Abandoned Building Find: 1966 Chevy Corvair Corsa

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If this story checks out, what a great rescue by the seller. Apparently, this 1966 Chevy Corvair Corsa convertible was languishing in an abandoned building for over 20 years, stuck with an owner that had no plans to restore it and no interest in selling. The current owner got his hands on it and has done some smart tinkering to get the Corsa droptop running and driving. Check it out here on eBay where there is no reserve and bidding starts at $2,000.

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It would drive me bonkers to know there was a car languishing nearby that I could possibly save from the elements but couldn’t get past a prickly owner. Even worst is knowing that said owner will eventually give it up, but in the meantime, its condition will have deteriorated that much further. The seller claims this is a great restoration candidate, although there is some rust in the floors and bodywork that will be needed before a professional paint job is performed.

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The interior will also need some work, though I’m pleasantly surprised to see the cluster intact and the shift knob still attached. Amazingly, the speedometer, oil pressure and temperature gauges all still work! The original radio is even included with the car. The seller has removed a variety of trim pieces for cleaning and they will be included, such as the Fisher chromed sill covers. I’m amazed at how many bits were still attached to this car considering its length of abandonment – apparently, there weren’t too many bored high schoolers around.

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The seller has gotten the engine running, and notes that it runs quietly with good oil pressure. The turbo still spools and the seller said it makes good power, but will likely need a replacement carb (which is included in the sale). This is quite the nice alternative to a Porsche, with decent handling, light weight and fully independent suspension. Curiously, the car has a Fitch Sprint badge on it but the seller has no way to document it. No matter what, this looks like a fun project and definitely a Corvair worth saving. Would you race it or restore it?

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Comments

  1. dirtyharry

    What’s in a name? I remember being in one of these and racing a Porsche in 1967. The poor pathetic Porsche had its doors blown off. Once it hit second gear and the boost kicked in, it was all over. It really wasn’t a fair race considering the Corvair had a 2.7 six, with boost. I was always surprised how well these cars handled. With some decent tires and shocks, they ran circles around most cars. In my view, these cars are undervalued but I don’t know if the “marketplace” will ever agree. Maybe Nader killed it, even though the second generation Corvair was so much better than the first. Certainly this is worth buying, even if you take all the good parts for another Corvair (I would hate to see that happen). If you ever get a chance to drive one of these, you will be surprised. It is a lot more car than a VW/Porsche of similar years. Go ahead Porsche crazies, make my day.

    Like 1
  2. Andrew

    I never liked the look of that belt turning 90 degrees. Always looks like it wants to jump off.

    • ImpalaGuy

      … and yet, it doesn’t (when properly tightened).

  3. Chas H

    That bent belt was a true stroke of engineering audacity. I believe it was as reliable as any v-belt drive. The Porsche flat fan found on racing engines was gear driven and complicated as only Porsche (or some other German marks) could make it.

    Like 1
  4. Fred w.

    Had two ‘Vairs years ago and the belt never jumped. The only race I ever participated in was between my stock non turbo ’66 Corvair and a nemesis’ hopped up VW. Raced him up a blind two lane hill, stupid thing to do but I passed him before the top and lived to tell about it.

    Like 1
  5. sunbeamdon

    Hi Guys – Loved Corvairs, even before Nadir – Fred, I would venture the vast majority of BF readers survived in spite of our own stupidities!

    Like 1
  6. speedo

    I helped install a Paxton supercharger on a friends Corsa in a previous life. This was not an uncommon improvement. It was even faster than the turbo, especially at higher rpms. However, it really out drove the brakes which made for an exciting ride. Fortunately, it cornered fairly flat and was forgiving in the turns.

  7. kuzspike

    I’m not so sure on this being a true “Fitch” corvair. I don’t see any other badging than the crooked lettering on the dash, which by 1966 should have been an emblem. A restored 1965 Fitch convertible sold on BAT earlier this year (http://bringatrailer.com/listing/1965-fitch-sprint-corsa-convertible/) for a little over $14,000, I’d say its going to be at least that much to get this one close to that one.

    Like 1
    • Alan (Michigan)

      Looks to me like the “SPRINT” emblem over the radio was put there to cover one or more holes added by someone…
      There is nothing else Fitch about this car.

      • Allen Amrine

        The Owner of this car now had purchased it early on and it was indeed a Sprint by Fitch. The Corvair community is a tight group so you might know Craig Nicol. He was also familiar with some Solar Cavaliers. He was very happy to see his old car for sale and will be returning it to it’s former shape. It might be the only Turbo Convertible Sprint.

        Like 1
      • Bobsmyuncle

        What confirms this as a Fitch Sprint? Was the car purchased as a Sprint, or transformed after the purchase?

  8. Joe Howell

    Should be a Turbo emblem on the rear deck lid. Don’t see any holes for it either. Wish I had my 63 Turbo Spyder back :(

    • 68 custom

      I just think it is missing,it used the same hole as other engine call outs.

  9. Tom Driscoll

    Love that corsa dash!

  10. Tom Driscoll

    Need some help here…appears to have a padded dash, which I think came along in ’68-’69, but does not have the parking lights the late model would have. Did they have a padded dash in ’66??

    • Alan (Michigan)

      Actually, the padded dash began in ’65, but the ’66 got a better looking one. Later versions were more bulky in appearance, kind of marring a decent interior, I always thought.
      Those posts sticking up out of the middle…. I wonder if they were anchors for a rally computer or something similar?

      The gauges at lower left are aftermarket, and the horn ring (chrome, bottom side only, triangular in cross section, about half the diameter of the wheel) is AWOL.

      The clutch pedal assures that this was a 104K miles car, if not 204.

      I can pretty much guarantee that the clock does not work. The points which were used to energize the rewind circuit almost always fried, either arcing and smoking, or fusing together and burning out the rewind motor (more smoke).

      Yep, it needs floors work. Critical areas to hunt for rust that would virtually ensure parting out are the front door frames. Was actually a good thing to remove the pan plugs in the floors and the trunk bottom, that way no standing water.

      This certainly looks like a decent project. This appears to have a lot of positive things going for it, and it is relatively solid.

      New master cylinder, I wonder about the rest of the brakes.

      • Alan (Michigan)

        I just noticed that it has at least one of the “shot cans”, as is seen in the trunk photo taken over the RF fender. Should be 4 of them, one in each corner.

        WTF is that, you inquire?
        Well, from what I was told many decades ago, there was a harmonic vibration which occurred in some (not all) of only the convertible second generation cars. Finding and fixing the structural source would have delayed the timely introduction, thereby costing sales….
        The rather ingenious solution was to add a can partially filled with shot at each corner of the car. It apparently was effective, the cars made it into consumer’s garages and driveways.
        I have known a few owners of late-model convertibles who removed the hefty cans with no apparent negative outcome.

      • roundhouse

        My 67 Camaro convertible had the “shot cans”. They were in the (2) back corners of the trunk, filled with shot and oil. I removed them for a while, but the car was too light in the rear and rattled a little more, so I put them back in.

        Like 1
    • Bob Sandrock

      Yes, all the 65 to 69 Corvairs had padded dashes, but the last years had a much thicker padding.

  11. 68 custom

    side lights wound not have been added till 67 along with dual circuit brakes, collapsible steering column and other safety features. I am thinking the dash pad was an option.

  12. bradshaw

    I owned a corsa and 4 other corvairs then….easily out gripped on tight turns compared to my buddies 2002…..big weakness was SLOW STEERING….i never tried the Fast arms that the aftermarket guys used…..that would have made all the difference.
    it had great brakes, grip, torque, and it looked sleek as a GT40.
    next car was an Elan S1…

    • Alan (Michigan)

      In answer to requests by racers (Don Yenko), Chevrolet produced a quick ratio steering box. When used in conjunction with the shorter arms, IIRC the wheel was reduced to 2.5 turns lock-to-lock. Down from 3.5+……
      Those boxes are not at all common. I’m thinking that Flaming River has reproduced them?

  13. Dick in SoCal

    Ties to John Fitch may be hard to document without documentation because he apparently also sold parts through dealers and Fitch could install them or the owner could do it. It’s also complicated by multiple options and I am sure, multiple owners.

    Restoration probably needs to include a full floor pan or at least extensive repairs all the way to the rear bumper because there is no frame and there are visible gaps.

  14. stillrunners stillrunners Member

    Love the dash lay out two……and like this body of Vairs….1968 was the first year for side marker lights and mandated seat belts. The emissions stuff really started kicking in as well.

  15. Thomas Allen

    I own a 65 with padded dash and telescopic steering. All original. With that said, the cancer spots are botttom of windshield #1, below battery box 1/4 panel #2. If it has rusty floor boards, it has rust below windshield. You just can’t see it yet. I also have another 65, 61 & 60. Not to worry, they are low priced cars and a heck of lot of fun! Cheap to repair.

  16. charlie Member

    In the summer of ’64 I got to drive my uncle’s ’63 Porsche, and, a friend’s “64 Corvair with the bigger (horsepower) engine. The Corvair was far superior in every way, except for the relative tightness of the steering. It had to be tight in the Porsche since it was as squirrely a car as I have ever driven (excepting pre WW II cars) and it took total concentration to keep it in the lane at 70 mph. The Corvair just went where you pointed it. The Corvair exhaust even sounded good.

    Like 1
  17. Bobsmyuncle

    It’s possible that those are Hands wheels which were sold by Fitch. That could have included a badge. Otherwise there are no outward signs of Fitch ‘gear’.

  18. Rocco

    @ Bobsmyuncle, & Alan (Michigan);
    Didn’t the original “Turbo” muffler that we refer to originate from the Turbo Corvair?
    Wasn’t it large in diameter, not like the Turbo mufflers of today? I also remember them being 2.5″ or 3″ inlet and outlet. Can one or both of you set me straight on this?

    • Bobsmyuncle

      I know quite a bit about Fitch Sprints, but my knowledge of Corvairs has many gaps! I was looking quite seriously for a while but have cooled my search for a bit. .. I have a lot of written resources though so I’ll look it up and report back.

      • Rocco

        @ Bobsmyuncle,
        Thanks, I’ll be watching.
        It seams like I remember around ’70 heading for lunch at the time, with a co-worker, to A&W Drive in, when we were behind a ’69 Camaro with huge round mufflers near the rear of the car, because the wouldn’t fit under the floorboard. I said “look at those mufflers”, and my buddy said they were Corvair Turbo muff’s. Then not long after that those muff’s with a bird(?) on them came out, and they called them Turbo’s. Do you remember those?

  19. Karl

    If this truly is a 66 turbo convertible, then it is a rare bird indeed. According to Corvair “experts”, of the 3142 Corsa convertibles produced in 66 only 585 had the turbo engine
    I’ve owned one since 1979 and it took me 4 years to find it back in the 70s. I’ve only seen 4 or 5 other ones since. Hard to say if this is genuine without the VIN# and looking carefully at the car.

  20. Craig Nicol

    So to close this circle – I bought that car in 1971 and sold in in 1973/4. When I bought it, it was a 5-year old car with 42k miles; The Sprint was my first car. I drove it for two years in high school and the first year of college. Many great adventures.

    When I purchased it, it had (and still has) a long list of Sprint stuff save the fiberglass vent-top which of course was nicht for convertibles.But, to compensate, it had (and also still has) the really cool tonneau cover. Originally, it had a (slightly) Fitch-modified 4-carb 140. I replaced that engine with a 180 turbo which its still sporting (and it still runs, sorta).

    Now, 43 years later, I’ve purchased my first car back! When I first saw it, I couldn’t believe it still existed but there it was! All these years, I kept a set of original keys as a memento. Amazingly, they still fit and work! I’ve restored many cars so I know the drill.

    This one will go back to exactly the way it was when I bought it. I can’t believe the car’s configuration is almost exactly as I sold it. The only real change, other than the obvious degradation, was the elimination of the deck lid emblems. I don’t care about any of that; I couldn’t be happier!

    Like 2
    • Jamie Palmer Jamie Staff

      Great story, Craig!

    • Bobsmyuncle

      Absolutely amazing that you acquired the car!

      What is the long list of Fitch “stuff”?

      I would LOVE it if you could provide a photo of the tonneau cover I have never heard of such a beast.

      • Allen Amrine

        Bobsmyuncle, I am not sure if you have seen the photo above. It includes the tonneau cover. Craig is a very trusted source on Fitch Sprints and Solar Cavaliers, the cars made after John Fitch sold his shop. I have not inquired as to what Fitch items this has but I look forward to seeing the build, and there, I imagine those items will be shown in relative detail.

      • Bobsmyuncle

        Thanks I saw the post but I guess the photo hadn’t yet loaded so I missed it.

        Just remember when describing these cars that there are only a few (literally perhaps far fewer than a half dozen) that would be confirmed to be Sprints built by Fitch as there were no records and the mainstay of the business was mail order and having local dealerships install the parts.

        Many many cars have been treated to varying degrees of Fitch modifications but are not truly Sprints.

        Fantastic story regardless of the details!

    • Bob Sandrock

      Good for you, Craig! Do you still have your Toro vair?

      • craig nicol

        Yes, I still have my rear-engine, Olds-powered Corvair but it’s not a Toro. It’s an aluminum 255 (originally 215) Olds V8 turning a stock ’66 4-speed transaxle.

        Like 1
  21. Karl

    Ok. So it’s not really an original 66 Corsa turbo convertible. Even so, it’s a good story. Hope you get it running and looking good. Corvairs are finally starting to get the respect and attention that they have long deserved.

  22. Craig Nicol

    Given the choice between a ’66 140 Sprint convertible and a ’66 Turbo convertible, I’d pick the Sprint. Not a big fan of turbos; their best use is for a “wow” at car shows. In practice, stock turbos aren’t that fun. (I’ve had several and have two in the shop right now.)

    I’m just happy my first car was something interesting! Thanks for your comment and encouragement. Now I just have to hold off a bit so I can finish my ’65 Mustang FB first…

    Like 1
  23. Karl

    Yeah. Turbos are definitely a pain having driven them in the 60s and owning one now (it too is in the shop). The carb was obsolete when they put it on at the factory. The 140 was a more reliable and fun car to drive. However, I’ve hung on to my 66 turbo convertible due to its rarity, #1 condition and it’s “wow” factor at car shows. But I applaud anyone who gets ANY Corvair back on the road. Go for it

  24. Allen Amrine

    That is awesome that you have that car back Craig. If anyone deserves something cool like that it is you! I know it will be restored well and enjoyed as it should be. All you other Corvair fans please check out Corvair Owners Group on Facebook! Craig posted his find there, and we always have an interesting story or can help you with technical questions!

    Like 2

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