Rust-Free Survivor: 1961 Chevrolet Corvair 500

For a car that’s a year older than I am, and made of metal that usually rusts and dents, this 1961 Chevrolet Corvair 500 sedan is in much better condition than I am. This mind-blowing survivor is listed here on eBay with surprisingly no bids yet at the $3,000 opening bid and there is just one day left! I bet there are a few people lurking in the weeds on this auction, waiting to pounce. It’s located in Merrill, Iowa, in the northwest part of the state right by both the Nebraska and South Dakota border. If you’re even remotely in the area in the next day, check this one out in person! I wish I had time to drive there. Thanks to Michael for sending in this tip!

Yes, there are, gasp, four doors on this car! The horror! I don’t care how many doors a vehicle has, if they’re in this condition they’re worth saving. I have no clue how a car this old has survived this long and still has no rust on it other than normal surface rust on some underside bits and pieces. The seller says that it was from the “dry salt free climates of N Dakota and Montana and since coming to Iowa in 1994.” They go on to say: “It has absolutely never seen salt or had any rust whatsoever. Dryer and more solid than most California cars I’ve seen. Never been cleaned or detailed underneath, the way you see it is the way it came.”

Our resident Corvair expert, Nathan, may have a thing or two to add to the discussion on this great car. He’s a fan(atic) who daily-drives a Corvair so he knows them as well as, or better than, most folks do. Some chipped and retouched paint on the gas filler area and a couple of touched-up scratches are really the only flaw that I see on the exterior of this entire car. The 500 was the base model below the 700, 900, and Monza. They mention that the “paint on the car is all original and in great condition overall. There are some scratches that have been touched up over the years and a ding or dent here and there, but for a true original paint car that’s almost 57 years old it’s in great condition. I haven’t buffed or rubbed the paint at all, it would definitely shine better.”

The interior looks just as nice as the exterior does. It doesn’t look like there are 84,700 miles on this car to me, there’s barely any wear to the seats or anything inside. Oddly, there isn’t a single photo of the back seat, but I’m sure the seller would send one to any prospective buyers. The LR door panel has a little glitch in it, but you can see the incredible condition of the metal in that photo, too. The trunk, in front, also looks great with no visible rust or dents or anything really of concern. You can see the original generator in the trunk photo as this car has been switched to an alternator to keep the juice flowing. This Corvair has the optional 2-speed Powerglide automatic transmission and they say that “it shifts perfect.”

This “car runs and drives great”, says the seller. This should be Chevy’s 145 cubic-inch flat-six with 80 hp when new. Unless it’s the upgraded 98-hp version. Some of you may know or Nathan would probably know by looking at it to see which version it is. In any case, it looks cleaner than most 56-year old engines do, or most 6-year old engines even. This looks like an incredible car. They’re only original once and this little gem sure would be fun to own.

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Comments

  1. RicK

    Wow – a total time capsule. And what a stripper – the first clues are the the poverty hubcaps and lack of stainless around the windshield/rear window (back in the day we used to call cars so equipped a “rubber band sedan”). But block outs over the backup lights? Wonder if that was a delete? Anyhow, amazing how cheap for such a nice old Corvair.

  2. MadHungarian

    The alternator is a later (and very common) upgrade. And backup light-less 500’s are not unusual. The 500 was built to a price to be competitive with the Falcon.

  3. newfieldscarnut

    fossilized

  4. Maestro1

    I am fan of Corvairs in their later years, and then I see something like this and the drooling begins……….I wish I had the room. These puppies are workhorses if you don’t push them too hard, and a hell of a lot of fun.

    • DonK

      An 80 hp automatic four door fun to drive? I think not. Bland as hell. It would get you to where you were going, but that’s about it.

  5. Vankoe

    It looks like an automatic but where’s the shifter?

    • Jim Marston

      It’s located to the right of the steering wheel in the dash with the shifting lever sticking out just under the dash 😎🌴

  6. SAM61

    Like it alot, especially the fabric. Sorry I’ve posted this before…SAM (Scott) and parents with their new 1964 yellow Corvair sedan in Rockford, Illinois.

    I would rather take a paddling than sit on the black vinyl seats in the summer. Yes parents did spank/paddle their kids in the “60’s. I also have all my toes and fingers eventhough our family had lawn jarts (the metal pointed kind), a reel lawn mower and kitchen matches.

    • Scotty Gilbertson Staff

      How did any of us survive those days, Sam61?! Maybe a better question would be: what memories are today’s generation going to have other than looking at their phones 18 hours a day?

      Like 1
  7. Bob C.

    If I can remember correctly, the rear tires had to be inflated at 26 psi and the front at 30 to handle properly. That was the major problem owners didn’t understand at the time and Ralph Nader went in for the kill from there.

    • James HGF

      The correct tire pressures are 15 psi front and 26 psi rear cold = 18 psi front and 30 psi hot. Spare tire pressure is 26 psi – Deflate to 15 psi if installed on the front.

      The weight was biased to the rear thus higher rear tire pressure for greater weight. Unfortunately it seems that a small (?) number of gas pump jockeys thought 30 psi or near that all around was OK for American cars.

      Applicable page from 1960 Corvair owner’s manual:

      https://www.manualslib.com/manual/1155775/Chevrolet-1960-Corvair.html?page=21#manual

      • Bob c.

        Thank you for the correction. I do now remember it was something crazy like that.

      • Sooke

        I think it was 16 in the front, 26 in the back. If the attendant at the gas station filled them all to 30 psi, lethal oversteer.

    • David

      And yet Nadar drove a Corvair for years. One said to be his was featured here awhile back as I recall.

      • ICEMAN from Winnipeg

        Nader never had a drivers licence.

  8. Vince H

    The 900 is a Monza.

  9. Ben T. Spanner

    My fraternity Brother had a telephone company green 4 door 1961. Meh. Another Brother had a black 1963 Monza? coupe. Nice.

    My 1966 Chrysler Station wagon had back up light delete plates. The wiring was there. The plates probably cost more than the lights.

  10. Skip

    This is one of the nicer Corvairs I’ve seen. I bought a ’64 Monza Spyder back in the mid-70s in Lubbock for $125. I didn’t keep it very long, though, as one of my best friend’s dad collected Corvairs at the time and could wait to relieve me of the possession of mine. Only problem I had with the car was that it kept losing the generator belt while driving down the street. Easy to put back on but couldn’t figure out what was causing it. Other than that, I loved driving the little critter!

  11. Bill T

    Nice car. It should sell for $5500 or so. I have a 61 500 coupe. On this car it’s hard to tell from photos about original paint, I really find that hard to believe. I sure would be asking about what happened to the tail pipe that looks like its crammed up and into the right rear lower body. I would also be sure to thoroughly inspect the firewall area where the single master cylinder is installed. The 61’s are prone to rust where the windshield wiper mechanism lives and you can’t see down in there, you have to look from inside up.

    • Jonathan

      Sold for $4,850. Probably worth it to someone who is into Corvairs (like me, my college car was a dark green 1965 Corsa 140hp, which I stupidly sold when I went into the Air Force).

  12. Brian

    The fan is newer (but probably better). The alternator bracket appears to be bolted to the tin. That’s not right.

    Pretty nice looking car. I don’t know if it’s exactly a survivor though. And being an early base model with a PG and 4 doors, $3k is plenty.

  13. Nathan Avots-Smith Member

    Scotty, what a neat little car! Corvair nuts know, even in “granny spec” (my ’65 is the 110 HP/Powerglide, so I know of which I speak) these cars are total sweethearts—harder to get into trouble with, too, as long as you pay attention to the tire pressure as noted upthread. They may not be fast, but they have a lightness and simplicity about them that is a lot of fun!

  14. Alford Pouse Member

    Already sold! Thought about a run out there, about 80 miles from me. Suprised it has no rust since being in Iowa. I was shocked when I moved out here 3yrs ago when I saw the amount of rust on newer trucks and cars. Reminded me of east coast near the ocean. They do use a lot of salt here and many people are on dirt roads.

  15. Jubjub

    My sister had one just like this back in the ‘70s. She’s really loved It.

  16. Little_Cars Alexander Member

    Vankoe, that should be the LAST time you ask where the automatic shift lever is on a Corvair! Funny, I knew a fellow in Northern Virginia back in the day that would convert the linkage to make floor mounted shifters for automatic Corvair.

    And, unless Nathan chimes in, I believe the 900 designation WAS the Monza at least from 1962 onward……

    • Scotty Gilbertson Staff

      I think you may be right, Alexander, but this is a 1961 model. I guess I’ll have to be more specific in the future.

  17. Tom S.

    I love the bias-ply spare tire.

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