model car company AMT and put one on tabletops across America in the late 1960s at the same time he tried to convince adults to get into the full-size Corvair-powered version. More than 50 years later, at 94, Winfield has lent his talents and his name to the sale of one more Piranha

.”Gene’s personally working on this car,” says Dan Melson, who will offer it (and two other Winfield cars) for sale this weekend. “I have left all artistic control to Gene

.”Marbon Chemical’s development of Cycolac, a type of ABS, in the early 1950s opened up doors for manufacturers to start introducing plastics into consumer goods. Given that Marbon existed as a division of Borg-Warner, it was only matter of time before company executives decided automobiles could benefit from a heaping helping of Cycolac.

To help sell the idea, according to auto historian Nick Whitlow, Marbon partnered with Dann Deaver, a designer and co-founder of Centaur Engineering, another division of Borg-Warner. Deaver had built some race cars in his time, so Marbon’s execs asked him to fabricate an entire car out of Cycolac, one that Marbon could demonstrate for automotive engineers around the world. The resulting Cycolac Research Vehicle (known as CRV long before Honda started using the name) debuted at the Society of Automotive Engineers convention in January 1965 and led to a series of four more prototypes—two convertibles and two gulping coupes—all powered by Corvair flat-six engines.

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Posted in Chevrolet, Corvair, David Conwill, Hemmings

The Nut Behind the Wheel: David Conwill can’t stay away from Corvairs – David Conwill @Hemmings

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[Editor’s note: The author behind The Nut Behind the Wheel talking about himself? Yes, well, here at Hemmings we’re all a little nuts. Here’s why David Conwill can’t stay away from Corvairs.]“

My parents warned me off from Corvairs when I was still in elementary school. At my bus stop, in kindergarten, there was this fascinating old car. I showed my parents and they said ‘Oh, that’s a Corvair. The heater will asphyxiate you.’ The name Ralph Nader never came up—I don’t think they took him very seriously. They were car people, but Corvairs were just too ‘out there’ for them. It looked so cool to me, though, with that flat roof and wrap-around rear window. I never forgot it. Even once I got into conventional cars, with the engine up front and a radiator, the interesting shape of an early Corvair stuck with me.

“Almost 20 years later, when I was visiting my fiancée, we saw a Corvair convertible coming the other way during a scenic drive we were on. She loved it too and she wound up buying me a couple of old ads that I framed on my wall. One calls Corvair ‘the happiest-driving compact car’ and I think that might be true. It’s not just a shrunken conventional car. That’s one thing that kept me away from them for a long time, but ultimately, that’s a big part of their appeal.

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