Cheap Drop Top: 1964 Chevrolet Corvair Convertible

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Did Ralph Nader kill the Corvair? Unsafe At Any Speed, the book by Nader published in 1965, haunts every conversation about the Corvair, but its subject was really safety in a larger sense, and how automakers resisted implementing measures to protect drivers. Unfortunately, the very first chapter dealt with the Corvair’s swing-axle suspension, which Nader claimed caused oversteer. A complete redesign of the suspension in 1965 didn’t rescue the model, and it was finally pulled from the market in 1969. But it’s too simple to say Nader killed this car – because sales had begun to fall off even before the book was published, in 1964. What’s the one thing brought to us – by Ford – in 1964?  Yes, the Mustang changed the calculus for many an automaker; its existence, the Nader book, and the growing popularity of the V8 engine all conspired to finish off the Corvair. Still, over 1.8 million Corvairs were sold over its production run. Its ubiquity and thriving parts market has made the Corvair a viable starter classic, with prices still very reasonable. Here on craigslist is a 1964 Corvair convertible with an asking price of $7500 located in Kansas City, Missouri. Gunter Kramer spotted this nice prospect for us – thanks!

The Corvair was a daring design for Chevrolet. Its rear-mounted, air-cooled flat-six cylinder engine was an uncommon arrangement save for imports; its capacious front trunk and variety of body styles pleased customers; in ’64 it offered two different transmissions – the Powerglide automatic or a four-speed all-synchro manual. This car has the automatic, but there are no photos of the engine bay so we don’t know which motor is resident. Options were a 164 cid with an 8.25:1 compression ratio and 95 hp; the same engine with a 9.25:1 compression ratio and 110 hp; and a turbocharged engine with 150 hp. Horsepower changed frequently from year to year so motor swaps are common. The seller tells us that the car runs but “needs a carburetor adjustment” – which could mean anything.

This car’s interior – like what we can see of its exterior – offers an opportunity for improvement without being dire if left alone. The top edge of an owner’s manual is peeking from the passenger’s door pocket. The sills are a bit beat up, and the carpets and upholstery need to be replaced. But the trim is all present. Even the top is in good condition. Corvair and Hemmings stickers on the windows indicate an enthusiast.

Provided an inspection shows no substantial rust, this tidy example could provide a lot of fun for someone willing to spend a few weekends sorting whatever is making the engine unhappy. By summer, you’d have a fun cruiser. What do you think?

Auctions Ending Soon

Comments

  1. Robert Holt

    I think I would like to go thru this car and restomod it, I’m feeling an LSX mated with a 6-speed tremec, slammed, dubbed out, if you will, complete the murdered out look that is already begun, black the windows, and then just black the roads… I have visions of smoke shows, the smell of burning rubber in the morning, velvet robes parting… and by all means, make it safe to drive! I’d like to see what Chip Foose could do with this one!

    Like 2
    • Hank kaczmarek

      It’s all been done, and it’s ignorant.
      Jaguar V-12, Eldorado 500 CI, Toronado 350, Aluminum Block Buick,
      Special kits by Crown, Kelmark Engineering and others will let you put a V-8 Mid body Or in the back
      I am not by any means a stock purist, but I’ve been driving and restoring these cars for over 35 years.
      Putting a water pumper in a Corvair is possible, but the whole idea of the car was to put one of Ed Cole’s WW2 air cooled Tank engines (in a smaller version) into a car to compete with German Imports.
      Save your money and buy a Porsche water pumper.
      I saw a 39 LaSalle with an LS1 put in it.
      Did it destroy the provenance of the vehicle? Your mileage may vary.

      Like 1
      • ACZ

        It’s not like there is a big rush to ruin all Corvairs by turning them into water pumpers. What you have there is the perfect example of hot-ridding. I’ve built a Crown version. Have you? Have you driven one? Maybe you should refrain from judgement until you have.
        Would I do that to either of my 1969 Monza Coupes? Hell, NO! Will I do it again with my 1966 Monza Coupe? You bet!

        Like 0
  2. BlondeUXBMember

    Check out Porsche prices.
    Now, go find yourself a ‘65 and up turbo Corvair…

    Like 7
    • BlondeUXBMember

      I realize the suspension was upgraded for ‘64.
      The second generation styling is my personal preference. I did however run the socks off a ‘62 in about 1966…

      Like 3
  3. DRV

    Great write up!
    I’ve never seen one in triple black and it looks less in your face.
    My dad’s ’63 Spyder gives me fond memories of top down driving.

    Like 1
    • MGM

      I had a 63 conv. Brother gave me in 77. Ran perfect, cream, blk top. I remember it was a twin carb, 110 hp? AT. Gave it to an employee of dads fo a $50 bill. One of those I shoulda kept.

      Like 2
  4. CCFisher

    Ralph Nader didn’t do the Corvair any favors, but some bigger problems were:

    High production costs – it reportedly cost more to build a Corvair than it did to build a full-sized Chevrolet

    Limited performance potential – Ford added the 260 to the Falcon, Plymouth offered a Valiant with a 273, AMC offered a 290 in the American, and even Chevrolet offered a 283 in the Chevy II. The Corvair was locked into the smallish flat-6.

    The Ford Mustang – Corvair hit its stride with the bucket seat Monza. The Mustang stole its thunder a few years later.

    Like 2
  5. alphasudMember

    As a Corvair owner I have commented about the Nader myths and facts in the past. As far as the EM cars 64 is the best year to have with the 164ci engine and the camber compensator on the rear suspension. If it’s not rusty then the asking price is a fair one. As BlondieUXP mentioned the Corvair can bring you to a close approximation of a Porsche. Chevy was first to that the air-cooled flat 6 engine. My 65 Corsa is fun to drive and a good looking car. Car has Chevelle sized brakes and handles really well. As a former owner of several air-cooled 911’s this will scratch the itch if you are not willing to spend the admission price for a 911.
    It pays to be picky when selecting a Corvair. Engines rebuilt properly cost over 5K. Body and paint are expensive. Buy one that has already been restored or a good survivor car. Too easy to get upside down as Corvairs have never been worth the cost of restoration. That might change.
    Also worth mentioning is the EM convertible is structurally stronger that the LM models. Less shake rattle and roll which is why Chevrolet installed corner shaker weights to cancel cowl shake.

    Like 7
  6. FrankDMember

    Looks like this guy owns a 81 or 82 Corvette too. He selling the wrong car!

    My biggest mistake in my car life was owning a 1981 Corvette. Dog of Dogs, no offense to dog owners here!

    Like 6
    • Rixx56Member

      FrankD; several mods worked for ’81s.
      Carb adjustments and true dual exhaust, for starters…

      Like 0
  7. Kenneth Carney

    Another thing that few people talk about when it comes to these cars is
    maintaining the correct tire pressure
    for the rear tires. Anyone who ever
    owned a pickup truck with a slide in
    camper on it will tell you the same
    thing. If your rear tires aren’t properly
    inflated, that vehicle is gonna wander
    like a drunken sailor when you put a
    load of any kind of a heavy load over
    the rear tires. That’s what caused these cars to heel over when you make a sharp turn. And yes, even VW
    beetles and buses had this same
    problem too. And another thing that
    hurt Corvair was the fact that the starter would freeze up solid in the
    Northern states during winter. The snow, sleet, and slush would be thrown into the starter by the tires
    and presto! you had a frozen starter.
    Another problem was that you couldn’t keep a fan belt in place for
    very long without it flying off and
    either getting lost or being tangled up
    in the engine. Dad bought a used 700
    4-door in ’65 and he always kept a
    very large hammer, 2 pairs of pliers,
    and a spare fan belt handy. After a
    few times repairing it, he traded it
    for a low mileage ’59 Cadillac 62
    coupe and the issue was closed.
    Never again did we own a rear engined car til I bought a very well used Beetle that I traded away for
    Whatever it was. Just my 2 cents.

    Like 1
    • ACZ

      Most of what you wrote is wrong. The pressure that owners set the FRONT tires to was often wrong. It should have been around 18 psi (check the sticker on the glovebox door for the exact spec). I’ve never seen a starter freeze on any of the 145 or so I have owned. The starter is substantially inboard of the rear wheels and to the center of the car. Almost impossible for snow to get there. Once again, the belt was not a problem as long as you used the correct belt and set the tension properly. There was no model 700 in 1965. Take your c cents back. They must be pesos.

      Like 4
      • EuromotoMember

        You’ve owned 145 Corvairs? Wow.

        Like 1
  8. chrlsful

    ‘…limited performance…”
    can B improved w/modern accouterments (& even many ‘of the day’).
    Suspension, breaks, hot ignition systems, webber carbs, etc.

    I wuz gunna suggest Clark’s right here in Shelburn Falls (my neighbor) till I scrolled dwn the page. This one’s lookin good for almost 60 y/o ! I’m only 10 yrs older’n wish I ran / looked this good

    Like 2
    • Doone

      The rear suspension changes occurred with the 1964 model. So essentially if you like the first generation only buy a 64.

      Like 2
  9. Maggy

    My moms 2nd husband had one and he loved it.He’d do 70 coming out off the freeway on a curvy ramp and it handled awesome.Only worked on one my old boss had it.A white 64 convertible he’d use for the town’s 4th of July parade to promote his business.Remeber rebuilding the pair of Rochester I barrel carbs and tuning it.Cool car for sure.I like em!

    Like 2
  10. 64 Bonneville

    Most of the above comments are correct. Tire pressure in the rear, being, maybe, the most important one. I restored a 65 Sport Sedan, 110HP w/ PG. lots of fun to drive, really good mileage, held all 6 of us, but wife didn’t like it. She had a bad experience with a 62 coupe her and a girlfriend were driving in high school. accelerator linkage broke, they lost it on a curve and ended up in a pasture. (yeah we are country folk). ended up trading it off for a 75 Mercury station agon. (A Ford Executive Walk Thru). Another story unto itself.

    Like 0
  11. Mark

    I had one in high school great car in ice and snow lots of donuts made ,guy had one he was doing donuts one night in the school yard and engine dropped out had to go get his dad to haul it home. Good times

    Like 0

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