Vairy Unusual Custom: 1968 Solar Cavalier

The Corvair cognoscenti among us may be familiar with the Fitch Sprint, but how many of you have come across a Solar Cavalier before? If you detect some resemblance, you won’t be surprised to learn that Solar bought John Fitch’s leftover Sprint parts inventory in 1971, so the earlier, better-known upgraded Corvair formed the basis for this later version—with some interesting differences. This one’s on eBay now, out of Wimberley, Texas, with a buy-it-now price of $8,250, which strikes me as exceedingly reasonable for such a unique car in nice shape!

No, your eyes don’t deceive you! In addition to the vinyl-covered Fitch “Astroroof,” the most distinctive visual element of the Solar Cavalier is the pair of Camaro RS taillights out back, augmented by VW backup lamps. The flying buttresses of the Astroroof have always been a love-it-or-leave-it proposition, and the vinyl makes it even more so; I personally like it, and think the vinyl adds an interesting “floating halo” effect similar to many factory vinyl roofs in the ’70s, so it probably helped update the Corvair’s looks in the eyes of Solar’s customers at the time. Like Fitch, Solar offered Cavaliers in either factory-built or kit form. According to this forum thread, in which the son of Solar’s owner, Art Herschberger, pops in to offer some historical info, about 42 cars were factory converted; these generally had wilder features like rectangular headlights, flared fenders, and fully retrimmed interiors. Their absence marks this car (also discussed in the linked thread) as a customer-installed kit. Also, in case you’re worried about the J-car connotations of the Cavalier name—it was Herschenberger’s mother’s maiden name.

Indeed, the interior of this car is mostly factory ’68 Corvair, with some fairly easily-removed “updates” of dubious added value. More important are the components of the Solar kit, which include the steering column-mounted tach (and no, it’s not likely obscuring anything; unless it came with a clock, that center bezel in the Corvair’s instrument panel was blank), a short-throw kit for the four-speed shifter, and a carpeted parcel shelf for better sound absorption and a more luxurious look.

Around back, the 140-horse flat-six, originally out of a ’66 Corvair Corsa, features a dress-up kit and dual Weber carbs replacing the original four Rochesters. Other mechanical upgrades include a trombone exhaust, electronic ignition, and heavy-duty suspension components, and it’s all said to be running great. Not only does the seller provide pictures of the underside of the car, which looks very clean, they even removed the tunnel pan and dropped the oil pan, photographing their even cleaner-looking innards. The trunk, too, is spotless; the ad description only promises “no major rust,” but no trouble spots are shown, so while many photos are included showing things in very good order, a closer inspection is warranted.

Of course, I’m a sucker for anything Corvair, especially the exquisite ’65-and-up late models, but I think this Solar Cavalier is really something special. Like the Sprint before it, the Cavalier offered meaningful upgrades to performance, handling, and comfort, plus distinctive looks—about which your mileage may vary, but I think that, if they don’t necessarily improve on the excellent original styling, neither do they ruin it, and they definitely stand out!

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Comments

  1. stillrunners lawrence Member

    Like………

  2. That Guy

    Agreed, the BIN seems quite reasonable, maybe even a bargain. I’m lukewarm about the appearance, but the connection with Fitch adds coolness by the boatload. Great find!

  3. Jim Jimenez

    WOW! I did not know there was more than 1 of these still in existence. The other lives in Iowa,

    The acousta kit that was installed in by Solar Automotive made the thing about as quiet as a bank vault.

    I’d love to own one today!

  4. Milt

    Um, why ruin the vintage look with that steering wheel? Also the Astroroof looks like a balding dude sporting a mullet.

    • Nathan Avots-Smith Member

      Ha! I totally see it.

    • JW

      Agree totally !!!

    • DonK

      I like the looks of the original Yenko Stingers with the body colored roof extension, but the vinyl covered extension looks stupid.

      • DonK

        70 year old brain fart: Fitch Sprint

    • James

      I agree with the balding dude with a mullet comment! However, that “flying buttress” seems pretty similar to Gen.2 Chargers.

  5. Jim Jimenez

    Remember, all these were built between 1971 and 1974– a different perspective!

  6. Bill T

    What a great example of some very rare after market parts. The 1968 had several safety upgrades that are sought after. Dual master cylinder, side marker lights, shoulder belts are just a few that can be seen here. Unfortunately by 1968 the grade of metal used in the Corvair line up, combined with the thinner seats and overall “the end is near” build quality make these very prone to early deterioration, especially in the places you can not see. I strongly encourage anyone looking at this specimen to bring a basic hand tools , strong magnet and a bright flashlight. Slide the seats all the way back, crawl inside and look up into what would be the “firewall” on a front engine car. The 1967, 68 and 69’s were prone to rust where the windshield wiper mechanism lives. Fresh air along with rain, leaves etc enter just below the front windscreen. This same mixture often doesn’t exit quickly and sits in this area, rotting away where you can’t see it. If this mix of natures waste does happen to exit it often gets snagged in the lower dog legs drain and then… rusts that area out as well. This is also area you can inspect while inside the car. Simple remove the two Phillips screws that hold the interior vent trim on, open the vent and look down into the inter fenders. Do this on both sides. Be careful about reaching down in that area.. especially if the drain clean out is clogged. If the owner is willing, you can also easily remove the vent door cable, slide down the top pin and pop out the door for closer inspection. This process only takes a few minutes (it’s something a Corvair owner learns to do often to keep the water flowing freely) and you can learn allot about how solid the areas you can’t see really are. Also inspect the front cross member clean out.

    • Dave B

      Yes, the owner is willing! (;-) The left side is where I found evidence of a small bondo repaired dent in front & below the running light, after removing that cover plate. Also a cpl small rust holes there which I had properly repaired. Feel free to call or email for more detail. Regards, Dave. 713-410-9595 corvair69@gmail.com

  7. MathieuB

    Looks to me like a AMX or even a Vega but it’s still an interesting model too.

    • Scot Douglas

      I agree. The answer to the question nobody asked: “What would it look like if you crossed a Corvair with an AMX?”

      Up in the air if I like this one – I want to say that it ruins the clean lines of the original. Definitely in great shape from looking at the photos.

  8. Joe Backer

    What a P.O.S.

  9. jdjonesdr

    Pretty sure those are 67 Camero tail lights. I’m a big Corvair fan too, but this doesn’t light my candle.

  10. Bill T

    I have always liked my Corvairs to be “different”. But that is just me being me. I will say that when I cruise through town in my “Cherry Cheese Cake” the “Trumpet” (Extractors) exhaust system generally get’s heads to turn.. then often the smiles and thumbs up follow. Yeah some people laugh and ask where the clowns come out… and some purists say they want to puke. After 41 years I still feel like I can drive it anywhere, and I can fix it when it breaks down.

  11. Blyndgesser

    Um, no. Just…no.

  12. wmseverin

    I knew Art Hershberger and rented the shop that housed the Solar operation (and the Bernardi’s, etc.) . There will still some minor bits and pieces, badges leftover there. I also had an opportunity to speak with John Fitch through my vintage racing activities. He was a gentleman, but between the lines, his opinion of Art were less than stellar. I worked on Art’s Bernardi. An interesting “neo-classic” … with some of the issues any low production vehicle had.

  13. David Frank David Frank Member

    Wow, great find, nice write-up, and interesting thread. I’m trying to get beyond “leave it” but just can’t help imagine seeing this nice old ‘vair without the hairdo.

  14. Wagon master Member

    balding dudes mullet …. LMAO!! You nailed it.

  15. Dan D

    LOL, I was expecting a solar-powered ‘Vair….

  16. Moparman Member

    Maybe it’s the color combo, but it seems that the car porportions are slightly off?! I think it would look cleaner w/o the “mullet’ that others before me have mentioned! LOL! :-)

  17. Michael thomas

    I think if someone added a front taupe in black and maybe left a little targa bar it would look a whole lot better Or if the top was tan or closer to yellow instead of such contrast that makes it look added on. I do like the wheels and the price is great. It will finda new home for that money for sure.

  18. Bill McCoskey

    Concerning the comment about Chevy and the name Cavalier as applied to a car model;

    Packard changed the name of it’s upscale model lines from 300 and 400 in 1952, to the Cavalier [ne 300], and the Patrician [ne 400] for 1953. GM “stole” the model name from Packard, so I don’t believe they would have any claim to the name on a car.

  19. Dieter Choka

    I think ur all missing the point. Having owned a 65 Fitch modified Monza that was
    tricked to the nines, this is a true gem. The buttress roof mimicked the GTO &
    Chargers of the day and look @ what they go for. Mine was stolen back on ’70,
    was a loss that couldn’t be replaced. Got married and moved on. I still pine over
    that car tho. My car could handle with the best of the time. Had F70/14 in rear
    and F78 in front. Swapped 355 posi in, burned rubber in first,chirped in second.
    What a car she was.
    Deet

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