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