Cheap Rag Top: 1965 Corvair Convertible

I often find myself looking at projects that I could never take on, because of either a lack of space or lack of funding. When this car popped up here on craigslist, there was a small voice in my head telling me to send the seller an email and get the full story. I did send him an email, and received the advertised running video. I currently own a ‘66 Corvair Convertible that is a twin to this car- factory manual with a 110 horsepower engine. My mom has always talked about wanting a convertible, and I decided to make that the excuse for contacting the seller. Frankly, I don’t have the room to take on another Corvair Convertible. Maybe one of you will!

The car appears to be powered by 110hp engine and a manual transmission- the seller doesn’t say whether it’s a 3 or 4-speed. Manual convertibles are hard to find- most came from the factory with the two-speed PowerGlide. The engine may have been swapped out by a previous owner because of the 90-degree oil filter adapter only found on A/C and 67-69 SMOG cars. The engine will most likely not need to come out for many years because of the upgraded flywheel. Stock flywheels were 3-piece units riveted together and would often fall apart after only 50,000 miles. A set of upgraded headers have also been installed according to the seller, which makes this flat-6 rumble. The video gives a pretty good idea of how the car is running- I would encourage anyone interested to request it.

Another picture shows what appears to be a factory power top mechanism that will work great once the top is replaced with the brand new top kit included for $1,800. The seats look like they will clean up nicely. A new top coupled with a quality carpet kit will make this car a great daily-driver or fun show car. The door panels appear to be nice from what little can be seen. Sadly, the seller says that the rear seat is missing- one can be easily sourced from one of the numerous Corvair online forums. I also spot the optional push-button radio, which was around $130 more than the standard radio in 1965.

Given their unibody construction, rust is a the biggest concern on Corvairs. Having no roof to bear some weight of the car requires even more structural rigidity in the lower part of the car. It would appear as though the rockers (the most critical component of a Corvair) are in great condition. The trunk area looks very solid and may even retain the original seam sealer (those black patches). The seller is including a pair of new floor pans, lower quarter panels, and front support members, amongst the other parts mentioned. It also looks like the factory harmonic suppressors installed in all four corners of convertibles are still present, which is not common 50 years later. This car should make an excellent project for someone looking to gain knowledge about classic cars without breaking the bank. How far would you go on this misunderstood ‘vert?

Editor’s Note: This post was written by James K, but was accidentally published under my name. I just wanted to clarify the mistake and make sure that he was given proper credit for his work!


  1. RayT Member

    Seller isn’t asking much for it (well, it’s not a rusty 356) so I’d think it a good prospect for a project. Finding a rear seat isn’t rocket science.

    I’d rather have a first-gen ‘Vair (I know about the later improvements, but I prefer the looks of the early cars) but this looks like it could be fun.

  2. Alan (Michigan)

    To gauge the scope of the project, I’d want close-up photos of the known trouble spots for rust on this body, and of the underside too.
    No photo of the panel which forms the lower windshield frame, and I can pretty much guarantee that is an issue.
    The shot cans may or may not be in the corners, I do see the front brackets. I’d be hoping for a 4-speed. But if it is not, swapping one in is pretty simple, much easier than converting from auto. May as well upgrade to the ’66 and later Saginaw unit, if making that swap.
    Glad to see the “Body by Fisher” sill plates included. New ones became “unobtanium” a very long time ago. I only see one extension, though. The spare headlight doors (surround trim) shown are both for the right side.

    • John H

      One of the pics shows a replacement panel (or two) for the piece below the windshield. I’d guess that answers the question of the condition of the one on the car. I’d be really amazed if the one on the car didn’t need to be replaced!

      New front floor pans and other replacement panels included, too.

      I’ve had three Corvairs over the years (’60, ’62 and ’64) but never a late model. But, I’m not keen on convertibles and the last thing I need in my life right now is another Corvair! Eastern shore … not all that far away …

      • Alan (Michigan)

        Those grille looking things are for the front and rear air plenums, not for the piece which forms the lower windshield frame. Looks like two rear air outlet grilles too, for under the rear bumper.

  3. grant

    Josh, you’re a classy guy. But would you please take advantage of your position and show us your Corvair? Please?

  4. Leroy

    I hate to sound stupid here but what are the “factory harmonic suppressors” mentioned by Josh?

    • Rik

      If they are anything like the early Camaro’s, it’s a coffee can full of concrete at each corner for weight.

      • Risetony

        A little bigger than a coffee can and filled with oil to dampen the movement of a metal (brass I think) plug that was meant to dampen oscillations from bumpy roads.

  5. Curtis

    @Leroy Convertible Corvairs like this one had 4 heavy “cans”, one in each extreme corner of the chassis that were supposed to take a harmonic or something? out of the chassis, which is real good, but not as stiff as the coupe.

  6. Rustytech Member

    My grandfather bought one of these in 1966 (hardtop) and drove it till he passed away in 1991. The car is still in the family, now going through a complete restoration. It’s hard to see with this dark color, but doesn’t appear to be all that rusty. Floors are rusty but it appears to be more surface than rot. There are lots of extra parts shown so for $1800 this could be a reasonable project, after closer inspection of course. I’ve seen restored convertibles recently selling at over $15k, though I’d want this for a driver.

  7. Wagon master Member

    Man …. this is tempting especially with the OBO offer, but with visible cancer through the floor already, changing out the pan and other work needed, you would be way upside down in value vs. investment by the time it becomes acceptible aesthetically.

  8. redwagon

    how can you sell a car and not take pictures of the front and back?

  9. Vince

    The harmonic dampeners are often called Martini Shakers by guys in my Corvair club.

  10. Rex Rice

    I bought a new one in March of 1965. 180 hp turbocharged version and the worst car I have ever owned, and I’ve owned 65+. I was happy to get rid of it after 6,000 miles of unhappiness.

    • pperros

      I had a ’66 Monza coupe, 110 hp/4-speed. One of the best cars I ever owned, until it got shortened as the filler in a multi-car sandwich. I’ve always hankered for another, and considered the 180 hp turbo to be the pinnacle. What were the negatives of your experience?

  11. Little_Cars Alexander Member

    I can almost guarantee that is not the factory-applied seam sealer inside the trunk. Wide swaths of the stuff in black is not factory. I would also be concerned by the puddle present on the floor in front of the bucket seats. Break out the welder!

  12. curt

    great price I would buy this in a second, just too fat away

  13. CKKurtz Member

    Hmmm, cool. I think I have a pair (as in two wheels only) of new-in-the-box 13×7 Panasport wheels for the rear of this car…

    • Alan (Michigan)

      13″? Or 14″?

      Why for the rear, are they wide?

  14. cdnturbo

    Based only on the white gear shift knob it should be a 4 speed. Black knobs are usually 3 speed

  15. charlie Member

    In my opinion, one of GM’s most beautiful cars, all the models, ’65 to ’68. And, although some clearly had maintenance issues, once sorted out, as the Brits say, with the Fitch conversions to the engine they were a joy to drive, and superb in snow compared to anything else available at the time except the 4 wheel drive Jeeps, Hornets, and the rare GM, Ford and Mopar 4 truck based vehicles. And I did drive our ’69 Camaro in the snow for 14 years, (it was terrible even with studded snow tires) and it totally rotted out, but it made the ones that remain all the more valuable, so I should be thanked!

  16. smittydog

    Perfect for a prom queen parade car! But ya good cheap project car.

  17. Joe Howell

    I had a 63 Turbo Spyder way back when. Not a bad little car. Years later memory of it’s rear engine handling quirks were what led me to buy a Porsche 944 and not a 911 (mi$$ed that rising tide :(. Until you lose it in something with a rear engine and do a 360 you haven’t lived. The pendulum effect of all that weight hanging behind the rear wheels made it exciting when the rear let loose and started oscillating back and forth getting worse with each swing till around you went. It was great in the snow when my Corvette was rendered useless.

  18. Little_Cars Alexander Member

    I owned a late model Corsa that I drove to a highschool party when snow began to fall. There was quite an accumulation by the time I began to leave. As a gag, during the course of the event, some friends lowered the tire pressure and flattened my tires. With the bulletproof Saginaw transmission and positraction I made it home — Dad took care of the cost of those tires and billed me for years to come.

  19. Aaron

    My 1st car was a ’65 corvair monza convertible with a power top and slush box trans. Best worst car ever. I always wanted a manual. Too bad I found this post 4 months too late.

  20. Greg bailey

    Do you still have this corvair sir

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