Love It or Hate It? 1964 Chevrolet Corvair

Are you a Corvair lover or hater?  The Chevrolet Corvair is amongst the most notorious and controversial cars in automotive history.  Model years ranged from 1960 to 1969 with this particular 1964 car falling close to the middle of the run.  Found here on craigslist in Skokie, Illinois, for a nominal asking price of $1,200, this car certainly fits in the “controversial” category.

When Chevrolet introduced the Corvair for the 1960 model year, it was a very innovative and ground breaking car.  It was an air-cooled, horizontally opposed, six-cylinder, rear-engine car.  What?  The engine drove the rear wheels through a transaxle and it had independent suspension at all four corners.  The “Corvair” moniker was available in a wide variety of vehicles including 2-doors, 4-doors, wagons, vans, and even pickups.  In 1965 the book Unsafe at Any Speed was published.  Written by consumer protection activist Ralph Nader, the book highlighted the apparent problems with the early cars suspension and subsequent crashes.  Sales and production fell dramatically between 1967 and 1968 leading to the brand being discontinued after the 1969 model year.

Back to the subject of this article…This 1964 is pretty rough.  Described by the seller as a parts or restoration project car, there’s certainly a decision to be made by the new owner.  These cars aren’t too valuable, so restoration cost is certain to be much more than the sale price of the end product.  The interior is probably the highlight of this car.  Typical wear on the driver’s seat, but the rest looks pretty good.

You don’t see duct-tape body work too often.  It’s a little hard to tell exactly what’s going on in this picture.  Rust, metal damage, duct-tape and missing parts are obvious.  What’s not so obvious is “why?”  The front bumper looks pretty good, so why are the headlight buckets missing their trim and obviously rusted so badly?  Like the seller says, this may be more of a parts car than a restoration project.  At $1,200, it’s hard to pass up a car that appears to have some pretty good parts left.  If I was in the market for this car, I would offer $500 cash and see what happened.  I bet I’d probably be the (proud?) owner of a new Corvair.

Fast Finds

Comments

  1. Steve65

    Simplest answer for the front bumper is that it’s not original.

  2. Blyndgesser

    The only things to hate about a ’64 Corvair are the fan belt and leaky pushrod tubes. This one, however, has had it.

  3. DrinkinGasoline

    The Corvair was far from ground breaking in the air cooled arena when introduced. The VW Type 1 had it beat as early as 1939 with prototypes as well as functional military vehicles operating in the field….Meister

  4. King Al

    Saw one once that had a Northstar engine on the rear. Maybe this is too far gone to restore, and would be a good candidate for something radical. Maybe attach the body to an old Blazer 4×4 chassis?

    • leiniedude leiniedude Member

      Permission denied

  5. Larry B.

    VW was far from the first air cooled car. Franklin used aircooled engines from 1902 through 1934 and these were luxury cars. I’m sure there were others, including the Tatras that inspired Ferdinand Porsche’s design of the VW. However, the Corvair did have a horizontally opposed aircooled rear mounted six before the Porsche 911, so there’s that. 1964 was the best year of the first generation cars, but this poor thing probably isn’t worth saving – there are still plenty of others.

  6. Bob

    I have a soft spot for the 63 Monza. A buddy of mine had a new 63 and installed a supercharger. The performance was awe inspiring, but it was hard on belts.
    I had a friend that flipped one because of the infamous oversteer (and beer), but GM resolved this one bad characteristic in the later models. I think Nader was nothing more than a sensationalist, and it was about power and politics more than it was about the car. The older VWs were every bit as bad, and there was no campaign against them.

    • BillyT

      Bob, I too had a buddy with a Corvair Monza, but his was a ’65 convertible, the first year of the new body style. What a fun car and the 140 horse engine, although it leaked oil from the pushrod tubes, was plenty powerful. You hit the proverbial nail on the head about Nader being a sensationalist and the older he got the more obvious it became (look at his 2000 presidential bid). He was all about power and politics. After Nader’s success with GM over the Corvair he decided to take on VW and drew back a bloody stump. Volkswagen did a full expose’ on Ralph Nader and his less than honest reporting of flaws with the Corvair design. Road & Track magazine published the full report in their November 1972 edition. There are pundits who think that GM was looking for a reason to pull the plug on the Corvair and used Nader’s book to do so.

      • Bob

        Billy,
        I certainly believe that it is possible that GM could have become disenchanted with the brand, but it seemed to me that it was doing an excellent job of competing with the VW brand. My impression from back then, was that it was a good car for the economy market, and it was quite popular. They certainly were a fun drive.

  7. Anthony R in RI

    I don’t understand the fascination with Corvairs They were only 4 – 14 years old when i was looking for my first car and NOBODY wanted a Corvair They were slow, noisy and leaked oil… the rear valance on Corvairs were always covered in oil and soot….

  8. Marvin Granger

    The Corvair was ahead of its time. The biggest problem they had was people didn’t read the owners manual. If you put 35 pounds of air in all four tires, like in your Buick of the same year , your Corvair is going to misbehave. Old Ralph didn’t kill the Corvair , the Mustang did. GM had planned to discontinue the car in 1966. They were going to bring out the Camaro after all. Then “the book” came out in late ’65 and production continued. This little coupe is worth saving. 500 bucks would be fair.

  9. GP Member

    I seen a Corvair kick ass on a Corvette in the quarter mile last weekend in Ohio. Must have been bored out a little.

  10. David

    And yet Nader had a Corvair he drove for years…. The Corvair was the best handling American car , even years after it was canceled. My last few Corvairs did not leak. Install the pushrod tubes according to the book and use better o-rings.

    • cyclemikey

      Oh come on. That’s an urban legend. Nader didn’t drive at all, much less a Corvair. You don’t think that would have been plastered over every newspaper in the world, after the his (unjustified) attack on the car?

  11. Doug Bohm Member

    Probably the most unique car/situation in the history of the American auto industry. Still a lot of squabble but I believe most knowledgable car guys know Nader’s Corvair diatribe was bunk. And as a human he was a total POS. But here’s my story. My first car was a 1964 Corvair convertible. My dad bought it for me when I was 15 with 600 miles on it. I had raced go carts and quarter midgets since I was like 8. Fool that I was, at 16, I decided to race another Corvair one night. Didn’t know the road narrowed from two lanes to one. We fought for position, and neither won. At 90 mph my car spun 3 times with me thrown into the passengers seat holding onto the steering wheel with my left hand. No seatbelt, of course. While it flattened all four tires, that car did NOT roll!! Currently own 1961 Lakewood and 1960 Rampside.

  12. JimmyJ

    I agree with Dougs opinion on Nader….
    I dont know why i like these cars but i do but i would look for second gen monza and there cheap done id never restore one.

  13. hearsetrax

    ditto about Doug Bohm’s post

    as its often been said ” cars with soul get restored and the rest are left to waste away on thar axles

    just my .02 ….. any saveable Corvair would make for an interesting EV project

  14. CCFisher

    I’m fascinated by Corvairs because they represent a dramatic departure from established domestic engineering orthodoxy of the time. A car like this could never be produced today – costs would simply be too high relative to the competition. Indeed, Corvair’s costs were high, but at that time, accountants were not running the show at GM.

    I believe Ralph Nader’s influence on Corvair sales is overstated. The Ford Mustang was a much greater influence. Corvair’s flat-6 couldn’t compete with the Mustang’s V8s. Chevrolet stopped all development on the Corvair and rushed the Camaro into production.

  15. Ken L

    The Mustang was the main killer of the Corvair. However the Corvair Spyder, looking just like the one for sale with a 150HP turbo bolted to the flat air-cooled 6, actually motivated FoMoCo (Lee Iaococca) to morph the Falcon into the Mustang – and the American personal sports coupe 2+2 market was created. Mopar followed suit with taking a Valient and creating the Barracuda. Chevy’s actual reaction to Nadar and this water pumping competition was the Chevy II / Nova, then the Camaro. Nadar’s campaign kept the Corvair in production until 69, with only safety and emission enhancements – 67 was the intended last Corvair production year. I believe the Corvair Spyder was the first American production turbocharged car (with the Olds Jetfire coming in shortly after). See also the Yenko Corvairs – they still kick butt in vintage racing. Attached is a photo of my 66 Monza.

  16. Steve in Charlotte

    Here’s our ’64…my wife’s parents first new car purchase. Her Dad, Bob, drag raced “Betsy” in ’65 at Piedmont Dragway here in North Carolina along with his friends including Ronnie Sox. It sat covered for 33 years until we had her restored back to stock which took nearly two years from 2010-2012. Barely any eaten metal. Just over 51k miles. 4-speed. 110hp. 99% of the metal parts & pieces were just polished up. Original glass expect for the windshield. Lot’s a fun to drive!

  17. arizman2

    I bought a used ’63 corvair spyder in ’05. 150 hp, Terrific car imo.

  18. Luke

    Corvair was no angel when it came to safety but if any of you had worked on all different types of cars as I have in the past 55 years you know as well as I do this car was no worst then some of the junk that came from overseas, Volkswagen being one of them and some of the early cars that came from Japan were nothing short of pounded out sheet metal with a lousy suspension that you could not adjust to alignments specs not to mention some of the worst brakes. And to mention brakes, when Mopar first came out with their disc brakes they were not using steel pucks in their calipers and they would get worn a little and start to turn and lock the brake in a on position and brun out the whole system, I have seen some that were totally wrecked because they applied brakes at a high speed and one of the front calipers would be frozen at an angle and would not work and then you had one brake in the front to pull you completely off the road or into traffic.
    Mitsubishi built a whole ton of 4 cyl. engines with the oil pan too close to the oil pickup and sludge would clog up the pump and burn out the crank, no recalls… when Ford first built their 260 and 289 they used a rod less the a quarter inch in dia. and when the oil pump went bad it would seize up and pull up out of the pump and the distributor would keep on turning keeping the engine running until it seized up the crank.
    So you see all the manufacturers produced junk over the years and we just had to put up with it.

  19. Ed Williams

    Although I don’t own one now I still love Corvairs I had a “65 Monza and had a Corvair engine in my “62 Volkswagen bug. Lotsa’ fun!!

  20. Rex Rice

    As a registered car idiot, I bought a new Corvair Turbo in March of 1965. It was the worst thing I have ever done. Even worse, I traded a perfect 356 Porsche in on it, leaving 2 more years of payments. The tranny seized up on my way home from the dealer. GM wouldn’t fix it; the whole process turned into a nightmare. Tiny drum brakes, plastic interior, etc. After all these years, my wife still gets pissed if I mention this car.

  21. Bob

    One of my best, scariest, rides ever was in a Monza Spyder. The performance was impressive. My buddy did complain about throwing belts, but he was driving it like he was only going to live one more day
    His first Corvair, was an earlier 110 hp with a Latham supercharger. I think that was the better combo, because there was no lag.

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